Tricks of the Trade: A Professional Pizzaiolo's Guide to Success
Did you know that pizza in its most basic form has been around for thousands of years? What started off as a topped seasoned flatbread gradually evolved into a modern global phenomenon.
As for Canadians, more than a third eat pizza at least once per week!1 With that in mind, we asked Chef Carmelo to discuss the art of pizza making, how it’s changed over time, and how pizzaiolos can stay relevant in the current industry while increasing their bottom line.
You’ve been in the industry for 30+ years, what changes have you witnessed over the years?
The biggest change is knowledge. Most pizzaiolos have mastered their craft and are more informed than ever before. They’re also not afraid to experiment by trying out new pairings, cheeses, toppings, or dough styles.
That’s why more and more unique and over-the-top pizzas are making their way onto menus. It’s all about standing out and creating a dining experience that fuels word-of-mouth marketing.
Technology has also evolved. Many kitchens are now equipped with more efficient pizza ovens, allowing operators to save on labour costs and maximize their return on investment.
Any changes in formats or flavours?
Back in the day, most pizzerias used a basic dough. Nowadays, there’s a focus on serving the best possible crust. Pizzaiolos are letting their doughs ferment properly and are using the right stretching technique. Pizza used to be about the toppings; now it’s about overall quality.
Different pizza formats are also making their way onto the market. Foot-long pizzas are popular, as are rectangular slices. Some places even weigh their slices to ensure that customers pay for what they get. While not exactly a trend in North America, this pricing method is slowly making headway because it’s a win-win for everyone.
Did you know? Canadians love a good crust! In fact, crust quality is second only to overall taste when it comes to choosing their favourite pizza spot.2
What are some things that haven't changed throughout our career?
The classics are here to stay. You can’t go wrong with a traditional pizza. Sometimes people just want a good slice of comfort that takes them back to their childhood Friday nights. That’s basically why cheese, veggie, pepperoni, and all-dressed pizzas have never gone out of style.
That said, you can always elevate your standard pies by sourcing fresh and local ingredients. And don’t forget the dough! Kick it up a notch by serving a high-quality crust that not only complements your toppings but also delivers on flavours and texture.
Any ideas on what the next trends will be?
While not exactly new to pizza menus, white pizza, or pizza bianca, might just be the next big thing. This incredibly versatile dish provides you with the perfect canvas to showcase your toppings — simply hold the tomato sauce and let your imagination go wild!
We might also see more restaurants offer various types of oils, such as infused or spicy EVOO. Oh, and be ready to add some herbs to your roster — think rosemary, thyme, and even fennel!
Expect even more variety: flatbreads, focaccia, stuffed, square, folded… People want to be wowed not only by a dish’s flavours but also by the way it’s presented.
How can operators stay relevant in the pizza world?
Don’t be afraid to hop on the social media train. It’s a great way to showcase your talent and creativity while also drawing the attention of local customers and tourists alike. No need to turn into an influencer; simply post pictures of your most popular dishes, advertise new menu options, or highlight your local suppliers. These platforms also allow you to interact with diners, which in turn helps boost customer loyalty — and sales — while helping you meet expectations. Just think of it as free promo.
While you’re at it, why not seek out other pizzaiolos and pizza shops from around the world and give them a follow. Other accounts can be a great source of inspiration, and they allow you to keep tabs on current trends.
Speaking of which, make sure you’re up to date on the latest craze surrounding ingredients and toppings. If there’s a buzz around a certain type of cheese, then don’t hesitate to use it. Same with pizza styles. After all, staying relevant is all about meeting demands.
How can pizzerias thrive in a post-pandemic climate?
Talk to your suppliers to really get a feel for what’s out there and see what sells. Ask yourself these questions: What’s the current trend? Which ingredients are in season? What can I source locally?
Use the power of the internet and social media to your advantage. It’s really an easy way to make sure your restaurant stands out and stays relevant.
And remember that knowledge is everything. When it comes to food, customers know more now than ever before, so don’t be afraid to take them on a journey by discussing the magic behind pizza making.
How can you set up your kitchen to make it as efficient as possible?
Start by making sure your kitchen staff has all the necessary ingredients at the tip of their fingers. If you have a large kitchen, you may need to restructure your prepping stations so that everything is on hand. On the flip side, a smaller space may benefit from a reorganization to ensure optimal efficiency.
With the current labour shortage, it’s best to keep your menu small and focused on quality rather than quantity. A downsized offering also helps increase productivity both in the front and back of house.
Finally, get an oven that reflects your restaurant’s style. You don’t necessarily need to splurge; if you have a takeout spot, you probably don’t need the same oven as a sit-down place. It’s all about customer expectations. Also, don’t hide your oven if you’re a fancier pizza joint — go ahead and show it off!
How can kitchens reduce waste to increase revenues?
Don’t be afraid to sell out! Sold-out dishes not only create a hype but also help prevent losses from food spoilage.
Last but not least, repurpose your ingredients. Choose specific items that can be used in 2 or 3 dishes. Not exactly sure what to do with your extra goat cheese? Search online or check your suppliers’ website for recipe inspirations! The internet is full of tips and tricks on how to reuse what’s in your fridge.
Canada recently introduced a ban on single-use plastic in restaurants. How will that impact operators?
Many restaurants started transitioning to compostable or recyclable alternatives before the ban came into effect, so we already know that sourcing is an issue, as are related costs. There are just not enough suppliers out there, plus we’re currently dealing with supply shortages worldwide.
Most operators are worried about the possible repercussions caused by higher price points. How do you absorb costs while keeping your business afloat? How will diners react to higher bills?
Well, the good news is that everyone is in the same boat, so you probably don’t have to worry too much about the competition. Your best option is to be transparent. Add a little note on your menu explaining the reasons behind the price increase. Honesty goes a long way, especially with customers.
Trend or no trend, pizza remains one of the most popular menu options for consumers. That’s why it’s a good idea to stand out with innovative dishes that meet the current demand.
Experiment with different kinds of cheeses, vegetables, meats, and herbs to create crave-worthy pizza that keep diners coming back for more. And don’t forget to put yourself out there by leveraging the power of social media.
For more expert tips and insights, contact your local Saputo Foodservice representative and subscribe to our newsletter, À LA CARTE!
1Technomic 2022 Canadian Pizza Menu Trend Reports
2 Famous foods around the world, world travel connector