The word innovation usually conjures up images of semiconductors, Internet software and green energy. But at Forno Bravo, we keep innovating around a 2,000 year old product. I have written a lot over the years about the ovens in ancient Pompeii, and how remarkable the design, the materials and the craftsmanship were on the ovens.
How do you improve on something that has been so well known and understood for so long?
That is certainly the thinking of many (I might even say most) pizza oven companies. They seem to have stopped innovating 30 (or more) years ago, and they are still selling the same products that they were making and selling in the 1980s, or earlier. But I think I am too restless for that type of an approach, and it leaves too many opportunities unexplored.
At Forno Bravo we are having a lot of fun constantly improving our products and developing products that serve new markets and oven uses. Going all the way back to the first days of the company, our goal has always been to make wood-fired cooking and pizza ovens as popular in the U.S. (and Canada, the UK, Australia and the rest of the world outside of the Mediterranean) as they are in Italy; to make the pizza oven as popular as the propane grill. Yes, I keep dreaming.
And it has always seemed to me that the best way to do that was to make it a lot easier for the person who likes to cook and likes good food to buy, install and use a pizza oven. We quickly came to see that one sizes does not fit all, and that one person’s hobby is another person’s nightmare, and that not everyone wants to install a modular pizza oven kit in their back yard. Some do and some do not.
I often think that Forno Bravo has more in common with Apple, or Google, than our competitors in the pizza oven marketplace. Where Apple works with processors, memory, battery capacity, packaging, size and weight, we work with refractories, insulators, heat holding capacity, packing, size and weight. We make trade-offs with size and weight and how they impact the user experience. We use fundamental technology to get more performance (cooking capacity and heat retention) from the same (limited) physical space; we work hard on product packaging to deliver maximum utility from fixed weight restrictions; and we deliver awesome performance when weight and sizes are not limiting factors.
We have a number of different levers (means of design and production that we can control) to work with, including refractory binders, refractory aggregates and additives, refractory mortars, insulation, dome design, ventilation design, air flow, oven opening design, stands and enclosures, metal, paint, powder coating, chimneys, and a wide range of ascetic design materials.
Our applications include backyard cooking for a small family, or for large parties, professionals catering events throughout their community, pizzerias striving to make world-class pizza, create a following, build a brand and make a profit, people who want to roll their oven to their pools deck, or into their garage for the winter, or want to install a small oven on a small deck, who like the look of smooth stucco, or want to build an outdoor oasis. People who want to make great pizza, real crusty hearth bread, or who know how a brick oven just makes everything they cook taste better.
So as long as our customers are willing to keep trying hard to make a better pizza or a better loaf of bread, we are happy to keep working hard to make our ovens better—and to keep coming up with ovens that you can use in all sorts of new ways.
In fact, we have a new innovative oven that is just about ready to be introduced to the market. Stay tuned for the Forno Bravo Presto.