Does it have the right flavor profile?
How does it cook?
How does it look?
Will it sell?
These are among the many questions asked by the product development team at Domino’s headquarters as they develop new menu options for the nearly 5,400 U.S. franchises.
But before those questions ever get answered, menu development begins at Domino’s Ann Arbor, Mich., test kitchen. It’s here where chefs develop product ideas and have consumers taste test each concoction. In some cases, the tasting rooms have little light so the sense of smell and taste is further highlighted.
When I stopped by Domino’s on May 25 to start our “Food Maker series” . . . a look into the Dairy Checkoff’s partnership with restaurant chains and retailers . . . Joe Jordan, vice president and chief marketing officer, and Jenny Fouracre, director of public relations, asked if I wanted to make a pizza in the test kitchen. I quickly accepted the offer. Laura Mandell, with Dairy Management Inc.’s (DMI) leadership team, grabbed my camera to document the pizza creation.
Every Domino’s pizza begins the same way, hand stretching the dough. Since I was making a medium, hand-tossed crust pizza, I needed to knead out the dough to a 12-inch circumference. Before doing so, the Domino’s team instructed me to get corn flour on both sides of the dough ball. Once the future crust was properly sized, I placed it on a pizza pan.
Next, applying the pizza sauce with a ladle spoon. For the best application, I placed the sauce in the middle of the pizza crust, slowly working it to the pizza’s edge without getting tomato sauce on the far edge of the crust where it would burn.
Next stop, pizza ingredient row.
Here I could apply any ingredient from the Domino’s main product line. The combination’s are almost endless . . . some 34 million in all. I chose double cheese, ham, mushrooms, onions, and spinach for my pizza.
Next stop, the oven.
Once cooked, I took the pizza out of the oven using a large pizza spatula. Near completion, I added the butter garlic sauce to the outside crust. Final steps involved forming the pizza box and cutting the pizza.
The pizza was now ready for delivery . . . or in this case, in-office dining.
While this was an educational exercise for me, full-time pizza makers must create pizzas with far more speed and precision.
To help acquire those skills, Domino’s offers a 4-day “Pizza Prep School.” That’s right, an all-week school where employees can learn the art of pizza making. The adventure takes place in a glass-encased, three-story pizza kitchen located in the center of Domino’s corporate headquarters.
On the Pizza Prep School’s final day, all employees may order discount-priced pizzas to simulate a heavy pizza-making day such as the Super Bowl. The real-life simulation ensures people know the business, including the cash register, and can deliver customer satisfaction.
As for the Domino’s test kitchen, it’s one step in the journey to creating a better pizza and with it more cheese sales. And that’s a good thing as 25 percent of all U.S. cheese goes on pizza pies.
To read more about the Domino’s experience and the organization’s partnership with dairy farmers, turn to page 572 of the September 25, 2016, issue of Hoard's Dairyman for the start of our Food Maker series.
October 10, 2016