Back in August, Domino’s and the crowdsourcing Local Motors site teamed up to sponsor a design competition for the Ultimate Pizza Delivery Vehicle. The contest is now over and a winner has been announced, Anej Kostrevc, of Serbia, for his Domino’s Pack. A functional prototype will be built and revealed sometime in 2013. Cars have played an important role in Domino’s history and not just because free delivery has been a major part of their business model from the very beginning. Ironically for a business that started in Ypsilanti and whose headquarters is still in Ann Arbor, less than an hour from Detroit, the car most connected to Domino’s is the Volkswagen Beetle. The original Domino’s delivery vehicles were VW Beetles. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, VW Bugs with Domino’s livery were a common sight around Ann Arbor. They had a small fleet of them serving the U of M and Eastern Michigan campuses, removing the back seat for a hotbox for the pizzas.
So VW Beetles had an early connection to Domino’s. However, a used Bug also plays an important role in Domino’s lore. In 1960, Tom and James Monaghan bought a pizza shop called DomiNick’s in Ypsilanti, Michigan for less than $1,000, most of which they borrowed. Less than a year later Tom bought out his brother’s half of the business for a used VW Bug. Monaghan isn’t a genius but he worked a simple idea, cheap pizza with free delivery, very hard and soon opened a second store. He renamed it Domino’s (perhaps to avoid confusion with a restaurant named Dominick’s in Ann Arbor) in 1965. In 1967 Domino’s sold their first franchise. A decade later there were 200 stores. By the time Monaghan sold his 90% share to Bain Capital in 1998 for almost a billion dollars, there were over 4,000 Domino’s stores selling over $3 billion worth of pizza. Here’s one of the original Domino’s delivery Bugs, on display at their corporate HQ. While vintage Beetles have appreciated in price at the auctions, I doubt any of them are worth a half billion dollars.