The simple truth is an uncharted challenge. One example: Historically, the biggest transaction driver for Domino’s is value. Customers can get a pizza for the same price as they did a decade ago. So does the rise of third-party delivery, which tends to trade higher prices for convenience, with users typically taking on the fees, give pizza chains pricing power?
Allison said it’s too early to tell what impact aggregators are having on setting pricing in the pizza marketplace. “There's been so much discounting that even though some of the stated fees for food delivery are quite high relative to the underlying cost of the product. You probably get the same push notifications I get all of the time in emails from these aggregators with significant discounting to try to entice orders,” Allison said.
Regardless, he added, Domino’s experience shows that remaining focused on value ($5.99 Mix & Match and $7.99 carry out) is the key to generating long-term transaction growth in this sector. That won’t ever change. Third-party delivery, on the other hand? Allison isn’t so sure it has staying power as it stands today.
“If you take a look at the growth rates and transactions in the restaurant industry and even in sales overall, there has not been a significant change in the growth rate of the restaurant industry with the entry of these delivery aggregators,” he said.
What this suggests is a shift in how consumers receive their food—more delivery, less dine-in and take-out—but no true indication of overall growth in demand.
“We also still continue to believe that ultimately this is extracting profitability out of the restaurant industry for those players that are going on to these third-party platforms,” Allison said. “Now, for the brands that are going on, you can take a look at top line sales growth, which will contribute royalties to brands, but I think the ultimate question about the viability will lie with the franchisees of those brands and are they in fact making more or less money because they've gone onboard with these platforms.”
Another way to look at this isn’t how long third-party delivery will be viable, or if it will consolidate or morph into something else. For Domino’s, the near-term pressure isn’t driven solely by the presence of the added competition—it comes from the significant amount of investor subsidy allowing aggregators to keep up the discounting and marketing pace. “And when you think about it,” Allison said, “while the behavior at first watch may seem irrational, it is actually quite the rational behavior on their part. There are going to be some survivors in this business and some of these aggregators will not be around in the future. [That] would be my hypothesis.”