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Detroit’s non-automotive heritage: Impact on the pizza industry

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Okay, you know Detroit as the automotive capital of the world. But did you know the Detroit business community has also had an enormous impact on another of America’s favorite past times? The Motor City corporate world is actually responsible for the production of more pizzas every day than automobiles and trucks.

Mike and Marian Ilitch founded what would become one of America’s top five pizza chains by dollar volume in 1959. They selected Garden City for the first location and named the company Pizza Treat. But Marian referred to her husband as her little Caesar so eventually that name would banner over the door.

The following year Tom Monaghan and his brother James would purchase DomNick’s Pizza in a Ypsilanti on Detroit’s west side. His investment was just $975. Today that meager investment has become the nation’s second largest pizza chain and largest chain of pizza delivery restaurants.

Detroit has a long-standing tradition of revolutionizing business. Ford invented the assembly line to make cars faster and cheaper. Motown’s pizza entrepreneurs were no different.

At Little Caesar’s they decided to give two pizzas for the price of one at other pizza places. Marketed as “Pizza Pizza” they quickly became known for value. Other chains followed but none experienced the success of the Ilitch team. Domino’s tried the two for one concept but they would differentiate themselves with a much more popular promotional: free delivery in less than thirty minutes. Although this promotion would become controversial and require discontinuation, it made Domino’s the king of home delivery for many years.

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