Free pizza delivery may soon amount to pie in the sky.
Next week, local Domino's Pizza stores will begin charging a $1 delivery fee for any order. There's no other way to slice the rising costs the chain has to pay for fuel, rent, insurance and food, especially cheese, the prices of which are "at record highs," said David Carraway, president of Team Washington Inc., which owns 59 Domino's stores in the Washington area.
"Everything is going up. It's not a decision we're happy with, but it's the reality of what we're dealing with," Carraway said. He added that some rivals are already charging the fee. "I wouldn't be surprised if our competitors are not all doing it shortly."
Pizza Hut spokeswoman Patty Sullivan said Washington area stores have been charging a delivery fee, averaging about 75 cents, for a few years. Local Papa John's stores are not. However, some of the franchises in other areas are imposing a $1 to $1.50 delivery fee. "If high fuel prices continue, more markets, including Washington, might consider it," said Papa John's spokesman Chris Sternberg.
Nationwide, about 45 percent of all Domino's stores charge a delivery fee, according to company spokeswoman Holly Ryan.
Carraway said the current competitive pizza market makes it impossible to cover costs by raising the price of the pizza. "Everybody's got deals, everybody's trying to outdo each other," and consumers follow the lowest prices, he said.
One Domino's store in Silver Spring started charging the dollar delivery fee on Tuesday, ahead of schedule, Carraway said. Government employee William Eck first learned of the surcharge when he ordered his usual Tuesday special: two large cheese pizzas for the price of one. He said he was surprised and angry when he learned why his order would cost $12.50 instead of $11.50. "Their promotion was always for free delivery. I guess it's not free anymore."
Carraway said it has been about 12 years since the chain promised free delivery, or a discount if the order wasn't delivered within 30 minutes. "Some people still think we have that, but that's gone too," he said.
From now on, Eck said, when it comes to his regular pizza order, "I will be picking it up."