Research engineer Mitch Henke
at the Lincoln test kitchen.
BY CAMERON WOOD
ndependent Canadian pizzeria The newest oven – named the Low
However, in the market where qual-
operators finally have the Profile with FastBake – brings a ity and taste are edging out speed and
opportunity to best the big boys reduced bake time to pizzerias in a pricing, there are those who remain
in the fight for fastest pies out focused 32/40 format. The dual tech- skeptical.
the door by utilizing new technology to nology element is a combination of air Roberto Vergalito, owner of Roberto’s
see a 10-35 per cent reduction in bake impingement and infrared toasting. Pizza in St. Catharines, Ont., operates
time, depending on the product, cut- As in the traditional impingement both deck and conveyor type ovens.
ting off a minute and a half from each format, there are a series of “fingers” His belief is that they each have a
pizza. that deliver forced hot air to the pizza place in the kitchen – but there’s still
Ben Gregory, product manager for as it conveys through the baking path. nothing that comes close to a stone-
Lincoln Ovens in Fort Wayne, Ind., The addition of the infrared technology baked pie.
says usually when this kind of new brings a new element of high-level heat “Do you want to sacrifice quality for
technology arrives in the pizza oven on top and bottom, to improve on the time?” he questioned. “For taste,
industry, the large chains have the browning and toasting of the products you just can’t beat a gas stone oven.”
power and financial backing to make in less time. Vergalito doesn’t see his offering as
the leap. “The advantage with the speed is the fastest out the door, but rather the
This time, he believes there’s a huge that cutting bake times, while main- one with the best quality and taste. And
window of opportunity available in the taining or even improving on the qual- with his customers seeking everything
Canadian market as the major players ity of the bake, means a decrease in the from gluten-free to whole wheat crusts,
work through the process of corporate amount of time a customer has to wait, would there be a time savings if the
bureaucracy and decision-making. a faster turn to allow for more cus- oven had to be continually recalibrated
“This could be a real competitive tomers, and the opportunity to increase for proper cooking temperatures?
advantage for the Canadian independ- the number of pizzas a delivery person “It totally depends on the dough,
ents,” Gregory said in explaining the can take on a run,” Gregory said. and even with a regular crust you still
latest “FastBake” technology from the “And by removing that minute and a need 10 to 12 minutes to properly cook
company that specializes in forced hot- half of bake time, and operator can that pizza,” Vergalito said.
air conveyor cooking methods. increase their capacity by 28 per cent.” “You have to bake your best pizza
16 pizza DECEMBER 2006
compromise on quality and consistency, We were very pleased with the outcome.
put the designers through the wringer. We have bought 17 of these ovens over
Lehmann also openly admitted he the 18 year period.”
was skeptical of the marketing spin. Swinemar said he saw a number of
“We’ve seen the five-minute bake benefits to using the conveyors, starting
before,” he said pointedly. “And quite with the ease of use for the employee.
frankly, we’ve all heard how it just “If they make product right you will
doesn’t work.” have a consistent bake every you get a
However, Lehmann clarified what he pizza. Consistency. You can leave the
sees as the biggest issue with these kinds store and feel confident things will go
of technologies: no one seems to know okay.”
how to calibrate the temperatures Keith Toppazzini, co-CEO of
properly. Toppers Pizza, said they have seen a
The oven designed by research engi- consistent improvement in the quality
neers Mitch Henke and Carol Nealley is of their product since they made the
the product of two decades of working move to Middleby-Marshall’s PS570-
together. They’re both fiercely proud of EMS, a gas-powered energy-saving
the latest offering, and met Lehmann’s oven. The move has allowed the 36-
challenge and skepticism head on. store company to improve their bake
Lehmann pushed the pair through times to about six minutes, from a pre-
more than a dozen test pizzas before he vious eight.
claimed he was content they had the “If you’re only making one pizza per
baking temperatures correct. half-hour, the deck is perfect. But if
As each test pizza rolled, Lehmann you’re making 200-plus pizzas per half-
literally and figuratively dissected it. He hour, a conveyor is the only way to go.
explained he was looking to see how the No matter how skilled you are at open-
dough reacted, the condition of the gum ing and closing the oven door, the tem-
line – if it existed at all – the reaction of perature will still be reduced.”
every time. Increasing the capacity of the cheese and other toppings, and if Toppazzini said these new convey-
finished product would be a huge ben- they were properly cooked. ors, with the improved impingement
efit to creating more business & short- Of course, this again will boil down and infrared heat technology, still
ening the wait time,” Scott Gartly said. to the kind of dough being used, require very sound dough manage-
The owner of Belmont, Ont.’s A Guy, 4 Lehmann stressed. Sheeted dough, as ment. While a deck will easily manage
Girls & A Pizza Factory, believes the opposed to hand-tossed, has a thinner dough at a variety of temperatures, the
conveyor ovens are easier to teach the structure. The heat transfer through the conveyors require consistent dough
inexperienced, young work force how dough to the sauce is faster, and that is temperatures to repeat consistent bake
to cook. dissipating as steam, which removes results.
“The conveyor oven is great for cre- heat into the oven cavern away from the Adding to that, he said the impinge-
ating a consistent product every time, product. The end result is the toppings ment finger configuration is also
once you have it set the way you need can’t get hot enough. extremely important.
it to work. The pace of employees is “FastBake has managed to solve that Is the technology one that carries
maintained by the speed of the oven to issue,” he said. weight in an industry looking to gain
some extent. If there is no backlog to For Rick Swinemar the conveyors on its current status as “fast food” falls
cooking the pies, our whole operation came after 12 years of deck ovens at his out of vogue?
pace would speed up.” Big Red’s Family Restaurant in Western Papa John’s, a U.S. pizza chain,
Gartly said in his pizzeria, they tend Shore, N.S. believes so. They recently invested in
to “go like mad until the oven gets “The only concern we had when we Middleby’s equipment to the tune of
backed up. This puts our quoted pick switched was if the bake would satisfy some $20 million.
up or delivery times further away.” our existing customers. It was a big “This will put us in line to compete
In advance of a major rollout, the decision because the ovens were very with other fast feeders like Wendy’s,”
engineers at Lincoln invited North expensive. We were dealing with Irving Tim O’Hern, senior vice-president of
American pizza expert Tom Lehmann Propane so we got to know the salesman development at Papa John’s, told USA
to jump into the driver’s seat at the Fort quite well. He arranged for us to go to Today. “Ten minutes is about the time
Wayne test kitchen. And Lehmann, Cape Breton to try out the oven with people spend waiting in line at the
who made it quite clear he would not our product with one of his customers. drive-through window.”•
DECEMBER 2006 pizza 17