Why Domino's Pizza Will Soon Exit Italy

Domino's Pizza has come a long way since its humble Michigan beginnings in the 1960s and it has certainly pulled some strange publicity stunts over the years. In 2011, they claimed they wanted to be the first pizza place on the moon. This wasn't just a statement, the Japanese branch spent time and effort producing not only detailed plans for the lunar eatery but a dedicated website for the project (via Delish). Unfortunately, that website no longer exists. 

While not merely a publicity stunt, Domino's decision to open stores in Italy in 2015 was met with some amazement. The American pizza chain sought to conquer the stomachs of Italians in Italy, where pizza was born and is still very much a part of the culture today. 

Anyone who has been to Italy will most likely tell you that Italian pizza and American pizza have evolved quite differently. Yet, Domino's understood that before entering the market and its offerings were not merely the same as you'd see on a local menu in the U.S. According to Delish, the plan was to win Italians over by using local ingredients such as buffalo mozzarella, Prosciutto di Parma, and gorgonzola cheese. Whereas the New York Times said the company was hoping locals would want "to try something new, like cheeseburger pizza or BBQ chicken pizza." Despite the chain's efforts, it failed to win people over (via Washington Post), with sales falling 38% short of goals at the end of last year.

Bye bye to this American Pie

Italy is home to approximately 63,000 pizzerias (per Italy Segreta) but it seems Domino's thought they saw a gap in the market for delivery which many of the smaller establishments didn't provide. Then Covid came to town and with lockdowns, many of the small stores that had previously not offered delivery realized it was the only way to stay in business. Domino's also reported that locals were "revenge spending" at restaurants that opened again after the pandemic. Plus, the digital technology that powers most of Domino's services never really took off in the country (via Washington Post).

Italians seemed fairly unimpressed overall, with many of the restaurants failing to receive close to a four-star rating on Google. Even so, in early 2020, the company announced plans to open 850 stores in Italy. Instead, they are now removing their 29 restaurants. Bloomberg reported that at the end of 2020 the Italian branch was over $10 million in debt (via the New York Times).

The general public took to Twitter over the news saying things like, "Trying to open Domino's Pizza in Italy is like trying to sell snow in the North Pole" and "If you ever feel you're being outrageously over-confident about something, just remember that Domino's thought they'd be able to justify opening 880 stores in Italy" (via CNBC).