Arbitrage Digest: Pizza Pizza

Let’s start out with the wildest slice of this pizza story: Domino’s tried to sell the good people of Italy pizza. Well, their Americanized version of pizza. Not surprisingly, most self-respecting Italians said, ‘no, grazie.’

The last of Domino’s 29 branches have closed after the company started operations in the country seven years ago. It borrowed heavily for plans to open 880 stores, but faced tough competition from local restaurants expanding delivery services during the pandemic and sought protection from creditors after running out of cash and falling behind on its debt obligations.

The US chain entered Italy in 2015 through a franchising agreement with ePizza SpA and planned to distinguish itself by providing a structured national delivery service along with American-style toppings including pineapple. 

Its ambitious expansion ran into trouble as traditional pizza makers scaled up deliveries or signed deals with third-party services such as Deliveroo Plc, Just Eat Takeaway.com NV or Glovo to bring their products to customers’ homes while restrictions prevented dining out. 

“We attribute the issue to the significantly increased level of competition in the food delivery market with both organized chains and ‘mom & pop’ restaurants delivering food, to service and restaurants reopening post pandemic and consumers out and about with revenge spending,” ePizza said in a report to investors accompanying its fourth-quarter 2021 results. 

US and Italian representatives for ePizza and Domino’s didn’t respond to messages seeking comment. Calls to all 13 remaining Domino’s locations in Italy went unanswered. The company had already reduced operations in the country from its peak in 2020 and stopped offering delivery from its website on July 29.

Still, the closures came as a surprise to some of its customers, who turned to the chain’s Italian social-media channels questioning why their calls and orders weren’t going through or why their local store had shut. 

It followed an April tribunal in Milan that granted the company court protection against creditors for 90 days, according to an ePizza filing. The measures, which prevented lenders from demanding debt repayment or seizing company assets, expired on July 1. There have been no further updates on the court process, according to tribunal e-filings or the Italian Chamber of Commerce.  Their original plan was to open more than 800 stores by 2030, but now Italians are celebrating the pizza chain’s demise after railing against it on social media for the past two years.

Sales were down nearly 40% and the company actually blamed reduced demand on a consumer preference for mom-and-pop shops. Who would’ve thought an Italian couldn’t be swayed by the Cali Chicken Bacon Ranch pie?

Speaking of corporate machinations, Papa John’s is going to ditch my favorite part of the pizza and debut a new crustless creation here in the U.S. next week. The pizza bowls, according to Thrillist, include all the expected toppings baked into three flavors: the Italian Meats Trio, Chicken Alfredo and Garden Veggie. 

And Taco Bell’s Mexican Pizza is returning to menu boards following a three-month absence. The chain announced the meal is returning permanently on September 15—which is earlier than expected because Taco Bell said it “worked quickly to restock the beloved menu item.” Made of a flat, crispy tortilla covered with sauce and either beans or ground beef, it was brought back after a two-year hiatus in May, but demand was so high, it caused the chain to run out just two weeks after the relaunch.

Of course, the best pizza doesn’t come from a multi-national conglomerate. It comes from a local joint that specializes in your region’s favored style. That’s why there’s a Detroit-style pie and why New Yorkers will tell you the difference in a Brooklyn-style slice or why we can’t call Los Angeles a mediocre pizza town anymore. And when all else fails, there’s the pizza currently sitting in your freezer. According to Donkey Credit, about 67% or two-thirds of us keep a frozen pizza in the freezer on a regular basis. And the frozen pizza industry is booming with this ready-made pizza pie option bringing in $4.4 billion in profits each year. And if you are wondering which frozen pizza pulls in the lion's share, DiGiorno can claim $1.2 billion of that pie.

Still, as convenient as this frozen food is, it doesn't come without its own culinary challenges. When it comes time to cook your frozen pizza, you've probably noticed one or two of them don't quite fit on your standard rectangular cookie sheet. If you aren't going to place them directly on the oven racks for fear of cheese dripping all over the bottom of your oven, we have a hack for you.   Per the TikTok video that has been viewed over 343.7k times, you are going to need a sharp knife or a pair of cooking shears to cut your circular pizzas right through the center. This will give you two equal halves. The video then demonstrates how you line the straight line of each semi-circle against a wall of the baking sheeting to fit two whole pizzas. Rachael Ray is also a fan of this hack. So, the next time you are making two frozen pizzas, try this trick out and let us know what you think.