FROM traditional pubs with a limited food menu through casual dining restaurants to upscale eateries, pizza arguably transcends venue type.
And, much like the burger, pizza is now more than ever a dish in its own right – with strong consumer demand having prompted many operators to dedicate entire menus to various interpretations of the Italian classic.
For those looking to get an extra slice of sales, the right pizza oven and equipment is essential.
Mark Hogan, commercial director of Foodservice Equipment Marketing (FEM), said: “Pizza will always be one of the catering industry’s must-offer money spinners and customer favourites – so investing in the right equipment is essential.”
Pizza will always be a money spinner, so investing in the right equipment is essential.
Echoing this view, Steve Morris, sales director at Jestic Foodservice Equipment, said with premium pricing points and low production costs, pizza “can often command enhanced margins for operators”.
“When it comes to producing a standout pizza offering, we believe there are two key components to making it successful: the right ingredients and the right equipment,” he said.
“Using the finest, seasonal, locally-sourced ingredients is key to giving customers the best tasting pizza offering, while the correct equipment can deliver the consistency and speed needed by the site.”
And according to David Barton of Pantheon Catering Equipment, a good pizza offer “doesn’t require a great deal of equipment – just a mixer, dough roller and a pizza oven – and some ovens can be quite compact”.
However, the necessary equipment will be dependent on how big operators wish to go with their pizza menu, according to Sandro Formisano, chairman of catering equipment supplier New Concept.
“Venues will have to decide whether [pizza] is the mainstay of the menu, or just an add-on, as this will inform the type of equipment they must invest in,” said Formisano.
“If it’s simply an add-on, then all that is required is a pizza oven and a pizza prep – as you can buy dough ready made.
“If pizza is the focus of a menu, then a specialist pizza oven is a worthwhile investment.”
And the right pizza oven, positioned in a high-profile site within a venue, can be both functional and a marketing tool, reckons Morris of Jestic.
He said: “Front of house preparation facilities and open-plan kitchens are now commonplace across the industry, but particularly in sites focusing on pizza.
“Part of this is down to the way pizza ovens are able to lend themselves to enhancing the theatre of the cooking process, engaging customers in the wider dining experience.
“Being able to be positioned in a front of house environment gives operators all the benefits of a consistent cook, while also delivering theatre and interest in the cooking process to the customer.”
And while a pizza oven can be viewed as a large investment, Barton of Pantheon said as they often have “the ability to get very hot” – and cook “very quickly”, certain pizza ovens “can be used for other types of food too – typically baked potatoes and pies – thus providing an alternative revenue stream as well as, or instead of, their prime purpose”.
Ultimately, however, Formisano of New Concept reckons “the secret is to buy the right size oven for the number of covers and ensure the revenue exceeds the costs”.
For operators considering a pizza oven for the first time, Morris of Jestic said it’s important to consult the experts.
“Working with our team of factory-trained engineers, operators can make an informed decision on the best oven for their restaurant, while also ensuring that all the utilities and connections are in place prior to installation,” said Morris.
Beyond the oven, the right range of preparation equipment is also essential to an authentic pizza offer.
For instance, Barton of Pantheon said mixers, specifically spiral mixers, “are those most frequently used for pizza dough”, while the right dough roller allows chefs to produce “a consistent, uniform finish”.
Martin Brown, of catering equipment firm Nisbets, explained pizza trays, pizza wheels and pizza screens are also vital and are available in various sizes “to suit all levels of requirement”.
“Aluminium pizza screens are available in a wide range of sizes from eight inch right up to 18 inch and have a strong aluminium construction, which ensures they are robust enough to withstand the demands of a busy commercial kitchen,” he said.
Another important consideration for operators with busy kitchens is pre-made bases, according to Chris Dickinson of Pan’ Artisan, a specialist manufacturer of frozen, full and part-baked dough-based products, including pizza bases.
He said: “Using a premium, frozen pre-made base can offer real benefits in a busy kitchen; the consistency and efficiency afforded to operators by using such a product allows them the freedom to express their creativity, bespoke the finish and create a unique, signature pizza for their operation.”