We wanted to give people a choice in the pizza dining
experience. Before, it wasn’t all about customization and
personal pizza done fast; you typically had to split a pizza
unless you grabbed a slice. I think customers have latched
onto the flexibility of fast-casual—the fact that a group
of four could come in and each person gets exactly what
he wanted. And we offered different options for sauces,
cheeses and toppings. Seeing it all happen in front of their
eyes, fresh and customizable, got people excited.
I think it has taken a while to get customers used to
pizza for lunch; ordinarily, lunchtime is not when people
have always thought about pizza. Even now, changing that
perception is still a bit of a challenge when we enter new
markets. But lunch is a big part of what we do; it was
40% lunch and 60% dinner when we opened, and now
it’s almost 50-50. In some markets, we do more lunch
than dinner, but generally we do more dinner business.
Part of that is our approach: We’re tied to craft breweries
and offer more of an atmosphere.
We’ve chosen bigger ovens over time so we can put
through more pizzas per hour; in our first store, the
oven became a bottleneck for us. We use Woodstone
brick ovens with natural gas because we think it makes a
better-tasting pizza and creates a better guest experience
when they see the oven fired up. It allows us to fully cook
a pizza regardless of toppings—a cheese pizza takes 90
seconds, with cooking time increasing as more ingredients
are added. We cook at 600° to 800°, depending on time
of day, and the oven takes a few hours to heat up.
How to operate the oven is one of the easier things to
teach. We teach based on sight, since each pizza has a
different amount of toppings. All employees start at the
oven on day one, and we train them how to rotate the
pies. We can cook 25 pizzas at once—120 or more per
hour. All employees have to know is not to burn the pizza.
Before opening, I tested out different recipes for the
“There are conveyor-style, brick and coal-fire ovens to
choose from, depending on the type of crust you’re cooking.
The important part is that they’re very hot for a fast bake.”
—PATTY SCHEIBMEIR, PIE FIVE PIZZA COMPANY