Is speed of the essence by jennyyingdi



                                                                  Research engineer Mitch Henke
                                                                  at the Lincoln test kitchen.

Is speed
of the

        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

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