Domino's Pizza is now the world's largest pizza chain, after surpassing Pizza Hut last year.

But before we get deep into today's story about Domino's, here's some quick trivia about the company's history to keep in mind, as it contains both an inspirational story and a cautionary tale for aspiring entrepreneurs.

Domino's got its start in 1960, when brothers James and Tom Monaghan teamed up to buy a pizza place called DomiNick's in Ypsilanti, Michigan. About eight months later, however, James decided he didn't want to work on the business anymore and instead wanted to keep his job as a mail carrier.

So, Tom bought him out by giving him the 1959 Volkswagen Beetle they'd been using to make deliveries. Thirty years later, Tom sold his brother's former shares for $500 million.

I've been thinking about that story because of the way Domino's is making news now, after a strange but telling decision the company made in the United Kingdom recently.

In advance of what looks like could be a true "no-deal" Brexit on October 31, Domino's has been stockpiling pizza toppings in the U.K., spending about the equivalent of $8.5 million to fill warehouses with tomato sauce, frozen chicken, pineapple, and tuna.

"A potential no-deal Brexit carries the increased risk of disruption to raw material supplies into the U.K. and foreign exchange volatility which could increase food costs," Domino's told The Guardian, which first reported on this strategy.

This news, frankly, made people laugh--and especially those who took the chance to make fun of what people in Great Britain apparently put on their pizzas.

"Wait a minute. I'm sorry. Forgive me for sounding judgy," David Greene said on NPR. "But if you usually order a pineapple tuna pizza, maybe you can use this moment to try a different kind of pizza."

But, it's actually quite serious--and potentially terrifying. Because pizza toppings are truly the least of the U.K.'s worries in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

In fact, the entire U.K. could face significant food shortages, to say nothing of rising prices, if it bounces out of the European Union on the last day of October, as planned. 

The reason is that the U.K.'s food supply is simply so intertwined with Europe's and the rest of the world's that it's impossible to predict exactly what will happen. As a result, the British food industry says a no-deal Brexit is the biggest crisis to hit the U.K. food supply since World War II. 

"We're not going to starve but there will be shortages of fresh food and some specialist ingredients," Tim Rycroft, chief operating officer of Britain's Food and Drink Federation, a lobbying group, told Reuters this week.

That's why it's so ironic that it's Domino's topping-binging, of all things, that's brought sudden attention to this high-profile warning--and a very scary one at that.

We're talking after all about a company launched by two American brothers, who settled their ownership agreement with a German car, before the company grew into a global chain that dominates pizza delivery in the United Kingdom, but also depends on importing toppings from places like Spain and Portugal.

You almost couldn't imagine a better example to use in order to illustrate just how internationally entwined we've become, and what a mess it is to suddenly try to rip up that kind of cross-border cooperation.

I'm neither British nor European, but from the outside, it all looks like a pretty bad deal on the horizon--maybe almost as bad as selling half of a future billion-dollar company for the price of an old, beat up car. 

Published on: Aug 11, 2019
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