Dodo Pizza in the UK: how a brand from Eastern Europe is tackling the most competitive pizza market
30 May 2019
At the end of 2018, the founder of Dodo Pizza, Fyodor Ovchinnikov, set a new Big Hairy Audacious Goal for our team: to grow the number of Dodo pizzerias in Europe, the US, and China from 16 to 200 by the end of 2021.
At the time, the franchise already had more than 400 units up and running, but most of them were located in Russia. To achieve this new goal, our team had to find a way to grow the brand globally as fast as it had been growing in Eastern Europe.
The capacity of our home market is limited—we won’t be able to open many more than 1,500 units in Russia. Which isn’t that bad. But if we can prove that our business is capable of scaling in any country of the world, it will make our growth prospects limitless.
And we like limitlessness.
So we chose the UK as one of our key markets for rapid development in these three years.
Why the UK and not the US or Germany, for example?
We already had three active pizzerias in Tennessee and Mississippi in the States, but the distance between Moscow and Memphis proved to be a significant hurdle.
The UK is closer to us and it’s one of the largest economies in Europe. Developing in an English-speaking country is easier for the team. And the pizza market here is as trendy as it is in America.
Our CFO and head of EMEA, Kirill Vyrypaev, also pointed out that pizza prices in Great Britain trend high—which is a good thing. For example, the smallest pepperoni pizza might cost you around $10 (compared with $5.70 in Germany and $6.84 in France). Our closest competitors—Domino’s and Papa John’s—have more pizza shops in the UK than in any other country in Europe. Even if this strong competition doesn’t push down prices, there should be room for a new player.
There was also an argument that opening an office in London and then launching a corporate chain in the UK could also allow us to be right in the thick of it—close to the place where many food trends are born and to the best talent in the QSR industry.
Dodo Pizza Brighton: our very first pizzeria in the UK
Back then, we had only one pizza shop in Great Britain—in Brighton, a seaside town south of London. It was launched by our partner Konstantin Yudintsev in 2017.
He opened this very first Dodo Pizza in the UK at his own risk. Back then, we couldn’t allocate enough resources to support him. So his ambition was modest: to test the concept and to survive in the competitive UK market.
The shop had survived, but only just. Its monthly sales had never exceeded £15K (which put it at the lowest end of our Store Sales Ranking). At the same time, Dodo Brighton had made it onto the Top 50 pizza places in the UK list.
We needed to turn things around at Dodo Pizza Brighton if we wanted to move forward with our plans for the UK. So at the beginning of 2019, Kirill Vyrypaev put together a special task force—like the ones they have in the movies. Ours, though, didn’t have to catch killers—its single goal was to turn Brighton into a strong winner.
How we’re relaunching Dodo Brighton (totally!)
Essentially, Dodo Brighton was a copycat of our American branch—since the market had looked similar in terms of customer preferences and competition, it had seemed logical to replicate the success of our partner in Oxford, Mississippi, Alena Tikhova.
These tactics hadn’t worked out that well. And we needed to turn Brighton into a perfect fit for the UK pizza market.
Within a few months, our team completely revamped the menu and:
- Introduced two sizes of pizza
- Lowered our prices: down from £13-17 to £11
- Found new ingredients with a better quality/cost ratio to keep our unit cost manageable
- Added more snacks to the menu....
We also started investing in marketing and performing lots of experiments. We focused our efforts on Facebook and Google as much as on more traditional forms of promotion (like handing out leaflets in the streets—though we did it in a different way to how others usually do it).
Not everything performed as well as we expected (for example, our attempt to "steal" customers from delivery platforms didn’t pan out). Yet in May, we set a record in day sales: £1,308.
There are ups and downs, but overall, our sales have been improving week by week.
Dodo Brighton Total Relaunch is a work in progress—and a business reality show of some kind, if you will, because on a weekly basis, we share online with our audience what we learn in the process.
You can follow the latest updates on this project on LinkedIn: check the tag #dodobrighton.
New UK Dodo Pizza stores in 2019: Coventry, Walsall Wood and Walsall Central
In the beginning of 2019, David Sweeney, a real pro of the British pizza delivery market has joined the Dodo Pizza UK team. For more than 10 years, he had been the franchising and business development director at Papa John’s International in Great Britain.
In April, we launched our second pizzeria in the UK—in Coventry in central England, the country’s ninth largest city. Soon, two more opened their doors—in Walsall Wood and Walsall Central.
All of them were headed up by our new partners in Great Britain, who also happened to be Dodo’s first non Russian-speaking franchisees.
Our brand isn’t currently well-known in the UK, so we feel a great responsibility for these first units. The team is determined to bring success to our first partners in Great Britain.
We’re also looking for a location for our first corporate pizzeria. So everything is in motion....
The story doesn’t end here...
Got feedback? Want to chat? Reach me on LinkedIn.