Oven Choice for Slices/Whole Pizza

My first post here…I am eternally grateful for the wealth of information offered at PMQ, thanks!!! I have many, many questions, but a lot more posts to read through, so I will start with just one…

But first, a little background. I am in the early stages of planning to open a beer-only bar/pizza establishment in Salt Lake City. This endeavor started off as a means of opening a new music venue here, but I’m finding myself as obsessed with serving good pizza as I am with being able to showcase good local music. This early in the game I am still shopping around for that perfect location, and don’t have a good feel for what kind of numbers I can expect. I currently work in the freight industry, but am looking for a career change. Worked in food service all through college, did the prep work for our late-night pizza service (frozen dough, pre-sheeted), and later worked in the office, so I do have a little experience with the business side of things…mostly, I’m learning as I go and trying to plan well.

I’m counting on the bands to draw the crowd at night (generally after 9pm, Wed-Sat) but I’d like to be able to appeal to the lunch crowd as well, provided I can find the right location. To do so, I’d like to be able to offer slices as well as whole pizzas, and this has lead me to the whole oven conundrum, having just read Tom Lehmann’s article about using air impingement ovens for reheating slices. I’ve been in love with the Doyon PIZ3/PIZ6 since I started doing my research, but it doesn’t look like its customizable for slices. Has anyone had good luck with slices using this style oven, or do I need to be looking at switching to a conveyor oven, or having a smaller second air impingement oven in addition to the PIZ3/6? I’m still experimenting with dough choices, but don’t see myself offering deep dish, if that helps. Any insight anyone can provide would be appreciated, I know choosing the right oven is a key step in this whole process.

Why muck around with slices and a low $ per sale.
Why not look at doing a small pizza such as 8" and get a reasonable sale from it but it would still be small enough as a snack. No wasteage on dry, curled up slices. You could just do 2 or 3 variants made en-masse and if need put them back in the oven for 20 -30 seconds to freshen up.


Thanks Dave. If I go that route, will lunch customers feel service is too slow? Slices seem like they would be a good option because of the short time needed to get them dressed/heated through. 8" pizzas does negate the oven issue though!

We had considered doing a lunch slice here as well but like Dave did some pricing and decided, heck…sell the 8". We do an 8" single top with salad and drink as a “special” and have it served at the table in less than 10 minutes. We cook fresh from the dough ball in a XLT 3255.

Good to know! I’d had that same pizza/salad/drink thought myself…I’m sure quality is much better fresh from the dough ball, and ten minutes is perfectly reasonable. Do most of your lunch customers opt for that special?

We’re a full-menu “family Pub” sort of concept so our food sales currently (we’re only 60 days old) are split roughly 50/50 between pizzas and everything else on the menu. We currently are offering the lunch special one day a week and yes, on that day we seem to do about 75% pizza orders compared to the burgers and subs. Profit is still very nice on the deal and it seemed like an excellent vehicle for getting our pizza tried by the public. It’s not scientific, but it appears there is a growing percentage of our lunch special day crowd coming back in with their family or carrying out our pies in the evening, to that end, it’s a huge success.


Back to the original question at hand. You seem convinced that slices cannot be done in a deck oven. From my experience, the large majority of places doing slices are doing so in deck ovens while the large majority of conveyor oven stores do not serve slices. I’m not sure what article of Toms you read but I find it hard to believe that any article of his would make someone believe that conveyor ovens are the only way to do slices or even far superior to other options. As a conveyor oven user myself, I can’t imagine doing slices through mine. If I were counting on alot of slices for my business, I would have a deck oven to reheat them in.

If you want to do a personal size pizza to raise ticket average, that’s fine. But don’t switch your plan from slices to personal sized pizzas due to your choice to use a deck oven. A deck oven is better suited to do slices out of in my opinion.

Actually, the use of an air impingement oven for baking slices (see my article in PMQ March 2008?) allows for much improved slice over the use of a deck oven. With the air impingement oven you can have just about any number of toppings on your slice, and since it is fresh baked from a common par-baked base, the finished slice is more like a fresh baked pizza than what most of us think of as a slice. I’ve helped three stores open based on this new cslice concept and in each case, the pizza has been received extremely well, some have even gone so far as to state that it is the best pizza they have ever had. I’m not so sure that I’d go quite that far, but as a slice, I would agree that it is better than anything else out there. For those of you who have been in our Practical Pizza Production Course over the past two years, or at our NAPICS class, this is the same slice concept that we have demonstrated during the class. Do keep in mind that you can’t just use any air impingement oven with this concept. You will need to have at least a full size oven with a full compliment of fingers top and bottom. A small size oven will only have one or two fingers top and bottom and it won’t work. You will also need to change the top and bottom finger configuration for this new slice concept. Basically, what it will look like is full open across the top and either two or two plus a partial open across the bottom with the rest closed. You can bake whole pizzas or slices, but both must be baked from a par-baked crust. One of the neat things about the baking profile is that you can do the par-bakes as well as the finished slices in the same oven, with only a change in the baking time, so with a double deck oven you can bake your par-baked during the down time and still be able to accomodate slices in the other oven as needed, then when the rush starts, you’ve got both ovens/conveyors working for you putting out a fresh, hot slice in just 3.5-minutes.
Tom Lehmann/The Dough Doctor

Thanks, Tom. That was indeed the article I had stumbled across (and yes, Paul, I’m not doubting that you can pull of a good slice in a deck oven, Tom’s article just made a really good argument for the air impingement ovens :smiley: ). Can you please give me an example of a full size air impingement oven that you think works well for this process, so I have an idea of where to start researching? I’ve come across a lot of talk about “fingers” here in the forum, but need to do some more reading to understand the concept. At this point in the game I don’t have a good feel for my volume, and I’m not entirely sure if doing c/o from a bar is feasible (maybe if I have a separate entrance?)… It seems like if it comes down to only having one oven, would I have more flexibility with a deck oven, and likely serving the 8" pizzas that some of the responders above have had good results using lunch specials (thanks Deaconvolker!), vs a slice-profiled conveyor oven where everything must be par-baked first? (Or did I misread and the par baking is best done in a deck oven anyway?) Probably good I’m not on any deadline yet for getting this project off the ground, my trial dough is still coming out too flat in the home oven and I’ve apparently still got a whole lot to learn!

With the slice concept that I wrote about you can par-bake in a deck oven, being done locally, here in Manhattan, Kansas, or it can be done in the air impinger, which I think does a much better job as it provides for a consistently uniformly baked, par-baked crust, which is critical for a quality slice by this concept. It can be done with the deck oven, but it does take a lot of attention to make sure the par-bakes are not over or under baked…trust me, that can be a challange.
Here are some examples: Avantec, Lincoln FastBake, Middleby-Marshyall Wow; XLT (any of their full size ovens), and Edge.
Contact any of these companies and ask them for information on their ovens, especially how their oven fingers work. They are not all alike as you will soon find out. Then, at the next pizza show, make a point of visiting each of their booths to pay a “social call” and ask them to fully describe to you how their oven works, and how their fingers are designed. I can’t tell you how many individuals I sent over to the various oven companies just for this at the last pizza show. Do keep in mind that, when profiled for the new slice concept, the oven cannot bake a pizza from raw dough again until it is reprofiled with a different top and bottom finger arrangement. We have been working very closely lately with both XLT and Avantec, so they are both well versed on this new concept baking profile.
Tom Lehmann/The Dough Doctor

Thanks for the additional information, I appreciate it!

Just wanted to add a different perspective. I bake my pizza in a deck oven, but put in a regular sized commercial oven, in which I had old pizza stones cut to fit the bottom of the oven and the top rack. I had done this for baking bread originally, but found it works great for re-heating slices and garlic bread/knots. It keeps us from opening the deck oven constantly for slices and doesn’t take up as much room under the hood as adding another deck oven would have. I think this would work for slices even if you bake the pizzas first in a conveyor oven. I am in Southern Utah, and slices are very popular and much faster and easier for lunch.

Good to know, especially from someone in a market close to mine! Thanks Paradox!