- When purchasing new equipment, look for features that allow you to reduce food waste, such as cheese that winds up on the floor, and cut your energy costs.
- Also think about how easy or difficult your new equipment will be to maintain and clean.
By Dave Rademacher
One silver lining for the foodservice industry during the pandemic was the well-established infrastructure and dependability of takeout pizza and delivery.
With traditional dine-in service restricted, independent and chain pizza restaurants’ combined sales remained relatively steady year-over-year in 2020 despite the pandemic. Thankfully, many pizza locations kept their lights on by responding to the demand for delivery and limited-contact operations.
The downside was higher sales didn’t always result in higher profits. Because of volatile cheese prices in 2020, some pizza restaurants reported minimal profits despite regular or increased sales.
Now pizza sales are starting to taper off slightly. Papa John’s and Domino’s both reported sales had cooled earlier this year. Vaccinations and warmer weather have led more people to dine out again, and non-pizza restaurants have caught up to a changing landscape.
With all that in mind, the pizza industry remains steady. There are still reasons for optimism and more opportunities to squeeze every drop of profits out of the pizza-making process. Here are five helpful methods to achieve just that:
Tip 1: Invest in Equipment that Eliminates Waste
It can be hard for busy pizza restaurants to eliminate all waste. Things can get crazy in the back of the house, which can lead to mistakes, like an employee accidentally tossing cheese on the floor or prep table during preparation. That cheese ends up being thrown away. While this can seem relatively minor, this waste can really add up over time.
There is now simple equipment on the market that eliminates this kind of waste, like a cheesing station. They are large-capacity holding bins (25 pounds of cheese, in one case) with a steel grate on top. When an employee is prepping, any cheese that doesn’t land on the pizza ends up back in the refrigerated holding bin instead of the floor.
Because cheese waste can put a serious dent in profits, equipment like cheesing stations can have a high return on investment and quick payback period.
Also, look at coldwall cooling prep tables, which have a layer of frost encased above and around the pans. The frost creates a blanket of cold over the pans to act as a barrier to heat, assuring the food products stay fresher longer to help combat unnecessary food waste.
Tip 2: Clean, Clean, Clean
Yes, it’s common sense, but it’s still a valuable reminder: Staying diligent with cleaning can go a long way.
The pandemic put a spotlight on healthy cleaning habits, but sanitizing goes beyond the obvious idea of creating a safer cooking environment. Properly cleaning and maintaining your equipment every night will make it last longer and reduce the frequency of repairs.
Equipment is an investment. Taking care of it and keeping disciplined cleaning procedures will help you get the most out of it.
You should also consider the physical attributes of your equipment: how easy is it to clean? For example, forced-air prep tables often have many parts and pieces within the unit that are difficult and time-consuming to remove. This makes it harder to properly clean and sanitize.
Tip 3: Energy Efficiency Is Your Friend
When making your next equipment purchase, look for energy-efficient features that will cut costs and add to your bottom line. Energy efficiency is another major benefit of coldwall prep tables. They tend to operate more efficiently than forced-air because they do not use the cooled air from the base of the unit to cool the pan opening. This means that the unit is not running constantly during peak times to provide cooling, and the pan opening can be turned off at night, reducing energy usage by up to 60%.
Again, that’s a small thing that can really add up over time. It’s a few nickels and dimes here and there that gradually turn into hundreds or even thousands of dollars. Coldwall also outperforms forced-air models in harsh environments, keeping proper holding temperature of ingredients despite surrounding heat.
Tip 4: Play Within Your Confines
Depending on the pizza place, there oftentimes isn’t a lot of extra floor space to work with in the back. When it feels like every square foot is already being used, it can be difficult to find ways to add more equipment to the production process.
There is equipment, though, that adds value to every inch of a floorplan. For example:
- Dual rail prep tables can nearly double the amount of ingredients you carry without taking up a much larger footprint.
- Cheesing stations tend to be no more than two feet wide.
- Wide pan openings are also a great way to increase pan capacity by 50% when a large workspace is not required, such as smaller pizzas or salad/sandwich station.
It’s tricky adding to an already crowded floorplan, and you may need to get creative, but it can be done.
Tip 5: Find Ways to Make a Consistent Product
A consistent product is critical in building customer loyalty in the competitive pizza world. If customers know they get a perfect pie from you every time, they will keep coming back.
Two ways that help ensure a perfect product:
- Create a chart that tells employees the correct portions of cheese and other ingredients for all sizes and styles of pizza. This is especially helpful for newer employees that are being trained.
- Some equipment—Including those cheesing stations—have a scale option, so your employees can also physically weigh each pie. This also ensures you aren’t losing cheese from employees overdoing it!
Finding What’s Right for You
Even with steady pizza sales, there are bound to be more industry changes in the coming years—everything from an increased focus on plant-based ingredients to automated delivery vehicles.
Some investments or trends may be right for some and not for others, but it’s important to find practical additions for your own pizza restaurant. Technology has improved the customer experience, with apps letting you order a large pepperoni with a push of a button. But advancements in equipment also make life easier for pizzeria owners, managers and staff.
Whether your customers continue to use takeout and delivery or if the potential for pent-up demand for dining out again results in a busy house this summer, it’s critical to capitalize on anything that will give you a return on investment.