Sunday’s Demand Spike for Pizza

1 – Pizza-Delivery Teams Are Training Hard For Sunday's Game ($$$)

I started reading this with great interest, expecting to read about the operations side of a pizza delivery business. It also made me think back to the folks at “Super Fast Pizza“, the company that bakes the pizza WHILE they are driving to you, with a 15-minute delivery time (now that's lean).

Anyway, interesting article, although much of it focused on Domino's, which is about my least favorite “pizza.” I understand why half the pizza market is still owned by local pizza shops, according to the article.

So, getting beyond the quality of the product, a few logistics details about Super Bowl Sunday.

Demand Spikes: a lot of Domino's stores sell 50% to 100% more pizzas than they would on a normal Sunday — some end up selling four times as many. A local chain will “have 40 delivery drivers on duty, about 15 more than usual.”

I'm surprised the demand spike isn't worse than that. It seems like you could design a system that was flexible to that degree. While TV's are typically banned from the stores, some Domino's will put TV's in to help anticpate the mini demand spikes during the day (commercials and halftime). That's a clever way of anticipating demand and it probably helps cut absenteeism that day.

Division of Labor / Standard Work: “To keep up with the volume of orders, which some store owners say can exceed 200 pizzas an hour during the Super Bowl, Domino's employees each are assigned an unusually narrow task: Some do nothing but put order slips on the pizza boxes. For others, the sole job is to keep drivers well stocked with small bills. The best pizza cutters slice pizza, while the most logistically inclined are put in charge of matching orders with drivers in the most efficient way possible.”

This sounds like a typical mass production / Frederick Taylor approach to the higher volumes, to divide the work into smaller and smaller (and easier to learn) increments and tasks. Narrow is good in that mindset.

Lean guys might approach this problem by going after cross training and having one person follow an order from start to finish (with maybe the exception of delivery, that could be a specialist). Or, at the least, you might have people cross trained to do more than just a limited task, it might depend on how the different tasks balanced out, time wise. I wonder if a pizza shop with a cellular layout and team structure would beat the performance of a Domino's with this extreme division of labor and the batch-and-queue mentality that problem comes with it?

Then again, if employees in the pizza biz are mostly short-term, maybe you have to go with the extreme division of labor. But, my gut tells me they could do better with a lean approach. My gut also tells me to order “good” pizza, regardless of the production system that's behind it!

One other thought just hit me before I clicked “publish”. The major chains (Pizza Hut, Domino's, Little Caeser's) remind me of GM and Ford… pushing mediocre product on people by focusing on discounts, coupons, and promotions!

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Mark Graban
Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker, and podcaster with experience in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. Mark's new book is The Mistakes That Make Us: Cultivating a Culture of Learning and Innovation. He is also the author of Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More, the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, and the anthology Practicing Lean. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus.


  1. A friend disagreed with me on this:

    For the sake of discussion, I have to challenge you on this – how is this lean, getting away from the division of labor?

    You would have flow, sure, but having one person do everything, especially with an oven in the middle, would be “craft” production. Would someone build a car, engine with one person through the process? The reason to have one person in the cell is because having two would do overproduction. But if one person can’t keep up, wouldn’t the truly lean thing be to break down the flow and standardize the tasks?

    The rabbit chase approach is only used in rare cases where it really, really works. Ownership doesn’t come, though, from doing all the steps. It comes from understanding the whole process, how your part contributes to the whole, how it affects the person downstream, and have a say in how that overall process works. When each person chases the other through, you actually increase variation, because people have different times, quality of work, etc. Toyota / lean / whatever has a very Tayloristic nature in terms of how to standardize the work, and believes very strongly in division of labor. The major difference between Taylor and lean is WHO does that analysis.

    Also, even if a rabbit chase would be a good idea, one thing that is absolutely required is there are no breaks in the process, but this process has a major one – the oven. To have ownership over a single pizza from beginning to end would require a 10 minute wait time for the employee, approximately requiring 20-30x the number of employees.


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