CLOSE
Pizza Tiger / Tom Monaghan and Robert Anderson
Pizza Tiger / Tom Monaghan and Robert Anderson

11 Facts About Domino's Pizza Founder Tom Monaghan (in 30 Minutes or Less)

Pizza Tiger / Tom Monaghan and Robert Anderson
Pizza Tiger / Tom Monaghan and Robert Anderson

Domino's Pizza was founded by brothers Tom and Jim Monaghan in 1960. At the time, it wasn't called Domino's (it was an established restaurant called DomiNick's), and the brothers faced plenty of challenges getting their new business off the ground. Today, Domino's Pizza is the #2 pizza chain, second only to Pizza Hut.

In 1986, Tom Monaghan wrote an autobiography entitled Pizza Tiger, detailing how he went from one store to thousands of franchise stores. Some of the revelations in the book are a little surprising. Here we go!

1. His Brother Sold His 50% Share in Domino's for a Used 1959 VW Beetle

About eight months after taking over an ailing pizza restaurant, Jim Monaghan wanted out. He owned 50% of the business (which today rakes in over $10 billion annually), and cashed out by taking the beat-up '59 Volkswagen Beetle the brothers had bought as a delivery car.

2. He Threatened Pizza Thieves With a Meat Tenderizer and Fisticuffs

Throughout the book, Monaghan recounts stories of violence related to pizza. It seems like he had a bit of a temper. This passage, from page 97 of the paperback edition, gives you an idea (emphasis added):

I didn't take abuse from anyone. If someone refused to pay a driver for an order, I didn't call the police. I just went and demanded the money. Usually, the culprits were a bunch of college guys who'd decided to have a party at my expense, and I didn't hesitate to swing a punch to persuade them to pay up. From time to time, we'd have a rash of pizza thefts from parked vehicles while drivers were busy with customers. I'd hide in the back of the car the next time it went to that neighborhood and wait for them to try it again. I'd carry a meat-tenderizing mallet or a pop bottle as a persuader, and that approach always solved the problem.

Directly after the quote above, Monaghan describes how he beat up an employee whom he had just fired. Fortunately, the charges were dropped.

3. He Met His Future Wife on His First Pizza Delivery

Fourteen months after getting into the pizza business, Monaghan made his first delivery from a new store he'd set up in Mount Pleasant, Michigan. The order was to a dormitory at Central Michigan University. When Monaghan arrived, the woman working at the reception desk, Margie, caught his eye. Monaghan wrote (page 11):

After our second date, I gave Margie a heart-shaped pizza for Valentine's Day. It was a big hit with her friends in the dorm. On our third date, I looked into those big blue eyes and realized I was in love.

They were married the following year, and Margie Monaghan worked with Domino's for decades.

4. He Was Swindled...Repeatedly

Throughout the early days of Monaghan's business dealings, he was taken in by a series of business partners who effectively stole his money. The most notable was a would-be oil tycoon, who convinced Monaghan to give him his entire savings (several thousand dollars) to drill an oil well...and then disappeared. What's more, Monaghan built up those savings in the Marines, which he says he was duped into joining. He thought he was joining the Army, and only found out it was the Marines after taking aptitude tests. Oops.

5. He's Obsessed With Frank Lloyd Wright

Throughout his book, Monaghan discusses his lifelong interest (I say obsession) with the work of architect Frank Lloyd Wright. For instance, on page 7 he casually drops FLW's name in this odd paragraph:

...I see no contradiction between, on the one hand, sitting down at home to a simple meal that my wife spoons out of the pots it was cooked in and, on the other, insisting that meals in the executive dining room at Domino's headquarters be of five-star quality, impeccably served, with white linen tablecloths, fine china designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, silverware, and crystal glasses.

He wrote extensively about his desire to build a Frank Lloyd Wright-designed tower as the centerpiece of a new headquarters for Domino's Pizza. On the grounds, he wrote that his collection of classic cars would be on display, along with peacocks, pygmy goats, Shire horses, miniature horses, Chianina cattle, and a museum of steam-powered farm equipment. Unfortunately, the tower was never built, though Monaghan got much of the rest done (and check out that Duesenberg!).

6. He Grew Up in a Roman Catholic Orphanage, and Founded a Roman Catholic University

Truly a self-made man, Monaghan and his brother Jim ended up in a Roman Catholic orphanage shortly after their father died and their mother couldn't handle raising the kids alone. It was a formative experience, and Monaghan is a devout Catholic to this day.

Monaghan founded Ave Maria University in 1998, located in Michigan. In 2007, he moved the university to southwest Florida, at an extremely inconvenient time for the real estate market (translation: it was costly). He also planned a community surrounding the Roman Catholic university that would be free of pre-marital sex, contraceptives, and pornography. Critics have suggested that this approach to town life violates Consitutional rights, but Monaghan told Bloomberg News: “There’s so much you can do at a university that can change the whole world. ... I didn’t want a diploma factory, I wanted a saint factory."

Monaghan and wis wife Margie met Pope John Paul II in 1987. Judging from the photo, it was awesome.

7. How He Invented the 30-Minutes-Or-Less Promise

Initially, Domino's did not offer its famous promise to deliver your pizza within 30 minutes of ordering, or it was free. This idea only came about after years of Monaghan tweaking his business practices—shaving seconds off of the time needed to make each pizza, streamlining the product line (to reduce the number of ingredients and variables), designing a new corrugated pizza box to keep the pizzas hot and protected during delivery, and all sorts of other crucial innovations.

The biggest innovation that enabled the 30-minute promise was territory. Monaghan bought up pizza joints whenever he could, slowly creating a network that meant there would be a store nearby any customer who might call. After franchising the business, the network effect continued to work, as thousands of franchisees clustered in regions in order to get pizzas to customers' doors on time. Sadly for those of us in the US, the 30-minute promise was discontinued in 1993, though it's still in effect in many international stores.

8. His Best Employees are Known as Dominoids

Monaghan presaged The Noid in his 1986 book when he wrote (emphasis added):

People respond to that [pizza-making] challenge. It's a game, and the ones who have a knack for it can go a long way in Domino's. They're the ones we call Dominoids, and we say that have pizza sauce in their veins.

This was published in 1986, the same year the "The Noid" became the official Domino's mascot. Coincidence? I think not.

9. He Maintains a Serious Diet, and Badgers Others to Lose Weight

Monaghan detailed his personal diet regimen on page 15 of Pizza Tiger:

Every Friday or Monday, or on any day that my weight has moved up over 163 pounds when I get on the scale in the morning, I limit myself to 500 calories. I eat dessert only eleven times a year: Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving, just before Lent, St. Patrick's Day, and six family birthdays. I call these my "pig-out" days.

He then proceeded to explain that "...over the years I've harassed some of my employees and franchisees to lose weight," and then explained how he convinced franchisee Dick Mueller to lose 100 pounds in exchange for a $50,000 bonus. (After an initial diet failure, it finally happened when Monaghan challenged Mueller to run a marathon. Monaghan presented a giant novelty check at the finish line, garnering some good PR.)

10. He Bought the Detroit Tigers at Just the Right Time

In 1983, Monaghan bought the Detroit Tigers. The next year, they won the World Series (!). Monaghan sold the Tigers in 1992 to Mike Ilitch, cofounder of Little Caesars. It's good to keep the team in the pizza family!

11. He's a Doctor of Pizzerology

In 1973, Monaghan pushed for a thorough corporate training program that would enable Domino's managers to learn the business at a deep level. Calling the program "Domino's College of Pizzerology," as of 1986 only Monaghan, the aforementioned Dick Mueller, and Jim Tilly held the "Doctor of Pizzerology" degree, though Monaghan writes that "about 20 individuals in the company hold a master's degree from the college."

More on Monaghan & Domino's

There's a ton more to the Domino's story in Pizza Tiger. It's out of print, but the book is very cheap on the used market. The copy I picked up happens to be autographed!

All images from "Pizza Tiger," 1986 paperback edition.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
iStock
arrow
Live Smarter
The Top Excuses Employees Give for Being Late to Work
iStock
iStock

Expecting staff to just get out of bed and show up on time seems like a low bar for an employer to set, but some workers have trouble meeting this bare-minimum obligation. Their stated reasons can almost sound believable.

Job placement site CareerBuilder.com recently conducted a survey and asked 800 respondents in various age brackets how often they were late for work, as well as over 1000 human resource managers for data on missing workers. Overall, one in four employees admitted to being tardy at least once a month. Those aged 18 to 34 were the most frequently late, with 38 percent clocking in past their expected arrival. Only 14 percent of workers 45 and older were less-than-punctual.

As for excuses: 51 percent said traffic was the most common reason they straggled in. Around 31 percent said oversleeping was an issue, while bad weather (28 percent) and forgetting something and having to return home (13 percent) plagued others.

According to human resources managers, some workers claimed that they were late because their coffee was too hot; that they fell asleep in the parking lot; that it was too cold outside to travel; or that their false eyelashes were stuck together.

Not surprisingly, CareerBuilder also found that 88 percent of workers were in favor of a flexible work schedule.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
Justin Sullivan, Getty Images
arrow
job secrets
14 Secrets of Costco Employees
Justin Sullivan, Getty Images
Justin Sullivan, Getty Images

Costco has become something of a unicorn in the brick-and-mortar industry. While employees at other chains express concerns over low wages and questionable management choices, the 200,000-plus ground troops at Costco’s massive shopping centers rave about generous pay ($13 to $22.50 hourly, depending on seniority), comprehensive benefits, and pension plans. After one year of employment, the turnover rate is only 6 percent, compared to an average of 16 percent across the retail industry. Not having to incur costs of training replacements is just one reason the company keeps prices low.

It’s no secret that Costco employees are a relatively happy bunch. But we wanted a little more information, so we’ve asked several current Costco workers about everything from pet peeves to nail polish bans to revoking memberships. (All requested we use only their first names to preserve anonymity.) Here’s what they had to tell us about life in the pallets.

1. WORKING THERE IS BETTER THAN GOING TO THE GYM.

Turns out that navigating a warehouse full of goods stacked to the ceiling is kind of like getting an all-day gym pass. “I walk about five to eight miles a day on average, and that's all within the confines of the store,” says Rachael, a Costco employee in Colorado. “When you see pallets stacked with 50-pound bags of flour or sugar or dog food or cat litter, a lot of that stuff had to be stacked by hand by employees before the store opens. Ditto for those giant stacks of shoes and bottles of salsa or five-gallon jugs of cooking oil. It's a lot of hard work.”

2. THEY CAN DO THEIR SHOPPING AFTER HOURS.

Costco shopping carts are arranged together
Brendan Smialowski, Getty Images

While employees typically don’t get shopping discounts, they have something that’s arguably better: the opportunity to shop in a near-empty store. “You can shop after hours, and a lot of employees do that,” says Kathleen, a Costco employee in Washington state. “You just bring your cart to the front register.” The store will keep the member service counter open so workers can check out after other registers have closed.

3. THE GENEROUS RETURN POLICY CAN GET MESSY.

Costco infamously places very few restrictions on returns. Most anything purchased there can be brought back for a refund as part of the company’s overall emphasis on exceptional customer service. Naturally, some members are willing to abuse the privilege. “Members return couches that are over five years old, and interestingly enough, they still have the receipt,” Rachael says. “My guess is that they buy that couch with the intention of returning it someday, so they tape the receipt to the bottom of the couch so they don't lose it. Then, when they've worn it out and want something new, they bring it back and get a full refund.”

Rachael has also seen a member return a freezer that was allegedly no longer working. The store refunded both the cost of the appliance and the spoiled meat inside. “The meat smelled like death,” she says.

4. THEY CAN ALSO TELL WHEN YOU’RE A SERIAL RETURNER.

A shopper at Costco looks at the computer display
Tim Boyle, Getty Images

Costco purchase records typically date back 10 years or so, but employees working the return counter don’t always need to reference your account to know that you're making a habit of getting refunds. “When someone comes in to return something without a receipt and they go, ‘Oh, you can look it up on my account,’ that’s a tell,” says Thomas, an employee in California. “It tells me you return so much stuff that you know what we can find on the computer.”

5. THERE’S A CONVENIENCE STORE-WITHIN-A-STORE.

While employees are generally allowed to eat their lunch or dinner meals in the food court, not all of them are crazy about pizza and hot dogs as part of their daily diet. Many opt for the employee break room, which—in some warehouse locations—looks more like a highway rest stop. Rows of vending machines offer fresh meals, snacks, and sodas, along with a complete kitchen for preparing food brought from home. “[It’s a] relatively new addition that is being implemented at more warehouses,” says Steve, an employee in California. “It's basically like a gas station's convenience store, with both frozen and fresh meals and snacks. The only difference is the prices are more reasonable.”

6. THERE’S A GOOD REASON THERE ISN’T AN EXPRESS CHECKOUT LANE.

A Costco shopper goes through the checkout lane
Joe Raedle, Getty Images

Walk into a Costco and you’ll probably notice an employee with a click counter taking inventory of incoming members. According to Rachael, that head count gets relayed to the supervisor in charge of opening registers. “They know that for a certain amount of people entering the store, within a certain amount of time, there should be a certain amount of registers open to accommodate those shoppers who are ready to check out,” she says. If there aren’t enough cashiers on hand, the supervisor can pull from other departments: Most employees are “cross-trained” to help out when areas are understaffed.

7. THERE’S A METHOD TO THE RECEIPT CHECK.

Customers sometimes feel offended when they’re met at the exit by an employee scanning their receipt, but it’s all in an effort to mitigate loss prevention and keep prices low. “We’re looking for items on the bottom of the cart, big items like TVs, or alcohol,” Thomas says. Typically, the value of these items might make it worth the risk for a customer who's trying to shoplift—and they're worth the double-check.

8. THEY TAKE SAFE FOOD HANDLING TO A NEW LEVEL ...

A Costco employee works in food preparation
Justin Sullivan, Getty Images

At Costco, employees are expected to exercise extreme caution when preparing and serving hot dogs, pizza, chicken and other food to members. “If an employee forgets to remove their apron before exiting the department, they must remove that apron, toss it into the hamper, and put on a fresh apron because now it's contaminated,” Rachael says. “Or, let's say a member asks for a slice of cheese pizza. We place that piece onto a plate, with tongs, of course, then place the plate onto the counter. If the member says, ‘Oh darn, I've changed my mind, I'd rather have pepperoni pizza,’ then we have to toss the pizza that they didn't want into the trash. Once it hits the counter, it can't come back.” Some store protocols even prohibit employees from wearing nail polish in food prep areas—it could chip and get into the food.

9. ... BUT WORKING AT THE FOOD COURT CAN PREPARE THEM FOR ANYTHING.

Costco employees who find themselves behind the counter at the chain’s food court say it's one of the few less-than-pleasant experiences of working there. For some members, the dynamic of waiting on food and peering over a service counter can make them forget their manners. “Usually members are rude when they are waiting on their pizza during a busy time,” Steve says. “If an employee can excel in the food court, any other position in the warehouse is pretty easy by comparison.”

10. THEY GET FREE TURKEYS.

Costco’s generous wages and benefits keep employment applications stacked high. What people don’t realize, Kathleen says, is that the company’s attention to employee satisfaction can result in getting gifted a giant bird. “We get free turkeys for Thanksgiving,” she says. “I didn’t even know that before I started working there. It’s a nice perk.”

11. THEY CAN REVOKE YOUR MEMBERSHIP.

Shoppers go down an aisle at Costco
Gabriel Buoys, AFP/Getty Images

But it’s got to be a pretty extreme situation. According to Thomas, memberships can be terminated if a member is caught stealing or having a physical altercation inside the store. For less severe infractions, employees can make notes under a “comments” section of your membership. They’ll do that for frequent returns, if you’re verbally aggressive, or if you like to rummage through pre-packaged produce looking for the best apples. (Don’t do that.)

12. MANAGERS GET THEIR HANDS DIRTY.

During peak business times on weekends and around holidays, the influx of customer traffic can get so formidable that managers jump in with employees to make sure everything gets taken care of. “Most people would be surprised if they realized that the person who just put all of their groceries into their cart at the registers or who helped load that huge mattress into their car was actually the store's general manager,” Rachael says.

13. EVERY DAILY STORE OPENING IS CONTROLLED CHAOS …

Shoppers appear in front of a Costco store
Scott Olsen, Getty Images

Like most any retail store, Costco prides itself on presenting a clean, efficient, and organized layout that holds little trace of the labor that went into overnight stocking or display preparation. But if a customer ever happened to see the store in the last hour before opening each day, they’d witness a flurry of activity. “It's controlled chaos with loud music along with the blaring of the forklift sirens,” Steve says. “Employees are rushing to finish and clean up, drivers are rushing to put merchandising in the steel [shelving], and the floor scrubber slowly but surely makes its way around the warehouse. It truly is a remarkable choreography that happens seven days a week.”

14. … AND EVERY CLOSING IS A SLOW MARCH.

To avoid stragglers, Costco employees form a line and walk down aisles to encourage customers to move toward the front of the store so they can check out before closing. Once the doors are locked, overnight stocking begins in anticipation of another day at the world’s coziest warehouse. “Our store has over 250 employees altogether,” Rachael says. “If all of us do our little bit, then it's a well-oiled machine that runs without a hitch.”

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios