Domino's New Live Video Stream: It Could Have Been Quite Useful, But It Wasn't

When Dominos (NYSE: DPZ) announced its newest marketing tool, "Domino's Live," on Wednesday (May 1), it looked initially like it could be an extremely useful tool for pizza buyers. It's a Webcam in the Domino's kitchen that watches the pizza being put together and streams it live for anyone to watch. It's initially being done as a one-store (in Salt Lake City) pilot that runs just the month of May.

The potential advantages of such an approach are significant. A customer could watch his order of a half-pineapple-half-pepperoni pie being made and notice right away that it's being incorrectly made as an all-pepperoni pie.

By dialing that store immediately, he might be able to have it fixed before it goes in the oven. It would discourage moves such as the time-honored pizza-chain tradition of taking ingredients that drop on the floor and put them right back on the pizza. All things that could truly speak to customer service and that could also give pizza buyers a reason to switch to Dominos.

Unfortunately, that's not quite what Dominos has in mind. Indeed, it's not even close. As the chain's news release said: "Online customers will get a live, uncut glimpse, via five installed cameras within a Domino's store in Salt Lake City, into the start-to-finish making of a pizza – perhaps even their own." Perhaps even their own? What's the value in watching someone else's pizza getting made?

Dominos Spokesperson Chris Brandon said the value is in letting people see the inside of their kitchen and the process. But if it's not that customer's pizza, wouldn't the benefit be the same as running a loop of canned footage of the same thing? Why make it streamed live if it's generic?

Dominos already has an order status checker online, but that's very different than watching live video. The order checker can't flag any errors (it would flag if the order was taken wrong, but not if the pizza maker is doing it wrong) and certainly doesn't allow for an error to be fixed before the product is cooked.

Then again, that's not the pizza chain way. Chains have to be as productive as possible. Having automated orders placed online is ideal. Actually having to deal with customers on the phone is inefficient.

Still, the initial reports of a Domino's streaming live footage of pizzas being made made us think that they may have chosen to break through and to offer a true differentiator.

If this small gift basket chain—some four years ago--was able to figure out a way to do low-cost streaming that delivered practical value to its shoppers, Domino's couldn't?

Guess we'll have to stick with the 80-year-old brick oven pizza guy down the street, the one who still throws the dough in the air. No streaming video or Web site, but he still seems to always draw a crowd.