Hollie Watson - Domino’s

Source: Domino’s Pizza Group

Hollie Watson was talking with Charles Wright

Name: Hollie Watson

Age: 27

Job title: Product development assistant manager

Company & location: Domino’s Pizza Group, Milton Keynes

Education: Northumbria University for Food Science & Nutrition

Why did you decide to go for a career in food & drink? I have always been obsessed by food. Visiting supermarkets and food markets on holiday with my family was my favourite activity – I would try and taste everything new and different to what was on offer back at home. When I was around 15 years old, I read an article in a magazine from a food product developer about how new food products get to market and all the work which goes into a new launch. I was hooked by this and contacted her to find out more about her role and how she got into the industry.

Explain your job to us in a sentence (or two): My job as product development assistant manager at Domino’s is all about researching and developing exciting new pizzas, sides and dessert concepts. As a team we spend our time focusing on what our customers really want to see next from Domino’s. We’re driven by the latest foodie trends, so we look at how we bring popular ingredients to our pizzas, but we also make sure we’re giving customers with flexible or special diets more choice when it comes to things like plant-based or free-from options.

What does a typical day look like for you? No day is ever the same, which I love. I spend a few days a week in our test kitchen tasting and developing new recipes, which I then brief out to suppliers, run commercials, and then review with our operational team to understand how our busy stores will make the product at a great-value price for customers. Recently, we developed our new vegan  ‘PepperoNay’ pizza, which has meant learning about our new sustainability strategy as well as sourcing completely new ingredients to ensure it tastes as delicious as our non-vegan options.

On other days I could be making perfect pizzas (like the one I recently helped develop – The Ultimate Chicken Mexicana) for our TV adverts and photoshoots. Alternatively, I could be helping set up internal launches for new products to really celebrate our successes and showcase our new products to the wider teams which support us through the development process.

“I got offered my first food product development work experience through a lady I used to swim with! Work experience helps you get your foot in the door”

Tell us about how you went about applying for your job: I applied during the second lockdown, whilst on furlough out walking. I initially had a telephone call with HR to check I was a match for Domino’s. I was then invited to a first interview online with my manager and team, then a second interview over Microsoft Teams. This interview was with the head of food and the head of marketing, so was a lot more daunting. I had to present a new concept for Domino’s, and run the team through how it would be implemented, approximate costings and how it would be marketed and sold.

What’s the best part about working for a food & drink company? Being involved in such a fundamental part of everyone’s favourite Friday night takeaway. We bring joy to people through the medium of food and I feel very proud seeing an idea I have helped develop being sold in Domino’s across the UK & Ireland. I love seeing people on socials interacting with each other about what to order and then getting together to enjoy our new products.

And what’s the biggest misconception people have about working in food & drink? I don’t think many people fully understand how much work and thought goes into the food they eat and that everything you see has been developed that way for a reason. For instance, when you see it on the menu, our new Cheeky Little Pizza is just a fun new product but, to me, it’s the result of months of careful market research and product development to respond to demand for healthier, more sustainable options. I think people also assume that all I do is eat pizza as well, which isn’t (always) true.

What advice would you give to other young people looking to get into the food & drink industry? There are so many exciting roles within the food industry, and there always will be, as people need (and love) to eat! I would say to young people to get all the work experience you can and don’t fear asking around. I got offered my first food product development work experience through a lady I used to swim with. Work experience helps you get your foot in the door, learn the fundamentals of different roles and help you understand which direction you want to go in.

What’s your ultimate career dream? My dream is to be head of food, leading a team of incredible developers focusing on food quality and keeping our customer at the core of our decisions.

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