In a slight change to previous food review posts, this is a head to head clash of pizzerias. So without further ado, let’s introduce the contenders:
In the blue corner: Domino’s Pizza!
At the end of last year, Jo was very excited about rumours that Hedge End was about to get its very own Domino’s Pizza. Almost perfect timing since we were going off our previous fast-food-lazy-meal of choice.
In the red corner: Mr Pizza!
If you’re not from round here, the defending champion may be new to you. They were new to me too; I was vaguely aware they existed, but had never even thought of going in before. As I walked in on the night of the contest, I overheard a few local kids exclaim how good Mr Pizza was. Really, I’m not making that up; the local choice was clearly going to be hard to beat.
To make the contest easier Domino’s and Mr Pizza are in the same building in the centre of Hedge End. A fact that seems to have upset a few people, who don’t think Domino’s should have been allowed to open. Surely if local people really don’t want a Domino’s, they just won’t buy pizzas from them. And if they do, why should a minority of grumpy locals stop them? I would agree that, “bureaucrats have an unfortunate habit of regulating the wrong things…” but I would certainly include trying to randomly protect one business from another in that. Fortunately Domino’s was eventually allowed to open, probably to the relief of whoever had an empty unit to let for so long.
Round 1: Domino’s
I’ve already mentioned that I was only vaguely aware of Mr Pizza, but it would be hard to say the same about Domino’s: we’ve had stacks of leaflets through the door since they opened, so no problem finding their menu, phoning an order, or knowing where they are. I was sure I had seen an advert for Mr Pizza buried somewhere (something about price matching), but no amount of searching could find it. And if you want to find them in the Yellow Pages or Thomson Local, don’t look under Pizzas!
That’s all very well, but it’s all a bit old fashioned. Why worry about finding bits of paper when we have the internet, which is where Domino’s stole round one. They have a website. It’s trivial to find all the information you need, along with a menu and an ordering system. Job done, well, with one small gripe that a lot of their special offers aren’t valid online.
Trying to find accurate information about Mr Pizza on the other hand was a bit of a lost cause. If they have their own site, I didn’t find it. That’s a bit disappointing these days, and even a basic page with phone number, opening times and a menu would be better than nothing. While I wouldn’t expect them to be running a site like Domino’s, there do seem to be some promising looking alternatives which might be worth investigating. (I might be imagining it but take aways in student areas seem to have embraced the idea already!)
Round 2: Tied
After round one, it seemed that the best way to order was going to be to park up and do it in person. Domino’s and Mr Pizza are in the same place, so getting there takes exactly the same time, and parking is easy.
First up was Mr Pizza, since I had no idea what was on the menu or how long it would take. As well as the glowing recommendation on the way in, first impressions were excellent. Order, pay in advance, take ticket, wait about 10 minutes. Or in my case, go to their new neighbour and order another pizza!
And Domino’s was similar, except they only want you to pay when you pick up. They seem to have to repeat that with every order as everyone I saw kept trying to pay in advance! Like Mr Pizza, estimated time to nosh was 10 minutes.
Everything seems to be going well, so back to pick up the first order via Jo in the getaway car to report on progress.
Round 3: Mr Pizza
To be honest, it was round three and the contest to Mr Pizza at this point, but there is a round four for completeness.
Back at Mr Pizza there’s a nice seated waiting area, magazines, and a TV. As well as menus which I picked up for next time! I didn’t get time to enjoy the facilities though because my order was ready: call number eight (that’s me), pick up food, go home. Simples. Except I was going to collect another pizza where it’s not quite so simples…
Arrive at Domino’s, stand about in tiny area by the door and fight for attention with people putting in new orders; no sign of pizza. Well, they are busier I guess. Wait for a bit longer watching legions of employees preparing pizzas and wandering about. Check again; still no pizza. Wait some more, get call from Jo threatening to eat the Mr Pizza pizza she’s looking after in the car! This time when I check, they pick up an order that’s been on the shelves for ages! A process that seems to involve dumping completed orders on a set of shelves unannounced, which then get checked by other staff at some point in the future seems a tad crazy, and completely ineffective on this occasion. Even Argos do a better job! To be fair, I was offered a free drink by way of apology, but there’s just no contest given the pleasant experience at Mr Pizza.
Round 4: Mr Pizza
I was never going back to Domino’s anyway, but what were the pizzas like? Both were good, and I did marginally prefer the side order from Domino’s, but in the end it was slices of Domino’s pizza left over after we’d finished. So Mr Pizza wins the taste test as well.
Even though I won’t be going back to Domino’s Pizza, I have no problem with them opening in the same building as another pizza business, or even next door for that matter. It’s also largely thanks to them that Mr Pizza has another customer, and Hedge End has more choice, more jobs, and more trade as a result.
You don’t have to take my word for it, but if you don’t want to buy pizzas from two places on the same night, I’d recommend you try Mr Pizza first.
In the interests of transparency, I have nothing to do with either Domino’s or Mr Pizza, neither of them knew that their customer was moonlighting with a competitor while planning to write a review, and I did not receive any free products. I even turned down the free drink, much to the confusion of the Domino’s staff!
Update: Mr Pizza do now have a website! No online ordering so Domino’s would just about hang on to round 1, but there is a menu. (1st September 2013)