CHICAGO -- Foodservice equipment maker Wunder-bar showed off its new pizza sauce applicator at the recent National Restaurant Association Restaurant Hotel-Motel Show.

According to Wunder-bar Vice President Bret Blake, the machine can be preset to handle four sizes of pizzas (16, 14, 12 and 10 inches) and three crust types (deep dish, thin and hand-tossed).

"This is designed to handle large volumes of pizzas; a pizza company we're talking to tells us you'd need only one per store," said Blake. The applicator, Blake added, works only on very smooth, low-particulate pizza sauces.

The Vacaville, Calif.-based company specializes in beverage and condiment dispensers, but also makes a hand-guided Pizza Gun sauce dispenser.

The new machine is operated as such: A formed pizza dough skin is panned and placed on a mechanically rotated base. A sauce applicator mounted above moves along a track from the outside edge toward the center of the crust, while evenly applying a predetermined amount of sauce. Sensors that recognize the crust's edge shut off the applicator automatically.

Blake couldn't say how many skins per minute the machine could sauce because dough diameters and sauce amounts vary too widely. But he is certain the machine is far faster and more accurate than hand application.

"The tendency is to over-sauce when people are doing it," he said. "But a dispenser applies the same amount every time. It also doesn't damage the dough, which sometimes happens when you sauce by hand; you don't get that ribbing effect on the pizza crust."

Blake said cost of the machine is about $4,000, and that it will be sold through equipment distributors.

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