The Wood-Fired Blog

Just a Really Nice Pizza Oven Photo

We have been working hard putting the FB Pizza Map application and database together, and I have been doing a lot of research and looking at lots and lots (and lots) of restaurants, pizza ovens and pizzerias around the world. And today, I saw a pizza oven photo that just made me smile.

So I thought I would share it. :-) Be sure to click on the image to see the full-size photo.

West First Wood Fired Pizza
update this restaurant      upload a photo of this restaurant
101 1st. Ave West
Henderson NC 28731
828 693 1080

Sneak Peek — The Forno Bravo Pizza Map

We’ve been working hard on a new feature for that I want to share with FB Blog readers — the Forno Bravo Pizza Map. We will be launching the map soon, but I wanted to give you the inside scoop. Think of this sneak-peak as a pre-Beta; this is fun stuff!

The FB Pizza Map is a services that will allow you to easily find the best pizzerias when you are home and traveling, and to share your thoughts, reviews, and photos with other members of the wood-fired oven community. There are a couple of important differences between the FB Pizza Map and those big restaurant and travel review sites.

First, the database for the FB Pizza Map is curated. We are building the world’s best database of the world’s best pizzas. We decide which pizzerias are allowed in, and only the best qualify. Which means no chains, no Pizza Hut and no Domino’s. California Pizza Kitchen makes an edible, food-like substance, but it isn’t pizza, and they aren’t in the FB Pizza Map. We want ensure that every pizzeria and restaurant in the FB Pizza Map database offers something special, including care, dedication and a great pizza. Still, even with these limitations, the FB Pizza Map is large and includes thousands of great pizza places and a very large number of wood-fired restaurants.

Second, our application allows you to search not only by location and “pizza”, but also by the good stuff, including wood-fired, VPN Certified, Caputo flour and mobile. And we are going to be adding more search options soon, including coal-fired and Chicago deep dish. We want to help you find what you are looking for.

And finally, there is you. The FB Pizza Map is not a mass market service. We want the comments and restaurant ratings to reflect the taste and judgement of you — the pizza intelligentsia. That means that the ratings and comments in the FB Pizza Map will be useful, and trustworthy, because they are from other people like you. If the community concludes that a restaurant or pizzeria does not deserve to be listed in the FB Pizza Map, we will remove them. We will vote them off the island.

We hope that today is the start of something big.

I think there is a genuine opening in the market for this type of service. There a a number of somewhat similar services — the big review sites, pizza enthusiast sites and top pizzeria lists — but I don’t think there is a single site that provides the data, the search features and the community that the FB Pizza Map will provide. On a personal level, I’ve been hoping to find something like this for years, and never did. So we decided to build it for ourselves.

There is a lot of work to be done — we are still improving the database and tuning the application (and of course we need to start working in the iPhone app), but I think it is time to share the fun. Let me know what you think; recommend features and report bugs.

One last thing. The FB Pizza Map is (and will always be) a free service. We will never accept advertising and we will always keep private information on our members and web site traffic, and we will never share or sell that information to another company.

That’s it. Let’s have fun and eat some great pizza.

TED Talks

TED, according to their tagline is about “Ideas Worth Spreading”. TED, short for Technology, Entertainment and Design is, in their own words:

“a nonprofit devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading. It started out (in 1984) as a conference bringing together people from three worlds: Technology, Entertainment, Design. Since then its scope has become ever broader. Along with two annual conferences — the TED Conference in Long Beach and Palm Springs each spring, and the TEDGlobal conference in Edinburgh UK each summer — TED includes the award-winning TEDTalks video site, the Open Translation Project and TED Conversations, the inspiring TED Fellows and TEDx programs, and the annual TED Prize”.

For me, TED Talks are one of the great parts of being a distance runner (that and eating a lot and sleeping pretty well). You can sign up for TED Talks through iTunes, and listen to at least 3-4 a week. So I am helping spread the word. Try one out and see if you like it.

TED Talks are inspiring, funny, insightful and usually pretty much amazing. People around us are working on remarkable projects.

A couple of my recent favorites are:

Ramesh Raskar: Imaging at a trillion frames per second

Reinventing the battery: Donald Sadoway at TED2012


The Sun Also Rises

There is nothing new under the sun. I am reading Hemingway’s “The Sun Also Rises” set, in part, in Paris in the 1920′s, and I can’t help but mention an fun restaurant scene that takes place on Ile Saint Louis — the small island behind Notre Dame. After writing my blog posting on long lines at restaurants that had been mentioned in guidebooks, I really got a kick out of this.

Jake: “We ate dinner at Madame Lecomte’s restaurant on the far side of the island. It was crowded with Americans and we had to stand up and wait for a place. Some one had put it in the American Women’s Club list as a quaint restaurant on the Paris quais as yet untouched by Americans, so we had to wait forty-five minutes for a table. Bill had eaten at the restaurant in 1918, and right after the armistice, and Madame Lecomte made a great fuss over seeing him.

“Doesn’t’ get us a table, though,” Bill said. “Grand woman, though.”

Jake. “We had a good meal a roast chicken, new green beans, mashed potatoes, a salad, and some apple-pie and cheese.”

“You’ve got the world here all right,” Bill said to Madame Lecomte. She raise her hand, “Oh, my Gd!”

“You’ll be rich.”

“I hope so.”

After the coffee and a fine we got the bill, chalked up the same as ever on a slate, that was doubtless one of the “quaint” features, paid it, shook hands, and went out.

“You never come here any more, Monsieur Barnes,” Madame Lecomte said.

“Too many compatriots.”

“Come at lunch-time. It’s not crowded then.”

“Good. I’ll be down soon.”

I just love that.

The New FB Store

We recently went live with a completely new and updated Forno Bravo Store, that offers substantially improved navigation, better graphics and photos and single page checkout. It looks really nice and it works really well. Plus, web have integrated the FB FastQuote shipping database into the new FB Store, so that the pizza oven and outdoor fireplace shipping and packing costs that you get from the FastQuote system are now exactly matched when you go to the FB Store to order.

The enhanced graphics capability of the new FB Store allow us to show you multiple graphics for our pizza ovens and outdoor fireplaces, so that you can see different views for some products, as well as different types of graphics, such as dimensional drawings and 3D models. We can also display larger graphics with zoom capability. It is going to take us a little time to add all of these images, but the store is getting more capable every day.

One page checkout is really nice — everything is in one place, and it’s easy to use. It’s also easier to register all of your information and sign-in for faster checkout.

The new FB Store was a lot of work, and I think it is a big step forward for the FB community. Enjoy!

Craigslist, Profit Compression and Pizza Ovens

I’ve been thinking about the NY Times Douthat column on Facebook and commerce, and there is one thing I want to add to my posting (Physical Goods in a Virtual Era).

In his column, Douthat notes that Facebook is no General Motors, and that despite their $100B market capitalization, they don’t actually employ very many people 9 (a tiny fraction of GM’s payroll in it’s heyday). In fact, even Apple, who manufactures all of their devices in factories outside the US, has a small payroll relative to their unquestionably high revenues.

All of which leads me to Craigslist and the profit compression phenomenon. As many analysts have noted, nothing has done more to damage the traditional daily newspaper than Craigslist. By effectively replacing the daily newspaper’s expensive want ads with free or inexpensive online ads, Craigslist has destroyed the newspaper’s main source of revenue, costing the industry scores of billions of dollars. According to University of Michigan Economics Professor Marc Perry, newspaper ad revenues have fallen from a peak of over $60B, and $46B a short five years ago in 2007, to $20.7B in 2011 (the lowest level in 60 years).

Against these massive revenue loses, Craiglist itself remains a small, privately held company. It does not disclose its finances, or even it ownership structure for that matter, but most analysts estimate that it has revenues of slightly higher than $100M. The 11th most popular site in the U.S., Craigslist has only 32 employees. The mouse truly ate the elephant.

But don’t feel sorry for Jim Buckmaster, the Craigslists CEO. Various analysts estimate that the site with worth at least $1B, making Mr. Buckmaster a very wealthy man (at least on paper).

In a similar vein, product companies can compress the profits of a related market through innovation, and turn their increases in unit production into a strategic advantage. For example, as consumers buy iPhones and iPads rather than PCs, Apple benefits from economies of scale, which in part helped them to bring the iPad to market at an aggressive $499 price. Meanwhile, faced with declining PC sales, HP and Dell have been forced to lay off staff.

We are actively pursuing a profit compression as a strategy at Forno Bravo. By introducing smaller, ready-to-use ovens at lower price points than what the incumbent suppliers had been changing, and by introducing the concept of complete oven kits at aggressive prices, we have significantly lowered the Average Selling Price (ASP) for the entire industry. But as I noted in my earlier posting How Do You Price a Pizza Oven?, our unit volumes are much higher than our competitors and we are flourishing making a smaller per oven profit.

With the upcoming Presto oven, our smallest and least expensive oven yet, we are continuing to push this trend—we hope to the delight of our customers.

Physical Goods in a Virtual Era

From the NY Times, Douthat: The Facebook Illusion

As a follow on to my posting on Facebook, Free and Forno Bravo, here is a NY Times column on the Facebook IPO. I agree with Douthat that “the “new economy,” in this sense, isn’t always even a commercial economy at all. Instead, as Slate’s Matthew Yglesias has suggested, it’s a kind of hobbyist’s paradise, one that’s subsidized by surpluses from the old economy it was supposed to gradually replace.

This reminds me of something we used to say in the early days of Internet 1.0, when companies were raising and losing large amounts of money on silly ideas like, or e-commerce sites that sold physical goods for less than they paid for them in order to gain “eyeballs”. The Internet isn’t a business; it’s a channel.

This quote from the Douthat article caught my eye as relevant to Forno Bravo’s strategy. We make stuff!

It’s telling, in this regard, that the companies most often cited as digital-era successes, Apple and Amazon, both have business models that are firmly rooted in the production and delivery of nonvirtual goods. Apple’s core competency is building better and more beautiful appliances; Amazon’s is delivering everything from appliances to DVDs to diapers more swiftly and cheaply to your door.

Innovation, Garages and Pizza Ovens

Mention the words garage and innovation, and many people will quickly conjure up visions of Hewlett, Packard, Wozniak and Jobs. The Silicon Valley success that started in a garage is the stuff of legend—and it’s a well-earned legend. Start-up companies that built their first products in their garage, long before the even had enough money for company offices, have gone on to create some of the world’s most wonderful, and popular products. Today, the HP garage is a designated California historic landmark and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The HP Garage

In our own small way, Forno Bravo is part of this heritage. I built the first Primavera prototypes in my garage (I really built them and I really used my garage) at a time when Forno Bravo was exclusively an importer and we were not set up for manufacturing. It was an exciting time, and I was distinctly aware that my plan might succeed and it might fail. Either way, it was thrilling to go out on a limb and try something new. Happily, it all worked out.

But that got me thinking. At the time, I hadn’t really connected the dots, but my grandfather was also a garage entrepreneur. He was born in North Dakota in 1904 to a large farming family, and in 1922 became the only member of his family to attend college—earning an engineering degree from North Dakota State. While working for the FCC in Sunnyvale, CA in 1950s as a communications engineer, he did his homework and found two spots on the FM radio spectrum that were licensable as radio stations.

To quote Wikipedia:

A broadcast license (U.S.) or broadcast licence (elsewhere) is a specific type of spectrum license that grants the licensee the privilege to use a portion of the radio frequency spectrum in a given geographical area for broadcasting purposes. The licenses are generally straddled with additional restrictions that vary from band to band.[1] In some cases, the FCC does not assign licenses to any exclusive user, but allows qualified users to obtain a license [1] The Radio Act of 1927 established the regulatory premise that persists to this day: the spectrum belongs to the public and that licensees have no property rights to continue using it.[2] Although the spectrum is licensed to bidders, the purchase does not represent ownership or rights, only privileges to using that part of the spectrum.

He received a license for the stronger of the two locations and he built the radio transmitter in his garage. Without any external funding, he launched the radio station in the early 1960s, and by the time I was a small child, he had sold it. He never worked again, retiring in his late 50s. As a child, my main memories of my grandfather were that he liked fishing, Cadillacs, Ham Radio, and the Coleco Adam personal computer. I wonder what would have happened if he had come of age during the Internet era.

Speaking of Silicon Valley, there is one last interesting twist to the story. My grandfather leased a pad from a farmer, who, the story goes, offered to sell him the land. As a childhood memory, I can still picture the transmitter sitting in a huge field of tomatoes. Forget the radio station, five acres in the middle of Silicon Valley is probably worth a fortune today.

So, here’s to garage entrepreneurs in the family.