Daniel Susco

Papa John’s CEO Throws Shade at Dominos DXP, Is Very, Very Wrong

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One student from the University of Louisville College of Business made things awkward last week during a speech from John Schnatter, CEO of Papa John’s Pizza, by jokingly asking the CEO if he would equip Chevy Camaros with a pizza oven, such as the one found on competitor Domino’s’ Chevy Spark-based DXP.

Schnatter replied, “The car will dry that pizza out. I think their PR work is brilliant, frankly. The things they’re doing with technology—they don’t particularly work, but people seem to like it.” He later went on to talk about how Papa John’s doesn’t want its drivers out on long runs with multiple orders that would require an oven.

Oh, John. I am sorry to say it, but as a pizza delivery driver, I have to tell you that you are wrong.

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The DXP is an awesome-looking machine, and I only wish that my bosses (not my ones at The News Wheel, of course, but at the Domino’s I drive for) would get these so I could get the chance to drive one.

So let’s talk about this. The Domino’s DXP is a redesigned Chevrolet Spark, equipped with what I assume is the 2015 Spark’s 1.2-liter Ecotec four-cylinder engine, delivering over 30 mpg in the city and on the highway, which is a big deal if your job involves driving for several hours.

Dominos DXP on the salt flats

Or through deserts

The inside is gutted and then outfitted with compartments to store things like plates, napkins, two-liter bottles, and, if I am looking at this correctly, a spot for a clipboard and some pens. Plus, there is a place to put the pizza bag (which keeps the food warm for a pretty long time) both on the interior and in the warming oven (in the bag).

Dominos DXP

So, we reach the point of Big Papa’s annoyance. I think, in this case, it’s just because of a misnomer—when Domino’s calls it an “oven,” it doesn’t mean an oven that could bake a pizza. It’s a warming oven, into which is placed pizza (in bag), to keep it hot at 140 degrees. It’s just a hot little room to make sure the pizza stays all snuggly while someone like me drives to your house in the middle of nowhere that isn’t even technically in our delivery area, but which we deliver to anyway because we’re nice.

But I digress. There is no way 80 pizzas could go in that oven.

Dominos DXP warming oven

Seriously, just look at the size of it relative to that guy’s head
Photo: Dominos via YouTube

Someone must be misquoting, because I think that a maximum of 80 pizzas could fit in that entire car, and you wouldn’t be able to see out of the back. In any case, there is no way that someone is going to be taking a bunch of orders at once that total up to 80 pizzas. On a really, really busy night (in the summer, when the kids are home), I imagine that I might deliver somewhere around 80 pizzas over the course of my whole shift, barring anomalies like office parties or festivals.

Trade secret, here: usually, delivery people take your pizza pretty soon after it gets out of the oven (the big, real one). We find that people are far more likely to be happy and tip well if, after ordering a pizza, they don’t have to wait until the end of the shift to get it.

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Besides, have you seen a delivery pizza after about four hours?

So, Mr. Schnatter, while I am an admirer of your work (especially the breadsticks and garlic butter, those things are delicious), and though you obviously know a lot about pizza, I honestly think the DXP is a fantastic vehicle for delivering pizzas, and I think that it would make both your customers and your drivers happy if you were to do something similar (and maybe help bump up those Wall Street fluctuations you were complaining about).

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  • Daniel SuscoEditor

    Daniel Susco is a native of the Dayton-Cincinnati area, and has written on a multitude of subjects. He can discuss Shakespeare, expound on Classical Mythology, and even make witty jokes about Pliny the Elder (More like “Pliny the Rounder,” right?). In his free time, Daniel enjoys reading, cooking, woodworking, and long walks on the beach (just kidding – sunburn is no joke). See more articles by Daniel.

  • nicholas becker

    Nope. I’m sorry you’ve been distracted by the shiny new toy. You don’t need a specialized delivery vehicle to hold sodas and a clipboard, much less a hot bag full of pizza. The only utility offered by this car is the built in oven, and that seems to be a crutch for restaurants that cannot get pizzas to the door on time. As you said, if a pizza leaves the store as soon as it’s ready (or within some short span of minutes), and travels to the customer in a warmer bag, it’s hot. What is the use of the oven if not to make up for a poor delivery service?

    • Daniel Susco

      I will give you this: It is a shiny new toy, although I don’t know what exactly you think I am being distracted from.

      It’s true that I currently can get by delivering pizza in my crappy, much-abused car by stacking the various two-liters, 20-ounce sodas, plates, and napkins on the seat next to me and pinning them down with the pizza bag. But honestly, for me the warming oven isn’t as much the big deal everyone is making it out to be. It’s just making sure that what heat is lost during transit (and there is some – the bags are good, but not perfect), possibly for deliveries during a rush where you need to take more than one delivery at a time. I can’t speak for other stores, obviously, but if my store were to get that car, it would be used to make an already good service even better. In any case, though, if a store is having trouble getting pizzas to the door hot and this car could fix that problem, why on Earth is that a bad thing?

      Also, I was far more excited by having a custom-made place to hold two-liter bottles and my clipboard than a warming oven. I tell you, there’s no more annoying feeling in the middle of a turn to hear that sliiiiiide-thump of the clipboard falling in between the passenger seat and the door (for the umpteenth time that night) or the two liter falling over in what you fervently hope was a gentle way.

      • JohnSchnatterLovesHisWhiskey

        Right or wrong, one thing here is undeniable: John Schnatter is an irredeemable turd-person. More like John Sharter, really.

      • nicholas becker

        Put one of the plastic crates the 2 liters are delivered in on the floorboard. Pen clipped to the clipboard, clipboard slides into the middle slot on the crate. The car solves a lot of tiny annoyances at an enormous cost. The oven may keep the pizza hot, but it’s still later than it would be if it were delivered quickly to begin with, and unless it’s a steamer box, it dries out the pizza in the meantime. You may not like the guy, but I think Papa John’s comments on this subject are accurate, or at least consistent with how he says he wants his stores to operate.

        • Daniel Susco

          You make a good point, although I don’t think my store would be too happy if I took one of those crates (I guess they send them back? I’ll have to ask – thank you for the suggestion, I’ll do that if I can). The car does cost a certain amount ($25,000), although Domino’s Corporate seems to believe that the advertising value of a bespoke Domino’s car (with the special warming oven, gimmicky or not) will recoup the losses in additional business. I doubt the warming oven is a steamer box, but I am not sure that it would dry out the pizza, given that the pizza is within its own box inside the bag, that the longest delivery I ever take is 20 minutes out from the store, and that the areas of the pizza that are not covered in cheese are typically covered in garlic butter. Of course, I could be wrong, and maybe I can convince my bosses to pay for a warming oven to put in my back seat to drive pizzas around in to check, but I think the odds of me either driving the DXP or getting a warming oven like that are pretty remote. I will investigate, though.

          Honestly, though, I think John Schnatter is just fine (I mean, I obviously don’t know him, so I can’t say he’s a great guy or a terrible guy). I just think he is wrong about the DXP, and may be letting his frustration at some guy who may be the hundredth dude to ask him bugging him about Domino’s delivery car. His comments, other than that, are absolutely in line with how he wants his stores to operate – I just think that they are more or less in line with how his competition wants to operate (minus his opinion on in-car warmers, I suppose).