Domino's may know the cost of cheese, dough, tomato sauce and pepperoni. What it didn't count on was the high price of Redskins touchdowns.
In fact, one might call it Domino's Pizza's $2 million fumble.
Before the football season, the Washington area's 143 Domino's outlets decided to try to boost business on their slowest day of the week--Monday--by offering customers $1 off every pizza, no matter the size, for every touchdown the Redskins scored the day before.
The 22 Domino's franchise holders in the Washington area knew the numbers from last year--the woebegone Redskins scored 40 touchdowns in a forgettable 6-10 season, which figures to 2 1/2 touchdowns a game.
Or, put another way, that's an average of $2.50 off, say, a large pizza with sausage and mushrooms.
So, as Dave Wood, a Redskins season-ticket holder and owner of 16 Domino's outlets in Northern Virginia, said, "we were figuring in a big game they might get four touchdowns. Some games maybe they'd get zero, one or two."
But as any true burgundy-and-gold-clad Washington fan can tell you, the Redskins are scoring touchdowns at a phenomenal pace--19 so far, a quarter of the way through the National Football League season. With 150 points, they're leading the league in scoring, with 46 more than the second-highest scoring team, Tennessee.
As a result, for Domino's customers, the Redskins' suddenly potent offense has meant cheap and sometimes free pizza on Mondays.
"We didn't figure they'd have this kind of offensive juggernaut," said Charlie Malament, who owns five Domino's outlets in the Maryland suburbs.
Said Wood: "Obviously we're surprised, but we're pleasantly surprised. The best thing is the Redskins are winning," now at 3-1.
Wood, president of the group of Washington area Domino's operators, estimated the promotion has cost them, net, about $2 million on the Mondays so far, despite the fact that the outlets have sold a total of more than 640,000 pizzas throughout the Washington area and into nearby West Virginia on the four Mondays after Redskins games this season. That compares with perhaps 120,000 for four average Mondays.
Frank Meeks, who with 58 outlets is the largest Domino's franchise holder here, said he did not think the overall losses were that substantial. He described the Monday discounts as "the most successful promotion we've ever run" in terms of sales volume, but he quickly added that "profits remain to be seen." He said that so far at his outlets "whatever discounts we're giving on Monday we're making up [in increased sales] Tuesday to Saturday."
Wood said the promotion started rather tamely, even though the Redskins scored four touchdowns in their opening-game loss to Dallas.
"We got no response the next day," with negligible extra sales, he said.
"So the next game we weren't prepared," Wood said. That was the contest in which the Redskins dropped seven touchdowns on the New York Giants in a 50-21 rout.
"I sell medium pizzas for $6.99," Wood said, "so when they scored seven touchdowns, those were free. We haven't gotten to the point of giving away money."
In all, on Sept. 20, the Monday after the Giants game, Domino's outlets sold more than 250,000 pizzas, discounted to the tune of $1.75 million. Wood and Malament both said they had dozens of customers lined up outside their stores waiting to buy the discounted pizzas.
The next day, Malament said, "we had an emergency meeting [of the local Domino's owners]. Some of the guys were freaking out, saying, 'What did we get into?' It wasn't the amount of money we're losing but our inability to serve our customers."
As it turned out, the Redskins cooperated the next week, scoring a season-low three touchdowns against the New York Jets. So, with $3 discounts, Domino's only sold about 60,000 pizzas, still twice the normal Monday figure.
But last Sunday the Redskins' touchdown parade was in high form again, with five more in a last-minute 38-36 win over the Carolina Panthers.
"I've never rooted against the Redskins," Malament said, "but on that last drive [with the Redskins trailing 36-35], I thought a field goal would be nice. We didn't need a touchdown. And besides, I had the kicker [Brett Conway] in my fantasy football league."
He, of course, got his wish: Conway kicked a game-winning field goal, saving the Domino's owners another dollar off every Monday pizza.
Still, the Monday pizza outcome was perhaps predictable: Domino's sold more than 300,000, discounted $1.5 million, with a final tally from all stores not yet in.
"This last Monday was the biggest day ever, bigger than snowstorm days," Malament said. He said he and some other Domino's managers rented trucks to make extra trips to the Domino's kitchen in Jessup, Md., to get more ingredients to keep cooking for the waves of customers.
Despite the mounting discounts with each touchdown, Wood said, "we don't consider it a loss. I'm hard pressed to think of a better marketing ploy." He said the 22 local owners have no intention of ending the promotion or limiting the discounts no matter how many touchdowns the Redskins score.
Still, he said he is taking one precaution.
"I'm checking out every team's defensive record before the Redskins play them so we can figure out how much food to order," Wood said.
"Game day for the Redskins is Sunday," he said. "Game day for us is Monday."
CAPTION: The response to the touchdown discount surprised Charlie Malament, who owns five stores.