When PMQ first introduced Fedor Ovchinnikov to the U.S. pizza industry in June 2015, we suggested that he “might be the Steve Jobs of pizza.” The founder of Dodo Pizza, a tech-forward global chain that launched in Syktyvkar, Russia, in 2011, Ovchinnikov, as we wrote at the time, is “a shrewd innovator with a knack for pulling talented people into his orbit—and motivating them to rewrite the rules.”

One of those talented people is Alena Tikhova, who brought Dodo Pizza to the U.S. as a franchisee in Oxford, Mississippi, and Memphis, Tennessee, then briefly left the brand to serve as vice president of xRobotics, a leading manufacturer of pizza robots. Ovchinnikov has since lured Tikhova back as Dodo Pizza’s CEO, and she now oversees a brand with 1,033 stores in 21 countries and $985 million in sales in 2023. (For comparison, Dodo Pizza had 48 stores in Russia, Romania and Kazakhstan when PMQ first spotlighted the company in 2015.)

But one thing hasn’t changed: Tikhova and Ovchinnikov are still rewriting the rules. Their latest innovation: the world’s largest pizza menu, developed in a partnership with AI giant ChatGPT. And as Tikhova recently told QSR Magazine, it’s paying off in terms of higher ordering frequency and moneymaking data while creating an entirely new ordering experience for app users.

Dodo Pizza’s AI-powered “flavor generator” takes 35-plus ingredients and parlays them into more than 30 million potential pizza-topping combos for customers. The feature is currently offered exclusively to customers in Dubai, and they have to place their orders through Dodo’s app to use it. However, the brand plans to begin offering it this year in Europe, Africa and Southeast Asia.

“It’s hard not to pay attention to AI,” Tikhova explained to QSR Magazine. “Everybody’s talking about it. The combination of this buzz and the fact that we’re already using this fresh, cool technology made this move an obvious choice for us.”

Dodo Pizza’s high-tech approach to personalization demonstrates how AI can be cleverly implemented to produce wildly inventive new pizza recipes for more adventurous diners. Moreover, Dodo’s app lets customers create a one-of-a-kind pizza that fits their current mood, circumstances or plans. Possibilities include “movie night,” “new in town,” “post-workout,” “hungry tourists,” “miss the rain” or “game night.”

Customers can drill down to specifics, requesting vegetarian combinations or pies without onions, pineapples or other toppings they don’t care for. If they’re looking for something unique, they can select from an assortment of highly unorthodox ingredients, like duck, pumpkin seeds, melon, guacamole, even popcorn.

To build out the tool, Dodo Pizza’s team partnered with ChatGPT in a process that took six months. They defined culinary parameters to weed out ingredients that shouldn’t be mixed together, and Dodo’s R&D team tested the various combinations before approving them as ordering options.

Importantly, the cutting-edge system provides Dodo Pizza with valuable customer data—not just their favorite toppings, but their current situations and plans for the night. That data can then be used for tailored marketing to drive repeat business. “We can see that someone is in town for the first time, and they chose us as a tourist destination,” Tikhova told QSR. “Or we know if someone orders a particular combination of pizza [toppings] when they’re thinking of hosting a game night. This is the type of information we don’t normally get, and by adding it up, there’s unlimited potential for our marketing programs.”

Dodo Pizza launched the flavor generator tool in Dubai in February 2024. Since then, Tikhova said, the chain is “seeing order frequencies increase from existing customers, and we’re seeing new customers take five seconds to install our app and take advantage of the features, which is our end goal.”

Better yet, the flavor generator provides the kind of customization that patrons can’t get when they order from a third-party platform. “In Dubai, there are many third-party aggregators,” Tikhova told QSR Magazine, “and while they’re great, I would prefer to get people to start ordering through our app…That’s what really excites me.”