Hays Domino’s® First in Kansas With All-Electric Delivery Fleet
When residents of Hays, Kan., order a Domino’s® pizza for delivery, it will arrive on their doorstep in a brightly colored, all-electric 2023 Chevy Bolt. That’s because the Domino’s franchise owner in Hays converted his entire delivery fleet to six Bolts in December, becoming the first Domino’s in Kansas to have an electric vehicle, and one of a few stores nationwide to transition its entire delivery fleet to electric vehicles.
Shawn Friedman, who along with his wife Cynthia, are the owner/operators of Domino’s in Hays and Great Bend and have decades of experience in the pizza business. Shawn worked every aspect of the pizza business in his 20 years at Domino’s, starting as a pizza maker and delivery driver, working his way up eventually managing eight stores in the Albuquerque area. Cynthia worked in human resources for the same company. The opportunity to own their own store came in late 2019 when they bought the Hays franchise. The duo saw another opportunity as nearby Great Bend had no Domino’s, so they opened a new store there in December 2021.
Shawn has seen trends in the industry come and go, but when Domino’s corporate began promoting delivery of pizzas in electric vehicles, he knew they were on to something.
“Our delivery drivers typically run about 150 miles each night, but our delivery area is relatively small,” Shawn said. “Considering the Bolt’s range of about 259 miles per charge, they are perfect for our business model. Our delivery radius is three miles, so our drivers are doing a lot of short back-and-forth trips, which normally burns a lot of gas. We can get a full day’s work out of each car, charging those that need it at the store each night when we’re closed.”
However, it’s unlikely that each car will need to be charged nightly. That’s because electric vehicles have regenerative braking, which recharges the battery whenever the brakes are applied or the vehicle is coasting.
“Regenerative braking is why electric vehicles are well-suited for city driving,” said Jake VonLintel, Midwest Energy’s Energy Technology Specialist, who consulted with the Friedman’s as they made their decision to transition their fleet. “Stop-and-go driving in town recharges the battery efficiently, improving battery range and decreasing the need to plug into a charger as often.”
The vehicles are leased through an agreement with Enterprise Rent-A-Car®, which standardizes the appearance of all Domino’s Bolts nationwide. Shawn sees value in the brightly marked vehicles always on the road, with reflective wraps advertising the Domino’s brand. Financially, he expects the arrangement will “break even, maybe better” than the current model of paying mileage to drivers to use their personal vehicles. But there are even stronger motivators than money for encouraging them to take the leap into electric vehicles. “We think it will help us in hiring and retaining drivers,” Cynthia said, a challenge in Hays, where the unemployment rate rarely tops two percent.
"We have lost candidates who don’t have access to a reliable vehicle, or perhaps only have one family vehicle that can’t be tied up for pizza delivery,” Shawn said. “Delivery is a huge part of our business in Hays, and we can’t operate without drivers, so company-owned Bolts are a perfect fit for our situation.”
Shawn added there’s also a “cool factor” with the Bolts, which have fewer levers and knobs than a conventional car, instead relying on push-buttons and glass display screens.
“Our drivers were competing over who got to drive the Bolts when they entered service in early December, but first we had to teach them about all of the features of the car, because they’re a little different than a regular car,” Shawn said.
Shawn added that electric vehicles aren’t a perfect solution for every business, especially those that drive long distances each day in remote areas, or those which haul heavy loads. For long trips, his family car remains a Toyota Camry Hybrid (with Domino’s markings, of course). And the carryout business is stronger at his Great Bend store, so he has not ordered Bolts for that location…. Yet.
“We’re kind of pioneers in this regard, and a lot of people will be looking at us to see how this works,” Shawn said. “We’ve done the research, and we think there a lot of positives using electric vehicles for deliveries."