With ever more demand for pizzas in Italian and American restaurant chains, pizza oven manufacturers and suppliers are having to keep up with new trends and rapid product innovations.
Manufacturer Lincat has noticed that wood-fired pizza ovens for front-of-house operations seem to be increasing in popularity, but for venues offering more than pizza on the menu, the firm suggests that a deck oven is more suitable.
It believes that ovens with a firebrick base will produce the most authentic Italian pizzas, including for deep pan, thin crust, fresh dough, part baked or frozen products. This is a feature of both its standard and premium ranges.
Equipment importer Euro Catering’s co-owner Melanie Charlton recently visited the Horeca exhibition in Ghent, Belgium, and found both a pizza vending machine and a cone pizza machine on display there, which could increase the growth of the market further. She believes that while the pizza from these units may not be high quality, they would be suitable for theme parks or concert venues where people eat pizza on the go.
Another supplier, Cater-Bake, has seen that as the casual dining sector is booming, along with a recovering economy, the pizza side of the catering industry is buoyant.
Michael Eyre, product director at Jestic Foodservice Equipment agrees that the American-style fast casual dining sector is driving growth, adding: “The result of this trend for quality pizza cooked quickly is that we have seen a substantial increase in demand for the Wood Stone Fire Deck 9660 unit. An example of this is an installation at the first UK outlet of fast casual dining restaurant, Project Pie, in Dundee, which is looking to mirror the success of other sites in the USA.
“We believe that this trend is only set to grow through 2015 as more operators tap into the opportunities presented by this sector of the market.”
Foodservice Equipment Marketing’s executive chef, Dushan Lukovic, commented: “Stone base pizza ovens are increasingly popular as they produce pizzas with the aroma and taste closest to a traditional pizzeria, at a reasonable price. Medium-size pizza ovens are also seeing a growth in popularity as more venues are offering pizzas on their menus.” [[page-break]]
Linda Lewis, MD and founder of Linda Lewis Kitchens reported that her firm has also seen massive growth in mid-range pizza ovens, particularly with the Tiepolo model it supplies. She cited the simplicity of manually controlled ovens and a power boost for busy periods, combined with an energy-saving power reduction option, as reasons for this success.
“Tiepolo is also popular due to its versatility; available in a wide range of sizes, it comes in single and double decks that can be stacked to create a triple deck,” she added.
Over at supplier White’s Foodservice Equipment, sales manager Clive White detailed: “In the restaurant sector we see a massive move away from the static theatre-style oven towards rotating deck ovens. Operators need increased production with minimal skill level, and available footprints are becoming smaller.
“We offer the Marana Forni, which is the original rotating deck oven. It is the only type with the patented SU and GIU function that allows the cooking deck to be raised into the dome of the oven to decrease recovery times during busy periods. The ovens also can be built on site and only require a 70cm access width.”
He added that in the takeaway and delivery sector, requirements centre around ovens that will cope with peak production periods and are reliable. “Concerns include the high pricing of spare parts that conveyor ovens are notoriously associated with. All our XLT conveyor ovens come with a 5 year parts warranty and, if required, the parts cost considerably less than leading competitors’.”
Lewis agreed that dealers need to consider reliability and the cost of replacement parts when specifying pizza ovens, and how quickly the parts can be obtained. For the Cuppone brand the company imports, Lewis reported that competitively-priced parts are available for next working day delivery for many places in the UK.
She also believes that dealers should take into account customers’ budgets. “We all know the saying ‘buy cheap, buy twice’ and this is especially true in the pizza oven market. We regularly encounter customers who have purchased an oven based solely on price, only to discover that it can’t meet demand in the middle of a busy service on a Saturday evening. In such cases, the customer can literally lose thousands of pounds over one weekend.”
Jestic’s Eyre suggested that all too often, pizza ovens are specified based on the average usage per day rather than for a restaurant’s busiest times, resulting in this type of drastic capacity reduction during key service periods. “In addition to this, dealers need to consider the extraction needs of a particular pizza oven. If using gas, regulations state the need for interlocked extraction and gas supply, while for wood fired pizza ovens, dedicated mechanical extraction systems are required to remove combustion products associated with burning solid fuels. On the other hand, electric pizza ovens simply require extraction to remove heat from the working environment.” [[page-break]]
Euro Catering’s Charlton said that one of the firm’s supplied brands, Italforni, produces the Bull pizza oven which can be supplied with a hood with carbon filters where it is not possible to extract to the outside.
She advised that the space available for a pizza oven installation is a consideration, as a conveyor oven, while it can be stacked to allow for quick pizza loading and unloading, can take up a large area compared to a deck oven.
Eyre added: “Size can sometimes be a constraint too. One of the brands we represent, Wood Stone, manufactures its pizza ovens in one, solid piece. This does however mean that there needs to be a big enough entrance to get the oven on site prior to being installed into the kitchen.”
Charlton cautioned dealers not to specify an oven from an importer who offers no support. Similarly, Cater-Bake stated: “Companies selling low quality product rarely have comprehensive customer service set ups. Buy from a decent source, a brand that is properly represented in the UK.
“There are plenty of pizza ovens advertised online that are cheap as chips, but they’re coming from suppliers who have little experience with these products. Whilst the photoshopped pictures make them look like a decent bit of kit, once the customer gets them on site, they’ll quickly realise that you only get what you pay for in terms of quality.”
Mark Hogan, marketing manager of FEM, recommended choosing a practical, easy to clean, powerful oven. “By specifying a stone-base oven, then you can be sure of getting the closest results to that of a traditional pizza oven.
“If the end-user needs to hold the pizza prior to serving, specify pizza holding equipment designed to hold pizza for longer periods of time without the product deteriorating in appearance, taste and quality, such as the equipment from one of our supplied brands, Alto-Shaam.” The importer also offers Sirman’s electric Vesuvio range.
Elsewhere, Lincat said that dealers will need to know whether the equipment will be positioned front-of-house or in the kitchen. If it’s front-of-house, the manufacturer suggests looking for an aesthetically pleasing pizza oven featuring a viewing window, where restaurant customers can see pizza being freshly prepared and cooked.
White added that dealers need to be aware that not all oven types will suit the customers’ operation: “A traditional Italian trattoria for example will not get any benefit out of having a conveyor oven sitting front of house. In all aspects the customer and the dealer need to think ahead to what they will need not now but in 5+ years. As they expand, will their oven cope?”