Domino's takes alook at the role of community relations in maintaining customer loyalty

Consumers increasingly want to see businesses demonstrating a high degree of social responsibility. According to Business in the Community, nearly half (44%) of consumers rate this as a 'very important' consideration when buying a product or service.

An excellent way for small businesses to demonstrate socially responsible business practices is by working alongside local voluntary groups, not-for-profit organisations or charities, thus demonstrating how they can add value to the communities they serve. A key selling point of franchising is the ability to for local franchisees to select partnerships and associations that really matter to their own communities.

Franchising offers, on the one hand, a recognised brand that customers know and can trust and, on the other, a very local and personal touch that is increasingly in demand.

Andy Cooke, franchise sales manager at Domino's Pizza comments, 'Businesses should never underestimate how closely their behaviour is observed in the local community. Leading franchisors will invest in managing the reputation of the brand nationally but should also give their franchisees the scope and encouragement to represent the brand in a way that matters locally. A good franchisor must arm franchisees with the tactics to build a strong community relations programme and the power to make small adjustments that suit local customers and employees. At Domino's, for instance, franchisees can adapt their menus, within reason, and can tailor prices and pay rates to suit the local market. What's more, although we have a national charity, franchisees also have total autonomy when it come choosing which good causes they wish to support. We take community integration so seriously that we evaluate franchisees who wish to open extra stores on the basis of the contributions they make to their local community, among other criteria.'

Pizza People

Nigel Hall is a multi-unit franchisee with three stores in Cardiff Nigel believes that responsible business practice is a determining factor in the success of any small business and has worked hard to build up strong relationships with the local community since buying his first Domino's store in Cardiff in 1997.

Nigel comments, 'Since opening my first store I have learnt that strong community relations is not just about one-off gestures but, instead, it's about offering consistent and relevant support. One way we do this is by sponsoring local sports teams. For instance, our cleaner asked if we would sponsor her son's football team - the Splott Albion Under 11's - and five years later we are still sponsoring them. It paid off in many ways -- their coach started working for us as a delivery driver!'

Nigel is also something of a local hero at Cardiff University. His stores provide free pizza to the student newspaper's weekly editorial meetings as well as offering discounts to keep up the energy of the student Nightline team. The whole team at Domino's in Cardiff is right behind Nigel in his efforts to support local activities and regularly come up with pro-active suggestions. Last Summer one of the store managers arranged a sponsored abseil in aid of Cancer Research UK and Nigel provided free pizza to the fifty people that took part.

He concludes: 'Integrating responsible business practice into our day-to-day operations helps us to market the company positively and ultimately sets us apart from our competitors. Domino's provides marketing and PR support, including template press releases and best practices, which we wouldn't otherwise have access to.'