The foodservice industry has been one of the hardest hit during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. Due to measures to protect the population from contracting and transmitting the virus, varying mandates from state to state have been passed with several requiring businesses to temporarily cease operation and reduce capacities. These measures, though health officials argue are necessary to protect health and wellbeing, have had a direct impact on the bottom line and forced many to make the difficult decision to close shop for good.

On the other hand, there are those who have managed to thrive despite these unprecedented obstacles. By adapting their business to cater to consumer demand, they’ve been able to navigate these murky waters, stay afloat, and establish a sense of semi-normalcy. Such steps include revising the menu to remove low sellers and emphasize fan favorites, enhancing carryout efficiencies, and adding delivery services.

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Many restaurants have started adding pizza to their menu – a solid solution that checks several boxes. Pizza has long been a favorite of foodies, and it’s not hard to see why. It’s comfort food. Delicious, filling, affordable, and you can often get several meals out of it. Pizza is always in demand, and from a business standpoint, it has high-profit potential.

Pros of Adding Pizza to the Menu

Aside from being one of the most popular foods on the planet, adding pizza to your menu, especially during a pandemic that has had a major impact on restaurants around the country, has several benefits.

  1. It’s cheap to produce, which lends well to high margin potential. There’s some overhead, the biggest being upfront equipment costs. However, those are one-time expenses and the right pizza oven can go a long way, producing dozens of pizzas an hour. The recurring overhead expenses, such as ingredients, are affordable and the overall markup is often 500+%.

This article from Forbes breaks down ingredient costs vs. markup of common foods, citing pizza crust as one of the biggest savers that paves a path for this potential:

“A big contributor to these huge markups is the incredibly low cost of making the crusts. A pizzeria can buy a 50-pound case of flour for around $15. This works out to around 20 cents’ worth of flour per pizza. The yeast costs less than one cent per pizza.”

  1. Pizza holds and travels well. With the right insulated carrier, holding cabinet, or merchandiser, pizza can retain its temperature and flavor profile for hours.
  2. Pizza is popular, effortless, familiar and comforting, and always in demand. It’s a fan favorite that customers love because it’s simple and takes little effort. They know what they’re getting, and it’s the ultimate comfort food during trying times. Even with high margins, it’s still an affordable dinner solution, and customers can often get more than one meal out of it.

Equipping a Pizza Operation

Equipment choices can make or break an operation, and the right equipment for one type of operation isn’t always right for others. This depends on your goals and personalized business plan.

  • Are you looking to prepare and sell pizza exclusively, or add it as a supplementary menu item to build up the bottom line?
  • How many do you plan to sell each shift?
  • What types of pizzas are you looking to produce? Standard hand-tossed with one or two toppings? Specialty artisan pizzas?

These questions factor into what kind of oven and other supplies you’ll want to invest in.

Pizza Ovens

The three most common types of pizza ovens are conveyor, deck, and brick, each with their own sets of benefits that fit specific objectives.

Conveyor ovens operate with the use of a conveyor belt that makes the cooking process quick and efficient, automatically pushing the product through from start to finish. Given their automated nature, little supervision is required, saving on labor and freeing up the operator to focus on other tasks. The drawback to this is you lose a certain amount of control over the style of pizza, limiting operators to preparing only one style of pizza at a time. They’re best for your traditional hand-tossed, one or two topping pizzas.

Conveyor ovens are available in electric and gas configurations and are ideal for high production output.

Deck pizza ovens offer more control in product quality, ideal for more gourmet and artisan pizzas. Instead of a metal conveyor belt, the interior of deck ovens is often fabricated with ceramic tile, stone, or metal, which serves to transfer heat evenly through the crust and toppings. They’re more versatile and allow operators to prepare other types of food in addition to pizzas, such as breads and sandwiches. Deck ovens are better suited for establishments that offer pizza as one option, but have a larger menu with more diverse selections.

The speed of preparation and production output isn’t as high as standard conveyor pizza ovens, and more oversight is needed, limiting the ability to multi-task during high volume rushes.

A sub-category is countertop pizza ovens, which may be ideal if you’re looking at adding pizza as a supplementary option, but not the main focus. As their title suggests, they sit comfortably on top of counters and take up little space. Countertop pizza ovens are available in both deck and conveyor configurations, and they can be stacked to enable operations to prepare different types of pizza simultaneously. Like deck ovens, they often don’t have the same production yield as standard conveyor ovens, but are an ideal solution for establishments looking to add pizza to their menu as a quick, easy option.
A new type of oven similar to countertop ovens has started to gain traction within the foodservice market. Fast cook ovens (also referred to as high-speed or rapid-cook ovens) offer an accelerated cooking solution using a combination of microwave cooking with convection, impingement, and/or infrared heating. Using this combined heating technology, rapid-cook ovens can crank out product in significantly less time than standard ovens, and can be used for a wide assortment of foods in addition to pizzas. They’re available in several configurations, and the biggest consideration for operators is the cavity size. If you’re planning to use one to prepare pizzas, you’ll want to make sure the pizza will readily fit.

Read also: Need for Speed: Fast Cook Ovens

The final type of pizza oven is the brick oven. These are the real deal and best suited if you’re looking to produce the best pizza known to humankind. Brick ovens are ideal for crafting artisan pizzas and looking to deliver the authentic, taste-of-Italy experience. They’re fired either by wood or a gas-insert, and impart a smokier flavor with a crunchier crust and toppings. The biggest benefits are higher cooking temperatures that radiate around the dome chamber, fast cooking times, better crust and flavor profile, and ultimate control over the production. The drawbacks include taking up a lot of space, usually requiring professional installation and customized to fit your operation’s layout. They take the longest to preheat and require constant attention. The pizza needs manually adjusted and eyes on it at all times lest it burns or fails to cook consistently.

Insulated Pizza and Food Delivery Bags

Insulated food bags are essential for delivery, ensuring that safe serving temperatures are maintained during transit. They come in various configurations and sizes, depending on specific needs. Pizza bags are often flatter, designed to fit large square pizza boxes. However, other carriers are designed to help hold different types of food, if you offer more than just pizza. For instance, many operations will also deliver subs as well, and if you offer catering services, you’ll require delivery bags that can accommodate both sheet and food pans.

The main considerations, in addition to size, you’ll want to factor for the right delivery bag include the exterior, insulation options, closure and top or side-loading.

Exterior options: Nylon vs. Vinyl

Nylon delivery bags are more breathable, allowing excess steam to escape while holding product at proper temperatures – a better solution for pizza delivery as it keeps the crust crispy. Vinyl bags don’t allow as much steam to escape, which traps in moisture and can affect the quality of food. However, they’re usually more affordable so may be ideal if you’re traveling short distances and don’t plan to hold the product as long.

Insulation options: PVC vs. Polyurethane (PU) vs. Polyester

PVC foam is the most cost-effective of the three, and it’s durable, resistant to oil, grease and chemicals. Polyurethane offers more flexibility and is durable and resilient, and the open cell design enables breathability which makes them more resistant to trapped moisture which can lead to mildew and odors. Polyester is typically the more expensive option, but that equates to more durability and flexibility, all in a lightweight design. It’s also breathable and resilient, and cut-resistant for a longer lasting product.

Closure options: Hook-and-Loop vs. Zipper vs. Side Release Buckles

Closure options are designed for convenience and to further trap in heat. Zippers are the best at keeping in heat, but hook-and-loop and side releases are other common options that keep contents secure.

Style: Top Loading vs. Side Loading

Side loading configurations are ideal for pizzas, allowing easy access to flat, long boxes. Top loading, on the other hand, are more convenient for catering as they’re easier to stack and load.

Vollrath 1-Series Delivery Bags are affordable, durable solutions designed to enhance delivery operations, featuring a moisture-resistant outer shell that protects contents during transport, despite the weather, reinforced double stitching for a long lasting solution, and 2” thick insulation on all four sides to maintain temperatures during transit. They’re available in varying sizes and styles for any delivery needs. The Vollrath 1-Series Pizza Delivery Bags are available in 18-inch (Central Model #913-01T), accommodating  up to four 14” or 16” pizza boxes or three 18” pizza boxes, or 16-inch (Central Model #913-01U), holding up to four 14” or three 16” pizza boxes, configurations. Additional features include:

  • PVC window pocket for logo branding or storage for order slips, menus, delivery instructions, etc.
  • Reflective piping for clear visibility and safer nighttime delivery
  • Heavy-duty carrying straps and handles for efficient transport
Value Series Delivery Bags are also an affordable, popular delivery solution, and come in a range of sizes and styles. Top sellers include:

Pizza Pans

The type of pizza pan used to bake pizza has a direct impact on the quality of the product, and should be determined based on the style of pizza you’re hoping to concoct. The most common types of pizza pans include:

Tray/Coupe Pizza Pan

The standard when it comes to pizza pans. Characterized by their versatility, allowing operators to bake, slice, and serve all with the same pan.

Pizza Screens

Flat, mesh disks used primarily for baking. Screens benefit the crust, allowing more even heat distribution underneath so they bake faster and come out crispier than those baked on traditional trays.

Deep Dish Pizza Pans

These depend on the specific style you’re looking to serve, ideal for Chicago-style or pan pizzas. They’re deeper than traditional pizza pans and result in a softer, chewier crust.

Pizza Stones

For the pizza aficionado! Usually made of ceramic or clay, pizza stones retain flavors and help create the perfect crush. Ideal for use in wood-fired ovens and for artisan pizzas. The drawback to pizza stones is they require a higher level of maintenance than traditional pans.

Read also: Pizza Pans, Screens, Disks, and Stones: Everything You Need to Know

The surface of your pizza pan should also be considered. The style has great impact on the type of crust and baking performance, and, again, determined based on what style of pizza you’re looking to serve. The most common surface styles include:

  • Solid – the most frequently used. Solid surface pizza pans feature no holes or nibs, and can take longer for heat to transfer, and results in a doughier crust.
  • Perforated – noted by tiny holes punctuated throughout the pan, perforated pizza pans directly route heat to the bottom of the crust for shorter baking times and additional crispiness.
  • Nibbed – features raised bumps to allow better airflow underneath the crust, like the perforated style, however, there’s no direct contact between the heat source and the crust.

Holding Equipment

As noted, one of the pros of adding pizza to the menu is it holds and travels well if you use the right equipment. This is where a holding cabinet will come in handy, and they allow operators to prepare top-selling products early in the shift to get ahead of the rush.

Holding cabinets come in varying sizes, styles, and configurations, ranging from undercounter, half-height to full height, depending on the volume. In addition to kitchen volume, one of the biggest factors in selecting the right holding cabinet is insulation. Non-insulated holding cabinets are the economical option and ideal for low volume operations. However, they’re not as energy efficient as their insulated counterparts, and the exterior of some models may be hot to touch and radiate more heat into the kitchen. Insulated holding cabinets, on the other hand, reduces heat loss and energy use, and are better suited for offsite, catered events.

Holding cabinets specific to pizza are also common, designed to accommodate the unique dimensions of pizza boxes. Pizza merchandisers are also an ideal solution to keep pizza warm and showcase it to guests to encourage impulse purchases.

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Pizza Dough Mixer

Another pro of adding pizza to the menu, as outlined above, is the low cost of ingredients which yield to high profit potential. As an operation catering to the pizza demand, you’ll need to decide how to source the right ingredients to get the most bang for your buck. This entails deciding on purchasing frozen, pre-made crust, or buying the ingredients to make it in house. The latter can be more time consuming, but cost less in the long run.

If you opt to make your crust in house, one of the biggest considerations will be choosing a mixer that can handle the output and production capacity. The two types of mixers used to make dough are spiral and planetary.

Spiral mixers use a stationary spiral-shaped agitator that the bowl revolves around. It mixes or kneads small portions of dough at a time, careful not to overwork it. Whereas spiral mixers are designed for dough only, planetary mixers are more versatile and operators can switch out the mixing attachment from wire whips, to flat beaters and dough hooks. A planetary mixer might be ideal if, say, you’re making your own pizza sauce in addition to dough.

Read also: Determining the Right Mixer for Your Pizza Operation

View additional dough equipment and supplies here.

Delivery Essentials

Ensuring your delivery operation is efficient and thrives also depends on the right disposables. Make sure you’re stocked up on pizza boxes and takeout disposables, including plastic bags, to-go containers, flatware, dinnerware, drinkware, and napkins.

Vollrath Delivery Work Stations enhance the speed and efficiency of delivery orders by providing a proficient work space which features a work surface, delivery bag storage space, LED lighting and heat strips to keep product warm, check rail and a wire rack for ease of organizing – all on casters for maneuverability around the kitchen. They’re made in the U.S.A. and made to order in 36”, 48”, or 60” width.

View more takeout and delivery solutions here.

Tips for Success

After understanding how pizza takeout and delivery service can increase revenue, and ensuring you have the right equipment and supplies to effectively pull it off, it’s time to give your operation a push to lift off and soar. Here are a few pizzeria profitability tips, courtesy of the Alive and Kickin’ Pizza Crust’s Positively Pizza Blog:

  • Research profitability trends and adapt as needed. This includes keeping an eye on developing technologies, make ordering easy and mobile-friendly, and emphasize quality, locally sourced ingredients to deliver a superior product at an affordable price.
  • Keep an eye on costs, balancing a valuable product without blowing your budget. Adjust prices when necessary, especially when your hit with increases, such as spikes in commodities like ingredients.
  • Always work to enhance efficiencies, such as in your kitchen design, including the back of house flow and space layout, and upgrade to labor-saving and energy-efficient equipment solutions.
  • Effectively market your products and services through smart promotions (timing is everything here), limited time offers, and targeting millennials through social media.

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Read the full AK Crust’s Pizzeria Profitability article here.