Free desserts aren't helping with the battle of the bulge

January 27, 2003|By KEVIN COWHERD

ACCORDING to the latest reports, Americans are getting so fat that most of us will soon be unable to enter our homes through conventional doorways, but will be lifted in and out via winches and cranes.

There are all sorts of reasons for this: We're eating too much junk, portions are getting bigger, a national tendency to sit slack-jawed in front of our 700-inch big-screen TV's instead of exercising.

Anyway, it's nice to know the folks at Domino's and Papa John's are doing something to help.

Maybe you've noticed the latest trend in home-delivery pizza: free dessert.

And we're not exactly talking fresh fruit cocktail or low-fat yogurt here.

Now when you order a one-topping pizza for $9.99, Domino's throws in a free order of Domino's Dots, described thusly in a company press release: "These dots of dough are smothered with a gooey cinnamon and sugar sauce, baked and then topped with more cinnamon and served with a sweet vanilla icing."

Yes, you see the point here. Not exactly strawberries and skim milk, is it?

Not to be outdone, Papa John's, with its $9.99 one-topping pizza, now offers something called a Cinnapie, which it describes as "a fresh-baked cinnamon pie generously covered with sweet-glazed frosting."

Think about this for a moment.

In effect, what these companies are saying is this: Look, we know you just ordered a gooey pizza with enough cheese and fatty toppings to clog the arteries of a greyhound.

So here's some gooey, fatty, sugary stuff to go along with it.

And it's FREE!

Oh, don't thank us. Your cardiologist can thank us later.

By the way, you may be interested to know that another major chain, Pizza Hut, is not yet kicking in free desserts.

Not that the Pizza Hut people are health nuts or anything. See, at Pizza Hut you can actually order a pizza called Stuffed Crust Gold, which contains - I'm swelling up even as I type this - "a ring of delicious cheese baked in the crust."

Yes! In addition to the requisite layer upon layer of cheese on the pizza, it has cheese baked in the crust!

To me, this is like ordering a ham and cheese on rye at a deli and having the guy behind the counter say:

"Look, you really like cheese, right? How about I take a syringe and inject even more cheese directly into the bread itself? Give me time to wash out the syringe and we can probably shoot more ham in the bread, too."

(On a related note: What's with Domino's and this butter sauce they give you for dipping? Wasn't this supposed to be for those breadsticks they gave you? When did people start dipping pizza in butter? Just thinking about this, my cholesterol level jumps to 400.)

So far it's only been the pizza companies on this kick of giving out free desserts. But it's probably just a matter of time before you order a Whopper with cheese and large fries and they throw in dozen chocolate eclairs.

In fact, with McDonald's reporting its first-ever losses and in need of a shot in the arm, they might open their own bakeries and give you a nice sheet cake with each Big Mac.

As to how these free desserts are going over with the public, Domino's spokeswoman Holly Ryan said the company only launched its Dots give-away Dec. 30 and "it's too early to tell."

(When I called Papa John's headquarters in Louisville, Ky., the woman who answered said the corporate spokeswoman was in meetings all day and unable to return phone calls.

("And she's the only one who can speak," the woman added, leaving me to wonder if perhaps I'd called in the midst of a hostage situation.)

Still, anecdotal evidence suggests the free desserts have been a huge hit, especially among young people in high school and college.

I know that must come as a shock to many of you, especially you parents.

College kids, in particular, are such discriminating eaters, especially at 3 in the morning when they're done partying.

When the Domino's guy delivers the pizza and says "Here's your free order of Dots," I'm sure most college kids are thinking: Bummer. I could go for a nice tossed salad with vinaigrette dressing.

Then they go back to dipping their pizza in butter sauce.

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