Wherever we live in the world, there’s one thing you can say about almost all Indians: we love spicy food. If it doesn’t make our tongues burn or eyes water, we’re likely to send it back to the kitchen. India, after all, is the only country in the world where people would be eager to fly an airline named SpiceJet, and where millions of people who don’t listen to rock music have nevertheless ‘liked’ the Facebook page of Red Hot Chili Peppers.
Food companies and restaurant chains who want to cater to Indians had better pay heed to this. They could all learn a lesson from Domino’s Pizza, which operates 650 restaurants in India and sells eight million pizzas each month. That’s enough pizzas to feed every single person in Mumbai – and even some of the married folks too.
Domino’s has been so successful that its CEO, J. Patrick Doyle, recently predicted that India, in a few years, will overtake Britain as the largest market outside the U.S. How popular is pizza in India? Well, a recent telephone survey of middle-class Indians found that pizza was overwhelmingly their favorite foreign food. Not only did 60 percent of respondents say they love “pizza,” another 15 percent said they love “peeja.”
Domino’s offers a variety of vegetarian and non-vegetarian pizza choices in India. Among the popular choices are “spicy delight” and “keema do pyaaza,” as well as “peppy paneer,” described on the menu as “chunky paneer with crisp capsicum and spicy red pepper.” If you think the paneer is chunky, wait till you see my relatives who keep ordering it.
Other popular choices include “spicy chicken,” described as “hot and spicy chicken with red pepper that adds an extra punch,” and “5 pepper,” which, according to the Domino’s website, is “topped with red bell pepper, yellow bell pepper, capsicum, red paprika, jalapeno & sprinked with exotic herb.” I’ve never heard of “sprinked,” but it sounds delectable.
I looked all over the website, but didn’t see any Bhut Jolokia pizza. Bhut Jolokia, as you probably know, is one of the world’s hottest chili peppers, grown in the Indian states of Assam, Nagaland and Manipur. The omission of Bhut Jolokia on the menu means, of course, that not all Domino’s customers in India are happy with their pizza.
Customer: “Hello, I would like to make a complaint.”
Domino’s employee: “Please give it to me, sir. I will pass it on to our ‘Not Hot Enough’ Department in Bangalore.”
Customer: “You have a ‘Not Hot Enough’ Department?”
Employee: “Yes, it used to be called the Complaint Department, but every complaint was about pizzas not being hot enough. A few complaints were about cold pizzas – our delivery drivers sometimes get stuck in traffic – but most were about pizzas that aren’t spicy enough. I assume that’s what your complaint is about.”
Customer: “Yes, I ordered your ‘5 pepper’ pizza but it wasn’t hot enough. Instead of crying from happiness, I was laughing from disappointment. I will be very pleased if Domino’s can add Bhut Jolokia to the pizza and call it ‘5 alarm’ pizza.'”
Employee: “That sounds like a great idea. Any other complaints or suggestions?”
Customer: “Yes, you know that tomato sauce that you put on all your pizzas, under the cheese? Well, have you ever thought of using vindaloo curry sauce?”
Employee: “Yes, we tried it once. But we almost killed an American tourist.”
Customer: “Didn’t you warn him?”
Employee: “Yes, we did. But he said he was from Texas and nothing scared him. You should have seen him running for the fire extinguisher.”