RAISING THE DOUGH
From great profit margins, ease of preparation and a classic that will never go out of style, there are plenty of reasons to have pizza on your menu.
Publicans love pizza. It’s good for business in so many ways – it’s quick and cheap to make but you can still charge a premium on it, it’s a convenient eating option, it’s familiar enough to be a comfort food but your chefs can also get creative with their toppings. It’s an all-round top performer for any pub menu. “Pizza has been around for a long time and it’s an easy favourite of many. It’s quick to make and we make a great GP off it. We sell roughly 450-500 per week,” espouses Max Fox-Andrews, general manager of The Windsor Hotel in South Perth.
As such a staple of pub menus, we take a look at the advantages and opportunities surrounding the humble pizza.
TRADITIONAL V CONTEMPORARY STYLES
There is plenty of scope within pizzas to decide whether you want to present a very traditional pizza offering, more contemporary options, or a bit of both. When Lewisland Group opened the Al’s Pizzeria offering at The Fiddler in western Sydney last year, it allowed head chef Alfonso Santaniello to focus on the traditional Italian style of pizza with only a few simple toppings per pizza.
Best sellers include the classic Margherita, with San Marzano tomatoes, fior di latte style cheese from Victoria, fresh basil, parmesan cheese and cold-pressed oil. The Naples native said it was a risk to steer away from the topping-heavy, supreme-style pizzas, but it was one that paid off.
“We risked offending the pizza-pie and loaded-topping lovers from the beginning – but the quality and flavour always wins.”
At Hotel Canobolas in Orange, New South Wales, there is an extensive pizza menu that is divided into the popular Australian favourites like meatlovers and ham and pineapple; and gourmet creations like asparagus and ricotta and Moroccan lamb. Both sections of the menu do exceedingly well.
At The Lansdowne in Sydney, Detroit-style square pizza makes up 60 per cent of the menu. Mary’s Group head chef James Garside decided to go ahead with this style because of the crispy caramelised cheese around the edges that differentiates it from other styles of pizza.
“Instead of going down the route of a massive menu with heaps of things on it, we have just done a few things really well,” states Garside.
Not only is pizza a favourite among patrons, but the ovens used to cook it also make for a great aesthetic addition, as evidenced at The Fiddler where Al’s Pizzeria and it’s Italian-imported oven sit separately from the bistro.
“Al’s Pizzeria has really added value and a new dynamic to the venue. Creating a buzz at the entrance of the venue, something interesting to watch and experience and of course revenue are some of the value additions it has introduced,” states general manager Sara Belling.
Glen Taylor, head chef at Hotel Canobolas agrees, stating that the hotel’s pizza oven has tongues wagging in many ways.
“The wood fired oven is an amazing centrepiece which imparts such an amazing natural wood smoke to the dishes we prepare in it. It gives a crust to the pizza which only a wood fired oven can achieve.”
QUALITY OF INGREDIENTS
While there are excellent profit margins to be made on pizzas, many operators and their chefs are willing to decrease that a little in order to use higher quality ingredients.
“Margins on pizzas as a rule are very good but, with anything, once you start using premium products and keeping things in house rather than outsourcing the food costs go up. It’s a decision you make to have a superior product and try to cause the least amount of damage by using ethically sourced, local produce,” states Garside.
Taylor places a lot attention on both toppings and the base of pizzas at Hotel Canobolas.
“We hand make all our sourdough bases here over a two-day process. All of our sauces, marinades and toppings are made here in house, we even shred our specialty cheeses.”
At the Mansfield Hotel in the Victorian Alps, the bistro supports local businesses by having the local bakery make all of its pizza dough, which is then cut and rolled in the pub’s kitchen.
Vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free pizza options are now starting to pop up on several menus, as operators want to ensure as many patrons as possible can enjoy the menu.
The Windsor Hotel, for example, includes three vegetarian pizzas and a vegan pizza on their menu, plus the option of gluten-free bases to meet consumption trends.
“We have noticed an increase of vegetarians/vegans recently with also a slight decline in meat sales too. So along with increasing our offering vegetarian-wise, we also have gluten-free options available which do seem more popular every week,” says Fox-Andrews.
Taylor makes a point of the importance of also taking into account dietary requirements due to allergies. While the hotel makes its own traditional bases, it externally sources its gluten-free bases, so as to ensure that there is no contamination from wheat-based products in the kitchen's mixers.
The Australian Heritage Hotel – situated in Sydney’s The Rocks – has been serving pizza since the 1980s. It started as a point of difference from several other pubs in the area that were all serving up steaks and schnitzels, but has now evolved into a way of attracting the many tourists that frequent the harbour-side locale. Included in the pizza menu are pizzas that use Australian proteins such as kangaroo, emu and crocodile.
“The kangaroo, crocodile and emu pizzas are definitely the most popular items on the menus. Tourists travel from far and wide to try our unique pizzas as well as our locals and Sydney-based crowd keen to try something new that you can’t find anywhere else,” says Charlotte McDonald.
The pub’s best-selling, signature pizza is the Coat of Arms, a pizza using emu, pepper kangaroo, bush tomato, capsicum and lemon myrtle mayonnaise. McDonald says it will always be on the pub’s menu.
“When tourists visit Australia, they undoubtedly learn about our Coat of Arms as a symbol of the Commonwealth of Australia. To envisage it as something you can eat is pretty exceptional and an altogether different historical experience!”
NICE AND CHEESY
Pizza has always been a big hit as a takeaway fast-food option. But pubs are now getting in on the act to serve at-home customers.
At The Mansfield, the wood-fired pizza menu is available from 10am to 10pm as an extension of the bistro menu when it is closed. It is also available in the bar, and as a takeaway option, which all adds up to about twenty per cent of all food sales for the venue.
As the venue sits at the foothills of the Victorian Alps, it acts as a thoroughfare for travellers into the mountains who will pick up a pizza on the way. It’s also a popular option for local residents.
“Takeaway is very popular as travellers like to call and pick them up on their way through without waiting. We also have a lot of repeat local customers, so we make around 150 to 200 pizzas per week to take away,” says Craig German.
Between their popularity, variety and ease of creation, no wonder so many pubs include pizza on their menus. AH