Hasta la pizza, baby. Here comes The Dominator.
Boasting that it has created the biggest, baddest hunka-hunka melted cheese on the market, Domino's Pizza Inc. lurched into the monster pizza wars yesterday with a 30-inch, 30-slice pie in the face of its competitors.
Brought to life in Domino's laboratories in Ann Arbor, Mich., The Dominator will grapple with Pizza Hut's Bigfoot and Little Caesar's Big! Big! Pizza for the biggest bite of the market for carry-out pizza with a gland condition.
Domino's rectangular Dominator will measure a Schwarzeneggerian 10 inches by 30 inches. "Laid side by side, it's bigger than my 3-year-old," said a Domino's spokesman, Tim McIntyre.
The "mine's bigger than yours" contest got started in earnest last month when Little Caesar's began the national rollout of its 11 1/4 -by-22 1/2 -inch Big! Big! Pizza on the Ides of March.
That roused the wrath of Pizza the Hutt, which went Little Caesar a step bigger! bigger! by tromping out its Bigfoot at 12-by-24 inches this month.
Now here comes the Dominator, scheduled to begin hitting the stores in various markets -- whether Baltimore is one hasn't been decided -- in about two weeks. In a switch from Domino's traditional emphasis on delivered pizza, it will be available by carry-out only.
"The market that we're going after, the carry-out value pizza market, is a very hungry one," said Mr. McIntyre. "Why not be the biggest?"
But what really accounts for this mega-pizza trend? Have the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles multiplied? Is President Clinton's White House staff pulling too many all-nighters for ordinary pizzas?
"It would go a long way toward sating the hunger of the health care task force," said a spokesman in the White House press office, who asked to be identified only as "assistant to the president in charge of pizza control."
The only problem, he said, is security.
"It's dangerous. You could fit a lot of stuff on a pizza that big," he said.
But futurist Melinda Davis said this big-pizza business has nothing to do with politics -- it's about sex.
Consider the shape, she said.
"Pizza was traditionally a very female thing. It's very round and cheesy and warm. And suddenly it's become pizza as weapon," said Ms. Davis, creative director at BrainReserve, a New York-based marketing firm that specializes in consumer trends.
"Because we're in the age of AIDS. We have to look for sensual pleasure that isn't sexual," she said. "It's about anger. It's about rage. Consumers are really mad at all the rules they have to follow in the '90s."
Sue Sherbow, a spokeswoman for Little Caesar's in Detroit, seemed puzzled by that logic. "Our only concern was to offer our customer a great value," she said.
In any case, Domino's competitors have no intention of trying to go it one bigger.
"We think it's the right size pizza for what our customer is looking for," Rob Doughty, a spokesman at Pizza Hut headquarters in Wichita, Kan., said yesterday.
"Teenagers tend to travel in packs, in groups, and usually they're a bit short of cash, so this is the kind of product they're looking for," he said.
Mr. McIntyre said he could not say whether The Dominator will be sold in the Baltimore market because the decision on whether carry the product will be left to individual operators.
A spokeswoman at the regional office said she did not know whether Baltimore-area franchisees would be interested.
In any case, Mr. McIntyre said, Domino's will be heavily promoting The Dominator in a few months.
"It is a big, colossal, humongous pizza, and we're looking at ads that will come across in a big, colossal, humongous way," he said.
Joseph Simone, president of mamma ilardo's Corp., said his relatively small Owings Mills-based pizza chain would not be intimidated by its bigger rivals. Nor will it be drawn into an effort at topping them.
"You can't serve top-quality ingredients in a product that size and not price yourself out of the market," he said. "It's like the difference between making sauce for two people and making sauce for the 5th Infantry."