With dining rooms closed for much of the year and hungry consumers sheltering in place, Domino’s Pizza reported record sales of $16.1 billion in 2020. But local franchisee David Cesarini ended up with a smaller piece of the pie.

“This has been the biggest challenge I have faced in over twenty years as a small business owner in Ann Arbor,” emails Cesarini. “I have four stores in Ann Arbor and two stores in East Lansing; my only focus is my Domino’s franchise in campus towns.”

Sales nosedived when the U-M and MSU shut down last spring and stayed weak during the mostly remote school year. “I can’t make up for losing tens of thousands of customers that were encouraged to leave town and stay home,” he wrote before the end of winter term, “but I am doing my best to break even during this time with the customers that are in town.”

To keep his teams and his customers healthy, he’s stressing Covid discipline: “Sanitizing all contact surfaces hourly, the requirement for masks, hand washing each time a team member enters a workstation, and monitoring health symptoms and contact tracing before they clock in.”

And paradoxically, Cesarini has been hiring. He says the new employees let him give current team members more flexible schedules, and “happier team members [mean] happier customers!”

They’ll also position his stores for the promised “more normal” 2021-2022 school year–and, he hopes, a return to pizza prosperity.