Presentation at UNFI ( formerly SuperValu) National Expo

It was an honor to speak at this years UNFI National Expo. My presentations on foodservice optimization drew quite a crowd, and brought in some great customers and opportunities to @middlebycooking booth! Thank you UNFI!

In the presentation, I gave concrete examples of how leveraging new technologies and techniques could enhance production cooking facilities and commissaries that feed into an on-demand rapid retherm customer experiences to help retailers become Groceraunts.

We discussed ways to improve food quality, operational efficiencies and employee retention while delivering our changing customer base the experience and value they are seeking.

Where and When to Automate

Customers are often looking for two different types of dining experiences:

  1. “I need to eat, just give me what I want” In this case, automate everything. Have the customer order from an app and have then pick their food up at the automated pickup window.

  2. “I need help customizing my order and I would like to be entertained and tempted.” Now automate everything behind the scenes, with an intent of enabling the employee to engage with the customer and give them food that goes beyond expectation, in a short amount of time.

That being said, we can’t automate everything right now, so where to start?

Well for that 1st customer, automate ordering, food assembly @L2F, and pickup options @carter-hoffmann PUCS

For the second customer, start with making your employees satisfied. Find out what they don’t like to do, what makes their job tough and what takes them a lot of time to do. One surprising major frustration, broken down equipment. It causes employees to have to change their routines. So automate the process of ensuring equipment is always working when needed @powerhouse-dynamics. What are the worst jobs? Dishwashing, cleaning equipment, filtering oil, general cleaning. Automate dishwashing #dishcraft . Automate cleaning of equipment #blodgettcombi. Automate oil filtering #pitco. I know that Tennant is working on some automated floor cleaning solutions, but I don’t think they are ready to take on a restaurant as of yet.

The Pizza Puzzle

With all of the great pizza platforms North Star represents, we are often times asked “what is the best way to do my pizza?” See the answer below.

We held our first Pizza Forum Open House on June27th 2019 to answer that exact question. Attendees got to see pizzas cooked in Beech Hearth ovens, Doyon ventless rotating deck ovens, Bakers Pride countertop deck ovens, Turbochef Fire and Conveyors, Middleby Marshall CTX and Wow conveyors. They also got to see how Thermo-Kool blast chillers can be used to speed up pizza retherm without affecting quality. RPI, and Carter Hoffmann Hot Hold solutions were unhand, as was Cooktek delivery options, and prep tools from Varimixer, and Doyon. We also had dough experts from The Dough Shop, meat experts from Hormel and Toppings team from PFG on hand to round out our offering.

We had attendees that are just starting to look into opening new pizza concepts.

We had several operators that have signature pizza loved by many, many customers. They are looking for new, more efficient ways to cook their pizza without their customers noticing any change.

We gave them their answer.

The answer depends on what type of pizza and what type of customer you have. Here are some key take aways from our Pizza Forum..

Flavor - Gas, Charcoal and Wood Fired ovens impart a unique flavor to pizza due to the by-products of combustion that are just not present in electric cooking. Whether it is a Beech hearth oven, a Josper Charcoal oven, or a Blodgett Deck oven, the fuel used is often a key ingredient in the flavor profile. But that fuel based flavor profile can also limit pizza styles and often requires skilled labor to get it right.

Speed of Cook Affects Many Things - A Rapidly cooked Pizza, whether out of a Turbochef Double Batch, or a Middleby Marshall Wow oven does better in Hot Hold than hearth, deck or traditional oven baked pizzas. Why, the answer is in the weight. Take two identical pizzas, cook them both till they are cooked perfectly with the coloring you want, with the crust you want, but one takes 2 minutes and the other takes 9. Weigh them. THe 2 minute pizza weighs significantly more than the 9 minute pizza, because it has more moisture left in the dough, the sauce, the cheese, ect. This added moisture is a huge benefit when the goal is to HOLD the pizza, whether its a batch cook school situation, a C-Store operation, or pizza delivery, more moisture means better pizza when eaten.

Crust Texture - If you are looking for that crust that is cracker firm with a great crunch, then deck is the answer. Whether you are using a stone deck, a heavy metal plate, or even a coated pan, heat CONDUCTED into the dough is the best way to get that cracker crust. That being said, the vast majority of pizza consumers love their crust cooked with CONVECTED or IMPINGED heat. With air, you get more of a toasted crust.

Labor - Really, throw a pizza on a conveyor and “forget about it”. In a hearth you need to have a trained staff person dedicated to keeping the pizzas moving. Need to prepare more than just pizza and don’t want to train your staff on 6 different pieces of equipment, then you will be selecting a specific piece of equipment.

Customer - Are they looking for a show or are they looking for a quick bite? Do they want to have their pizza built to order? To Go? Kids want a softer crust, wine drinkers want artisan, and Gen Z wants to know how all of the ingredients got here, and how efficient the cooking process is. ( Did I mention that it costs less than $5/day to run a Turbochef oven? Really)

So if your looking for where to go to get your pizza questions answered, look the the North Star. We’ll leave the oven on for ya.