Major restaurant chains periodically adjust their branding in order to respond to changes in the marketplace. Whether driven by a loss of relevance, a shift in product mix or focus, increased competition or declining sales and traffic, the repositioning or refreshing of a restaurant brand comes in all shapes and sizes. One of the more dramatic examples of a complete rebrand is Domino’s Pizza. With stagnant sales growth, a low share price, and a reputation for poor quality, the company set out on a remarkable course of reinvention.

How a dominant franchisor reclaimed its share price:

The first step is admitting “Houston, we have a problem.” They took this head on and in 2010 launched a consumer campaign to demonstrate their commitment to improved quality. They completely revamped their core pizza recipe, added new products and improved their supply chain. They also heavily invested in technology and resources to support remote ordering and delivery. According to CEO, Patrick Doyle, “We are as much a tech company as we are a pizza company.”[1]

Over the next few years the logo received an update, dropping the word pizza and leaving just Domino’s to support an expanded menu. Packaging also got a lift and in its latest iteration, only the domino mark remains. The results of this rebrand were no less than remarkable with an immediate revenue increase in Q1 2010 of 14.3% and a 400% increase in share price since the changes were affected.

Implementing brand repositioning in a large franchise system can be a herculean task, but even in a smaller franchise environment, implementing a fully-integrated brand refresh can be challenging. Legacy operators may be resistant to change, capital for improvements is hard to come by, and retrofitting modern components to mature locations is seldom seamless. Change is hard and usually requires a champion.

How a smaller franchise revitalized its brand for success:

Pizza Factory was founded in 1979 and has 110 locations in communities across the West. After 22 years as franchisees, Mary Jane Riva and her husband Bob purchased the chain and became the franchisors. One of the key differences between Pizza Factory and their much larger competitors, like Domino’s, was their longstanding reputation for quality and community involvement – key ingredients the Rivas knew they could capitalize on with improved operating efficiencies and effective marketing.

Riva tasked JStokes with revitalizing the brand in a way that would retain its familiarity with longtime patrons and also appeal to potential customers in new locations. At the culmination of a comprehensive brand positioning process we revealed that Pizza Factory served as the “Hometown Pizzeria” to its loyal customers and that it could also fill that role with new customers. The next step was to translate the new positioning into brand assets that would work as well in a small, rural town as they would in Silicon Valley.

In creating new brand standards, we maintained the Pizza Factory’s trademarked pizza maker icon and tagline, “We toss ‘em, they’re awesome” and developed an entirely new visual vocabulary of colors, textures and patterns that were integrated throughout the new restaurant interior design, signage, packaging, advertising, website and social media. Summing up that hometown pizza gooeyness is the Pizza Factory credo that greets diners as they enter:

Here’s to hands.

Hands that cut and grate and chop and bake. That sweep the floor and pull the tap. And slide that hot, fresh pizza out of the oven in all its bubbling glory.

Here’s to helping hands. The ones that proudly hang Little League team pictures on the wall. That reach out to help those in need. And always seem to be waving hello.

Here’s to the hands that have built the Pizza Factory, where family and friends gather to share a slice and a smile.  Where you can take a seat and order “the usual”. And everything is made the way you’d make it—with pride in doing even the smallest things well. Especially those.

But most of all, here’s to the hands that toss the dough! Because every time we see that pie in the sky, we know we’re somewhere real. A place that’s authentic and lasting. That’s part of the neighborhood…and part of our lives.

And nothing feels more awesome than that.

A champion of change never rests. With a solid foundation in place, Pizza Factory continues to evolve and innovate with new menu items for today’s health-conscious diners, digital technology for easy ordering, and an effervescent social media connection to its loyal fans. Pizza Factory enjoyed 10% YOY growth since its rebrand despite a decline in the market segment in recent years.

[1] Harvard Business Review, 2016