Domino’s Pizza entrepreneur sets sights on larger slice of the market

Sean Geddes is pumping �1 million into his German expansion and plans to spend a further �1.5m opening four outlets in Fife and the Lothians this year. Photograph: Neil Hanna
Sean Geddes is pumping �1 million into his German expansion and plans to spend a further �1.5m opening four outlets in Fife and the Lothians this year. Photograph: Neil Hanna
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AS THE operator of the largest Domino’s Pizza franchise in Scotland, Sean Geddes is gobbling up an ever-increasing slice of the fast-food market in the Lothians and Fife, courtesy of his chain of 11 outlets.

Now the entrepreneur is turning his attention to Germany with plans to grab a piece of the action in a “virgin” European market that is about to be introduced to the American brand.

The first store will open at Aachen, near the Belgian and Dutch borders, in May, with a branch following in Cologne in August and a third outlet before Hogmanay.

Geddes’ appetite for expansion has seen him spend two or three days each fortnight in Germany as he gets his new operation up and running.

“Germany is a virgin market so we’ve selected Aachen because it’s near Belgium and the Netherlands, where the Domino’s brand is already familiar,” explained Geddes. “Aachen is a university town with about 45,000 students, and young people tend to be the first to adopt new brands.”

The German operation will be run by Gordon Penman, who holds the title of “Scotland’s fastest pizza maker” and who began working for Geddes while he was still an astrophysics student at Edinburgh University. Penman now manages the Domino’s branch on Nicolson Street, the busiest in Edinburgh.

“Giving bright staff an opportunity like this is a great way to retain them,” said Geddes. “I think Gordon will do really well in Germany.”

Domino’s UK – which holds the master franchise licence for the British Isles from Domino’s US owner – unveiled plans in 2010 to move into the German market. Following his successes in Scotland since setting up shop in 2001, Geddes approached Domino’s UK and was awarded a franchise in the European market.

One difference Geddes has noticed since starting to do business in Germany is the speed at which the planning system operates. “It took only eight days to get planning permission for a store in Germany – it’s taken us up to two years in Scotland,” he said.

“Within three or four years we’ll be reaching saturation point for Domino’s stores in Scotland so it makes sense to expand into Germany, where the economy is growing and unemployment is low.”

Although Geddes is pumping ¤1 million (£830,000) into his German business to create 70 jobs, he still has his sights set on expansion in his home market. His 11 stores turn over about £12 million between them and employ about 350 staff, but Geddes plans to spend a further £1.5m opening four outlets this year and creating another 100 jobs.

The first store will open in Portobello in May, with a further three planned for Fife and the Lothians. Geddes also operates the only portable Domino’s business in the UK, which has toured around music festivals selling pizzas to hungry fans.

Following a successful tour of smaller Scottish towns last year – which took in Buckie, Elgin, Forres, Fraserburgh and Peterhead – Geddes plans to visit other towns this year that would not be big enough to support their own store.

“We could eventually have a fleet of a dozen trailers covering towns in Scotland and the north of England,” he added.