Pizza topped with IT

Dodo Pizza thinks big, pursuing aggressive global growth with its all-round IT-based operation that has made it Russia’s leading pizza business

Five years proved enough for Dodo Pizza to become the largest pizza chain in Russia. Hailing from the little-heard-of city of Syktyvkar in the Northwest part of the vast country, the company was founded by Fyodor Ovchinnikov in 2011. A bold entrepreneur, Fyodor made his childhood dream of running a pizza business come true by upholding his belief in the leading role IT should play in developing the brand.

“Since day one, we have been building Dodo IS – our own IT system for managing store operations. It allows our partners to run their business efficiently and achieve outstanding financial results,” says Fyodor himself. “We see ourselves as a digital-first pizza delivery franchise. Every industry is now being disrupted by the internet and mobile technology, and the quick service restaurant (QSR) business is no exception. We believe that every QSR chain that means to stay around for a long time, will have to turn itself into a software company eventually.

“The thing is that many legacy brands struggle with IT, because they treat it as a simple add-on to their management systems. In contrast, we believe that the whole management system should be rebuilt from the ground up with IT,” he expounds Dodo Pizza’s philosophy.

Another pillar of the company’s system of values is its commitment to what it calls ‘radical transparency’. Fyodor elaborates, illustrating his claims with a number of examples of Dodo Pizza’s everyday operation: “The commitment makes it possible for us to attract passionate entrepreneurs who propel our growth in Russia and abroad. Our technological savvy has enabled us to introduce multiple practices that underline this approach.

“One such innovation is the feedback feature we launched on our mobile app a few months ago. It allows customers to rate their orders and the feedback is sent to the pizza shop management team,” he explains. “We also give every pizzeria a ranking based on this feedback and this ranking will shortly be visible on our website and in the app for everyone to see. It will be 100 per cent real and honest rating and if a store often lets its customers down, this will reveal itself and can negatively impact its profitability. Is this risky? Probably. But we believe this kind of transparency will force our team to adhere to our quality standards anywhere in the world and this will become our competitive advantage in the long run.”

Benefits of IT
The transparency Dodo Pizza insists upon extends right through to every store kitchen where a webcam is installed, making it possible for customers to follow every step of the preparation process. “Of course, we also measure the preparation time of every single pizza and compare it against the desired standard. The result is then displayed on a separate screen in the kitchen, which helps us motivate the kitchen crew and adds some fun to the process,” Fyodor comments.

“Other benefits of our IT-driven system include the provision of vital information such as how much time pizzas spend on the shelf waiting for delivery, with daily and monthly stats feeding management with accurate assessment of how effectively delivery has been planned, as well as forecasts about the workload of the kitchen. The system warns the shift manager if they plan too many or too few people to work in the kitchen at any time of the day, which helps the unit reach its optimal productivity.”

Being the largest pizza company in Russia and Kazakhstan, Dodo Pizza is currently present in a total of 12 countries, mainly in Eastern Europe, as well as in Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and China. The Western countries, whose markets the brand has made forays into, however, are the two largest and most competitive – the UK and the US. Of the over 490 units Dodo Pizza operates, four are based in England and Fyodor is explicit about his desire to focus on developing this particular part of the world in the near future. “We have just opened a new pizza shop in Walsall Central to add to our existing stores in Brighton, Coventry, and Walsall Wood, and we are also looking for a location for our first corporate pizzeria in the UK, as all the four currently operating are franchised.”

Audacious goals
Expanding successfully in the UK will be crucial for Dodo Pizza’s ambition of growing the number of its shops in Western and Central Europe, the US, and China from 16 to 200 by the end of 2021. Known for setting audacious goals, Fyodor is hopeful that the challenging task ahead of his team will provide an extra shot of motivation for everyone that will eventually facilitate the coveted global breakthrough. He is also keen on concentrating on the Chinese market, revealing that Dodo Pizza has just launched a pilot pizzeria in Hangzhou.

“It is a new concept we have developed specifically for the business climate in this country. We were driven by the necessity to stay relevant in a market where the delivery business is controlled by delivery platforms,” Fyodor discusses. “Therefore, we created a new pizza-based product and opened a unit aimed at takeaway, with delivery as a supplementary channel of sales. The pizzeria is also cashless, for now we accept payments only through WeChat.”

Among the other important plans for Dodo Pizza is opening its first shop in Nigeria later in 2019, as well as hiring more than 120 new software developers in the next few years who will help evolve the Dodo IS. Unlike the dodo bird, which is said to have gone extinct 51in the 17th century and that inspired Fyodor to such a degree that he decided to name the business after it, Dodo Pizza is here to stay and revolutionise the food industry with yet-untried concepts only a real entrepreneurial spirit can dare to set in motion.