Mobility and technology drive Domino’s Pizza, other Michigan businesses forward

Domino’s Pizza is hungry.

The worldwide leader in pizza delivery likes being atop the $47 billion industry but it also serves up a coveted side dish —cutting-edge innovation.

It opened Domino’s Innovation Garage in August on the campus of Domino’s Farms. The two-story, 33,000-square-foot building accommodates 150 employees. They collaborate in open-concept workspaces, private meeting rooms, and a functioning pizza “theater,” a recreated store with all the fixtures on wheels except the oven ventilation hood. Teams develop, test and debug the latest technology, including ordering kiosks and a carryout tracker.

It is also where Domino’s explores its future. The Innovation Garage has a dedicated space for its teams to test delivery innovations, including the GPS delivery tracking experience, autonomous pizza delivery vehicles and robots like the Nuro’s R2.

Domino’s is leading the charge in Michigan of non-automotive businesses that are stepping into next-generation mobility, investing heavily in automation and technology, making it an important part of their business plan.

Time to get serious

Domino’s foray into next-generation mobility has caught the attention of other non-automotive businesses, which are wondering what connectivity, autonomous vehicles and electrification can do for them, says Dom Holmes, senior business development representative for Oakland County’s Medical Main Street, which works to grow the region’s life science hub.

“We have had a lot of conversations lately with health system executives about mobility solutions and how fast they are coming,” Holmes says. “They want to know how they are going to impact their business, their bottom line.”

While they are not building their own innovation centers just yet, they are taking the technology seriously, Holmes believes, based on the number of queries his colleagues receive.

Businesses across the state have made advances. Meijer has had electric vehicle (EV) charges at select stores since 2010, and in 2017, Meijer announced it was on the waiting list to try Tesla’s electric semi-truck. DTE Energy recently installed four EV chargers in Detroit and that it set a goal of net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Mobility makes sense and cents

Embracing mobility makes sense for Domino’s, says Kevin Vasconi, CIO for Domino’s, who is tasked with providing technology vision and leadership for the chain, which turns 60 in 2020.

“We started our company as a delivery business, so mobility and our relationship with customers has always been core to us. It’s in our DNA,” Vasconi says.

Workforce changes are forcing all businesses to prioritize mobility.


“Drivers are getting harder and harder to find. There is a lot of competition now with Uber and Lyft,” Vasconi says.


Two Dan Gilbert companies, Bedrock and Quicken Loans, became early adopters of next-gen mobility as part of an effort to attract a strong workforce to downtown Detroit. In October 2017, both companies tested May Mobility autonomous shuttles to transport employees between offices and parking structures. By June 2018, May Mobility shuttles became a permanent feature.

Bedrock and Quicken Loans have since added partnerships with Scoop, for carpools, and Luum, software that gives employees incentive to find other transportation means, like a bike. The services help with employee retention and attraction, says Kevin Bopp, VP of parking and mobility for Bedrock.

“People cite their commute as typically one of the top two or three reasons they will or won't stay with employer,” Bopp says. “So we are giving people better options, which lead to less stress and improve their quality of life and their health. And it’s the right thing to do.”

Connecting with the neighborhood prompted Lear Corp., a Southfield-based global supplier of automotive seating and electrical systems, to open its Innovation Center in 2016 on State Street in Detroit’s historic Capitol Park.

At this Center, Lear collaborates with students from College for Creative Studies, Wayne State University and tech startups to develop new automotive technologies, but it also incubates non-automotive business opportunities.

“We are leveraging tools that weren’t traditionally leveraged in the auto industry or in many industries other than the tech space,” says John Absmeier, chief technology officer of Lear. “It’s something we need to be part of in order to be prepared for the future.”

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