Following my last post, I found an article published on August 8, 2011, at http://www.fesmag.com/features/chain-operations/5741-home-run-inn
, that discusses how the pizzas are made in HRI's restaurants. I could not get the article to stay open for more than a few seconds so I used the Google cache feature and excerpted the pertinent part of the article, which pertains to the HRI Bollingbrook restaurant, as follows:When food arrives at the Bolingbrook restaurant, for example, which was built in 2007, staff place it into a walk-in cooler. The restaurant receives shipments of products —dough, sauce, sausage, cheese — three to four times a week from Home Run Inn's two USDA-approved manufacturing plants, which also serve as central kitchens. Salad and sandwich ingredients are purchased from other suppliers and are delivered to the restaurants regularly. The plant also produces pizza for the frozen-pizza distribution business. Costello claims that "Nielsen Co. data ranks us at a 25 percent market share, which places us as the number-one-selling frozen pizza in Chicago."
"By using the plants, we don't worry about maintenance of standards or consistency at the restaurants," Costello says. "It's a luxury for me to not worry about restaurants using the same procedures and ingredients, and it contributes to our success."
The reliance on the plants also keeps equipment costs down at individual restaurant locations, Costello adds. "For example, we don't need mixers and meat grinders."
When needed, staff take out the dough and, by hand, form it into dough balls. Staff place the balls into heavy plastic trays, which are color-coded by size for 8-inch, 12-inch, 14-inch and 16-inch pizzas. "The dough balls need 12 to 24 hours to relax under refrigeration. We warm them up to room temperature before we use them," Costello says. "Once you rip dough into dough balls, the proteins are like muscles, and they want to contract back. You must let the proteins relax."
This "fermentation" process for the dough is unique, Costello claims. "The unique flavor comes from the development of the yeast. It's a similar process when making bread or beer," he says. Staff return the dough to the cooler until needed. The next step in the process is placing the dough balls on Teflon sheets. Staff use an electromechanical dough press to form each ball into a round circle about ¼-inch thick. Staff next add a 3/8-inch-high edge by hand-stretching it into a crust that will hold ingredients and prevent spillage. They then transfer the expanded crust onto an anodized coated circular disk — like a round cookie tray with holes in it — to allow moisture and heat to penetrate the crust.
Crusts next move along pizza tables where staff dress them with sauce that is made for Home Run Inn by tomato canners in Modesto, Calif., as well as onions, cheese and a selection of about 18 other toppings. Staff use a raw sausage depositor to quickly place a portioned amount of this meat onto the crusts. "The use of raw sausage that is cooked on site imparts more flavor to the pie than a precooked product," Costello says.
Crusts then head into the conveyor oven, which is automatically set to cook pizzas for about 12 to 14 minutes at 425 degrees F. "We used to use deck ovens and had to keep an eye on the cooking," Costello says. "With the conveyors, we set the time and don't have to watch them cook. Pizzas come out perfectly each time."
The Bolingbrook location's equipment package includes three conveyor ovens. Soon after the workhorse conveyor ovens were introduced into the Home Run Inn restaurants, they were used for appetizers and garlic bread, as well. "The change from the rotary tray pizza oven to a conveyor oven was critical to Home Run Inn's consistency and efficiency," Perrino says. "Before using this equipment, customers had to wait an hour and a half for pizza. The conveyor ovens cut the wait to 20 minutes and results in greater profits." After pizzas are cooked, a staff member cuts it and places it onto a tray for service in the dining room or into a box for carryout.
I believe that the Modesto, CA supplier of tomatoes to HRI as mentioned in the above article may be Stanislaus, as is shown in this document: http://www.ctga.org/industry
. Neither Escalon nor San Benito, both of which are the other major sources of fresh-pack tomatoes, has its offices in Modesto, although all three companies appear to have processing facilities in the San Joaquin Valley. At one time, it was said that HRI uses the Stanislaus Full Red tomatoes. ConAgra, through its Hunt's subsidiary, once had a tomato processing facility in Modesto (see Figure 3 at http://www.sjvcogs.org/pdfs/2012/Tomato021712.pdf
) but it was sold to a company from Singapore (see http://www.centralcalifornia.org/PressRoom.aspx?NewsID=68
). If HRI is using a non-fresh pack tomato product, it might be Hunt's, although I did not find such a connection from my searches. None of the HRI ingredients lists mention fresh-pack tomatoes, although the Margherita pizzas include vine-ripened (or vine-ripened fresh) tomatoes in their sauce.
There is also a fair amount of other interesting information about HRI in the fesmag.com article referenced above. I found the article by using the search string "Home Run Inn", "dough press" (as shown) in the Google search engine. I then used the cache version of the article when it would not open up properly.
For some basic information on dough presses, see the PMQ Think Tank thread at http://thinktank.pmq.com/viewtopic.php?p=20461#20461
and also the Tom Lehmann article at http://pmq.com/mag/2002summer/doughformer.shtml
. The high oil content of the HRI dough seems to make that dough a good candidate for a heated dough press. Also, see the last paragraph under Hot Pressed in the Lehmann article to read about the finished crust characteristics and other benefits to using a heated dough press.
For an interesting article on the HRI Woodridge frozen pizza facility, see http://www.bsimagazine.com/Features/Company%20Profiles/US%20Archive/At%20its%20new%20plant%20Home%20Run%20Inn%20makes%20frozen%20pizza%20the%20pizzaria%20way.aspx?p=1&cck=1
EDIT (1/25/13): Since the above link to the Lehmann PMQ article is no longer operative, see the Wayback Machine link to the same article at http://web.archive.org/web/20100626072731/http://www.pmq.com/mag/2002summer/doughformer.shtml
. See, also the YouTube video at