Domino’s made waves a few months ago with a risky ad campaign promoting their completely revamped pizza recipe. Publicly acknowledging that your old crust tasted like “cardboard” and your old sauce like “ketchup” and your old cheese like… well… I’m not sure what, but it wasn’t cheese, that’s a big risk for a major chain like Domino’s. Millions of dollars in revenue were at stake. And if you’re willing to acknowledge that you’ve been delivering a decidedly sub-par product to your customers for decades, why should we trust you to make it better?
And yet, I still order Domino’s. It’s not like my pizza palate lacks sophistication: there’s an excellent local pizza joint (in the vaguely New York style that dominates most of the country) just a couple blocks farther from my house than the nearest Domino’s (which is close enough that I shouldn’t be able to justify not walking to pick up my pizza); I’ve relished the authentic Neapolitan-style pizzas from Pizza Biga and Punch; and I enjoy the contemporary American reinterpretation of what pizza can be (albeit in a homogenized, chain restaurant fashion) from California Pizza Kitchen. And then of course there’s Davanni’s.
And yet, even after all of that, I still order Domino’s.
I think it has more than a little to do with the fact that I hate ordering pizza over the phone. I don’t like having to have the person on the other end rattle off the specials; I feel like I’m missing something. I like ordering online, because I’m a web geek, it feels like a video game, and more practically, because it lays out all of my options before me, and I can experiment at my leisure until I have exactly what I want, at the best price available. If my neighborhood pizza place had online ordering, I would never get pizza anywhere else. But as it is, my choices are Domino’s (bad) or Pizza Hut (worse). So, Domino’s it is.
Last night we ordered a pair of medium Domino’s pizzas, trying both the new thin crust and the new hand-tossed crust. The pizzas were not great. Visually they were fine, and structurally they were OK — the crusts were actually pretty good. But the flavors were so intense, so recklessly assembled, that the overall impression was just a pure taste assault. Unfortunately, that pure taste assault has been carefully tweaked and optimized to trigger all of the proper pleasure centers in the human brain (or at least the American human brain), so even though I didn’t really enjoy the pizza — it was something to devour, not to savor — I just couldn’t stop myself from eating more and more and more.
Domino’s Pizza isn’t food; it’s a drug. And I think I’m hooked.