Business writer Marcia Layton Turner presents the humble origins and unstoppable rise of Domino’s, Inc., the international pizza chain. Founder Tom Monaghan grew the company from three Michigan pizzerias into a successful chain by creating a special sauce, focusing on delivery and prioritizing locations in pizza-loving college towns. Domino’s used fast delivery and early digital innovation to outmaneuver its competitors and become number one in its industry.
Three Michigan pizzerias called DomiNick’s were the precursors of Domino’s Pizza.
Domino’s Pizza had humble origins. Founder Thomas Stephen Monaghan was born in 1937. His widowed mother struggled to support him and his younger brother, Jim, who spent their childhood in and out of foster care. After college and the Marine Corps, Tom delivered pizza part-time with Jim, who introduced him to Dominick DeVarti, owner of three DomiNick’s pizzerias.
By 1960, DeVarti had a pizza restaurant in Ypsilanti and two in Ann Arbor. Jim and Tom paid him $900 cash for his restaurants and agreed to pay off his debt to buy the three Michigan restaurants.
Both of them intended it to be a side business. DeVarti let them use the name DomiNick’s and gave them a 15-minute lesson on making pizza. DomiNick’s hours were 5 p.m. to midnight, which let them keep their day jobs. After eight months of working two jobs, Jim was exhausted. He sold out to Tom, who left college in 1961 to run the restaurants.
The owner of an old Italian restaurant in Lansing showed Monaghan how to make his pizza sauce. By April 1962 – using his new secret sauce – Monaghan...
Marcia Layton Turner, a business writer for Kevin Anderson & Associates, has written for Forbes.com, Businessweek and US News & World Report.