Foodservice Equipment & Supplies

JAN 2014

Foodservice Equipment & Supplies magazines is an industry resource connecting foodservice operators, equipment and supplies manufacturers and dealers, and facility design consultants.

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JANUARY 2014 • FOODSERVICE EQUIPMENT & SUPPLIES • 57 F ast-casual operators have transformed foodservice during the past decade. New chains — boasting high-quality ingredients in dishes completely cus- tomized to the individual diner — now serve practi- cally every cornerstone menu of the quick-service industry. Burritos, sandwiches, burgers, Asian-inspired dishes — all have been remade by this segment. One space yet to experience the transformation? Pizza. Sure, some fast-casual operators feature by-the-slice offerings, but those prepared menu items sit under heat lamps, and what you see is what you get. Usually, a couple of people share a whole pizza, which typically means ordering only one or two agreed-upon toppings — usually nothing too adventurous. That may be changing at this very moment. Pie Five Pizza, a Dallas-based chain owned by Pizza Inn Holding Company, has combined new oven technology with a cold- well setup that supports a compelling pick-your-ingredients model. The result could be fast casual's next big thing. A Practical Start While some chains are born in a fash of inspiration, Pie Five's founding had more to do with straightforward business acumen. According to Madison Jobe, senior vice president and chief development offcer at Pie Five, in the summer of 2010, Pizza Inn was doing what established businesses should do: looking for ways to grow. Charlie Morrison, the company's CEO at the time, proposed entering the fast-casual niche. While that certainly sounded good in a brainstorming ses- sion, everyone at Pizza Inn agreed they faced one signifcant obstacle. No chain had been able to pull off fast-casual pizza, at least not on a broad basis. If their fast-casual play couldn't combine the high quality, customization and speed that de- fne the niche, diners would spend their $8 somewhere else. "The real challenge initially was how to put out a quality product that meets our standards — not pre-cooked, frozen or pre-prepared in some way. Once we had the idea for fast casual, fguring out how to make it operationally possible and how to produce the product in the time we wanted is what we spent the next many months working on," Jobe says. So, what changed? Well, advances in oven technology represent perhaps the main reason Pie Five has been able to meet its own standards. Even a year or two before Pie Five's conception, there really wasn't an oven that could cook a high-quality pizza fast enough and well enough to meet the chain's quality requirements. But Pizza Inn began develop- ing this concept around the same time that foodservice equipment manufacturers were introducing speedier, more versatile ovens that were perfect for this task. Since its opening, in fact, Pie Five has worked closely with a manufacturer known for fast-cooking ovens, even testing prototypes in the chain's own test kitchen. The chain specifed an oven that combines conveyor and convection technologies, including multiple fans that blow hot air from different directions. With this piece of equipment, Pie Five's culinary staff can cook personal-size pizzas, from thin crust to pan, in roughly two minutes. Combine that with the ordering process, and customers can go from walking in the door to having a fnished pie in about fve minutes. Hence the name of the concept: Pie Five Pizza. Pick Your Pizza Of course, there's more to making a successful restaurant than choosing one good piece of equipment. In building the Pie Five concept, the chain's leaders utilized some of the tried-and-true features of fast casual, to good effect. When customers enter a store, they walk to an ordering line where they can see ingredients that will make up their chain profle

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