Our restaurant is changing... help with dough!!

I have a day job and my wife runs the restaurant. We have a great chef that doesn’t really like the pizza end of the business/kitchen. We’re in a resort town (Lake George, NY) that is quiet in Winter and jams in the summer. Our chef actually made dough this winter and our pizzas have never been better. This is our 3rd summer of operation and the pressure is really on to get profitable. Our chef has taken the food upscale and his specials are great and have helped the bottom line. I’m getting to the point…

“They” want to start using premade dough. Not frozen balls but actual premade crusts. I am not happy but it’s not really my job. They want to get all the labor out of it and don’t care if the quality slips a bit. In their eyes, people will switch to specials…

Any ideas??? Please help minimize the pain. This is not where I wanted the restaurant to go but it may have to happen if there is something reasonable.

Thanks, C.

Premade crusts $uck. Do a blind taste test with some neighbors.

In my experience, the combined labor and food on dough you make is cheaper than the food cost on the prepared stuff… in other words, going with the ready to use costs you money.

In our takeout we are just introducing Pizza. We are having a local baker make our dough. It’s cheaper than pre-made frozen, you can have it delivered daily and in most cases they will make it from your own recipe if you want. But most importantly it tastes good.

A long time ago, I used a very good product from Roma - came frozen in plastic muffin-type trays…defrost/proof/bake - very good product…I’ve used other frozen doughs w/some success…Rich’s makes a decent dough already slapped out - but the more you rely on other’s labor, the higher the cost…it takes just 20-30 minutes to knock out a 50# bag of dough - @ less than .02/oz. vrs. .70/frozen dough ball

Who is working for who?..

I think “they” includes crispin’s wife - at least that’s the way I read it. Is that not the case?

So does the “chef” work for them?..If so, tell the chef what you want to do and move on…

I have nothing against frozen, premade dough but it sure makes me curious what kind of “chef” would think it is a good idea to switch!?

“They” is my wife and the chef. The chef is really good but as I said, he wouldn’t have pizza at all if he had it his way.

There’s more… We don’t even have the luxury of having someone else make the dough, we’re the only show in town. Our town has 600 people in Winter and 12,000 in Summer. It’s all we can do to keep a chef and still make it at all. We open Thurs.-Sat. in Winter and 7 days in Summer. This is a borderline situation anyway… I understand the labor/food cost analysis but with our very limited help, we can’t afford to tie them (him) up throwing dough(we add staff in Summer but are trying to pare it down if possible). We have kept the pizza thing going because our first business model was pizza, burgers, salads and a few dinner specials. Now it’s shifting toward dinner specials. We want to keep pizza for a few reasons, one of which is what if we lose our chef. We may not find a new one that wants to live in our area and work the limited hours in Winter. Plus, the cost of Summer rent is sky high so it’s hard to find someone that fits. Our customers are a blend of tourists/beach people and more well off summer residents.

Thanks for the input… I do appreciate hearing the good and bad… C.

As much as I hate to say this, it sounds like you need to be more concerned with getting volume out the door versus product quality…So perhaps a frozen dough is the answer…And I am not saying all frozen dough is bad because our friend Nick has done a good job with it…This will help you stretch your limited labor force as far as it can go…If you search the archives there are lots of tips about using frozen dough…

PS…Do you really want to sell pizza?..Does it help your current situation?..You sound worried about what might happen in the future but the bigger worry should be the present…Good luck…

Is there any slow time you can squeeze a batch a dough in during the day? Our slow time is 2-4, and majority of prep work is done during this time.

in hindsight…

what is the contribution pizza brings to the bottom line? Does it represent, say 20% of your daily sales? 10% - do you know?

All menu items need to provide adequate profit, else they shouldn’t be on the menu…

Please, explain to me once again…Who is the boss?
Tom Lehmann/The Dough Doctor

Frozen dough ball product has its place and its advantages of convenience and ease of storage. IT also has some drawbacks to consider. Rish’s is a good product that is basically not “ideal” for much of any style of pizza. It makes a pretty darned good hand-stretched, tender crust pizza . . . . but flounders for thin crust needing to stay crispy longer than 5 minutes.

There are good frozen products out there, and consider what others have said about cost. They do cost a bit more than shop-made. They also have fairly common quality issues in terms of shape irregularity, or size variation or (gasp) supplier being out of stock. Flour is forever, baby!

Rich’s is a good product. We used it for a period when our mixer was down until we could replace it. The product we used was a doughball not a pre-formed round. The cost was basically double the cost of making our own dough.

In slow season, you can make dough every second or third day by using a cold water recipe and adjusting the yeast content and the proofing.

Tom’s comment is important… who is the boss.

Also, the question of how important pizza is to the business is a good one. One restaurant in our town gave up pizza because they figured out that selling 4 burgers was batter than one pizza for the bottom line and they have full tables anyway. The side benefit was a reduction in complexity.

Perhaps dropping pizza in the winter and only offering it in Summer would be an option?

‘Hi, I had one of your pizza’s last week it was really nice. I’d like to order another tonight please.’

‘Sorry, its October now, we stop making pizza in September. Come back in May and we’ll be doing them again’.

Not sure that one will work really.

Two thoughts from me:

  1. Work out who calls the shots, you, your wife, the chef or all/some of you
  2. Whoever is identified in 1) above needs to identify if Pizza has a place on your menu, and if it does work out the best way to serve this that works for you all. If it doesn’t fir on the menu any more than then drop it.

Thanks for all the response… An update:

It’s not so much about who’s the boss as it is how limited we are with help and keeping a chef and making the mix work for everyone. My wife and the chef get along really well and they’ll work it out. I don’t have to tell you all how tough this business is. Seasonal that CAN"T afford to shut down is even tougher.

US Foods quoted $3.00 for a premade/preformed (I don’t know what it was) dough and “we” now are looking for a mixer. Pizza is important enough to the biz to not throw it out. We just have to get in the game like the rest of you. Thanks for the advice/tecqnique about making dough every third day; that’s the kind of stuff we have to learn.

I’m happy they want to stick with it because our customers really like the pizza option.

Any advice for my wife about how to handle the table of 10 that orders two pizzas and then sits there for 2 hours tying up the 10 top?

Thanks again for the help, C.

Edit: Wizzle, I agree with you 100% about a consistent menu and Bodegahwy, thanks for that tip, I’ll pass it on…