Help! Pizza by the Slice place being destroyed by Health Dep

We are a pizza by the slice place. We are basically run in a similar fashion to pizza by the slice places in NY and Philadelphia.

We have a brand new inspector and now the Health Dept out to get us. Our major city used to be known for its lax standards. I am guessing that something must have happened, but now they have decided to become ultra strict. The normal national rule is 4 hours. But locally it is 2 hours.

However, i challenged the brand new health inspector lady (the law was 4 hours just 2 years ago, and they just changed it without updating their website or sending new copies of the food code to everyone). This got us on her bad side and now they are stating that i can’t hold pizza of any type at room temp for any period of time nor display it.

I have tried heating the pizza and we are losing a lot of customers, who think the pizza is old, inedible, etc. As we have 6 different kinds of pizza, not to mention calzones, strombolis and rolls, it’s extremely difficult to serve, make and constantly monitor pizza that would need to be thrown out after just 40 minutes to an hour.

I started a thread about humidified warmers because of this and was wondering how well it holds up at hour 3 and hour 4. Are humidfied warmers really a huge improvement over regular warmers for pizza. Would the pizza ever get soggy?

I am thinking that i will simply refrigerate the pizza and serve refrigerated and reheat in the deck oven, although this is almost certain to raise a few eyebrows of the customers.

I am doing poorly enough due to the recession and on top of this, i am in a shopping mall, and the mall wants to close at 8pm instead of 9pm every night to save money.

Would it be of any benefit to contact a lawyer?

Last thing is that the Health Dept said that they would be willing to let me follow the 2 hour rule if i can get a microbiological study stating that it would be safe for consumption after 2 hours.

Well, i contacted a testing lab and they stated that they could never state that something was safe for human consumption due to legal liabilities and that all they could do is conduct some tests and show the results.

On top of this they stated that cheese has lots of bacteria in it and that spoilage factors, i believe aerobic or anaerobic bacteria (can’t remember) are naturally high in cheese, making it look like it was spoiled. On top of this, the testing lab stated they would have to test each topping separately and would need to do multiple tests to be conclusive. This would like come to at least $2K to possibly $5K–AND no guarantee that the results would turnout in my favor, PLUS the Health Dept would always have the right to state that it was still too risky for public consumption.

Any tips for this pizza by the slice place? Thanks so much for your help!!

Re: Help! Pizza by the Slice place being destroyed by Health

2 hours? 4 hours?

We just sold our slice location that we owned and operated for 10 years. We used humidified warmers. The useful life is about 40 minutes. Why would you ever hold slices for 2 hours?

Sometimes you have to toss a few slices. The good news? Slice margins are high.

Re: Help! Pizza by the Slice place being destroyed by Health

I can not imagine being a regular customer in a place that served 2 hour old slices…Fresh food would cause me to come more often…So in my mind you would be better to throw some food out in order to get higher sales and carry more profit to the bottom line…

A restaurant I go to for a late lunch from time to time has has decided to not serve coffee in the slow periods because they do not want to waste coffee…And they do not want to invest in thermal jugs that will keep coffee good for hours…But what they do not seem to realize is that some folks will just go elsewhere…So they may gain on food cost but they are losing sales and I suspect at the end of the day they have less profit…

Re: Help! Pizza by the Slice place being destroyed by Health

Well we have all heard the ol saying you might win the battle but you will lose the war.

The Health inspector is there to HELP you. They are an asset not a liability. I used to get all bent out of shape when the inspector would come in. No matter what they would find something. I would get so ticked off, it would be something so ridiculous like writing up for a burnt out bulb in a 2 bulb light. Each time they came by I would always want them to be impressed never really feeling they were. They would eat at our place etc. When a new health inspector was hired they came in for lunch and I went over to say hello. During the introduction she said to the new guy…they have the cleanest place in yyy county. I was like huh? Sure doesn’t feel that way when you come by. She said we have to write something down. We laughed and they made some jokes about eating out as a health inspector.

It was a turning point for me. They were there to help me not hurt me or my business. Now when they come by I welcome them. I ask questions. I ask for advice. I truly value them for my business. They want me to be safe and our county to be safe.

It is very unlikely they are trying to destroy your business. I would imagine you challenged them, perhaps with a angry tone or whatever…clearly not hitting it off on the right note. Rules change. Several years ago they may have thought it was okay today it is not. From a customer stand point I don’t think it is a good idea. As a business owner WHO DOES NOT SELL slices I think it is a bad business practice to serve food not kept at temp 2 hours later.

Change doesn’t have to be a bad thing…perhaps it can help your business by having the freshest slices around. Who knows but calm down, dust yourself off and educate yourself in a new way of doing business because the old way is now the old way. What are other slice locations doing?

Hang in there…it is tough


Re: Help! Pizza by the Slice place being destroyed by Health

So how much of an improvement is a humidified vs non-humidified? I need to make a decision quickly to get us into compliance. I believe the time limit for a regular warmer is about 40 minutes to an hour.

  1. How much is the pizza quality improved over a regular warmer?
  2. How much longer can the pizza be held vs a regular warmer?
  3. How does the appearance improve within the display case vs a regular warmer?

Either that or i may consider buying a refrigerated deli case. Any thoughts on refrigerating the pizza vs heating it?

Thanks so much!

Re: Help! Pizza by the Slice place being destroyed by Health

you obviously pissed the new lady off and by challenging the Health Dept you actually shot yourself in the foot…I would call the office, make an appointment, apologize, and have a nice conversation and I think you can come to some sort of compromise. Most of the time they are trying to cover their a$$, but there are definitely instances where the same rules do not apply to different establishments depending on the relationships.
PS humidified cabinets $uck…don’t waste the $…prep less pies in advance so they are not sitting for more than 1 hour…most our slice pies are gone in less than 30 min

Re: Help! Pizza by the Slice place being destroyed by Health

Humidified warmers only $uck if you don’t use them right.

If you have the humidity too high the pie gets spongy. Compared to a dry cabinet though, a properly adjusted humidified warmer keeps the pie quality up. It is not so much that the pie keeps longer, but that it is better quality all the way until served.

I agree that 30-40 minutes is a good standard.

Re: Help! Pizza by the Slice place being destroyed by Health

Direct your question to Tom, I attended his slice seminar at NAPICS where his procedure addresses just this issue. I feel I have to leave it up to him to share it though as I’m not sure if it’s for seminar goers only or for wide release. We were given a process that will yield a very “fresh” slice that sustained the 4-hour hold just fine!

Re: Help! Pizza by the Slice place being destroyed by Health

You may want to make half & half, or even quarters of various pizzas rather than whole pizzas. That has helped us turn our pizzas much faster. For those customers that only want a certain type, they’ll usually stick around until a new pie is baked. If those that aren’t willing to wait, they’ll usually take what’s left.

Re: Help! Pizza by the Slice place being destroyed by Health

Remember that anything high in acid is dangerous from a health law. BUT GOD…who wants to eat pizza that is held for even an hour…if it’s not sold in less than that it’s garbage.

Re: Help! Pizza by the Slice place being destroyed by Health

I literally cannot wrap my head around this. I run an ayce, where we use hatco warrmers and of course the warming buffets. If I caught one of my assistants serving pizza that was 40 minutes old I’d be pissed. If I found out the pizzas were 2 HOURS old I would fire them.
This is an unacceptable practice and, being only an hour from Baltimore I wish I knew your place so I could tell friends to stay far far away.

But hey, put a pizza in the oven. Ill be there in 2 hrs. Pizza should still be good, right?

Re: Help! Pizza by the Slice place being destroyed by Health

I can’t understand how you could hold a pizza that long either. In my warmer it can last an hour and I would still serve it, I tried selling it last NYE out of boxes and threw them out after about an hour and a half if I couldn’t sell it.

What kind of cheese are you using Bill?

Re: Help! Pizza by the Slice place being destroyed by Health

The first three rules for getting along with your local heqalth department are:

  1. Work with them, be cooperative, and ask for their direction, then follow it.
  2. See #1
  3. See #2
    Truth is, they set the rules, and you don’t have much to say about it, so just work with them.
    Why all the attention to food safety lately? Have you read a newspaper lately? I’ve been predicting this for the past two years now, and it looks like the time has finally arrived. Food safety is the new game in town, and it is here to stay. I agree that many health department inspectors are not what I might call the most qualified individuals for their jobs, but they are the ones we all have to work with. Due partly to their lack of knowledge, and a good deal of “there won’t be any food illness issues on my watch” most health department officials seem to have followed the old military adage “shoot it, salute it, or paint it”, and that’s just what they are doing. When in doubt, do something, and in this case, it is don’t allow it. My advice: Work out a responsive plan of action, then sit down with your health department inspector and discuss it with them, seeking their approval, or input as to what part of it they have a problem with, then finalize it and get their nod of approval, and do it. Since they were a part of the decision making process, they will look much more favorably upon what you are doing. Suggestion: Go with a temperature/humidity controlled cabinet, hold the pizzas at 5F ABOVE the temperature they recommend, then recon the slices by reheating in the oven for a minute or so when sold. Note: You might make the pizzas with only a portion of the cheese, then add the final addition of cheese when you recon the slice for the customer.
    Tom Lehmann/The Dough Doctor

Re: Help! Pizza by the Slice place being destroyed by Health

Hi Bill:

Many great postings above: I have a suggestion.

Get a top grade Air Impingement Pizza oven that can bake most pizzas in five minutes, Some ovens can easily bake 100 15 in pizzas per hour so should be able to produce several hundred slices. Prepare some pizzas and slice to size, refrigerate not baked, Bake cut slices based on at best a 20 minute supply in you heated display case. Calzones and strombolies would be best baked in a deck oven that you could stack on the conveyor they take longer to bake than pizza.

I do not know of anyone doing it but I think it would do your job.

George mills