Tom Van Esley earns respect for thinking outside the box

“Any success that I’ve had in my career has been to take what I know as fact … to find new uses for those facts. No pun intended…but it would be called ‘thinking outside of the box’ ...in my case, a pizza box.” Tom Van Esley ’75

pizzaTom Van Esley started college at University of Detroit in 1971 hoping to get into its dental school. He didn’t get accepted. Had he been accepted, Domino’s Pizza of Ann Arbor would have missed out on Van Esley’s skills for generating inventive, cost-effective packaging for its billion dollar pizza business.

Van Esley earned a degree in biology and applied his science background in the Domino’s Food Microbiology Lab. Throughout his 23 years with Domino’s, Van Esley held many positions including several within product development and quality assurance. Here, he has made company history by researching and facilitating pizza box designs.

“Although I do hold a patent on the Domino’s Kicker Box, I have primarily been a facilitator of new pizza box designs over the years,” explains Van Esley. “I work with input from several different groups like franchisees, marketing, operations, and even the customers. I can honestly say that packaging designs are never done in a vacuum. Many people are involved and nobody would or should get sole credit.”

The creativity of Van Esley and the quality assurance team impact the bottom line for Domino’s and affects productivity of other departments within the company.  He explains this by describing how the unique shape of the Domino’s Octabox saved money by reducing the amount of paperboard in the box by 15 percent. The box was a hit within Domino’s for a variety of reasons.

“The purchasing department was able to get a better price on its packaging buys; quality assurance had a box that ‘cradled the pizza,’ making it less likely to shift and roll during deliveries; and marketing had a new/proprietary look to promote graphics on,” describes Van Esley.

In recent months, Van Esley has been busy implementing eight new structural and/or graphic designs to the Domino’s packaging program.

He believes that the ingredients for innovative success include keeping a broad range of customers in mind, not just one end user, and seeking input from all areas within a company.


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