Maybe Selling Pizza is Easier

Thomas S. Monaghan founded Domino’s Pizza and made a boatload of money from that enterprise.    He used his money to found a brand new conservative Roman Catholic University, Ave Maria University.

Recently, Monaghan stepped down from the position of CEO and hired Jim Towey has the school’s president.

This is of interest to me because I was a Domino’s Pizza franchisee for seven years.

The article seems to indicate that Monaghan has been in charge of the university and has managed it to the point that it is

selling to young people and their families [an] educational product that we do not have sufficient reason to believe can be delivered

I guess delivering pizzas was easier.   However, if memory serves (and it may well not), I was always under the impression that Monaghan had the idea of only selling pizza and one soft drink from a delivery/pickup only location (no in house seating), but that the business made money because he brought in people who knew how to make money at it.

As a franchisee, I once attended a day of meetings in Chicago.  Monaghan was the first speaker of the day.  He stressed the importance of quality and service, low menu prices, and not to cheapen the product by distributing coupons.   The rest of the speakers, save one, talked about the importance of getting coupons out to the customer and the best ways to do that.  I left thinking that Monaghan was not all that in touch with the company he was running.  This was when Domino’s was still the unchallenged leader in delivered pizza and had visions of overtaking Pizza Hut for overall pizza sales.

The above linked article notes that

Meanwhile, there are signs that Monaghan’s foundation, which funds the law school and the university, is on the verge of running out of money, in part because Monaghan bet his fortune—and the future of his nonprofits—on the now-crumbling Florida real estate market.

So Monaghan had all his eggs in one basket?   The franchise agreement prevented the franchisee from having interests in any other business (other than publicly traded stocks).   Domino’s wanted us to put all our energies in our stores.  I’m not sure I (and my stores) would not have benefited from being able to invest in other businesses.   This probably means nothing, but I find it amusing.

Finally, I was never sure just how genuine Monaghan’s Catholic devotion was.  I guess it is quite genuine.   Given that, I find it odd that the franchise agreement prohibited a franchisee from closing the stores on Easter Sunday.   I did that anyway.  When the Domino’s rep called me on it, I told him to sue me.  I also pointed out that I would be mailing lots of press releases pointing out that all of the PR painted Monaghan as a devout Catholic, but here he was preventing stores from closing on the most important Catholic holy day.  The rep said “OK, OK.  Just close.” and dropped the subject.

Of course, it is possible that Monaghan had no idea his company was prohibiting stores from closing on Easter.