Dodo Pizza might not be the most well-known pizza chain, at least not in the UK.

However, it is in fact one of the fastest-growing restaurant chains in Europe, and the largest pizzeria in its native Russia.

The chain currently has 549 pizzerias in 13 countries, and plans to add another 1,000 in Europe, Asia, and Africa over the next five years. It’s a bold aim, but one that its founder – who has been described as “the Steve Jobs of pizza” – seems intent on achieving.

So what exactly makes Dodo Pizza different to all the rest? Here’s a look at the chain and the reasons behind its flourishing success.

Pizza with a side of tech

Dodo Pizza describes itself as “a company that merges IT and retail”. This is because, instead of relying on third-party software, it has brought development in-house; a decision it believes will be crucial to its future success in the QSR (quick service restaurant) industry.

Dodo Pizza has created its own cloud-based digital platform (called Dodo IS), which handles everything from mobile app orders to kitchen workflow. So, for example, instead of paper tickets, employees can input and monitor orders via the Dodo IS system, which is linked to the Dodo website so that the customer can see when their pizza is due to arrive.

The Dodo IS platform is also why the chain has been able to grow so quickly. As chief agile officer, Anton Bevzuk, says, “Dodo Pizza is a unique cloud-first pizza store. This means that when we grant a franchise, what we are really granting franchises is access to a service.”

Indeed, Dodo doesn’t see its value solely in terms of pizza sales. With a team of 120 developers (aiming to grow to 250), it is working to expand its ‘digital franchising platform’ into other areas. The team is reportedly developing a cloud POS system for pizza shops, which it describes as  “a cash register in the browser”. The hope is that it will be viable for other retail contexts – a sign that Dodo sees itself as more of an IT startup than a pizza chain.

Transparency and data

Another point of difference for Dodo is its commitment to transparency. The company is hugely vocal about its ambitions, aims, and even its financial status (which is details in a monthly report sent out to subscribers).

It also has an influential blog, which founder Ovchinnikov started at the same time he opened the very first Dodo Pizza in Russia in 2011. Dodo Pizza’s approach to online content has contributed to its reputation as a tech-forward company, and in turn, one that many people want to work for.

By publishing its goals (both in-progress and future), Dodo Pizza also holds itself accountable. In 2018, the company set out to slash delivery times in Eurasia from 42 to 27 minutes. It didn’t achieve this, but it did reduce the average delivery time by eight minutes, closing in on its target delivery time by 53%.

Dodo’s transparent approach meant that it has no choice but to own its ‘failures’, and to continue working towards its goal. The fact that it publishes the average delivery speed from the last seven days in every city on its website also means that it has nowhere to hide.

The benefits of being so open and transparent outweigh any potential pitfalls; transparency helps to instil real trust in consumers, as well as investors and suppliers. The decision to put webcams in each of Dodo’s kitchens is another example of this, as well as a clever slice of marketing that also helps to ramp up anticipation for delivery.

LIVE BROADCAST!!!We use a web camera in our kitchen. So you can be a spy in our kitchen.Enjoy watching the preparation…

Posted by Dodo Pizza Brighton on Thursday, 22 November 2018

Customer-centric strategy

Dodo’s customer-focused approach also extends to its delivery strategy. While partnerships with delivery apps have become the norm for many, Dodo Pizza does not work with any in its native Russia. Similarly, Dodo does not work with so-called ‘dark kitchens’, which essentially act as co-working spaces for restaurants (rather than putting pressure on existing outlets).

Instead, the company ensures its own delivery drivers go above and beyond expected service, giving each driver the customer’s name and even a prepared speech to give at the doorstep. According to PMQ, “the company even employs a secret shopper’s service to make sure drivers address customers by name and follow the script.”

Alongside this, Dodo focuses on its position as a dining-in restaurant as well as a delivery service. In other words, its strategy is to build a hybrid model, which means increasing foot traffic in small pizzerias, as well as using its pizza delivery service to satisfy demand from its website and mobile app.

Localised (and outlandish) marketing

It’s difficult to stand out in a market dominated by the likes of Papa John’s and Domino’s, which is why Dodo Pizza doesn’t just rely on traditional marketing. Instead, it takes a more in-your-face approach, using guerrilla tactics to get the word out.

Back in 2014, Dodo Pizza made headlines around the world for being the first pizza company to deliver by drone. Despite being given two fines as a result (for violating the air space, and arranging cargo transportation without a license), the amount of publicity generated outweighed the damage. Again, this was amplified by the brand’s own coverage on its blog and social media channels.

While social media marketing is a big focus, Dodo isn’t averse to more traditional tactics either. It takes a market-by-market approach (instead of a blanket strategy across all countries), and encourages store footfall as much as online traffic.

In order to increase sales in its first UK store, located in Brighton, the brand put an entertaining spin on leaflet distribution, sending out its mascot to entertain passers-by. From 100 leaflets, which included a promo code for a free slice of pizza, the brand saw a 23% conversion rate.

Overall, it appears that Dodo Pizza’s journey so far has been a test and learn process. In documenting both its successes and its failures, it shows the reality of what it’s like to compete in such a highly competitive industry.

Underpinned by an innovative business model, it is certainly one to keep an eye on.