NEW YORK (AP) — Italy may not seem like the ideal place for a Domino's Pizza shop, but the man who heads the American chain remains optimistic about the possibility.
Despite the skepticism Domino's might initially encounter, CEO Patrick Doyle says that the chain's delivery model may give it an advantage in Italy.
"There's a lot of pizza, but there's not a lot of delivered pizza," Doyle explained. "So there may still be an opportunity."
Italy aside, Domino's, which is based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, has been enjoying strong sales growth overseas and boasts nearly 6,000 international locations.
Back at home, where it has 5,000 locations, Domino's has been trying to improve the image of its pizza, which has long been plagued by a reputation for tasting generic and manufactured.
In late 2009, Domino's revamped its recipes and launched a surprisingly frank ad campaign acknowledging the shortcomings of its food and service.
After several consecutive years of declines, sales have turned positive. Now, the company is in the process of rolling out new store designs that highlight the pizza-making process.
Looking ahead, Wall Street analysts expect Domino's and other national pizza chains, including Papa John's, to take market share away from smaller chains and independent players, in part by using their bigger advertising budgets and more sophisticated online ordering platforms.
Doyle, who has been CEO of Domino's since 2010, recently spoke with The Associated Press about the company's prospects at home and abroad:
Q: Domino's launched an ad campaign in late 2009 to address the negative perceptions about the taste of its pizza. Do you think the image still needs work?
A: I think there is room for improvement, but clearly people's impressions of Domino's have improved.
We built a brand for 50 years that was around the convenience of delivery. Nobody loved the food. There are a lot of people who tried it in the past, didn't love it and haven't tried it again.
It takes time to work through that. So I think absolutely there's still opportunity to change people's minds about the brand.
Q: What prompted Domino's to acknowledge its taste problem so openly?
A: Marketing 101 says you always talk about your point of differentiation. For us, that was delivery.
So we just kept hammering away at delivery as the point of differentiation. And there just came a point when it stopped working. In 2006, 2007 and 2008, our sales were negative in the U.S. I think we finally stepped back and realized there is no conflict between delivering a pizza quickly and consistently and having it taste great.
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