An operator doesn’t have to be a pizza specialist to make a distinctive pizza. By leveraging quality ingredients—along with some personal culinary flourishes—it’s possible for any restaurant to easily craft a standout pie.
And with pizza consumption trending up, opportunity beckons. In fact, consumers today eat pizza an average of four times per month, up from 3.4 times per month in 2014, according to Technomic’s 2016 Pizza Consumer Trend Report.
However, besting the competition means creating pizza flavor profiles that are novel, but still recognizable, to the typical consumer.
“Pizza is an amazing vehicle for flavors,” says Trip Kadey, director of culinary for The French's Food Company. “With everything from Asian barbecue to white sauces and pesto, there is a lot of culinary territory to explore.”
For simplicity’s sake, pizza ideation can be broken down to the dish’s major components: dough, sauce, protein and cheese. Many of the same ingredients that work on sandwiches, burgers, and light appetizers are also winners on pizza. That thinking has led to popular pizzas that riff on cheeseburgers, pulled pork sandwiches and Buffalo chicken wings, for example.
The speed-scratch approach—combining convenient prepared items with ingredients made in the operator’s kitchen—makes pizza approachable for those who lack the time, labor or skills to make pizza entirely from scratch. “You may want to buy one of the best tomato sauces and then add your own caramelized onions and chopped fresh herbs to give your pizza a fresh finish,” says Kadey.
A cheeseburger-inspired pizza is a good example of this approach. It’s easy to make—just top a par-baked crust with ketchup, ground beef and American and mozzarella cheese. The American cheese helps create the classic cheeseburger flavor profile, but it needs to be covered with mozzarella to prevent it from burning in the oven, Kadey notes.
“I love to finish that pizza when it comes out of the oven with crumbled bacon, shredded lettuce, chopped pickles and a little yellow mustard,” says Kadey. An optional sprinkle of sesame seeds on the crust lends the impression of a sesame seed bun.
After-bake additions also make pizzas stand out. They can be as simple as a drizzle of flavorful sauce or glaze or a handful of freshly chopped herbs. Or try something more elaborate, such as the spoonfuls of fresh coleslaw and chopped pickles that crown a pulled-pork topped pizza.
There is also a market for pizza with spicy toppings, such as hot sausage or chicken laced with Buffalo wing sauce. “Rich ingredients like cheese, sausage and pepperoni help the palate enjoy spiciness without burning out,” says Kadey. “That’s why buffalo chicken pizzas are so popular. It’s a good entry-level item for people who are a little afraid of heat.”
This post is sponsored by The French's Food Company