Take-n-Bake: The Next Pizza Mega Trend

By Dave Ostrander

DiGiorno Who is your competition? The independent guy down the street? The big franchise chain operation? The grocery store freezer case? Answer: all of the above.

In the past year, since I sold my shop, I've been observing the industry with a slightly different set of eyes. For the first time in 30 years I have to actually buy pizza for my family. I have to confess, I've bought DiGiorno's and Freschettas. Two for ten bucks and my sons are happy. Did I commit blaspheme? Possibly, but sometimes when it's soccer or band practice night, and we're tight on time, we opt for convenience rather than quality. I'm not alone. I suppose millions of other families do the same thing every week. That's why the frozen pizza section in your local grocery store contributes the highest profit per cubic foot than any other area in the frozen section.

Take-and-Bake What if I could buy a drop dead great pizza and bake it in my home oven? Since I'm already pre-conditioned, it's a no-brainer. Welcome to the world of Take-and-Bake. In the past twelve months, I've researched this concept. I attended the American Institute of Baking's Practical Pizza Dough Production four-day, hands-on workshop in Manhattan, KS. Tom Lehmann and Jeff Zeak unlocked the mysteries of Chemically Levened Self-Rising Dough. This is the technology that drives the frozen self-rising pizza phenomenon. I've done customer counts, analyzed and eaten Take-and-Bake pizzas in California and the Pacific Northwest. I've interviewed hundreds of happy customers after their first exposure to Take-and-Bakes. I've seen over a thousand restaurant owners at food shows baking these pies in home ovens to rave reviews. I've noticed that Papa Murphy's is the second fastest growing chain in the country and was awarded Chain of the Year by Pizza Today Magazine.

"What's this got to do with me?" you ask. Perhaps because it is the best opportunity or greatest threat to your operation in the last ten years. Imagine, you go out to your mailbox open up a letter and it goes like this:

Take-and-Bake pizza sample Honestly, how would you handle this scenario? How would your customers handle this offer? I can tell you what I think would happen. If the pizza lived up to the promises and the customers were convinced that it was easy, convenient and a good value for the money, you might be in trouble. It may be only a matter of time. In less than a week, hundreds of families would have first hand awareness and no risk trial of the pizzas. The only step left in the marketing equation is to repeat. I would accomplish that with a "Preferred Customer Savings Certificate" for their first order.

plastic wrap I'm not predicting that this concept will overtake our industry. If you are currently in the business, how tough would it be to blend this concept into your current operation? You probably have everything you need except the disposable baking discs, a roll of plastic or shrink-wrap and the 'Baking Instructions' sheet. Then you could claim to be the first in you market to offer the service. The marketing 'Law of Firsts' is very powerful. People tend to remember who was the first to do anything; they rarely remember who was second. Quiz: Who as the first man to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean? Who was the second? I'm surprised you didn't remember Burt Hinkler. He flew one week later, faster and for less money than Charles Lindbergh. The Spirit of St. Louis is the first thing you see when you enter into the Air & Space Museum at the Smithsonian. Where do you think Hinkler's plane is? Doesn't matter.

I think that the Take-and-Bake concept can be incorporated in several different foodservice applications other than in its purest form. The most natural extension would be in existing pizza operations. This can be achieved at a very low cost to the operator, which I will explain later. The next application that would work very well would be a retail grocery or c-store, deli operation. Another application would be in institutional foodservice operations that offer home meal replacement options for their employees.

I would like to offer what I term is a SWOT analysis of the pros and cons of a Take-and-Bake operation. The SWOT analysis covers the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats of the concept.

Strengths:

  • Customer enjoys a hot, fresh baked, crisp pizza
  • Never cold, late or soggy.
  • No oven.
  • No Exhaust/Make up air.
  • No Fire suppression system.
  • Very small square foot requirement.
  • Low Labor costs and training.
  • Go home early.
  • Low energy and insurance costs.
  • Accept Food Stamps.
  • No sales tax (where applicable).
  • Lower pricing.
  • Low capital investment.
  • No public Restrooms.
  • Lower utility/energy costs.

Weaknesses:

  • No delivery service.
  • Dine-In.
  • Customer education/Marketing.

Opportunities:

  • Increase Sales.
  • Multi-units can be supplied by a central prep location.
  • Turns customers faster, no wait to bake.
  • Can be easily and inexpensively blended into an existing operation.
  • Incremental sales of salads, cookie dough, pasta, bread sticks, beverages, soft-serve ice cream and other home meal replacement entrees would increase gross and net sales.
  • Other non-food sales opportunities would include pizza peels and roller cutters.

Threats:

  • Competing against a brand recognized leader.
  • Being last to adapt in the marketplace.

Summary:
As you can see, the strengths and opportunities far outweigh the weaknesses and threats. So why would you consider adding Take-and-Bake into your existing operation or starting a Take-and-Bake operation from the ground up?

If you are an existing operation, you probably already have the following equipment:

  • Heavy equipment.
  • Dough mixer; 40 or 60 quart capacity.
  • Refrigerated Pizza Prep Table.
  • Dough Sheeter or Press.
  • Ample freezer and cooler area.
  • Cash register or POS system.
  • 3-compartment sink.
  • Portion control scales.
  • Menu Board.

All you would need to get into the Take-and-Bake business are the following:

  • Disposable Baking Discs.
  • Rolls of plastic shrink-wrap, with a dispenser or a shrink-wrap unit.
  • "Baking Instructions" handout.
  • Some sources for the above items include:
    • Pactive Pressware: Andy Rucker, 888-828-2850 ext.1314
    • Powerpan: Gene Rutledge, 417-831-1031
    • Take N Bake Pizza Products: Rich Goss, 800-560-3434
    • Lloyd Industries: John Crow, 800-748-6251

If you choose to be strictly a Take-and-Bake operation, the capital investment is considerably less than a traditional pizzeria. The equipment you'll not need to purchase is:

  • Pizza Ovens.
  • Hood, exhaust and make up air system.
  • Fire suppression system (Ansul System).
  • Dough mixer, if you choose to use frozen doughballs, pre-sheeted fresh frozen dough, or pre-baked pizza crusts.
  • Dough sheeter or dough press if you choose to hand toss or use a rolling pin.

Building requirements dramatically change.

  • You will not need to provide a dining area or public restrooms.
  • The electrical, gas, and air conditioning requirements are much less than traditional operations.
  • The physical size of the building is critical. Low volume stores will need 700 square feet, where high volume stores would require 1,200 to 1,400 square feet.
  • Drive-through windows enhance the convenience to the customers, but are not vital.

A comfortable customer lobby area is required. We would like to encourage you to place the pizza assembly area in full view of your customers. A pizza prep line with a tasteful facade and sneeze guard would lend class and interaction with the customer.

I truly believe that the success of a Take-and-Bake operation lies in aggressive marketing of both the concept and the product. For many customers, this will be their first exposure to the concept. They will need to be educated on the benefits of Take-and-Bake and get past the fear of not believing they can duplicate the quality of fresh baked pizza in their own home ovens.

Marketing success is summed up in three words. Awareness, Trial and Repeat. First of all we must create awareness, then promote trial and then entice repeat. How are we going to promote awareness? Some of the most effective tools are:

  • Press Release-new concept, new business, benefits (tell the story).
  • Core marketing message, "Who bakes the best pizza in town? You do!"
  • Ad Copy - newspaper, fliers and handbills.
  • Internal and external store signage. Posters, photos and the Story should be proximately displayed.
  • Door-to-door marketing. Introduce yourself and tell the benefit story. WII-FM? What's in it for me (Customers needs and wants stressed).
  • Word of mouth.

Now that we've created some awareness we must encourage trial. This is accomplished by getting as many people to try your pizza as possible.

  • Product sampling. Have a home oven installed in your store to bake pizzas for sampling. This will demonstrate that anyone can do it, take the fear out of the purchase as well as reinforce the quality issue.
  • Couponing.
  • Lots of freebies. This is critical for the first two months.

In the final phase of successful marketing, you must reinforce the customer's initial purchases and entice them to repeat.

  • Create a database of customers.Capture their name, address, phone number and e-mail address. This information will allow you to keep in touch with your customers via mail, e-mail. This will also flag lost and lazy customers.
  • More couponing stressing value and quality.
  • Risk reversal through product guarantees.

I'm convinced that once you try a 'Take n Bake pizza you'll also be a believer. This tried and true concept will be the next mega-trend in answering the question that's asked millions of times a day; "What's for Dinner?"

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