Adequacy of a sole Brick Oven

Hello everyone. I’m in the infancy stage of planning my small neighborhood pizzaria. I’ve been in the foodservice industry as an executive chef and F&B director of several restaurants and boutique inns. I’ve cut my pizza teeth when I was in my teens at an independent pizza shop.

A little bit of info on the type of place, location, and menu offerings I hope to serve before I ask my question seems called for. I’ll be serving in Clayton, GA., a small community in the mountains of NE GA. I’d like to create a “community” pizza place, a place where families, professionals, locals, and tourists will all feel comfortable dining in. I’ll be tying in with the schools, churches, various organizations in my community, and will attempt to be a fixture in my area. There are currently few other places offering pizza in my area (one chain store, one full-service Italian restaurant, and a couple of places around 15-20 minutes away from Clayton on the outskirts of the county). Only one place in my county delivers pizza (surprisingly not the chain store), and they serve the Dillard area, which would be outside of my area of delivery anyway (IF I decide to deliver…the verdict is still out on that one). I would like to have about a 40 seat dining room, an open kitchen (so the customers can watch the pizzaiolo toss and top the dough) with a brick-oven (probably gas for the ease and convenience, however I might decide to go WFO), a few classic arcade games in the back, with a clean and warm environment. I plan to offer things can can all be prepared in a brick oven: pizzas, calzones, flatbread sandwiches, brick-oven wings, etc. in addition to cold items such as salads and desserts (Italian ice and Gelato). I’d also have a decent selection of craft beers from our region (Atlanta, Asheville, and Athens) and craft soft drinks made in house (a hobby of mine).

My questions is, would a 140-150 model brick oven (such as the Marra Forni 150s) be adequate enough to be the sole cooking source (with the exception of a portable induction burner to use for prep and an occasional special) for a small neighborhood pizzaria? I’d like to keep the store super minimalist, and also avoid a hood system, but I don’t want to kill my productivity with an inadequate oven. I guess I could always get another oven if and when we grow…but to start and for the first few years, would one work?

you’ll need a hood in this day & age…fire supression too…induction range? Hardly enuf HP…BTW…I was a former F & B guy…I believe your ‘concept’ is a bit weak & unprofitable/doable…IMHBCO…

Thank you Patriot’sPizza, I appreciate your feedback. So, let’s assume I get a hood and fire suppression. Will the 150 oven be adequate to keep up with production, or will I need to find another option. I really want the “theatrics” of the brick oven, but I’m not married to the idea by any means.

Induction ranges are more than powered enough for what I’d need. I use them regularly in a commercial kitchen for small tasks and prep. I wouldn’t be using it as a main source of cooking, but small prep tasks.

Would you care to clarify what specifically about the concept seems weak and unprofitable? I truly appreciate your HBCO.

I guess the info I am most interested in is if any small independent pizza shops out there found that the 140 or 150 brick ovens are able to keep up with productivity, or if I need something bigger.

Thanks in advance for the feedback.

Kyle,

I’m somewhat in the same boat here in Cali. I have looked into almost every oven possible and a friend of mine who owns several pizza shop in several cities steered me towards the Montague Hearthbake Legend series.

http://montaguecompany.com/Product.aspx?pid=256

Montague is not very well known for their pizza ovens but they have a solid reputation in the food industry. My buddy does highly recommend these ovens.

As a side note, Mellow Mushroom also uses these ovens as well as Pizzeria Beddia in Philly.

Thank you FogHorn! I like the specs on the Hearthbake series, and the appearance lends itself well to an open kitchen. I frequent Mellow Mushroom in Clemson and Asheville, and they do put out a good product and in higher volume than I predict I’d have…if the oven works for them, it should be great for me.

I’d still like some input on the brick oven productivity, just incase I decide to go wood-fired or coal-fired (unlikely, but possible).

Thanks again!

Kyle…lets start with the biz plan & the financials…although Clayton county has nearly 260K population, your local ‘buyers’ are not sufficient, IMHBCO, to support another pie joynt…

But, I may be mistaken…but if your are going to make an impact in the delivery biz, a conveyor is the way to go…

Yes, an exhibition kitchen is kewl, and a WFO would be an asset, 40 seats is tuff…what are u estimating for table turn? What is your rent? Check average? Will you be grossing over $500K/yr? Can you really net 10%?

Food for thought…

Kyle’s talking about a small neighborhood shop and believe it or not, that’s a concept that still works to this day. In fact, my belief is that people are going back to appreciating the smaller, family-owned places rather than the big chains or over-hyped restaurants that charge an arm and a leg for mediocre food.

I agree that a solid business plan and financing has to be in place, no matter what type of business you’re planning to open, whether it’s a shoe repair, small retail shop or a small pizza joint.

What sets those small places apart, at least here in my area, is the quality of ingredients. Can’t skimp on those or take short-cuts. However, it’s a fine line and balancing act to get the pricing right in a way that people will still consider it an affordable place (bang for the buck) and turning a profit.

Thanks again FogHorn and Patriot’sPizza. I am indeed talking about a small, neighborhood shop, and one in a community that strongly supports local shops (Clayton Georgia is in Rabun County, not Clayton County…Rabun is MUCH smaller than Clayton County). I am certain that I will be able to make it work, and will definitely have a biz plan and financing to support it. The only “pizza joint” that would compete with me would be the Pizza Hut, which has a horrible reputation in my community and, again, the community heavily supports the “mom and pop” shops.

I will strive to be affordable, but will obviously not be able to compete dollar for dollar with PH. I think the success will come from tying in with the community, marketing smartly and often, and providing exceptional service with an outstanding product. I’ve been a minister in the town for years, was heavily involved with the schools, am known and respected by a large portion of the people in my area, and know I’ll get their support.

I will keep overhead low, and know all about the bottom line and controlling costs…the business end isn’t my concern as much as the production logistics (efficiency without sacrificing quality or the “experience”).

Again, thank you guys. While I have the skeleton of basic biz plan, I’m more trying to visualize the concept of this small, neighborhood shop before I start seriously crunching numbers…BTW, I’m shooting for 2+ years to bring it to fruition, so I am truly in the infancy stage of planning.

I have a small shop 1750 sq ft, open kitchen, small town, mom and pops, conveyor ovens, seat 75. If you had more seating 50 + it would help, when we get slammed our double stack saves us, people are amazed at how fast we are and tell me they waited an hour and a half at a competitors brick oven place and won’t go back, we serve San Francisco on vacation (lake tahoe) people are rich and demanding about food quality, i’ve fielded thousands of complaints but never a complaint about our ovens. A good way to keep overhead low is less cooks ,conveyor requires less. hope this helps, side note, got caught two days ago in a big thunderstorm on my mt bike, riding full bore completely drenched with a big grin yelling JESUS !

johnmorrison, thank you for the info. I’m not opposed to a conveyor, though I am partial to a deck or hearth oven…I do however, like the ItalForni Stone Conveyor Oven…that might be a good compromise. Does anyone have experience with one?

I’ll never ‘knock’ small community shops, but realize, you have to earn a living, else you are working for less than minimum wage…proper financials don’t lie in any business…what are your fixed costs? what are your variable costs? what is your expected table turn? what is your expected check average? Without those thoughts reviewed & in place, your dream can turn into a nightmare…I’m being espesially ‘hard’ on you, as you are a former F & B guy…how’s that old adage go? if you fail to plan, you plan to fail? I owned a small place in TN…made some $$$ but made more when I sold it…lol…

“I’d still like some input on the brick oven productivity.”
Deck oven manufactures do not publish production capacities as that depends on so many variables its not possible.
Conveyor ovens are not subject to the conditions that effect decks. Conveyor manufactures can tell
you very accurate production figures.
I suggest you get at least two of any deck oven you select.
George Mills

My Blodgett 1000 ovens (Frank Mastro’s last oven design) can technically do 6-16"/4-18" pizzas every 7-9 minutes in a perfect world. That means having 6 prepped on peels and putting them all in at once and then have 6 more ready to go. Recovery time is nill because they have the original stones and require no rotating thus the door doesn’t need to be opened but to put in and take out. Norma Knepp of Norma’s Pizza, and I are in the process of interviewing Madeline Mastro, daughter of Frank Mastro, who singlehandly created the gas deck oven shift from coal in the NY/east coast and throughout the USA as well as creating the pizza world we know today. Hardly a soul knows anything of him and we hope to present a story proposal to PMQ once the interviews are complete. She is 89 and started working with her father at age 9 and remembers everything. He invented so many things in regards to pizza from the 30’s -60’s such as dough retarders, frozen dough, pizza wheel cutter, brought stainless steel to NYC for restaurant use, had a pizza school, had the Mastro Pizza Pavilion at the NY worlds fair, and much more. Here is the only video that give insight to his genius. Walter

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x8g4DxKsuik

George: I found this via a historical site on Blodgett “The next cooking revolution at the G.S. Blodgett & Co. occurred in the early 1950s with its perfection of a pizza oven. Several sizes and models were offered, including the “999” high production model. Measuring 61 inches by 49 inches, it was capable of baking sixty 15-inch or eighty 12-inch pizzas every hour.” Walter

http://www.uvm.edu/~hp206/2013/pages/obenauer/index.html

The 999 was shortly replaced by the 100o at 120,000 BTU delivered via 4 burner tubes instead of 80,000 via two.

Even a top grade oven tender would have a hard time hitting that production.

That statement was never made in their sales literature.

George Mills

George: Like I said in a perfect world :slight_smile: We are getting lots of information from Frank Mastro’s daughter about the blodgett ovens and also bakers pride. He went to them for a while with his designs for ovens. Blodgett was resistant to make his pizza oven design because at that time there were less than a dozen pizzerias in NYC… Walter