Ammar Jali - Franchise Owner, Domino's Pizza

Ammar Jali started his journey with Domino’s as a part time driver in Long Island N.Y while studying at NYIT to become an Electrical Engineer.

After graduating as an Electrical Engineer with Honor Roll and on Dean’s List, Ammar started working for Festo Didactics in Hauppauge, NY as a Fiber Optics Engineer, worked on projects for clients like Disney and won awards. Enrolled for a Masters Degree in Energy Management Program.  (“I wanted a more challenging and exciting future and quickly realized that Domino’s Pizza is that one company where there are no limits to what one can achieve.

How did you get started in this business? What inspired you to start this business?

With an SBA loan approved, in 1994 Ammar Jali purchased his first location in Long Island, NY and didn’t look back ever since.

“I learned a lot from my franchisee, he wasn’t the type to appreciate a good employee, did not believe in team member development or rewarding an exceptionally hard working dedicated employee, and I wanted to be the exact opposite of that.

You can say in a strange way my ex-boss taught me a lot without teaching me anything.

So it was easy… “take care of your people and they will take care of the customers”.

How do you make money?

Repeat/ loyal customers are what keeps you in business, our goal is to never loose a customer, provide exceptional product at a reasonable price.

Competition is growing every day, and therefore you need to stay focused on how you retain your loyal customer and acquire new ones.

So if I come across one of my team members who is not having a good day and perhaps is borderline rude to a customer, not letting a customer finish explaining what is wrong with their pizza and or is blaming the customer for incorrect order…..I ask them one simple question, can you afford to fire this customer?

If yes then how many customers can you afford to fire in a week….and eventually a month?

Customer service is not a department, its an attitude!

So I tell me team that if we won’t take care of your customers then some one else will.

Eventually that’s how you go out of business, so never loose a customer.

When you were starting out, was there ever a time you doubted it would work? If so, how did you handle that?

Of course there are always doubts in your mind, I faced challenges every step of the way but giving up is always the easy choice. I don’t make that choice….Your team looks up to you to make the right decisions and being a leader is not easy especially when the livelihood of so many employees depends on you. Positive thinking, persistence and training/coaching of the team members always pays off. It’s the sense of ownership my team members have, they don’t give up easy and team work makes it easy to achieve the unthinkable.

What is one marketing strategy (other than referrals) that you’re using that works really well to generate new business?

“Consistency”

Consistent local marketing, Social media, well-lit building signs, clean inviting and clutter free lobbies with TVs and Wi-Fi definitely give families to come in sit down and enjoy a meal together.

Convenience of ordering pizzas on the mobile app, voice ordering on Alexa from Amazon Echo device and the user friendly Domino’s web site makes is very easy for customer to place a pick up or delivery order from the nearest Domino’s location.

What is the toughest decision you’ve had to make in the last few months?

Relocation of an already busy and successful store, I had a choice to stay and continue paying the low rent or take on a huge risk of relocation not knowing for sure if the new site with triple the rent would be successful.

With Domino’s new Pizza Theater design it worked out in our favor, our customers love the new location but more importantly our team members appreciate the new, clean and inviting work place.

What has been your most satisfying moment in business?

It’s a feeling which is hard to describe. I have a legacy program that I put together in place a while back.

I asked myself, kind of legacy would I leave behind? How would I take the talent in my company and some of the most amazing team members and walk them through the pains taking process of producing top franchisees out of them.

The conventional thinking is to hold on to your best thus choking any possibility for a young energetic team member to progress.

I believe in doing the opposite….by letting go!

With that mind set, I have successfully helped some of the top general managers in the company in becoming business owners of their own. They have gone on to building stores and creating jobs in otherwise tough markets.

Its like your child when they take their first step, start walking and then running….and I get to do it over and over again.

It’s a rewarding feeling which cannot be described in words but their success further fuels my energy. The rest of the company sees a path to progress and a reason to believe in what they do.

How do you pick your locations to be build?

This is not an easy task and I don’t rely on just one element.

In the real estate world you hear words like “location” and “curb appeal”….well same is true and applies to the location and physical appearance of your business. Unlike a mobile home or a food truck, you cannot take this beautiful restaurant that took a year to build and move it across the street where you have better traffic count or more visibility.

The worst thing is to find out the hard way that you are stuck in a ten year lease with limited parking, no left turn into your location and there was a better, cheaper and bigger site available two blocks down.

So I use all my resources on doing as much research as possible to pick the right location in the right town weather in a strip center or a free standing building.

The accessibility, rent PSF and numerous other variables play an important role is finalizing one location over another.

What is your main focus on business?

Customer perception of our stores and Customer experience during their visit is very important to me.

When I walk into another Quick Serve Restaurant, I can’t help but look for detail on how clean the establishment is, the restrooms, windows, counters, ceiling tiles and team members image.

This all happens when I am ordering my food or even a cup of coffee, this continues wile I sit down and enjoy my food or beverage. You can imagine me doing the same when I walk into one of my own restaurants.

The condition of the restroom, smudge free glass on the front door and floor in the store tells me how dialed in the store GM is on keeping the facility clean….all this literally takes two to three minutes.

I stand in the lobby of my stores and see everything from the eyes of a customer and what bothers me surely bothers our customers.

Late 2015 I was driving through a town and made a quick stop at Dunkin Doughnuts, the employee while making my coffee asked if I worked in the area, I replied “no, I live five hours away and am with Domino’s” he then proceeded to tell me that about ten years ago he worked at Domino’s and the District Manager mentioned that the owner is very particular about store cleanliness, he starts from the restroom….he then said that I never met him but his name was Ammar.

What are the odds of that..I said to my self and told him “ I am Ammar” he had this big smile on his face and replied “ please check my restroom” I laughed so hard and replied “ thank you for providing your customers with a clean facility and thank you for taking care of your customers.

That five minute coffee trip made my day and also made me realize how much impact you can have on some one even if you haven’t met them.

How do you think he trains his team members?

Similarly I am very interested in knowing what kind of experience our customers have while ordering their food, while waiting in the lobby or when they sit down and enjoy their meal in the customer lobby, is that experience pleasant enough for them to come back?

Obvesiolsy it goes way beyond how the food tastes, for instance, does the lobby have comfortable temperature, is the music too loud or offensive to the young ones?

Are the employees having a conversation amongst themselves and not realizing that the customers can hear them and if that conversation a little less than professional?

So there is not gage in the restaurant which measures all that, you have to rely on training…relentless training and setting priorities with your team members.

Let me elaborate a little more on what I mean….

A few months ago I was out with my family having dinner, food was great, restaurant was clean and the server was friendly…all up to par.

Then the bus boy walked by and said hello to my six year old, he then came back with a piece of paper and made a paper plane form my six year old, his eyes lit up and he finished his food. Can you guess where we go for dinner more than any other restaurant in the area?

That bus boy didn’t have to do what he did, he wasn’t our server not was he getting a tip from us…..it was the culture of that restaurant I realized….its someone in that establishment who understands the value of such a simple gesture.

I got up and walked to the General Manager of that restaurant and thanked her for her detail to the training and coaching of her team members.

How many customers thank a restaurant manager for being exceptional?

I am sure she will remember my appreciation to the culture she created in that restaurant….why am I saying that?

Because we are too quick to point out all the issues, it’s so much more important to praise the positives and the exceptional…it goes so much further in developing a team member.

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