Domino’s Isn’t Pizza. It’s Something Else Entirely.

America's top delivery chain fulfills a very specific set of consumer needs.

We may earn a commission from links on this page.
Image for article titled Domino’s Isn’t Pizza. It’s Something Else Entirely.
Graphic: Libby McGuire

Is Domino’s pizza? If you furrow your brow in confusion at this inquiry, tilting your head and replying with some variation on “of course it is,” I have news for you.

To clarify, I’m not a New Yorker, Chicagoan, or Detroiter required to uphold the strict pizza laws of my home city. I grew up in northern New Jersey, where the prevalence of Italian families and our proximity to the Big Apple meant you could find a slice any given moment at any of the two dozen joints in a 10-mile radius.

So, if I’m no purist, why am I questioning Domino’s like this? What I want to clarify is that while Domino’s is always technically pizza, it is not always functionally pizza. In case your furrowed brow has deepened and your head has tilted another 10 degrees, let me explain.

Advertisement

There’s that old saying: if it walks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it’s probably a duck. Paraphrasing Encyclopedia Britannica’s definition, as long as it’s a disk of dough topped with tomatoes and cheese, it’s pizza. Domino’s is then, by definition, a duck pizza. But let’s talk about the function of pizza in our everyday lives.

Pizza is that go-to food for any occasion. It’s the quick workday lunch. The hearty snack between meals. The cheap dinner date. The roll-outta-bed leftovers breakfast. Pizza is completely context-free, so there’s no need to explain why you’re eating a slice at any given moment. Everyone gets it.

Advertisement

Domino’s, however, requires context. Picture this: It’s 2 a.m. on a Saturday night. Maybe you just stumbled home after revelry with friends. Maybe you were up late watching movies. Maybe you just got home from a long day of travel. You’re tired, you’re hungry, and you want a bite as fast as possible. Everything is closed, but you type ‘food’ into the Google search bar anyway. It spits back a handful of results, but there’s only one listing that says ‘open’ in the most satisfying shade of green you’ve ever seen. Yes, there are slice spots that stay open late in big cities, but many of them stop delivering after a certain time of night. And if you’re in the suburbs or rural America, forget it.

So you order two medium two-topping pizzas for only $5.99 each, their hand-tossed crusts lathered in garlic oil and herbs, creating a singular flavor experience that no local Louie’s or Mario’s can replicate. Your nose recognizes the smell before the delivery person even rings the doorbell. You chomp into a slice that’s consistent no matter where you’ve been in the world. From pizza deserts like Laramie, Wyoming, to oases like New Haven, Connecticut, Domino’s is there for you as reliably as Seinfeld reruns on TBS.

Advertisement

But what if it were just 12 hours later, at 2 p.m. on Sunday afternoon? You’re making plans for lunch with your crew, and everyone wants pizza. You recommend dining in at Domino’s. Wouldn’t that strike everyone as a bit strange?

Domino’s isn’t pizza so much as a concept: a physical manifestation of our craving for pizza. We love it most of all for its ability to arrive in our hour of need. And because of that, it’s more of a service rather than a good.

Advertisement