When football’s World Cup kicked off last week, Domino’s boss Elias Diaz Sese was rooting for his native Spain. But today, the man from Madrid appears to be more than a little conflicted.
The 49-year-old, who moved to London in 2016, has now seen first-hand the effect that a run of England games has on order numbers – notably on Friday evening when the phones at the delivery chain were almost as hot as its freshly made pizzas.
‘I have my heart divided at this World Cup. I am cheering for England and Spain to be in the final,’ he confesses, attempting to reconcile his national pride, his adopted home and his business instincts.
Goal: Elias Diaz Sese wants Domino’s to have a large slice of the takeaway market during the World Cup
Domino’s is Britain’s biggest pizza delivery business by a distance.
Diaz says bosses at the chain have been preparing ‘the entire year’ for the tournament.
They had watched sales go through the roof at last year’s delayed Euro 2020 competition, in which England lost in the final to Italy. In a group stage game between England and Scotland, Domino’s was selling 13 pizzas every second.
Diaz, who took over as interim chief executive at the £1.5billion turnover company only last month, is hoping that demand through this latest tournament will break records.
Winter – unusual timing for the football World Cup that normally takes place in the summer – is already the busiest time of year for Domino’s as families snuggle up indoors with hot takeaways rather than venturing out in the cold.
Also, unusually, many hard-pressed football fans are expected to shun the pub and watch from home as the cost-of-living squeeze means some households are conserving cash for Christmas.
Anticipating the surge in demand, Domino’s has hired an additional 10,000 staff in the last two months with jobs as delivery drivers, instore staff and pizza makers up for grabs.
It took the number of employees across Domino’s 1,188 restaurants to 35,000.
‘We knew that it was going to be big, but it has definitely been much better than expected,’ Diaz says after poring over the ‘incredible’ demand the company enjoyed on last week’s match days.
During Friday’s game against the United States, Domino’s had its best day this year – with 21 orders processed every second and 147,877 pizzas cooked. Diaz says next Tuesday’s match between England and Wales, where it has 62 stores, will be another lucrative event.
It’s a ‘very good start’ says Diaz, who is now hoping that both England and Wales qualify for the knock-out stage.
But while Domino’s enjoys its busiest weeks of the year through the World Cup and into the Christmas period, there are fears of a slowdown in the New Year.
The UK faces its biggest drop in living standards on record as the surging cost of living eats into people’s wages.
The Office for Budget Responsibility said household incomes will dive by 7 per cent by 2024. And Domino’s, like other food businesses, is grappling with soaring bills from food to energy to wages. In a worrying sign, the delivery chain’s orders in the third quarter of 2022 slipped 1.9 per cent to 16.9million. But, despite the headwinds, it reiterated a full-year forecast that profit would come in between £125million and £135million.
Diaz, with 25 years in the food and restaurant industry, says the bleak outlook for businesses and consumers is ‘obviously a real concern’. But he insists that Domino’s value credentials would help it to defy an economic slump. ‘We understand the cost-of-living crisis,’ he says.
He wants to be ‘conscious and empathetic’ to hard-up families who have limits on their spending power. He adds that, while the business has faced an ‘intense’ year of rising costs, its long-term relationships with suppliers have helped offset the squeeze and limit price increases. Diaz took up the top job on an interim basis when former boss Dominic Paul announced he was leaving to run Premier Inn owner Whitbread.
Paul, who led Costa Coffee during its Whitbread ownership and before the cafe chain was sold to CocaCola, led Domino’s Pizza Group throughout the Covid crisis.
Diaz first joined the group’s board in 2019 and has a stake in the business worth about £2.8million. He took the helm less than a year after the business resolved a long-running dispute with its franchise partners, paving the way for an acceleration of new store openings.
His previous roles include a two-year stint as the president of Kraft Heinz’s Northern European arm and chief executive of Canadian coffee giant Tim Hortons.
His two younger sons live at home in London while his 19-year-old ‘princess’ has flown the nest for university.
He says that being given a shot at the top job has been ‘an honour and a pleasure’. Investors will hope his sense of optimism endures what could be tough trading ahead once football and festive fever subside.