August 25, 2014 |

No weigh? No way!

By Dan Collier

weighing ingredients, scale, doughIf you aren’t weighing ingredients, you are throwing money away


Anything worth doing is worth doing correctly, right? Your pizza is no exception. Your goal with every pizza should be two-fold:

  1. Make a profitable pizza.
  2. Make a consistent pizza.

Anything less than that means you are cheating your customers as well as yourself. Do that for long and you won’t remain in business. There’s simply too much competition to survive.
How do you make a profitable and consistent pizza? You must weigh your ingredients. For those of you who like to freehand toppings, there’s no way you’ll get these two results if you keep doing what you’re doing.
First let’s weigh in (oh, these puns are good) on the profitable pizza.

  • 16-count pepperoni = 256 pepperonis in a pound
  • 25-pound case @ $68.40/cs = $2.74 per pound
  • That equates to roughly .01 cent per pepperoni
  • 55 Pepperonis per large pizza = .55 cent cost per pizza
  • Charge is $2.00 per ingredient = 27.50-percent food cost

Let’s say your pizza maker uses 60 pepperonis instead of the standard 55. That makes your food cost 30 percent. And let’s say you extend this possibility to every ingredient. Now your food cost is 2.5 percent higher than you designed for your menu. If your sales are $500,000 per year, that’s $12,500 less profit.

Ouch! A few stray pepperoni and another handful of cheese here and there doesn’t sound like much, does it? But when you run the math, it’s alarming. What could you do with an extra $12,500 in your pocket?

Second, let’s weigh in on the consistent pizza. Because we all know consistency is everything.
You can build a business selling a cheap pizza, or you can build a business selling an average-priced pizza, or you can build a business selling an expensive pizza. The only rule is that you can’t mix the three. You must be consistent or the customer will not return. Do you know of a pizzeria selling $5 pizzas? What kind of pizza is it? I’ll tell you. It is a pizza that has a food cost of about $1.50. “Cheap” is both a quality and a cost statement. Their customers know what to expect and they get it.

Your customer also has an expectation. I know of no other way to achieve this consistently than to weigh your ingredients.

So, how can you achieve this in a practical manner? It’s not as difficult as it may seem. In short, weigh the cheese on every pizza, and spot-weigh all other ingredients.

Place a scale permanently on your make line in front of your cheese bin. I use a 32 x 1/8 with a stainless steel bowl. My pizza makers weigh the cheese for every pizza. And I do mean every single pizza.

Using this same scale, my pizza makers, including the ones who have been with me for 10 years or more, must weigh (or count) one other ingredient that day just once each shift. I have pictures of the ingredients from my training manual that I put on the make line to support how the ingredient looks on the pizza. Easy, right?

I am fortunate to have invested the time and money in a POS system that allows me to track ideal food costs against actual food costs. In other words, I know that last week I used 19 more pounds of cheese at my Ventura restaurant and eight pounds of pepperoni more than I should have at my Oxnard restaurant. The solution? This week we count pepperoni once per day and I find out who’s not using the scale for the cheese.

We all want to lower food costs without sacrificing quality. Unless your supplier decides to surprise you with free inventory from now on, you better start weighing now. Think of the profits you are losing if you aren’t weighing your ingredients.

With that in mind, this is a perfect opportunity to present you with some recipes that clearly spell out ingredient amounts. Like we discussed earlier, if you know exactly what you are putting on your pizza, ounce for ounce, you will reap financial rewards.


Pizza alla Treviso

1 14-inch pizza crust
8 ounces pizza sauce
1 teaspoon oregano, dried
1 teaspoon basil, dried
12 tablespoons Romano cheese, grated
8 ounces mozzarella/provolone blend
4 ounces red bell pepper, chopped
4 ounces green bell pepper, chopped
2 ounces yellow onion, chopped
8 ounces sausage

Assemble the pizza to your liking and bake.

Fusilli & Sausage with Shaved Fennel & Cream Sauce

1 small bulb fresh fennel
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
8 ounces sweet Italian sausage
8 ounces heavy whipping cream
8 ounces fusilli lunghi, cooked
salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
2 ounces grated Parmesan cheese

Trim and clean the fennel. Shave into paper-thin slices, place in cold water and set aside.
In a sauté pan or skillet large enough to hold all the cooked pasta, warm the olive oil over medium heat for one minute. Add the sausage, crumbling it into small pieces. Cook and stir until the sausage has been cooked through. Drain off the fat.

Pour the whipping cream into the pan. Bring the cream to a steady boil. Reduce the heat. Drain the reserved fennel and add it to the pan. Simmer the sauce for 7 to 8 minutes. Add salt and pepper, to taste.

Add the cooked and drained pasta to the pan with the cream and sausage. Cook and stir for two minutes to heat the pasta and coat it with the sauce. Divide the pasta between the two heated serving bowls. Sprinkle half the Parmesan over each serving.


Pizza with Sautéed Radicchio & Garlic

1 14-inch pizza shell
2 ounces olive oil
5 cups coarsely chopped radicchio
2 cloves garlic, crushed
4 ounces shredded mozzarella

In a large sauté pan, warm the olive oil over medium-high heat for 2 minutes. Add the chopped radicchio and the garlic. Cook and stir for about 10 minutes or until the radicchio is soft and wilted. Remove from heat and set aside.

Sprinkle the sautéed radicchio evenly over the pizza crust. Sprinkle the mozzarella over the radicchio. Bake.

Penne with Roasted Tomatoes & Gorgonzola

8 Roma tomatoes, halved
2 garlic cloves, minced
4 ounces fresh basil, chopped
2 ounces unsalted butter
6 ounces Gorgonzola cheese
4 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
12 ounces penne pasta

Place the tomatoes, cut side down, on a baking sheet and roast under a pre-heated broiler about four inches from the heat for six minutes, or until the skin blisters and begins to blacken. Remove from oven and pick off loosened skin with the tines of a fork and discard.

Squash and chop the tomatoes lightly with the end of a wooden or plastic spoon and transfer to a mixing bowl. Add garlic and basil, then toss the mixture to combine.

Lastly, in a small mixing bowl, cream the butter, Gorgonzola and Parmesan. Then add the mixture to the bowl with the tomatoes. Add salt and pepper, then toss to combine.

Cook pasta in boiling, salted water until al dente.

Drain pasta and, while still hot, add to the bowl with tomatoes and cheeses. Combine rapidly and thoroughly. Divide among heated pasta bowls, garnish with fresh basil leaves and serve.

Dan Collier of California-based Rusty’s Pizza is a frequent contributor to Pizza Today and International Pizza Expo.