We have rotating pan ovens and have also used conveyor ovens. #1. How does the bake quality of a deck oven compare to the rotating pan ovens and conveyors? #2 I was reflecting the other day on the adjustments necessary on both of the other ovens in a years period of time. It would seem that a deck oven would be the oven with the least amount of repairs along with adjustments that the operator may do himself if only because of the lack of moving parts. And if you have a bank of deck ovens you cannot be completely shut down except when you might lose power or gas to the building. You might be pinched a little but you can still operate. On the face of it this is to obvious so where are the pitfalls? Is the labor difference the biggest factor?
The labor factor is big but also the temperature of a deck oven falls swiftly when busy resulting in longer and longer bake times. The conveyor ovens remains steady no matter the load. Our clients prefer the edge oven.
There is a multi unit pizza company in our area using deck ovens generating significant sales. The wait times cannot get that far out of line or there would be comments from places like “seek the negative first” Yelp. I have not seen any. I do see multiple banks of deck ovens that must mitigate the “longer baking times” factor and I do see extra labor. The one factor that is difficult to reconcile is the labor, especially here in California. Most all restaurants in our very large area are in need of cooks so wages are increasing. Tough scenario; we cannot get the applicants and if we do get them they are costing a lot more and often with fewer skills. In the case of this particular company mentioned with the deck ovens it might be that at the high sales levels the labor is negated to an extent that it is all worth it. There are always compensating factors to every scenario. The question is whether someone can deal with or accept a particular compensating factor. I guess in this case, as George says. the labor is a big factor; maybe to big to accept. I just happened to think about all those deck oven doors opening frequently. They must throw off a lot of heat.
IMO the quality of product that a deck oven produces is worth the extra labor. The main labor problem that I’ve found is the learning curve for actually cooking a pizza properly in a deck oven. George is correct that the temperature of the deck ovens does fall when we’re really busy. We offset this by having 4 units and rotating through them throughout the evening. If we notice one is really dying on us during a rush then we’ll crank it up an additional 75-100 degrees. Ours our made by Marsal and Sons and have additional stones above the pizzas that help retain heat as well (though, their claim of not having to spin pizzas during cooking is BS). With the 4-six pie deck ovens we’re able to go through 400-500 pizzas on fridays; at one of our smaller stores we have 4-four pie ovens and 250-350 on a friday is more than manageable with our oven capacity even with lost heat.
You can do a lot of the repairs and adjustments yourself. That being said, you won’t be saving any money by switching to deck ovens, you’ll lose it in labor. In my opinion, you need to make sure that you’ll bring in extra business because of a higher quality product. Although, if your staff is inadequately trained then you will have a lower quality product
Do most of the places in your area use conveyors? If they’re aren’t any deck oven places then I think that it would give you an opportunity to really stick out. Walter with @smiling with hope swears by his old Blodgett decks in Reno. It’s really the only way to get that true NY style pizza bottom crust.
I’ll add that we used to have 2 Garland air deck ovens and 2 blodgett deck ovens at the same time. A noticeable amount of customers would ask for their pies to be baked in the Blodgetts instead of the Garlands. When we switched to only having stone deck ovens we did see a significant increase in business and anecdotally had a lot of positive comments from customers that wondered what we changed that made our pizzas better than before. Stone just cooks the bottom so much better than air.
In my humble opinion the biggest issue with any kind of deck or wood fired oven is the need for an oven tender. They put a raw pizza in the oven and it comes out only when he/she removes it, not a minute sooner or a minute later. My point is…they are dependent upon the human element, and we all know how that works. Every oven has its place and application, some are better than others in specific places (restaurant concepts) and applications (dine-in or DELCO), and even pizza toppings and loading enter into the picture. In my opinion, there is no one size fits all, perfect oven, you just have to find the type of oven which works best in YOUR specific application.
Tom Lehmann/The Dough Doctor