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Italians Say Ciao To Domino’s As Last Franchise Closes

Domino’s Pizza shuttered the last of its franchises in Italy after seven years, where the American brand was unable to appeal to Italian sensibilities, Fortune reported Tuesday.

Domino’s executives knew at the outset that bringing American-style pizza would be difficult, and their 2015 plan to expand to Italy hinged on exploiting the then-untapped delivery market, Fortune reported. However, with the growth of delivery apps, the food and grocery sector of Italian e-commerce exploded, rendering Domino’s promise of delivery homogeneous, according to Fortune.

The pandemic accelerated the use of food delivery apps as restaurants pivoted to survive lockdowns and other restrictions on the number of patrons they could serve, leaving Domino’s with thousands of unexpected competitors on top of the growing strain from pre-existing competition, Fortune reported.

The company’s franchising rights were sold to Italian entrepreneur Alessandro Lazzaroni, in a deal with ePizza SpA, according to Fortune. Lazzaroni dreamed big, hoping to achieve a 2% market share, and open 880 restaurants by 2030, according to Fortune.

While Lazzaroni expressed excitement of using Italian ingredients with American-style pizza, his excitement over American-style was not universal, with Italians seemingly unenthusiastic about Domino’s, Fortune reports. The headline of business outlet Affari Italiani read “Domino’s is closing its Italian restaurants. Goodbye forever to Hawaiians with pineapple,” according to Fortune.

Affari Italiani’s article went on to say that the American-style of pizza, with cheese-filled crusts and pineapple, were “considered sacrilegious by some,” according to a translation of the Affari Italiani article. 

As of 2020, ePizza managed only 23 Domino’s franchises, with an additional six locations open through sub-franchising, The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported Tuesday.

In April, ePizza filed for bankruptcy, citing increased competition from local pizzerias as well as ongoing fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic as the main factors for their decline, according to the WSJ. The Milan-based company had three years left in its 10-year franchising deal with Domino’s, according to CNN.

“The Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent and prolonged restrictions from a financial point of view have seriously damaged ePizza,” the company said, according to the WSJ.

Former Domino’s CEO Patrick Doyle, speaking to investors in 2016, believed that while it would be difficult to expand to Italy, it was a necessary, and potentially lucrative, step for the company, the WSJ reported.

“We’re also going in there with humility, right?” Doyle said to investors, according to the WSJ. “We don’t expect to replace all of the pizza consumption in Italy with Domino’s, but honestly we only have to get a few occasions from each customer. The consumption is so high per capita there that if we get a few occasions from each customer [we can have] a very attractive business in Italy.”

Domino’s has yet to release a statement, and did not immediately respond to a Daily Caller News Foundation request for comment.

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