‘There’s no one-size-fits-all model to achieve the perfect pizza kitchen’

Pizza remains one of the fastest growing segments in the UK foodservice market, but there’s no one right way of running an effective pizza kitchen.

That’s according to Tom Mullin, executive chef of Neapolitan pizza chain Pizza Pilgrims, who says the idea of a “perfect kitchen” is completely abstract as each operator has different requirements.

“What might be perfect for one guy is not the same as the other. In terms of space, some of the guys in the kitchen work in the tiniest box of a kitchen and they love it — they wouldn’t trade it for larger space. You adapt to what you have. Personally, I do like lots of space in the kitchen but some of the guys from Napoli they love to work shoulder to shoulder.

“In our original market stall you could set up the kitchen however you wanted and you didn’t have to walk too far, you could pivot and everything was at your fingertips. It’s a balance between having space but not so much that you waste time walking around.”

When it comes to developing pizza menus, kitchen set-up and equipment are among the primary considerations. Mr Mullin suggests operators should use their busiest sites as a barometer of how much menu expansion their kitchens can cope with.

Pizza Pilgrims has been experimenting with new ways of setting up its back-of-house operations and Mr Mullin says the company has always endeavoured to learn from its mistakes as it has increased its estate.

One important yet unassuming aspect of a pizza kitchen is good lighting, but the business learnt the hard way that insufficient lamination can affect the product.

“At our first pizzeria we had a really cool neon sign behind the kitchen that was bright green, but the problem was that the pizzas were coming out undercooked,” he explained at this year’s Commercial Kitchen show. “And I realised when I went in you couldn’t even see the thing. When it came out of the oven it was shrouded in this green glow. I bought an office lamp with a bright white lightbulb, hung it over the oven and the problem was solved. That was a simple thing that fixed a big problem.”

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