WILDWOOD - Domino's has nearly 5,000 locations in the U.S., but a new one in Wildwood looks decidedly different from most - an appearance that is spreading to other stores in the next four years.
The 3,000-square-foot franchise store has about 60 seats for people to eat food inside the building, a significant departure from the take out and delivery model the pizza giant was built on.
This and an open-viewing "pizza theater" are part of the Ann Arbor, Mich.-based company's ongoing rebranding efforts.
Drew Williams, 44, the franchise owner of the Domino's at 4800 New Jersey Ave. in Wildwood, says it has been working.
"It's something I've never had at any of my stores - someone sitting down and eating inside," said Williams, of Forest Hill, Md., who has owned pizza franchises for two decades.
On Dec. 30, Williams closed the Domino's in Wildwood he owned since 2005 to open his new store - nearly twice as large and located 10 blocks away - the next day.
Pizza is a competitive industry at the Jersey Shore and particularly in Wildwood, where mom-and-pop staples, small chains and big brands such as Domino's and Pizza Hut vie for palates at Boardwalk shops, restaurants and roadside stands.
Williams said he wanted a larger dine-in area to draw foot traffic and to accommodate crowds when Wildwood's bars closed early in the morning.
He also received approval from Domino's corporate office to sell pizza by the slice, another rarity.
"At the beach you have those three to four months to make your money and I think we'll do very well from the customers who come to our shop now," he said.
Even as Domino's rolls out redesigned looks at stores through 2017, few will have seating capacity as substantial as in Wildwood.
Domino's spokesman Chris Brandon said most stores will have seating facilities for one to two groups of people as more locations convert in the next four years.
About 500 stores in the U.S. have been redesigned. Five of them are in New Jersey, including locations in the Villas section of Lower Township and Cape May Court House, Domino's said.
Domino's has about 4,600 franchise-owned U.S. stores and 390 company-owned ones. It had about $3.8 billion in U.S. sales in 2013, the publicly traded company reported to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
In August 2012, Domino's Pizza announced plans on their new store designs, part of the company's significant brand refocusing over the past several years that has included new recipes and products, major ad campaigns and even some self-depreciating commercials.
"We took a look at our store design - how can we update that and design it so it's more welcoming to customers. It's not about dining in as much as putting our pizza making on display," Brandon said. "If you walked into an old-school location, the first thing you'd see is a stack of pizza boxes and a counter."
Williams said the decision to expand was not necessarily an easy one.
He recently paid off a loan for the other Wildwood location, and building the new facility was "quite significant."
He did not disclose the costs.
In the summer, the Wildwood store can be among the busiest in the Domino's chain, he said.
"Every summer we're in the top 10. Sometimes we're in the top five," he said.
Williams said he is getting inquiries from other Domino's franchise owners to see his store, and pictures of the location will be used for an upcoming vendor show.
Contact Brian Ianieri:
Location: 4800 New Jersey Ave., Wildwood
Owner: Drew Williams, 44, of Forest Hill, Md.
Opened: Dec. 31; prior Wildwood location since 2005
Employees: 15; about 40 in summer