Russian Pizza Chain Invades Mississippi

The first American franchise of the Russian chain Dodo Pizza opened in Oxford, Mississippi, March 11. It’s a place where tradition is as tangible as Ole Miss football tailgating and William Faulkner’s bronze statue on the town square. The home of The Rebels seems an unlikely launch site for a Russia-based restaurant. Especially one distinguished by online innovation and the total absence of ringing, or even vibrating, phones. Dodo runs, instead, primarily on tasty pizza and pictures. Management is betting their approach will win Southerners hearts and minds. 

Transparency is value No. 1 at Oxford’s newest pizzeria. Real-time video of the entire pizza-making process is focused through a kitchen-situated webcam. The images capture the entire operating day as Dodo pizzas evolve in clear sight of wired-in website watchers, from dough to seven varieties of finished pies. The pizzeria, which has dominated the Russian market since its founding in 2011, now operates with 89 stores in eight countries, including the U.S., Romania and Lithuania. 

Russian entrepreneur and founder Fedor Ovchinnikov believes the same commitment to digital efficiency and video openness will translate into American profits. “We are undoubtedly the first pizzeria in America to operate using no phones; our business is completely take-out and delivery, generated by online ordering,” explained the 34-year-old Russian visionary. “Although we make our pizzas with high-quality ingredients at competitive prices with American chains, our niche is a limited menu of seven non-customizable classic pizzas. They’re delivered fast and reliably through our own Cloud-based IT system.”

Ovchinnikov adds that Dodo is proud to embrace transparency.  His American gamble is that delicious pizza created using demanding cleanliness standards and live-feed efficiency will pay off.  “(With a webcam in every kitchen) we show our customers that we have nothing to hide from them, and we show our employees that we don’t hide anything from our customers,” he says.        

Along with live-streaming, Dodo’s innovative business plan blends additional American-style guerilla marketing tactics. Focus groups have taste tested dough recipes. Before the grand opening, staff received training while delivering free pizzas to local groups. Events and reviews were promoted on the Dodo website and Facebook page. The guiding principle, says Dodo product and marketing director Alena Tikhova, is to maximize word-of-mouth and loyalty while minimizing traditional advertising expenses. “Our decision to depend exclusively on our website works to our customers’ benefit in two ways,” she says in fluent English. “No phones mean we must offer an easily accessible, simple-to-order-online website. Relying on our website instead of phones means our staff can concentrate fully on creating and delivering high-quality pizzas without delays,” she says. 

Despite its defunct namesake, Dodo has come to life as a restaurant, IT hybrid, integrating digital precision and artful preparation of the world’s favorite food. “Our web-based IT system is owned by and unique to our Dodo brand,” Ovchinnikov says. “All our franchisees use this product we call Dodo IS to coordinate their operations and seamlessly report back to our headquarters in Sykyvkar, Russia.”

PMQ Pizza Magazine has partnered with Dodo’s in Oxford, where the diverse print, web and video communication company is headquartered.  “With wired-up Millennials increasingly dictating the pizza marketplace, we believe robust online engagement is the key to the survival of independent and small-chain pizzerias,” says PMQ Publisher Steve Green. “That’s why we’re so excited by Dodo’s Pizza model.” Impressed enough that Green has issued a challenge to interested operators to share their own live streaming video with the world on a new website called Pizzavision.com.   

“Integrated with the other marketing opportunities offered through our PizzaTV portal and app, PizzaVision can revolutionize the ability of independent pizzeria operators to reach out and touch new and existing customers,” Green says.Pizzeria owners can begin discussions for PMQ to transmit their webcam streams through the PizzaVision channel by emailing the link to info@pizzavision.com.