Half-baked

When Domino’s Pizza (dominos.com) introduced delivery pizza,delivery became the norm. Now, pizzeriaoperators are looking to take-and-bakeand pizza kits as a new way toreinvent their product. Take-and-bakepizzas are fully prepared, uncooked pizzasthat customers cook in their ovens athome. They offerthe convenience of frozenpizzas, but contain all the benefits of freshtoppings and restaurant-quality ingredients.In contrast, pizza kits offer a customer theopportunity to assemble the dough, sauce,cheese and toppings however he likes, andthen bake the pizza in his home oven.Papa Murphy’s Pizza (papamurphys.com)is by far the largest take-and-bake chain. It’sthe fifth-largest pizza chain in the UnitedStates and relies exclusively on selling uncookedpizza along with bakeable sidessuch as cheesy bread and cookie dough.Papa Murphy’s operates more than 1,200stores in 37 states and Canada, and haspaved the way for others interested inpeddling unfinished pies. Colorado-basedNick-n-Willy’s (nicknwillys.com) has grownto 28 stores using a combination of take-and-bakeand finished pizzas. Noble Roman’s (nobleromans.com), a chain that also offers take-and-bake pizzasin grocery stores, has nearly 1,000 locationsaround the country.

Why Add Take-and-Bake or Pizza Kits?

Of all the pizzeria owners we interviewed whoadded take-and-bake pizzas or pizza kits to theirmenus, every one encouraged other pizzeria ownersto try it, even though it consistently representeda small percentage of their overall sales. Thesesavvy owners added take-and-bake or pizza kits afternoticing a demand in their area or getting personalrequests for their dough, sauce and cheesefor customers to take home.

Justin Gallant from Pier Pizza (pierpizza.com)in Wakefield, Rhode Island, started offering pizzakits a few months after receiving two phone callsin one evening from friends who were makingpizza at home. Both had bought premade dough,a bag of cheese and a jar of sauce at the grocerystore and needed Gallant’s advice on how to bakethe pizza. “They didn’t know what temperature the oven should be or what kind of panto use,” says Gallant. “They spent probably$15 on something I could have givento them, ready to heat, for $9.99.” Moreand more operators are realizing thattake-and-bake and pizza kits are waysto stomp out competition from grocerystore convenience pizzas.

Creating a pizza at home, especiallywith loved ones, is an alluring experience.The kitchen fills with the warmthand aroma of the pizza, and the processprovides a bonding experience betweenfriends and family. Mike Tomasso fromTomasso’s Pizza & Subs (tomassospizza.com) in Boca Raton, Florida, offers a pizzamaking kit, half-baked pizza, and evena heart-shaped pizza kit for two, idealfor making a romantic evening betweensweethearts. Other pizzerias, such asCandelari’s (candelaris.com) in Houstonand Slice (sliceperfect.com) in New York,market their pizza kits to children to livenup birthday parties or family pizza nights.“Family time is important to Americans,”remarks Miki Agrawal, owner of Slice.

Preparing pizza together is also a funactivity; and, as Michael May from Candelari’spoints out, “Kids like their foodmore when they make it themselves.”

Expand Your Customer Base

Take-and-bake and pizza kits allow youto sell to different types of customers.First, creating a take-and-bake optionimproves the longevity of your pizza,allowing it to travel with your long-distancecustomers. Ally’s Real New YorkPizzeria (allyspizzeria.com) in Land O’Lakes, Florida, sells 20% of its pizza inkit form. Most of the kits are sold to customerswho live far away and detour totake a kit home and cook it fresh. Take-and-bakescan even be sent in the mail:Jay Phillips from Goode & Fresh Bakery(pizzabakery.com) in Glenview, Illinois,reports that customers mail his take-and-bakepizza to their children who’vemoved away for college and miss theirlocal pizzeria.

Grocery stores can become new venuesfor your pizza as well. Getting intogrocery stores presents your product toa new demographic of customers whomight not have visited your store or seenyour logo. Apart from selling more pizza,eye-catching packaging will further yourname and reputation in the community.Gallant was approached by a local grocerystore interested in putting his pizzakits in the store only a few months afterhe started producing the kits.

Fundraising and Gluten-Free

If you want to start out at a slower pace,consider using pizza kits for fundraisers.The Tomasso’s Pizza making kit contains everythingneeded to make a large pizza at home.Fundraisers allow you sell more pizzaand help the community, too. Slice usesits pizza kits much like Girl Scout cookies:Groups ask customers to prepay forthe amount of pizza kits they’d like, sothe pizzeria knows exactly how many tomake. The fundraising groups purchaseeach kit for $5.99 and sell them at doublethe price, so it’s a lucrative fundraiserfor them. And, since everything is preordered,there’s no waste for the pizzeria.

Finally, keeping your pizza out of theoven could be your chance to offer glutenfreepizza. Jeff Aufdencamp from MamaMimi’s Take ’N’ Bake Pizza (mamamimis.com) in Columbus, Ohio, sells 10% of hispizzas as gluten-free. According to Aufdencamp,gluten-free pizzas as take-andbakesare a natural fit because “there’s agood risk of cross-contamination if youuse the same oven for gluten-free as youdo for regular pizza.”

On the Menu

Is it feasible for your pizzeria to beginselling take-and-bake pizzas? “All youneed is a shrink-wrap machine,” saysPhillips. “Most people use parchment paper,but include some nice take-and-baketrays, and you’re looking at startup costsof around $200, max.”

Take-and-bakes and pizza kits preparedahead of time are generally specialtypizzas or a simple cheese or pepperoni.Mama Mimi’s features gourmet pizzassuch as pesto chicken with artichokehearts and Parmesan. For uncooked pizzasmade to order, the customers canchoose their toppings. At Tomasso’s,pepperoni and mushroom are by far themost commonly ordered toppings.

Typically, pizzerias charge a little lessfor kits and take-and-bakes. At Ally’s Pizzeria,a kit is only $3 after purchasing thedeluxe tool set, which comes completewith cutter, pan and instructional DVDfor $49.95. In other pizzerias, such asGoode & Fresh Bakery, take-and-bakescost the same as a regular pizza; at Tomasso’s,customers save $5 by purchasinga large pizza kit for $12.

Take-and-bakes and pizza kits are alow-cost investment that provides a novelservice to your customers and opens upyour store to a new demographic of clientele,whether it be through grocery storeshoppers, fundraising groups or thosewith a gluten intolerance.

Missy Green is the assistant director of the U.S.Pizza Team.