How much does a conveyor simplify your operation?

Conceptually, I understand what a conveyor can do for an operation, but I wanted to get some feedback from those who went from a deck/s to conveyors.

I am constantly reevaluating my operation to find ways to simplify things. Labor is always a tough variable, so anything I can do to make things easier is obviously a big plus operationally.

So . . . to those of you that went through this transition: Was it night and day? Did you sit back and say “wow, this is amazing!”. “so much less stressful” “should have done this so long ago” Or for the most part has the biggest impact for you just been some reduced utility bills and a more consistent product?

There is no question that it simplifies the baking process but I want to mention a few things that are different. For one, the bake is different. Not to say you can’t make a good pizza in a conveyor, it is just different and your customers will notice. Another thing that people don’t usually bring up, is how it affects your pizza makers. In my opinion they feel a sense of pride when using deck ovens because it is a skill and a craft that has a long tradition. When you take that away, you also take away some of the pride, as anyone can drop a pizza onto a conveyor belt. This may lead to quicker turn over of pizzamakers over the long haul. Also, you still have to tend the ovens somewhat to watch for excessive bubbling and so on. Employees sometimes just think they put it on the conveyor and they don’t have to pay attention anymore, which can make for some ugly pies that must be thrown out. Lastly, as far as utility savings… as far as iI can tell, they use more not less, considering they can use gas and electric ( conveyor motors, blower motors, etc) and don’t even get me started on repair bills that can and do come up eventually. Conveyors can obviously have some advantages. I switched over from decks about 13 years ago but I am going to switch back to decks in the near future as it has been a rocky relationship.

Hi Pizzapirate.

Mr GT writes an excellent memo and no doubt those are his experiences. But there are many thousands of conveyor oven users who will dispute his claims.

We were one of the first to offer conveyor oven to the pizza industry. We did hundreds of demonstrations in the early years. We never failed to duplicate an operators baking results or we never would have sold thousands of them. Apparently those we sold to did not have the experiences GT had and many have and continue to use them and order more conveyor ovens.

The biggest advantage to the conveyor system is it enables those that have a highly sailable product to archive high volume sales.

To se a video showing how after I switched Pa Pa johns from decks to conveyors it dramatically altered their profitability and was the major factor in their growth click on. or enter it in your browser, in the page that comes up lower right hand corner it says " Click here to hear PA PA john".

Not only high volume operators but top quality shops have switched to conveyors. Example Buddy’s Pizza in Metro Detroit, usually rated as baking one of the ten best pizzas in the nation uses conveyors and has for many years.

George Mills

I have no doubts about conveyors as it relates to quality output, volume and ease of use. We currently use a deck oven, and although we fill it to capacity at busy times, I feel we can continue with it a while longer. I believe Tom has said a conveyor can do what a deck can up to about 90 to 95% as far as a good bake goes. Overall I believe the conveyor has the advantage in a good bake, however, in that it will produce a consistent product at that 90 to 95%. Given the labor at hand, temperature fluctuations and volume influences, a deck oven can be all over the map in terms of putting out a consistent product.

So, I know at some point in the near future I will be needing a conveyor for increased volume, I was wondering if any operators here felt their operations were “significantly” easier to manage after going to conveyors.

Just wanted to point out that people are always talking about how conveyors are great for high volume.
I have found it interesting that in my travels, the really, really high volume stores (2.5 to 5 million annually) are using deck ovens. Examples include La Nova in Buffalo NY, Red Rose in Springfield MA, Prince Pizzeria in Saugus MA, and Shakespears in Columbia MO.

I also said that you can make a good pizza in a conveyor…just different. George, I must disagree that
certain pizzas can be duplicated. Close, maybe. But sometimes close is just not good enough.

Thousands of operators across the country use conveyors and are very happy with them. I would suggest that if you really want to know for sure if it is right for you, test your pizza in them. Many will bring a test oven to you or let you bring product to a test sight to give your pizza a chance to see if you are happy with the way they bake.

Hi GT:

The examples you cite are not just pizzerias and pizza is just a part of their operation. Most have bars, many have banquet rooms and have good sized catering operations. Their menus include pasta, burgers baked ziti, shrimp scampi, roast beef, veal dishes, fancy deserts and other items not offered by the vast majority of pizza shops.I don’t know but some of them may not sell as much pizza as the high volume delivery carry out shops.

George Mills

I’ll toss my hat into the ring too.
When I think of a high volume store I think of high volume in two ways. One is just making a lot of pizzas during the course of the day, and the other is making a lot of pizzas within a very specific time period (i.e., getting slammed). Many shops will get slammed during either the lunch or dinner time, or now that fall is upon us, when the local ball team or football team comes in after a game for pizza, we may need to get out a lot of pizzas in a very short time, and this is where the gas fired, air impingement oven really shines. Additionally, all of the pizzas are baked properly if you have done your part. Remember the old adage: G.I. G.O. (garbage in, garbage out). As for bubbling, well, that’s a thing of the past if you are managing your dough correctly, if you have ever gone to Pizza Expo, or the NAPICS Show, and seen us make pizzas you will see that we never dock our pizzas, and bubbling isn’t an issue. I’ve written on that topic a number of times. If you make a New York style pizza, you can now replicate it in an one of the new generation air impingement ovens by deleting all sugar, eggs, and milk form the dough formula, setting the baking temperature at between 475 and 510F (depending upon the specific oven you are using) and baking on the Hearth Bake Disk (Cloud Pattern) from Lloyd Pans <>. I also wrote an excellent article on the camparison of different new generation air impingement ovens a few years ago. You can find the article in the archives of PMQ. Yes, there is a learning curve when you change from a deck oven to an air impingement oven, but once you master it, you will wonder how you ever got along without it. By the way, I never thought that tending an oven, deck or wood fired, was a lot of fun on a bust Friday or Saturday night. It is hot, hard, and dangerous work! I think it’s a lot more fun to make pizzas and demonstrate our showmanship, that’s what most people like to see. Where a deck or stone hearth oven comes into its own is in a store where the oven is part of the ambiance, and the entire pizza making process is part of the dinner show. There is one other major feature of air impingement ovens that is often overlooked, that is the ability to remove excess moisture from the top of the pizza. If your pizzas carry a lot of vegetable toppings, and sogginess is an ongoing problem for you, take a look at an air impingement oven. It can be set up to remove all of the excess water as it is released from the toppings, to give you a dry pizza, as opposed to what I affectionately call a “swamp pizza”.
Tom Lehmann/The Dough Doctor

i just switched from Bakers Pride deck ovens( 3) that i used for 21 years to a double stack Lincoln Impinger. It has been the single smartest thing i have ever done in the pizza business. i was of the opinion as most longtime deck users are, that the conveyors just wont cook as good of a pie. BS, they cook a better pie! i have been using them since April and have not had a single customer tell me he liked the old ovens better,as a matter of fact i have lost count of the number of people who have told me my pies are better than ever! By switching ovens i have turned the most difficult job in the house to the easiest. Every single pie is cooked perfectly every single time. As far as sales, i am on pace do do a million dollars for the first time ever! i have never broken 700k, and my store is only 760 square feet. i kick myself every day for not switching years ago. hope this helps you

Thanks to Tom the dough doctor and Duomo for supporting my position.

As I stated when we were doing hundreds of demos we duplicated the operators product not 90 or 95%.We were demonstrating to operators who had been in the business for years they were proud of their product and not open to compromising their product even 1%

Its tough to get more money for pizza in today’s market that’s why 98 % of the new shops we equip are set up with conveyor ovens Greater production = ability to sell more pizza, quality product, vastly simplified in fact virtually eliminates oven tenders skills. No more under or over baked pizzas.

Most all who switched from decks indicate they that now get virtually no requests for “well done” pizzas. It appears that well done pizzas were ordered because the last pizza they ordered was not completely baked.

George Mills

I use both a conveyor and deck. They both have their benefits and draw backs. You will not get the exact same pizza out of a conveyor that you will get out of a deck. That can be good and bad. The cheese will simply not melt the same in a conveyor as in a deck. Then again, toppings cook 100x better in a conveyor
There are many questions to ask when considering this change.

Where are you located- If you are in a place that your customers expect deck and are willing to wait 40min for a pizza then great. Im in the midwest. My customers are not willing to wait 40min for a pizza

When does your business come- Is it all at once in two and three hours, or is it spread out through out the night.

You cannot beat the consistency of putting out the same product every time, no matter how well trained the employee is. Also how conveyors handle volume cannot be beat. This is worth its weight in gold.

I have cooked my pizza completely in the deck for my employees. They prefer the conveyor. I guess its all about perception and what they are used to

For ease of operation for you and your team, and if you have the volume of customers go to conveyor. Good ingredients, dough and service will still make a very good pie on a conveyor. You can always try for perfection on each pie on a deck but perfection in in the eye of the beholder, so your customers may not care that a deck pizza tastes slightly better.