Commercial Customers Utilize a Variety of Pizza Oven Styles and Business ModelsJul 06, 2018Posted by Forno Bravo
Forno Bravo makes Commercial Pizza Ovens for all kinds of businesses, from fully mobile operations to fast-casual pizzerias to high-end dining at a vineyard. In this blog, we’re going to visit with three owners who have each taken a different business path as they followed their passion for delicious food. Ultimately, all three made a Forno Bravo wood fired oven part of their journey. Read on to meet Diedra Keogh of Kickin’ Ass Mountain Pizza (Hartsel, CO), Bill Wilson of Billy Brick’s Wood Fired Pizza Cafe (Chicago, IL), and Larry Sharrott of Sharrott Winery (Hammonton, NJ.)
Mobile Pizza Oven Business – Kickin’ Ass Mountain Pizza
In July of 2017, 8 years after starting the discussion of “Wouldn’t it be fun to…”, husband and wife team of Patrick and Deidre Keogh and their three children, ages 15, 13, and 11, officially made the leap away from traditional jobs and launched Kickin’ Ass Mountain Pizza (KAMP) in the small town of Hartsel, CO. Working with Fire Within, a long time Forno Bravo dealer and mobile concessionaire specialist out of Denver, CO, they purchased a compact Tailgate trailer and pizza oven made with the Casa2G100 Modular Kit. This oven can cook 3 pizzas at a time, and up to about 70 per hour.
When they started the business, Patrick took the role of Fire Master and primary pizzaiolo, and Deidre did the food prep and other aspects of the business, since she readily admits, “I was scared of the fire.” Well, time has changed that. Now she can’t get enough of cooking with a wood fire! They use the oven for their business, but also for many of their regular home meals as well. The kids have even gotten involved, taking their turns at the peel and helping to come up with new pizza ideas for the menu.
When asked what is KAMP’s best seller, Deidra said that hands down, it is the Thai-Basil Chicken Pizza. The sauce starts off with a sweet note, but has a real kick at the end that will make the back of your throat tingle! The pizza is topped with fresh oven roasted chicken, garlic, shredded mozzarella, a drizzle of olive oil, and a pinch of salt on the crust. After baking, it is finished off with crema, cilantro for brightness, green onion, and a more of the Thai-Basil sauce. The sauce was originally developed in-house for their popular chicken wings (which are par-grilled and then oven baked), but customers started asking them to put the sauce on a pizza too. The result was so good that they have been selling out of it up to 3 times a week!
A Different Approach to Gluten Free
KAMP prides themselves on hand-kneading their dough, making all of their sauces, and preparing almost all of the ingredients from scratch, not cans. Though a lot more work, the resulting flavors and quality control are worth the effort. Early on, Deidre was not pleased with the gluten-free pizza dough recipes available, so the family decided to switch gears. Patrick discovered that wood fire roasted portabella mushroom caps were delicious and could be topped successfully with just about anything. This became their new gluten-free “crust” and has been very well received.
Living the Dream
Kickin’ Ass Mountain Pizza was a business that started literally on the side of the road on the way to the big Colorado ski resorts, and has since blossomed into serving catering engagements, frequent stops in some of the area’s smaller towns by request, regular support of a local distillery tasting room, and even doing events at the County Fairgrounds. Asked to sum up their experience of running KAMP, Deirdre told us, “Buying this oven was the best thing we ever did. No regrets! We now know that this is what we are meant to do. We are living our dream!”
Fast Casual Pizzeria – Billy Brick’s Wood Fired Pizza Cafe/ Brick’s on Wheels
Bill Wilson is an engaging person and a great storyteller. One of his favorite stories is how he was on vacation 18 years ago with his family when he first tasted and fell in love with wood fired pizza. He was mesmerized by the fire and flavors and couldn’t get the idea out of his head. That genesis of an idea finally resulted in his first restaurant opening in 2007. Now with 7 corporate locations in the greater Chicago area, one in Florida, and an expanding franchise, Billy Brick’s Wood Fired Pizza Cafe is on a mission to live up to their motto of “Wood Fired. Family Inspired.®”
Brick’s is known for being a welcoming neighborhood cafe where customers are remembered by name. They sell a simple menu of Neapolitan-style pizzas and hearth-baked artisan sandwiches, plus soups and hand-tossed salads with an emphasis on using authentic dough and fresh ingredients.
Why Forno Bravo Ovens?
Bill is a self-proclaimed “Wood Guy” through and through. Recently, Brick’s opened a branch in Oak Park, IL featuring a stunning, copper-enclosed wood fired Modena160. Bill loves that the Modena is “Terrific at holding its heat. After closing it up at night, it is still 400 degrees when I reopen it the next day.” This saves him in both time and fuel costs. The Modena supports a massive 56″ x 68″ oval cooking surface, yet has a reasonable footprint and price point for a smaller restaurant. The oven is also flexible enough to handle bread, sandwiches, and appetizers alongside the pizza, which was a feature Bill was looking for.
For extra staff training and purchasing support, Bill’s team worked with longtime friend and Forno Bravo dealer, Chef Leo Spizzirri of the Pizza Project Group and the North American Pizza and Culinary Academy. Bill’s experience with Forno Bravo has been overwhelmingly positive.
Benefits and Challenges of Multiple Locations
We asked Bill about the rewards and challenges of having multiple locations. He said that success is an “affirming gesture,” a nod to the years of hard work; it proves that the concept is good and accepted by the local communities he serves. Operationally, the challenge is always consistency, especially when you are providing an artisan product, “not cookie cutter food.” On-going training and treating your staff like family are critical components to ensuing that consistancy.
Brick’s likes to take advantage of existing activities in their local neighborhoods to make connections. For example, they support local Car Shows and Cruise Nights on Sunday evenings all summer long. These events provide neighbors (and their friends) a chance to come out, eat, visit, and check out cool cars in a laid-back setting. They also try a Brick’s pizza, many for the first time, and want to come back again.
Brick’s Adds Mobile to Their Business Plans
Bill was excited to talk about “Brick’s on Wheels,” the brand new mobile pizza arm of the business. It is a custom trailer built by his nephew, Austin Coulson, containing a Modena120 wood fired oven and plenty of prep space. The buzz around it is amazing. Driving it back recently from Arizona to Illinois, Bill said that a crowd gathered at every gas station wanting to check it out! The food truck will feature a streamlined menu of Brick’s pizzas. They already have over a dozen reservations from events and private groups asking them to come, and they haven’t even officially launched yet.
The future is burning bright for Billy Brick’s. Congratulations Bill!
Tableside Dining at a Vineyard – Sharrott Winery
Larry Sharrott III purchased the land that would become Sharrott Winery back in 2003, opening to the public in 2008. Located in the Pine Forests of New Jersey, it is halfway between Atlantic City and Philadelphia (40 min to each.) In the beginning, their modest goal was to make great wines, allow customers to come and taste them, and maybe take home a case or two. The guests had other ideas! In response, Sharrott’s offerings expanded organically over the years to include a patio, large tent, food trucks, and live music events, along with the wine tastings. Guests come to relax, hang out, and enjoy a beautiful sunset over the vineyard. Larry has a background in restaurants and always liked making and sharing good food and wine with people, but the tasting room has taken this to a surprising and positive new level.
Growing the Building and the Business
In the fall of 2017, Sharrott Winery underwent a big expansion. They added 5,5oo square feet — most of that going to the new tasting room and covered patio (for 10x the previous space) with indoor/outdoor seating for 200 people. The remaining area went to tripling the winery’s production area. They included a huge wall of west facing windows in the design so guests could still get their sunsets, while being out of the weather.
This project also allowed them to create a full kitchen and bring in a custom-tiled Napoli140 pizza oven through Forno Bravo dealer, Woodfired Pizza Deleware. Hand-tiled in a bold red color with the winery’s logo blazoned in Winter White across the front, the oven is able to bake 8 – 10 pizzas at a time, but also make bread, desserts, appetizers, and other dishes.
Sharrott Winery currently produces several types of grapes, including multiple Bordeaux varietals. One of their specialties is the less known Cabernet Franc, a black grape that produces a spectacular dry red wine. They have won several awards against stiff competition for their Dry Reisling, multiple Chardonnays, Vignoles, and Pinot Grigio, along with other world-class red and white wines.
New Menu for the New Oven
With the new oven, Sharrott now offers different gourmet flatbread pizzas as the center of their menu, including a Margherita, Soppressata, Truffled Mushroom with Caramelized Onions (a white pie with a garlic oil rubbed crust), and the very popular Parma. The Parma combines prosciutto di Parma, fig jam, gorgonzola and fontina cheeses, and arugula on top!
Their tableside service menu also includes meat and gourmet cheese plates, Caprese salads, and the Vineyard salad with a balsamic vinegar dressing and grapes, along with side dishes like a fresh-made guacamole.
While the Napoli can be wood fired, Larry shared that they typically use the oven in the gas fired mode for convenience. He said “It does a wonderful job with the flatbreads. You can’t replicate the product that comes out of that oven any other way. The high temperatures, the broiler effect on the top of the pizza, the hot surface of the stone, all work together to create the product I wanted.”
When asked what was his favorite thing about running a winery, Larry said,”You are always doing something different. It is constantly changing, but there is a nice seasonal rhythm to it…and of course, my office is a vineyard. It’s hard to complain.” We have to agree!