With the UK hospitality industry finally getting the go-ahead to restart after the third national lockdown, the fact that the initial phase of reopening is for outdoor dining only could see even more foodservice venues looking to pivot towards outside offerings.
Pizza ovens could be key to trying to generate trade in the first instance, therefore, many dealers will be keen to offer these appliances to hard-pressed operators keen to recoup lost revenue. So we asked major sector suppliers what pizza ovens in their portfolios are suitable for outdoor, mobile and pop-up usage.
At Jestic Foodservice Solutions, sales director Steve Morris surmised: “Customers are anticipated to return to al fresco dining in big numbers so operators will be looking for high performance pizza ovens which are reliable, easy to use, robust to protect them from the elements, and offer attention-grabbing design to engage the customer in the cooking process. Whether operators are cooking their pizzas in the kitchen or theatre cooking al fresco on a terrace or in a beer garden, at Jestic, we are proud to supply a full range of ovens, each designed to meet the bespoke demands of a business and offer a host of benefits to the operator.”
The supplier’s range includes Quattro Pro and Quick pizza ovens from Italian manufacturer, Alfa Pro. Both models are suitable for front of house or outdoor installation and offer the flexibility of gas or wood fired cooking, or dual fuel. The Alfa Pro Quattro can accommodate three 12” pizza and can cook 60 pizzas per hour, while the Alfa Pro Quick can hold six 12” pizzas with a throughput of 110 pizzas per hour.
Morris emphasised: “The Quattro Pro and Quick feature seven layers of powder coating ensuring excellent weather resistance, whilst heavy-duty castors allow chefs to move the ovens around any outdoor cooking area and back indoors if the weather takes a turn for the worst. Alternatively, both models are available without the mobile stand for positioning on an outdoor counter.”
For mobile or temporary kitchens he believes Alfa Pro’s Quattro Top and Quick models are suitable. “Both are light, compact and easy to use and so are ideal for fitting into food trucks or mobile kitchens. Both ovens heat very quickly, reaching 450°C in just 30 minutes, and can bake a Neapolitan pizza perfectly in just 90 seconds and so offer the performance and versatility operators will be looking for. For mobile or temporary kitchens, a chimney flue pipe is easy to connect for the wood versions or simply place the oven under the hood for the gas version.”
Over at Welbilt, UK and Ireland sales director Steve Hemsil feels that the manufacturer’s Lincoln brand could provide the solution. “Serving customers as quickly as possible and improving table turnover will be key for operators keen to make up for lost revenue. The benefits of the Lincoln Impinger range will help to drive fast service and keep customers happy, with delicious, perfectly cooked pizzas.”
The Lincoln Countertop Impinger (CTI) 2500 and V2500 Series are designed to be compact, versatile, powerful and ventless. They are small enough to fit on most commercial countertops, and feature a 16” (406mm) wide conveyor belt and 20” (508mm) baking chamber. They can also be stacked two high for greater pizza output. Hemsil noted: “They will perform perfectly in an outdoor setting but do need a power source and must be completely protected from the weather.”
Furthermore the CTI (V2500 Series) includes a catalytic converter for ventless installations. As no venting hood is required, operators have more flexibility as to where the oven can be installed.
Hemsil advised: “As the demand for outdoor dining is set to increase, so does demand for pieces of equipment that can keep up with the pace, particularly for pizza where operators are looking to serve a customer as quickly as possible. It is therefore important that dealers not only specify pizza ovens that are able to keep up with this pace, but that the direct benefits of investing in this kind of pizza oven are clearly emphasised to the operator.
“For outdoor, temporary or mobile set ups, it’s important that dealers emphasize the size, throughput and flexibility of the Lincoln countertop series as these factors will be essential to operators.”
Elsewhere, Lincat is seeing increased demand for its compact and portable Lynx 400 pizza deck oven (LDPO). The appliance features a firebrick base for an authentic, crisp taste, and can cook up to 24 14” pizzas an hour. Able to reach a maximum of 400°C, the unit is equipped with a temperature display gauge for easy monitoring. An 18-minute timer and independently-controlled top and bottom elements provide flexibility.
Group marketing manager Helen Applewhite underlined: “With its compact footprint of 53cm wide and 56cm deep, many establishments site their LDPO on a mobile cart which they can simply wheel outside and plug into a standard 13A power socket as and when required. The LDPO does not require installation which is what makes it such a great versatile and inexpensive solution for sites wanting to be able to cook authentic stone-baked pizzas outside with minimal investment.”
For busy times, Lincat’s new compact HAD hot air merchandisers with optional pizza inserts can hold up to 32 slices of pizza.
According to Applewhite: “Unlike gas and wood fired ovens, the electric LDPO is perfect for mobile or temporary kitchens. Generating only delicious cooking aromas and with little steam generated in the cooking of pizzas ventilation typically isn’t an issue. Available in black, red or stainless steel, LDPO is a great option for where the oven is on display.”
On the pizza oven specification process, she further advised dealers: “Aside from checking on power, installation and ventilation requirements, consider the air flow needed around the unit.
“Look at what else your customer could utilise the oven for to maximise their return on investment, for instance in the morning they could offer toasted tea cakes and crumpets, then later on pizzas, garlic breads and nachos.”
For Blue Seal, it considers its commercial pizza ovens are suitable for restaurants with outdoor seating areas, being fast, efficient and designed for everyday professional use. The range of traditional Italian style, stone base electric deck ovens cook at high temperatures to ensure speed and good cooking results. They can accommodate 4 x 12” pizzas per deck.
National accounts manager David Chesshire commented: “The Blue Seal electric pizza ovens are a fantastic alternative to wood burner stoves or gas ovens, which are higher maintenance and require more specialist and costly extraction systems to take away smoke and fumes.
“The fact these ovens are only single phase power supply makes them very versatile and suitable for dark kitchen takeaway sites and certain mobile kitchen operations that may have limited power supplies.”
He pointed out: “The ovens can be used in professional temporary and portable kitchens, as long as there is adequate air circulation and any vented heat/steam can be dissipated into the atmosphere or directed outside, to maintain healthy and comfortable HSE working environment tolerances.”
Blue Seal offers single deck and twin deck ovens, which operate up to 400°C, said to give optimum cooking temperatures for decks of their size. The single deck can be stacked onto the twin deck, creating a triple deck, maximising the output from the floor space. The oven chambers all function independently, allowing the pizza chef to control temperatures and bake more types/sizes of pizzas at once, which should therefore reduce serving times for busy restaurants. Each chamber has top and bottom temperature control, so the pizza chef can adjust the performance of the chamber to suit baking pizza either in pizza pans, or traditionally straight onto the refractory stone.
Over at FEM, it feels the Stromboli pizza oven from Sirman is suitable for businesses with less available outdoor space looking for ways to expand their outdoor dining offering. Powered from a standard 13A socket, the compact electric unit can be mounted on trolleys for outside use. It’s capable of cooking two pizzas with a maximum diameter each of 220mm simultaneously. Its dimensions are 580mmW x 490mmD x 245mmH.
FEM commercial director Mark Hogan asserted: “The Stromboli oven is particularly well suited for use in mobile or temporary kitchens. As it is a fully enclosed unit it can easily be sited in small kitchens. The heating element is shockproof, allowing it to stand up to being moved without affecting its performance.
“Features like a shuttered air vent help to keep the working environment comfortable for staff, and as it is an electric unit it does not need the external ventilation of traditional wood fired pizza ovens. Units can also be stacked, so if demand goes up, it’s simple add another oven. This makes it easy to increase output while keeping the same footprint.”
He urged: “Dealers should use most of the same considerations for picking outdoor equipment that they do with indoor. Commercial cooking equipment is much more hardwearing than domestic versions. It needs to be able to cope with heavy use and be tough enough to stand up to rougher treatment, as well as being easy to clean.”
At Pantheon Catering Equipment, MD Sandro Wulkan feels: “Because outdoor dining is likely to be very popular this spring and summer, we believe that the demand for pizza ovens will be far greater than usual. Dealers need to ascertain exactly what their customers need from an oven – from the types of pizzas they plan to offer, the quantity they hope to sell and where they intend to site it. Budget, too, is likely to be a key consideration, especially as for many, this will be an exploratory new menu item.”
Pantheon’s own pizza ovens come in two size options capable of holding either four or eight 12” pizzas, and they can be plugged in and put into service immediately, though three phase options are also available.
Wulkan continued: “They’re suitable for use in mobile or temporary kitchens. However, as with any oven, it’s important to make sure that the correct volumetric air changes are achieved and that cooking vapour from other appliances is managed effectively within a closed environment.”
However, he noted: “Although Pantheon’s pizza ovens are not suitable for permanent outdoor installation, they can certainly be wheeled outdoors on dry days – or even on not so dry days as long as they’re protected from the elements by a gazebo or similar. In fact, long before the pandemic, we’ve seen clients do this very successfully and safely.”
Pantheon also sells a stand to hold either its single (four pizzas) or double (eight pizzas) oven. This can be supplied with castors if required to maximise siting options.
US-based Marra Forni is reporting a significant increase in its mobile oven sales over the past year as its customers are adjusting to the new business climate wrought by Covid. The manufacturer offers both gas and wood-fired ovens, in a variety of sizes and configurations that are for outdoor use.
Todd M. Griffith, vice president, sales and marketing, explained: “Our ovens have been used for years in outdoor applications, including patio, pool grill, country club and catering. Marra Forni’s ovens are manufactured in our Beltsville, Maryland production facility. Ovens are handmade, brick-by-brick in the tradition of the ancient Italian brick masons.
“The oven actually has two domes; the inner dome is the cooking chamber and there is a second dome constructed that insulates and protects the oven cavity. It is this construction that allows them to be used both indoors and outdoors. For gas ovens, we seal all electrical and control components in order to protect them in outdoor applications. Ideally, it’s a good idea to cover the ovens to give them some level of protection from the elements, but it’s common to see Marra Forni ovens being used outdoors and in a variety of applications.”
Detailing that the firm’s brick ovens can be customised for different types of mobile applications, such as mobile trailers, food trucks, and full production kitchen trailers, Griffith underlined: “Marra Forni’s brick ovens have a unique integrated exhaust system that is designed into the structure of the ovens and are approved for direct venting as an option to traditional ventilation hoods and systems. As such, there is really no need for additional ventilation for our ovens.”
Another brand feeling positive about the potential of its pizza ovens is Valoriani. UK director Andrew Manciocchi believes: “Lockdown has demonstrated the degree to which our Valoriani, restaurant-grade pizza ovens can provide valuable income for those with outdoor dining space or who can establish a takeaway service via a hatch from the dining area to an outside collection point.
“We saw many of our customers reap huge rewards over the August Bank Holiday 2020, when they were able to open and pull in the ‘crowd’.
“As many venues would primarily use their outdoor oven for pizzas or items such as jacket potatoes, the margins achievable on the food served from an oven are strong and can quickly contribute payback towards the initial investment.”
Valoriani UK offers venues both ready-to-go models, both wheeled or used as static models on a suitable base, plus a variety of ovens that can be built into an installation surround designed to suit the venue’s space and desired aesthetic. They can be fitted in catering vans, on trailers built to carry the oven, in Piaggio character-filled retro vehicles, as attachments to a bicycle and in a variety of other situations.
Manciocchi emphasised: “Outdoors, the benefits of Valoriani ovens are particularly amplified. In situations where the ambient temperature can greatly affect an oven’s performance, their superior materials – first-class refractory clay dome and floor and phenomenal levels of insulation – as well as their ability to superbly circulate and retain heat, make them the stars any chef should be seeking.”
He concluded: “Dealers should never lose sight of the financial investment/longevity relationship, making sure they understand how long an oven is likely to last and how much time, therefore, the initial investment can be spread across.
“They should really attempt to see different ovens in use, not just on a sales sheet or internet site and compare and contrast quality of build and how the ovens perform. Understanding how a wood oven works is very different from appreciating how an electric or gas oven works and good advice constitutes really getting to grips with what matters.”