Dial-a-pasta

Domino’s Pizza is now delivering pasta. Here’s why
Sayantani Kar

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t hindsight, pasta was always the logical extension for Domino’s Pizza in India. After the pizza, pasta perhaps is the Italian food Indians are most familiar with. It is available in several fine-dining restaurants as well as fast-food eateries. Domino’s has taken the game to the next level by coming out with home-delivered pasta. “Feedback from consumers told us that while pasta was still looked upon as more special than pizzas, it had gained popularity over the years, but there was still no one delivering it home,” says Dev Amritesh, senior vice-president (marketing), Domino’s, explaining how for a chain focussed on delivering pizzas, serving pastas is not a large digression. “Pastas are what pizzas were ten years ago — suited to celebrate special occasions,” says Amritesh.

Local flavour

While the delivery proposition might still not cut ice with the connoisseurs of Italian food, Domino’s will bank on its draw for consumers looking for a choice other than pizzas and burgers. Localisation accounts for 30-40 per cent of sales, according to Amritesh. Its pizzas have a liberal dash of local flavours. The sauces being used for the pastas, notes Amritesh, too are closer to the Indian palate. “We wanted to take the pricey tag off pastas,” says Domino’s CEO Ajay Kaul. Smart pricing has seen a choice of two pasta variants, one with white sauce and the other with red sauce, for a price of Rs 69 for a vegetarian option and Rs 79 for a non-vegetarian one,

provided you order four of them (to meet the minimum order limit). T o nudge it off the shelves, Domino’s gives you the option to grab vegetarian pasta for Rs 39 as a side dish with a pizza and garlic bread-stick/Pepsi combo, all of which would lead to an increase in the ticket size for Domino’s. Keeping the price low for its twin pastas would also make sure that its latest product remains relevant to the audience in areas it is eyeing to grow the most. Kaul informs: “Fifty per cent of our new stores are being opened in new towns which are lowertier towns.” Of the 70 to 75 stores that Domino’s has planned for this year, around 10 are under construction and 30 have opened shop in towns such as Gangtok, Bareilly and Aurangabad. Domino’s tested the waters for six weeks by selecting around 15 of its 270 stores across all kinds of catchment areas for trials. “W did not want e our samplings to be restricted to our high-street outlets only,” says Kaul. Domino’s then painted the town red with its door-hangs and box toppers (leaflets on product boxes with offers and announcements), followed by advertising. The period of lying low let Domino’s tweak its supply chain to supply pasta more frequently. Kaul says: “What was planned for every three days in a week now had to be ramped up to every two days a week in the upcountry stores to take into account the demand that exceeded the forecasts.”

DOMINO’S IS KEEPING ITS PASTA PRICES LOW TO MAKE SURE IT REMAINS RELEVANT TO THE AUDIENCE IN AREAS IT IS EYEING TO GROW

Pinakiranjan Mishra, partner and national leader (retail and consumer products), Ernst & Y oung, says: “The overhead cost for quick service restaurants is fixed; so wider the menu, the more audience and the larger ticket sizes they will have.” Leveraging Domino’s existing infrastructure, pastas seem to be a natural progression to consolidate loyal customers for the global pizza delivery chain as shown by its customer feedback. Introduced two weeks ago, Domino’s claims that 30 per cent of its orders are now for the new pastas, which it expects to go up to 40 per cent as advertising and word-of-mouth pick up. Training of both staff in the stores and the vendors who are supplying the pasta took only a month. Amritesh puts the investment at a low Rs 25 lakh for the R&D and training that went into introducing the new pastas.

Delivery promise

T ying up its communication with the chain’s stress on delivering happiness, the advertisement depicts how a man craving for pasta cannot find solace in a high-brow restaurant, an eatery on the street or even in an attempt to drive down to a pasta outlet. F ate keeps him from reaching a place to satiate his craving until Domino’s delivers a satisfying pack of pasta that he can sit down and relish at home. Setting aside Rs 6 crore for the campaign in both mass media and below-the-line ac-

tivities, the company plans to drive home the point that pastas can now be delivered at your doorstep. Domino’s wants to stress on the “deliverability” of its pastas. Says Amritesh, “Home delivery of pasta banks on two important factors: The temperature and the time taken to deliver.” Pasta can turn soggy and cold if served late, needing more care when getting delivered. T serve the pastas o hot, Domino’s has aluminium thinfoil casseroles, while the chain’s 30minute delivery guarantee ensures that the consumer gets his pasta well in time for it to remain fresh. While Domino’s maintains that pastas were not introduced keeping competition in mind, ready-to-cook packaged pasta options could emerge as competition given that they too rest on the eating-at-home plank. With its current move, the chain has already taken the lead in delivering pastas in India, inverting what has happened in the US. Pizza Hut had come up with its baked T uscani pastas last year in the US and Canada, while in India it offers sauteed pizzas in dine-in outlets but does not deliver. Pasta is the chain’s second largest selling dish, according to Anup Jain, director marketing, Pizza Hut (Y um! Restaurants India). Jain doesn’t see Domino’s pastas as competition since it will be served primarily through a delivery channel rather than a dine-in option. It remains to be seen whether Domino’s, which has had its share of hits and misses, will be able to turn this edge into strength or whether pasta’s perceptions work against consumers ordering it home.