I confess that when I read the headline of Domino’s selling pizza in Italy, I threw up in my mouth a little bit. I mean seriously, how can you introduce “American pizza” to the home of one of the world’s most popular foods? The answer is: you don’t.
I love authentic Italian pizza, in all its certified pizzaioli interpretations found across Italy and around the world, but I also understand that what Domino’s, Papa John’s, et al sell and deliver is an American creation. Not unlike the All-American hot dog, which traces its roots to German and Austrian sausages sold on immigrant food carts in the 19th century, but are now something altogether different.
Rather than force the American creation on the Italians, Domino’s has taken their brand and launched it with local ownership and vows to source the pizzas with 100 percent local ingredients to create a local pizza menu.
And so braving backlash and humiliation, this week Domino’s opened its first store in Italy, in the northern city of Milan.
“Italy can be a major milestone for the recognized world leader in pizza delivery, as no major American pizza brand has successfully entered the market,” said Richard Allison, president of Domino’s International. “We’re going where no major pizza brand has gone before.”
Allison added that he understands the risk of entering Italy, which coffee giant Starbucks has to this point shied away from due to exacting Italian tastes.
ePizza S.p.A, doing business as Domino’s Pizza Italia, holds the new master franchise rights to operate the Domino’s brand in Italy. The franchise, led by Alessandro Lazzaroni, 36, plans to open three stores in Milan before year’s end.
Lazzaroni has years of successful, entrepreneurial experience behind him, as he recently served as commercial retail director of Galbuser, a premium Italian bakery company. He has experience with American corporations, having also served as business insights and marketing manager for McDonald’s.
“Domino’s is a global brand, with American roots, and we’re proud to be able to introduce it to the Italian people – with a twist,” said Lazzaroni. “We will be using a recipe created by us, using locally-sourced wheat. Everything else is purely Italian. We are purchasing all of our products from Italian producers. We’ve created our own recipe, starting for the original pizza recipe, with Italian products, like 100 percent tomato sauce and mozzarella, and products like Prosciutto di Parma, Gorgonzola, Grana Padano and Mozzarella di bufala Campana.”
“We will also leverage Domino’s excellence in technology, being able to operate online delivery as nobody else, to bring to Italian people what is fully missing today: a very good local pizza served at home quickly and hot, which can be ordered online with few clicks and at a very competitive price.”
Italians are said to eat pizza an average of seven times per month. Domino’s is banking on being able to obtain a goodly portion of that market.
In addition to the traditional Margherita (favored by 70 percent of Italian consumers), Domino’s will offer other favorites such as Napoli and Sicilian. Desserts on the menu include other local products, including Tortino Al Cioccolato and Tiramisu.
So while the universe isn’t likely to collapse on itself because a U.S. company is trying to bring American delivery know how to the place that invented pizza, it will be a test of perception versus execution.