Dominos Pizza Turnaround | System Can You Learn


Lesson from Pizza Domono Turnaround
Lesson from Pizza Domono Turnaround

More restaurant would remain open if just more people had complained.

8 out of 10 customers don't inform you of poor service. And even when the restaurant is informed about poor service or meal experience, it is quite often ignored or lost in a weak system.

Restaurant face challenges and like any other business operators feel the need to improve their business. Sometimes its too late, sometimes with strong leadership restaurant undergoes major operational change. But does it have to be this hard to bring changes to improve your restaurant business?

This blog shares a perspective as to how to use a system to improve your business.

But first….

 Let me tell you a story …….

……..about how Domino’s Pizza turned around.

Domino's Pizza Problem & More

Domino’s  Pizza faced declining sales, and there was a PR nightmare of an employee sneezing in one of the features. At the time it was still number three, but there was overwhelming feedback that the quality of Domino’s Pizza was inferior.

It was commented, 

“With the novelty of being able to know when your order a spot in the oven, boxed and ship be enough to get you to choke down one of their god-awful pizza?”

Customer Review

They created a focus group, and the overwhelming feedback was everything about the pizza was wrong. The pizza tastes like cardboard.

Dominos Pizza Customer Feedback

Own The Problem

Instead of hiding and not recognising the problem, Domino’s Pizza owned the problem.

They understood that it was a problem with the quality of the product, which resulted in mediocre tasting pizzas and the quality of the HR policy which resulted in reduced engagement and absence of a sense of ownership with employees.

They had begun to sacrifice product quality is to make sure their pizzas will deliver on the 30 minutes and even compromised on driver safety.

To their credit, it must be noted that the company did not make excuses or gave discounts or then compare itself to competitors, or promised to be faster. It recognised that although it was a leading the way in delivery, it was for all the wrong reasons.

Domino's Pizza Fights Back

To overcome this challenge, Domino’s Pizza ’s management, the product development and marketing team work together. They came up with the new recipe for their pizzas. And the marketing department made a virtue of all. With the 18 month-long campaign that "we listen".

 There were mostly three dimensions of Domino's Pizza turnaround.

One was improving the product quality, and

secondly, they also enhance the quality of the HR policy for frontline staff. They created a career path frontline staff to rise and be a part of the management.

Thirdly, marketing, which made a virtue of their mistake.

The video below is part of Domino's Pizza Campaign which captures their story, the pain, acceptance and fight back.

So Domino’s Pizza had strong leadership, budgets to steer it away from the edge of a cliff.In the end the won the uphill battle and dominated pizza category overtaking the market leader.

So should one wait till the end or in-build feedback mechanism that helps you make a course correction? 

As a restaurant owner you may not have the resources to fight back when you are on the brink instead you can adopt simple, ​effective practice to improve your business everyday. 

You Can Improve Restaurant Performance, Here's How

In my view, small continuous improvement is the sustainable way, but what stops us? But first lets understand what does a System and Continuous Improvement mean

System For Continuous Improvement

So whats a system. System is defined as as set of principles or procedures according to which something is done or organised scheme or method. 

Continuous Improvement refers to incremental changes made in products, processes or organisation which add up to create a competitive advantage,

What You Don't Know About Restaurant System Could Hurt You?

All restaurants face challenges from time to time, and are unable to improve because  the problem is because restaurants don't have a system to listen to the voice of the customer

Restaurants also sometimes misinterpret the question. 

People Dependent Versus System Dependent Operations

This is especially true of restaurants which are people dependent versus system dependent.

 What I mean is when there is a problem — the leadership look for someone to pin the blame (or accountability as it may be called). If the food is terrible, it must be the chef's fault!. Furthermore, the restaurants may also don't have a system to make or identify food what the customer wants.

Let me repeat that they don’t have a system to know what the customer wants!

 It could be argued that; they have their backsides facing customers.

Adverse Restaurant Culture

 In an environment where you do not have a system, restaurant not owning customer problems, I mean being people dependent and not process dependent, you create a culture where blaming happens, and people blame employees when customers complain.

And resolution of problem is by taking haphazard tactical decisions.

 Again look at the Domino’s Pizza turnaround story.

Domino's Pizza


The CEO could ignore the problem and continue to make the same pizza. He could have gotten angry with his employees and perhaps even the customer that they don't appreciate his product. He could have blamed ingredients or vendors or anything under the sun and not taking ownership of the problem.

The CEO of Domino’s Pizza 's Pizza admitted the problem and committed himself to change.

What kind of problems restaurants face?

Restaurants facing problems can be an operational level, or they can be a service design problem.

By operational level, I mean that the locus of control is within the four walls and within a department itself. A services design problem, we look at the value or lack of created for the customer; is by many people and departments or process coming together.

So how do we go about improving restaurant  Business or Quality?

To Improve Restaurant Performance Faster, Create A System This Way

There are necessarily two broad areas, and I will define it by calling it the

inner game, and

 the outer game.

Inner Game - Your Attitude To Feedback

The inner game, you want to look at the mindset of the restaurant owner and the culture of the organisation.

We need to own customer problems.

Don't blame people, blame systems.

It is the belief that people are generally never wrong. The people make mistakes, and those mistakes are not because of their inherent nature but because of the following inadequate procedures, process or system.

If you fix the procedure or service design, then the results will be better.

 Recognise that its problem of the restaurant system, one can detach oneself and have an impartial view of customer feedback both internal and external.

Your job is to optimise the restaurant system to serve your customer. This is not a one and done exercise but requires you to revisit your systems and get better.

Outer Game- System You Need To Improve Performance

In a sense you need to create, adopt and follow system which identifies and understand complaints or feedback.

Here one will examine a method to look at customer feedback and how they can be systematically managed to bring about lasting change.

The outline of methodology is as follows-

4 Step System To Improve Restaurant Performance

  1. Restaurant Needs a system to get customer feedback.
  2. Have a system to review customer feedback.
  3. Have a system to take corrective action.
  4. System to monitor the implementation and effectiveness

​​​​Easy Way To Identify Customer Complaints

Restaurants can create a system to get customer feedback.  A restaurant must have multiple touchpoints to get this feedback.

Comment Card

A simple effective system could be a formal comment card which is given the restaurant Or using technology like SMS to get in touch with customers to get their feedback or even better still speak to the customer and ask how their experience was.

Another way is to respond to online reviews at food aggregator websites.

Listening Post.

 Listening posts are essentially empowering and requiring that everybody must record customer feedback. A member of staff could be recording customer feedback on a piece of paper and pen. One practice is to have small notepad with every employee to record any feedback comment given.

Restaurant logbook

There must be a restaurant logbook where all these comments and critical incidents are recorded. The critical incident report needs to be made by the staff to record all positive and negative comments or anything which was observed in the operations.

In an open culture, all members of staff contribute. Deviations in customer experiences or processes are welcomed as an opportunity for improvement.

Tools To Identify Opportunities

  • Comment Card
  • Listening Post
  • Restaurant Log Book

Have A System To Review Customer Feedback.

The system to review customer feedback is that there must be a structured method adopted by the organisation- the restaurant will review customer feedback on a day-to-day basis and a weekly basis on monthly basis.

 People do what the boss checks.

 If the ownership of the management takes a particular interest in customer feedback and staff recognises that there is no blame on any individual then is quite likely that the stop staff will own up to mistakes and that they will be a healthy communication about what is wrong with the organisation. And how they are not able to fulfil customer requirements.

Read Restaurant Quality 101

You need to have a system to take corrective action.


The restaurants need to have a system to resolve customer complaints or take corrective action.

Bandage Treatment is on the shop floor.  

One method is to practise at the shop floor. When there is service break down, staff need to respond immediately. The purpose is to provide immediate resolution to customer needs or at recover from breakdown by offering an alternative.

There is an acronym called last spent out as LAST which can be used to orient staff o how service recovery is done. LAST stands for-

  • Listen
  • Apologise
  • Solve
  • Tell

Within the restaurant environment, staff need to be empowered to immediately resolve customer issues. The employee needs to listen and understand customer issues, apologise, offer a solution or alternative and take action.

On spot resolution of food delayed, quality of food, service is not the end of complaint cycle; unfortunately, many restaurants stop there.

  The more significant issue is to understand why did the problem occur and what can be to make sure that it never happens again.

Root Cause- Deep Study To Eliminate The Real Reason For Service Breakdown

The management or restaurant owner must recognise the root cause of the complaints or customer feedback and take action.

The source of the problem can be in a different department.

For example, purchase specification can result in poor quality – and resulting in poor taste.

Poor maintenance practices can result in the fridge, breaking down, which diminishes the quality of food which produces a complaint.

 I cannot emphasise enough that there has to be an environment where people are not blamed and systems are.

A breakdown in your process needs to be examined by the management.

System To Monitor The Implementation And Effectiveness

Quite often, they may not be any process established, and everybody is just winging it.

It goes something like this, there has been some customer complaint or a service break down in the restaurant, and they will be a grand meeting, and they will be a resolution, and everybody will say “YES”, and then nothing is implemented.

The management or the restaurant owners must monitor the solution is given for all these meetings.

Primarily what we have accomplished till now, we have found out a way to pacify the customer, and then you had a team meeting to discuss the problem and depth and perhaps come with ingenious solutions, and everyone is promised to take action on them, but no one ever does.

It is imperative to follow up and check with an action plan that has the solution been carried out and has been effective.

 Please note that the restaurant needs to make sure that the solution has been implemented and also check that the solution which has been implemented works to resolve or eliminate the complaint permanently. This is no easy task.

The cycle time to achieve and then to wait monitor and review the results of effectiveness of the solution is very time consuming and requires diligence.

 Improving customer experiences or making a restaurant profitable requires the improvement of services but also the product.

A special mention needs to be made for improving your food or creating new dishes. 

How To Improve Restaurant Food?

If you are creating a new meal or recipe, it is imperative that you find out what the customer wants before you even start creating a new dish.

Once you have created your prototype dish you then you test with your customer and get feedback, and make the necessary changes.

 After this dish is approved, get all stakeholders on board. And then only launch the product.

A large company like Dominos Pizza was immensely successful and courageously led forward by its management to take necessary action to turn around the restaurant chain.

It is essential that you as the restaurant owner adopt best practices to get feedback daily before the problem blowouts of proportion.

 But there are some things which need to be understood from Domino’s Pizza experience.

7 Things to Learn From Domino's Pizza Turnaround


One is listening to customers.You can't solve a problem that you don’t know you had.

  • We need to able to squash our defensiveness and to blame employees for the customer experience.
  • 3.

     The culture of openness and transparent communication is the best way to serve your customers.


     Make a sincere apology to your customer.


    You stand up and take ownership.


    And then make it right by understanding the root cause of the problem whether it's service design issue or quality product or both.


    And then the last thing one can learn from Domino’s Pizza es is marketing a mistake. This is ingenious as to how they went about promoting their new pizza experience.

    Do you need help solving your restaurant problems? Mango Kurry can help you to understand what is stopping what is preventing a restaurant to grow. And do contact us if you need any help.

    About the author 

    Sartaj S Bedi

    With 20-year restaurant industry expertise, offering insights and expertise in strategy, operations, and quality. He employs a holistic approach to guide clients towards strategic success.

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