“Listen to your critics, but not all of them,” said Brandon Solano, vice president of franchise development at Domino’s Pizza. Solano was the featured speaker for the Peter F. Secchia Breakfast Lecture April 16 in the DeVos Center, sponsored by the Seidman College of Business.
Solano, who received a bachelor’s degree in public relations from Grand Valley in 1994, was the mastermind behind the need for a recipe change for Domino’s Pizza. He was hired by Domino’s in 2008 when the company was tied in a consumer poll with Chucky Cheese for last place for taste.
“We needed to listen to our customers and our critics; they were saying they didn’t like the taste of our pizza,” said Solano. “We knew we needed to change so we spent two years and $1 million dollars changing a 50-year-old recipe. A lot of science went into this.”
Solano said the company became transparent with its customers in all areas: ingredients, taste, delivery and price. “We took a risk making innovative television commercials showing what our customers didn’t like about our product,” he explained, “but we got a high return. We showed the changes we were making and then went back to our critics with our improved product. We tracked down people from the focus groups and had them taste our new pizza. We showed all of it in a TV commercial.”
Domino’s wasn’t prepared for the response, Solano said. Stores were running out of pizza and didn’t have enough workers to handle all the new business. He said new employees were hired and new restaurants were built as quickly as possible.
“Our sales blew up and we were quickly number one,” he said. “I learned a lot from this experience and often tell others, you have to be willing to sacrifice who you are for who you could become.”
Solano said Grand Valley gave him the foundation and background for his career and success. He said he worked in Housing while he a student at Grand Valley and was part of the Latino Student Union.