As director of foodservice at Kennywood Amusement Park, Mike Henninger desperately needs product consistency.
Henninger oversees 484 employees who feed the hungry multitudes entering the Pittsburgh-area park every day. Many customers want pizza and they want it fast. Stiffening the service challenge is Henninger's hang up about super-high quality; every pizza is made to order. The boss does have an ace in the hole, though: parbaked dough.
"The fact that you can pull a shell out of the cooler and fire it in the oven — without proofing the dough or letting it rise — is key to operating in an amusement park," said Henninger. "Parbaked shells allow us to have a consistent product."
In his 13 years at Kennywood, the park has never offered a fresh-dough pizza, and Henninger doesn't plan on changing it. Training a seasonally employed staff would be an endless effort, and simplifying the production process is crucial, he said.
Though half of Fox's Pizza Den's 250 units use fresh dough, founder and franchisor Jim Fox is an unabashed fan of parbaked shells. "I prefer the shell to the fresh dough — 100 percent. In my opinion, it has a lot better texture and flavor."
Reliable every time
As president of Oakmont, Pa.-based Tomanetti's Pizza, George Michel hears his share of objections to the need for parbaked dough. The most baffling, he said, is the overall production efficiency of a parbaked shell versus a fresh dough ball.
"I find myself asking these guys, 'What's your time worth?' Many don't usually weigh the value of their time in making and prepping dough. They mainly think of the cost of ingredients." Factoring time and cost together makes parbake an attractive option.
Since dough is perceived as a low-cost ingredient, waste as a result of poor management by employees who are either under-trained or simply apathetic isn't treated with the seriousness of other ingredients such as cheese. Parbaked shells, however, not only eliminate dough waste, they simplify the make-line production process and speed up service.
Since Tomanetti's factory is fronted by its own full-blown retail pizzeria, Michel sees firsthand how parbake allows for a higher production volume while still keeping labor costs down. During the rush, three pizza makers can whip up 75 pies per hour, he said.
The rise of take-and-bake pizza seems an obvious niche for a quality parbaked shell. Since most dough recipes would have to be reformulated for customers to transport their pizza for baking at home, parbaked shells are a good alternative.
Noting the added shelf life that parbake brings to the table, Michel said, "You could prep five hours to five days ahead of time and it will hold up extremely well. It's very stable and will perform very well in the customer's home oven."