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81. Domino's

Classification: Convenience, Franchise

Like many, I have a lengthy history with Dominos, dating back to its early days of national franchising. It's a relationship that's been riddled with numerous peaks and valleys, and the fact that it remains the most dominant food delivery service in the country suggests that they're doing something right. These multiple facets make it difficult to give it a ranking because more than any other chain, it's been a real chameleon.

In my teenage years, the absolute finest dining experience was sharing a couple of pizzas on a Friday night with my siblings. It was so good—even better than school lunch pizza, and it remained the gold standard of cuisine for longer than it probably deserved to be. Over time, as I was introduced to many other pizza options, it began to fade in its glory and esteem, to the point where, like Gollum's precious ring, it sunk to near the bottom of my preferences, undisturbed for many years.

But the relationship is complex, and the quality had it ebbs and flows. Sometimes I'd find myself eating it out of duty or obligation (which is still awesome) and other times, it was strangely satisfying. For a franchise with supposedly strict quality standards, it was maddeningly inconsistent. Every so often, Domino's will still appear at a party or church gathering, and it's always acceptable, but never excellent like it was in the early years. They've dabbled with new recipes and menu items, so they're still hard at work, and the occasions where I've re-connected with Domino's has been fairly satisfying, especially when it's still hot. It will never again be a first choice, but as I write this on February 29, Leap Day, I can't help but connect those dots and conclude that Domino's remains a pretty good solution every four years or so. (5 of 10 stars)

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