A manager’s tale: Domino’s and a Super Bowl blitz

The Broncos and Seahawks aren\'t the only teams putting in overtime during the Super Bowl. (WTOP/Finn Neilsen)

Finn Nielsen, special to wtop.com

WASHINGTON – We’ve all had pizzas delivered to our home or work at some point in time. But have you thought about the logistics that go on behind the scenes?

When you manage a Domino’s Pizza, there are always three, maybe four days you circle on your calendar.

New Years Eve, Halloween, the night before Thanksgiving and the ‘Big Game.’ (We can’t use Su_ _ Bowl. Why? I don’t know? Ask a lawyer …)

I’ve always said. “If I’m in HR, give me the successful high-volume Domino’s Pizza manager over almost anyone else, because I know he or she will have the most tangible and intangible qualities most employers are looking for.”

The logistics behind Super Bowl mayhem at Dominos

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WTOP’s Finn Neilsen reports.

The prep and planning needed to handle the volume of business on those key days start weeks, sometimes months, before. It begins with checking and re-checking schedules, speaking with your employees like a broken record.

It’s one thing to be making schedules with adults. But when you’re trying to make a schedule with the most difficult individuals in the employment pool, the North American Teenager – yeah, that’s a dynamic I don’t wish on my worst enemy!

“OK, remember – don’t make plans. Clear your schedules. Tell your parents. I need you this day … PLEASE!”

If I sound like I’m speaking and writing from the heart, it’s because I am. Before I began what I consider my dream career at WTOP, I was in the trenches for almost 25 years with Domino’s Pizza, the last 10 of which I was a multi-unit franchisee.

Let’s examine briefly the prep and logistics that go into the average “Big Game” (we can’t say Su_ _ _ Bowl, remember?).

“Remember, I need you at 4 p.m. for the big game. We’re good, right?” I’d say.

The “injury report” (schedule) is made two weeks in advance, and it’s posted a week prior to kickoff.

And again: “Remember, I need you for the Big Game. We’re good, right?”

Food is ordered three to five days in advance. Dough needs at least three days of proofing before it can be used. Your walk-in (the big industrial sized cooler) is packed – sometimes you can’t even move or navigate in there.

“Remember, I need you for the BIG GAME!”

Folding boxes, ordering Cokes, fixing the phones.

“Dude, don’t forget! I need you Sunday!”

Prep, prep and more prep

It’s Saturday night after the rush. We’re organizing the walk-in, checking the pie counts from last year.

Folding boxes, making sauce.

Now it’s late Saturday night, sitting in the office going over the to-do list. You feel the presence of bad news and without even having to say a word you know what’s coming …

“Um, can I talk to you? I can’t work tomorrow,” your employee says.

And it just snowballs from there.

The next several hours are filled with nervous anticipation because you know the phone calls, voice mails and texts messages will come, wearing away at your schedule like a death march.

The day arrives

You huddle up – checking the playbook. Going over everyone’s position, making sure they know what their role is.

“Look – when you’re not on the phones, slide to the make line.”

“Drivers!! When you come in, slide to the back, or grab a phone.”

“HELP OUT … PLEASE!”

The point is, the game today for the Broncos and Seahawks is a chess match on the gridiron. It’s no different for those managers of pizza-delivery QSRs (quick service restaurants).

All the prep leading up to kickoff? It’s almost pointless, because inevitably the play will break down and you’ll need to call audibles and make adjustments on the fly.

The only thing guaranteed? It will be busy, and nothing is guaranteed.

Many quarterbacks get asked: “What’s the biggest challenge or difference you faced when making the step up to the pros?” Answer: “How fast the game moves!”

It’s no different for those managers. The game in the store for the average customer is chaos: phones ringing, 20 drivers screaming at you for missing side items, hundreds of pizzas an hour coming out of the oven that need to be boxed, computer screen ringing off the hook because another Internet order has come in. The multi-tasking is off the charts.

But in the end, the game, or the store, is moving in slow motion for the manager. They’re calling audibles, making decisions and moves on the fly in real time, that will set them up for a delivery they want a particular driver (who’s on the road now) to take when he gets back. And amongst all the chaos and all the noise, they hear and see the conversation on the phone 15 feet away…

“Sara – tell them we’re loading a new pizza right now. I need a remake, a large Pep for River Rd.; someone write River on a large box and give it to me please!”

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