Investors have some big questions heading into the upcoming second-quarter earnings report from Domino's (NYSE:DPZ). The fast-food giant won big in the shift toward home delivery during the pandemic. But Wall Street is worried that the growth spike might be ending. Domino's could face a tougher selling environment ahead thanks to a stampede into the digital ordering niche from restaurants and aggregators.

With that big picture in mind, let's look at a few metrics to watch when the pizza delivery leader announces Q2 results on July 22.

Friends sharing a pizza at home.

Image source: Getty Images.

1. Another quarter of growth

Domino's started off fiscal 2021 by marking its 40th consecutive quarter of growth in the core U.S. geography. It is sure to keep that streak alive this week.

But the chain's 41st quarter of growth won't be as strong now that it is lapping the biggest impact of the COVID-19 pandemic from a year ago. Global sales were up 14% in Q1, but most investors are bracing for more modest gains of about 6% in Q2, which runs through mid-June.

Back in late April, executives said that the latest demand trends showed no signs of letting up. On a two-year basis, which smooths out the impact from COVID-19 last year, sales were up 15% in Q1. There wasn't much of a slowdown for areas that had more dramatic consumer mobility shifts during waning virus threats, either, which was a concern for some investors.

"We continue to see strong growth across our business," CEO Ritch Allison told Wall Street analysts. This Thursday's report should sound a similarly positive note even as rivals across the restaurant industry pour resources into their online ordering and delivery platforms.

2. Cash flow

Meanwhile, Domino's is expanding its earnings power. The company pulled back on promotions last quarter and still managed higher sales volumes. Another hit initiative in the last year was its strategy of blanketing metro areas with more stores to push delivery times down while lowering costs. These moves led to record profitability at the franchisee level and surging cash at the corporate level.

DPZ Cash from Operations (TTM) Chart

DPZ Cash from Operations (TTM) data by YCharts

Those resources give management flexibility to spend on market-share-building projects like the new car-side delivery offering aimed at drive-through fans. Executives also say they plan to boost shareholder returns through stock buybacks and dividend payments through 2021 and beyond.

3. Looking ahead

Beyond those core sales and profit metrics, Domino's strength shows up in its ability to consistently operate highly profitable locations. The company rarely closes stores and is accelerating its expansion plans even in the mature U.S. market, which added 36 locations in Q1.

The small square footage of these stores means Domino's can afford to launch them aggressively during boom times like this without the risk of overbuilding. And while locations in the same neighborhood might steal business from each other, they boost overall sales while keeping competition out.

Investors should see accruing returns from this business, which has steadily gained market share in the crowded pizza delivery space over the last decade. Sure, sales growth will slow in 2021 compared to the peak pandemic period in 2020. But the long-term outlook for Domino's stock is attractive.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.