Changing to New XLT Ovens. Customer Reactions?

We’ll be replacing our ancient Baker’s Pride Y-602 deck ovens with new XLT 3240 Double-stack conveyor ovens. We’ve already done two test bake sessions at the So Cal Gas Company test kitchen and were very pleased with the results.

Our main concern is how this change will go over with our customers. Any feedback or advice from operators who have gone through this would be greatly appreciated. We also have a few other questions:

  1. Did you change any of your ingredients or recipe portions due to the change?

  2. How much testing and tweaking did you have to do to get your desired results?

  3. What sort of feedback did you receive from your customers about the change?

  4. If there was negative feedback, to what extent and how did you handle it?

  5. Did you permanently lose any customers because of the change?

  6. Did you do any marketing to inform your customers prior to the change?

Thanks in advance for your help!

Our experience is that switching to air impingement ovens increases sales.
George Mills

I have a double stack 3240 XLT bought them back in 2008 and never had any issues with them until this past Saturday. The temp sensor probe was covered with carbon and would not ignite. $1000.00 repair. $720.00 of that is just labor! Parts are $61.00 and the rest is truck charge and tax. Besides that I Love them!!! Keep the air filters clean and they work great. Could never do the volume that we do with the staff that I have with deck ovens. The hearth bake disks from Lloyds works just like a deck oven, in finish bake of the pizza. Good luck with your New XLT’s.

Depending upon the pizza you are replicating you might need to eliminate any sugar, eggs or milk from your dough formulation. If you are presently baking on screens you can most likely continue to do so to achieve a comparable bake characteristic but if you are baking on the deck most certainly get some of the Lloyd’s Hearth Bake Disks as they do a great job of replicating a deck bake. To use these disks it is important that you delete any sugar, eggs or milk from the dough formula, then set the oven temperature at 485 to 500F (you will need to experiment) and the time at 5-minutes (again you will need to experiment). The bottom finger profile will be full open but you will need to work with XLT (in your case) at the time of installation to identify the top finger profile that works best to give you the desired finished bake color characteristics using your ingredients.
For more information, research the archives (In Lehmann’s Terms) and you should find one or more articles that I’ve written addressing this very topic.
Tom Lehmann/The Dough Doctor

Thanks for your feedback everyone! Tom, thanks for your advice. We attended your seminar at last year’s Pizza Expo and learned a lot about dough! We used the Lloyd’s Hearth Bake Disks at our test bake and were very happy with the results.

We currently have sugar in our recipe. What changes will it have by eliminating the sugar from the dough formula? Thanks!

If you eliminate the sugar from the dough formula and bake on the Lloyd’s Hearth Bake disk with the oven temperature set at between 485 and 510F with about a 4.5-minute bake time you should be able to replicate the hearth baked crust characteristic.
Tom Lehmann/The Dough Doctor

Can I just point out that the #1 pizza chain in the US (Volume per store) uses deck ovens and averages roughly 8-10K per day per store (Dion’s). I know that any volume is possible with deck ovens… They have 3 X 2 double stack deck’s so 6 ovens total.

Not trying to start the debate of conveyor vs deck, just want to show that anything is possible!

Some of the main shortcomings of deck ovens are the need for an oven tender, required space for the oven tender to work in, inconsistency in final bake, potentially inconsistent bake times and greater energy consumption. With all of that said, they’re still viable baking options for individual shops and smaller chains.
Tom Lehmann/The Dough Doctor

That’d be amazing to do that volume per day wow! Malnati’s in Chicago has 8-12 double decks in their locations. Someday I hope :slight_smile:

We run three double stacks (6 ovens) at one location and 2 stacks at another.

Let us know how the transition goes… I am very curious as I’ve toyed with the idea of switching at one of our smaller locations just to see if a conveyor setup really would make things easier, lower our wages, speed things up and all without lowering the quality or devaluing the actual product (we have open kitchen designs). It would be a no brainier if that was the case but it’s always sounded too good to be true to me. Plus having a conveyor with an open kitchen design just seems lame in comparison to guys working deck ovens… But damn would it be nice to have all the above pros that I mentioned.

I think my main concern (and maybe yours?) is the fact that we’ve built a business (about to be 50 years) with deck oven pizza. Switching now is a little more “risky”, or “scary” than if we were opened for a few years or just opening.

It’s obvious you can build an empire with conveyor oven pizza now a days, as many have, and if I was in it to produce some serious product at multiple locations in a short amount of time it would be a no brainier for sure.

Certainly a remarkable job… The stats I can find online indicate a bit over 7K per day average which means the higher volume locations must be doing the numbers you quote as well as having still higher peak days.

What is the over-all blend of the menu? I worked at some very high volume locations back in the day that used deck ovens and it was a real task to do the job. I worked at a Dominos that had 6 Baker’s Pride ovens and a Green Mill that had 6 ovens as well. We were able to do 600-700 pie nights at that Dominos… As I remember it, it took two oven tenders to keep up with it. At the Green Mill the oven capacity was greatly different due to the popularity of the deep dish pies.

One good stack of conveyors can put out that much product in less than half the space with greater product consistency and lower costs though.

did you ever make the switch? we use y600 ovens and looking to switch. any input since your last post is appreciated

We’ve fooled many “Chicagoans” and " New Yorkers" out here in Colorado with the quality of the pizza being cooked in our conveyer oven! lol. For us its a volume issue, there is no way deck ovens would be feasible for us. We get orders of 50-60 up to 200 pizzas at a time. We have two stores in the same college town that average $50,000/week at one and $70,000 at the other and again deck ovens and the labor that is automatically assumed to work it wouldn’t work. Conveyer ovens can make a great pie if you pay attention to detail and work out the time and temp perfectly for your product! Make the leap and become scary efficient!

And don’t forget to add “finger configuration” to the list of things that you will need to dial in. Most, if not all of the air impingement oven manufacturers are more than willing to work with their clients to identify the finger configuration that works best for them in making their SPECIFIC pizza. A good many of the Chicago pizzerias have changed over to air impingement ovens for the very reasons cited.
Tom Lehmann/The Dough Doctor

I was thinking about hopping a plane to Middleby in IL to check out that Hearth Bake oven (well, it’s a WOW oven with a Hearth Bake belt and structure)
No screens, disc, etc- pies go right on the belt.
I don’t know… I did order two Hearth Bake discs from Lloyds to play with, as well.

Ever tried just putting your pizzas on your current belt? I do it for my thin crust pies and it’s pretty similar.

I have in the past and it’s just too “open” a link.

try par-baking the skin for 90 seconds, build the pie and shimmy it onto the belt for a full run. it’s crispy crispy!

I got that- that I have done and that does work… but that won’t work for the new shop- I need a more concrete system in place. Appreciate that, though, Joe. That’s how I’d make 'em in the Domino’s stores! (for the crew)