When Domino’s Pizza (dominos.com) introduced delivery pizza, delivery became the norm. Now, pizzeria operators are looking to take-and-bake and pizza kits as a new way to reinvent their product. Take-and-bake pizzas are fully prepared, uncooked pizzas that customers cook in their ovens at home. They offer the convenience of frozen pizzas, but contain all the benefits of fresh toppings and restaurant-quality ingredients. In contrast, pizza kits offer a customer the opportunity to assemble the dough, sauce, cheese and toppings however he likes, and then bake the pizza in his home oven. Papa Murphy’s Pizza (papamurphys.com) is by far the largest take-and-bake chain. It’s the fifth-largest pizza chain in the United States and relies exclusively on selling uncooked pizza along with bakeable sides such as cheesy bread and cookie dough. Papa Murphy’s operates more than 1,200 stores in 37 states and Canada, and has paved the way for others interested in peddling unfinished pies. Colorado-based Nick-n-Willy’s (nicknwillys.com) has grown to 28 stores using a combination of take-and-bake and finished pizzas. Noble Roman’s (nobleromans.com), a chain that also offers take-and-bake pizzas in grocery stores, has nearly 1,000 locations around the country.

Why Add Take-and-Bake or Pizza Kits?

Of all the pizzeria owners we interviewed who added take-and-bake pizzas or pizza kits to their menus, every one encouraged other pizzeria owners to try it, even though it consistently represented a small percentage of their overall sales. These savvy owners added take-and-bake or pizza kits after noticing a demand in their area or getting personal requests for their dough, sauce and cheese for customers to take home. 

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

Creating a pizza at home, especially with loved ones, is an alluring experience. The kitchen fills with the warmth and aroma of the pizza, and the process provides a bonding experience between friends and family. Mike Tomasso from Tomasso’s Pizza & Subs (tomassospizza.com) in Boca Raton, Florida, offers a pizza making kit, half-baked pizza, and even a heart-shaped pizza kit for two, ideal for making a romantic evening between sweethearts. Other pizzerias, such as Candelari’s (candelaris.com) in Houston and Slice (sliceperfect.com) in New York, market their pizza kits to children to liven up birthday parties or family pizza nights. “Family time is important to Americans,” remarks Miki Agrawal, owner of Slice. 

Preparing pizza together is also a fun activity; and, as Michael May from Candelari’s points out, “Kids like their food more when they make it themselves.”

Expand Your Customer Base

Take-and-bake and pizza kits allow you to sell to different types of customers. First, creating a take-and-bake option improves the longevity of your pizza, allowing it to travel with your long-distance customers. Ally’s Real New York Pizzeria (allyspizzeria.com) in Land O’Lakes, Florida, sells 20% of its pizza in kit form. Most of the kits are sold to customers who live far away and detour to take a kit home and cook it fresh. Take-and-bakes can even be sent in the mail: Jay Phillips from Goode & Fresh Bakery (pizzabakery.com) in Glenview, Illinois, reports that customers mail his take-and-bake pizza to their children who’ve moved away for college and miss their local pizzeria. 

Grocery stores can become new venues for your pizza as well. Getting into grocery stores presents your product to a new demographic of customers who might not have visited your store or seen your logo. Apart from selling more pizza, eye-catching packaging will further your name and reputation in the community. Gallant was approached by a local grocery store interested in putting his pizza kits in the store only a few months after he 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 everything needed to make a large pizza at home. Fundraisers allow you sell more pizza and help the community, too. Slice uses its pizza kits much like Girl Scout cookies: Groups ask customers to prepay for the amount of pizza kits they’d like, so the pizzeria knows exactly how many to make. The fundraising groups purchase each kit for $5.99 and sell them at double the price, so it’s a lucrative fundraiser for them. And, since everything is preordered, there’s no waste for the pizzeria. 

Finally, keeping your pizza out of the oven could be your chance to offer glutenfree pizza. Jeff Aufdencamp from Mama Mimi’s Take ’N’ Bake Pizza (mamamimis.com) in Columbus, Ohio, sells 10% of his pizzas as gluten-free. According to Aufdencamp, gluten-free pizzas as take-andbakes are a natural fit because “there’s a good risk of cross-contamination if you use the same oven for gluten-free as you do for regular pizza.”

On the Menu

Is it feasible for your pizzeria to begin selling take-and-bake pizzas? “All you need is a shrink-wrap machine,” says Phillips. “Most people use parchment paper, but include some nice take-and-bake trays, and you’re looking at startup costs of around $200, max.” 

Take-and-bakes and pizza kits prepared ahead of time are generally specialty pizzas or a simple cheese or pepperoni. Mama Mimi’s features gourmet pizzas such as pesto chicken with artichoke hearts and Parmesan. For uncooked pizzas made to order, the customers can choose their toppings. At Tomasso’s, pepperoni and mushroom are by far the most commonly ordered toppings. 

Typically, pizzerias charge a little less for kits and take-and-bakes. At Ally’s Pizzeria, a kit is only $3 after purchasing the deluxe tool set, which comes complete with cutter, pan and instructional DVD for $49.95. In other pizzerias, such as Goode & Fresh Bakery, take-and-bakes cost the same as a regular pizza; at Tomasso’s, customers save $5 by purchasing a large pizza kit for $12. 

Take-and-bakes and pizza kits are a low-cost investment that provides a novel service to your customers and opens up your store to a new demographic of clientele, whether it be through grocery store shoppers, fundraising groups or those with a gluten intolerance.

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