American Italian dining chain Frankie & Benny’s is aiming to expand its offering with a major investment in stone baked pizza equipment.
Although the chain has always featured pizza on its menu, developing a stone baked offering marks a shift in offering. The move comes as it considers a template where a pizza station is separate to the main kitchen.
David Peever, head of food for leisure at The Restaurant Group, said the ovens were potentially among the most exciting kitchen innovation he has been involved with across the group because of the speed and volume they can produce pizza.
He said: “I think it gives Frankie’s an amazing opportunity to grow, especially in big sites. At the moment, Frankie’s pizzas are tray baked, so by launching pure stone baked pizza there will be a cultural change in getting the guys to understand that putting the pizza straight on the stone is just as easy as putting it in a tray on the stone. That is a big innovation for us this year.”
Frankie & Benny’s has been working closely with its Italian supplier Mam, a family business with a long and proud tradition of building such equipment. It claims to use refractory materials of excellent quality that ensure a higher cooking performance. Additionally, the chain is also looking at a rotating stone oven for its larger sites.
Stone baked pizza has been a big area of growth for the UK foodservice market in recent years, with several chains making this method of cooking the central focus of their business.
Peevers admits that if Frankie’s was starting out as a business now, putting a stone pizza oven in would have been the automatic thing to do. Retro-fitting sites, however, is more complicated. “It is a big challenge because you are talking about 263 restaurants that we have got train. So when people say, ‘why aren’t you doing it now’, it’s because it takes time,” he said.
Frankie & Benny’s opened 14 new restaurants last year and expects a similar number of launches in 2016.