Pizza chain Domino’s announced its fourth-quarter 2020 earnings this week and simultaneously reiterated its stance on using third-party delivery services like DoorDash, Uber Eats, and Grubhub.
Short answer: It won’t.
Speaking on an earnings call Thursday, Domino’s CEO Ritch Allison said his company has struggled to understand “the long-term economics in some of the aggregator business.”
“Every time we look at it here in the U.S., it just doesn’t make sense for us or our franchisees economically,” he said. “And if it doesn’t make sense economically, it certainly doesn’t make sense to take the risk of sharing all of our customer data with these third parties.”
Domino’s has never used nor planned to use third-party delivery apps to serve its customers, choosing instead to process digital orders through its in-house app and use its own employees to handle the last mile. Allison told the Wall Street Journal in 2019 that “the profit hit and reputational risk” of working with DoorDash et al. wasn’t worth the extra revenue that might come from such partnerships.
One pandemic and an industry-wide shift to delivery later, and Domino’s hasn’t changed its stance.
“In 60 years, we’ve never made a dollar delivering pizza,” he said. “We make money on the product, but we don’t make money on the delivery. So we’re just not sure how others do it.”
Allison went on to explain that third-party delivery services’ money has to come from either the restaurant or the customer. Both of those areas are problematic right now. The high commission fees these services charge restaurants is a well-documented and increasingly hated practice. At the same time, services have hiked prices for customers, and when restaurant dining rooms finally get to reopen, it’s uncertain how popular delivery will remain among consumers.
DoorDash as good as admitted this in its own earnings call this week, saying it expects “declines in customer engagement and average order values” as markets open back up. The company beat analyst expectations for revenue during the fourth quarter, but also more than doubled its losses.
Those points underscore Allison’s hesitations around making money via delivery. Domino’s appears to be moving in the opposite direction. On this week’s call, Allison said the company was shrinking its delivery area “to get closer to our customer for better service.” This fortressing strategy, as Domino’s calls it, will continue to drive store growth in 2021.
Same-store sales for Dominos grew 11.2 percent during the fourth quarter. In addition to keeping its delivery business in-house, the chain will focus on its carryout service, including its recently launched “carside service,” and making investments in new technologies.