Domino’s pitches ‘pizza theater’ restaurant in Roxborough

 Representatives for Domino's Pizza were in the Wissahickon neighborhood to present preliminary plans for a sit-down restaurant on Hermit St. near Ridge Ave. (Matt Grady/WHYY)

Representatives for Domino's Pizza were in the Wissahickon neighborhood to present preliminary plans for a sit-down restaurant on Hermit St. near Ridge Ave. (Matt Grady/WHYY)

Embracing a new branding strategy, Domino’s hopes to bring “pizza theater” to Roxborough.

On Monday night, representatives for the national pizza chain were in the Wissahickon neighborhood to present preliminary plans for a sit-down Domino’s restaurant on Hermit St. near Ridge Ave.

The pizza chain, now in its sixth decade, is undergoing rebranding efforts nationwide, according to Domino’s representatives. Known primarily as a delivery operation, it is attempting to add sit-down restaurants to its portfolio.

What’s proposed

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The proposed restaurant would be housed in a 2,900 square-foot building that once served as the headquarters of the Wissahickon Community Ambulance service.

Currently vacant, the site — located between a TD Bank and a private residence — is listed for sale at $375,000.

David Keefrider, an architect associated with the project, said his plans call for a renovation of the existing building, which could accommodate between up to 20 patrons in booth-style seating along with delivery and take-out service.

Keefrider noted that the purchase of the building is contingent upon zoning approval of the plans.

After Wendy’s

This discussion comes shortly after a proposal to bring a national restaurant chain to the Ridge Avenue commercial corridor was halted.

Earlier this year, the Zoning Board of Adjustment ruled that a Wendy’s fast-food restaurant could be built at the intersection of Ridge and Roxborough avenues, but stipulated that it could not have a drive-thru, an amenity that the hamburger chain described as being key to the proposed restaurant’s success.

Attorneys for Wendy’s subsequently filed an appeal to the ZBA’s decision, and arguments are expected to be heard in the Court of Common Pleas in June.

Keefrider emphasized that no drive-thru windows is expected; in fact, he said he didn’t anticipate the restaurant to be a “large destination.”

Domino’s explains changes

Deborah Robertson, area leader for store development at Domino’s, said that the chain was almost entirely delivery-oriented. As a result, it often chose locations that were less visible.

Now, because of marketing adjustments — which included the unveiling of new food products — sales at Domino’s have shifted to 30 percent take-out. Robertson interpreted these trends to suggest that take-out will eventually equal delivery at Domino’s.

Robertson said dine-in offerings account for a low percentage of sales. But, with the adjustment of marketing strategy and a redesign of stores to provide what Robertson called “pizza theater,” Domino’s patrons can expect to see both increased and enhanced options for dining-in.

“We’re trying to make it a warmer place for people to come into,” she said.

Residents respond

At Monday night’s Wissahickon Neighbors Civic Association meeting, residents questioned whether Roxborough was in need of an additional pizza outlet.

In response, Robertson said that market research suggested an additional restaurant could be accommodated.

Residents also raised concerns about parking.

While Keefrider said the parking lot at the front of the site would remain undisturbed, community members wondered whether the available spaces would be enough to accommodate both patrons and delivery drivers.

While the site itself is zoned for commercial applications, two-lane Hermit Street transitions quickly from a business corridor to residential properties.

Because of this, neighbors were especially concerned about the store’s proposed hours of business — open until midnight through Thursday and 1 a.m. on Friday and Saturday — and the chain’s preferred means of delivery: A tractor-trailer.

“You’re pushing too far into a neighborhood,” said Jo Ann Desper, vice-president of the Roxborough Development Corporation.

As no paperwork has been filed with the city, the plans as presented are subject to change.

Given a general mood of opposition by residents on Monday, WNCA leaders expect an ongoing dialogue with Domino’s representatives as the zoning process continues.

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