From the Editor: Take-and-bake here to stay
Colleen CrossFeatures Business and Operations Catering & Expansion Trends
Canadian company PizzaForno is adding take-and-bake pizzas to its existing vending machines that bake thin-crust pizzas in three minutes.
Let that sink in. This is a company conceived and begun well before the pandemic to serve customers wanting freshly made pizza quick and 24-7 (a demand that even the late-night joints couldn’t match). It now is banking on those customers wanting all those same elements — with the caption of finishing the pizza at home.
Here’s how the machines work: A robotic arm takes the customer’s selection from the refrigerated section of the pizza kiosk and moves it into the patented oven, where it is baked, boxed and served. The pizzas cost $11-14.
The 10-foot by 10-foot kiosks can be found adjacent to restaurants and convenience stores, and within food courts and gas stations.
The company backed up this move with Neilsen research which suggests nearly 75 per cent of Canadian households have purchased a bake-at-home pizza since March 2021.
As human pizza makers and pizza purists, you may scoff at the notion of vending machine pizza or be skeptical that its quality can stand up to that of a human-made pizza. The point is this: PizzaForno sees take-and-bake as an avenue of growth.
It makes sense if you think about the explosion in popularity of small backyard wood-burning ovens, which excite some professional chefs as much as the amateurs. People needed to cook at home, got in the habit and found they liked the feeling of satisfaction and creativity.
2020 was the year of independents selling their pizzas or pizza kits in frozen or in some cases fresh form from your stores, in grocery stores, at markets. It was the year of getting your pizzas to the people by any means possible.
If you aren’t offering a fresh or frozen take-home option, it’s worth thinking about. If nothing else, it’s an option for reaching customers that will drive an hour to taste your signature pizza.
Take-and-bake pizza is far from a new concept, of course. Many operators have been offering it for 20 years now. No doubt many more provided the option to customers who were spending a lot of time in their homes during pandemic periods of lockdown and craving a restaurant-like experience. The idea of cooking high-quality, professionally made food at home and getting insight into how the food is prepared is one reason some people enjoy making meal kits like those from Hello Fresh and Goodfood.
Automated pizza machines, robot or kiosks are a trend that seems here to stay. In the U.S. Piestro just announced it will pilot its “Piestro Pod” in the Las Vegas flagship location of Capriotti’s Sandwich Shop location. Capriotti’s plans to buy up to 100 more kiosks to gain sales beyond their lunchtime sandwich crowd.
It’s amazing to think how far pizza has come over the years in terms of quality, convenience and variety. While I did not experience what some call the golden age or first wave of traditional pizzerias of the 1950s through the 1970s, I do recall the pleasure of eating even a rubbery mini pizza freshly nuked at the Langton, Ont., arena between skating practices, the fun of making the early Chef Boyardee pizza kits at home as a kid, the delight of going to Fluffy’s with my high school friends (and waving at the monster mascot in the parking lot), and the wonder of discovering the many styles and traditions of pizza among pizza chefs and operators since becoming editor of this one-of-a-kind magazine.
I shake my head in wonder at how this dish remains ever popular, shareable and versatile. May it always be so.
Here’s to the joyous return to normal of pizza making, baking and taking and partaking in person at your pizzeria with high spirits and healthy margins.
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