Global media had a lot of fun with what happened in the summer of 2022: The US-based pizza giant Domino’s announced that it would say arrivederci to Italy after seven years in the country. Domino’s, which has operations in approximately 90 international markets and about 12,000 stores worldwide had always had eyes on Italy. In 2015, it finally pulled the trigger and with the help of master franchisee ePizza SpA opened its first store in the Northern Italian city of Milan. They had great ambitions of opening 850 outlets by 2030 in the largest pizza market in the world (after the USA), and soon after Milan, stores in other large cities including Turin, Bologna, Parma and the capital, Rome, followed. Domino’s was well aware of the challenges it might face in Italy, but it reckoned that the Italy of today would be more receptive to a global brand whose menu included such delicacies as Hawaiian pizza, BBQ chicken pizza, or cheese-stuffed crust. It also promised “purely Italian” ingredients including 100 percent Italian tomato sauce and mozzarella, and regional products like Prosciutto di Parma or Grana Padano. And yet, things didn’t go too well. After the first five years in the market a total of only 23 stores were operated by ePizza, and six more as sub-franchises – a far cry from the numbers in Domino’s initial expansion plan. And then, in 2020 the global COVID-19 pandemic hit, and ePizza’s Italian Chief Executive left for another pizza chain. With more than EUR 10 million in debt, master franchisee ePizza filed for bankruptcy in April 2022 and stopped all operations at the end of July 2022 by closing the last of the remaining 29 stores at that time.
Bringing pizza to the land of … well, pizza … was an ambitious undertaking. Aside from the obvious differences in taste preferences and quality, pricing also was an issue in a country where a perfectly fine pizza can go for as little as 6 – 7 Euros. Duh, Duh-mino’s!
In all fairness, Domino’s never aspired to make better pizza than Italians, but they had the ambition to have the best pizza delivery service globally. But the pandemic might just have dealt Domino’s the final blow in this regard. As even small pizza restaurants adapted and started home delivery, Domino’s had lost its last competitive advantage.