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Author Topic: Rant...what should pizza place employees be expected to know  (Read 1149 times)

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Offline Dippenwood

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So I've been hitting a few different wood fired pizza places lately specializing in Neapolitan style pizza. As someone who bought a brick oven a year ago, read up, practiced, made a sourdough starter, etc., I've tried asking the pizzamakers at the restaurants I've visited about their process, their flour, their prof times, their hydration, etc., in hopes of learning from the practitioners making pizza after pizza day and night. I have to say, I've really been disappointed at how little employees seem to know about their own product they serve. I ask questions of the guys taking the dough balls from the trays and stretching them... so far none of them can answer a single question about the type of flour, the proof times, the hydration--nothing. "Some other guy makes the dough, not me." "I think it's around 30% water" says another. The last place I was at, I was encouraged to see the guy working the oven wearing a tee shirt marked 'Pizzaiolo', and thought he must be conversant and knowledgeable--nope. Blank stares. Any way, some of these places are highly regarded spots with high class brick ovens, but I've yet to learn anything from the guy on the line. In fact I've generally been the one to point out things like, a 30% hydration is highly unlikely. My 14 year old kid hates me asking questions now because he thinks I'm just showing off.  I don't know what the point of this post is exactly, other than to wonder if anyone else has been disappointed by the utter lack of awareness they face when trying to learn something from an established pizza business worker.  As a businessman myself and a seeker of knowledge I'm just baffled that a business owner wouldn't  expect his/her staff to know at least the basics about what he is serving.  Rant off.

Offline TXCraig1

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Re: Rant...what should pizza place employees be expected to know
« Reply #1 on: July 15, 2017, 02:39:31 PM »
I'm not surprised at all. Most employees couldn't care less.  I was in one of these Subway-style pizzerias last week (called 1000 Degrees - however the oven was anything but), and I was actually taken aback by just how little these people seemed to care about their jobs and how slow they moved - and I have really low expectations.

Also keep in mind that pizza freaks like us represent about 0.01% of the population. If you spend much time here it's easy to lose track of how in the weeds we are. Most people couldn't care less about levels of pizza detail we would consider elementary.
"We make great pizza, with sourdough when we can, baker's yeast when we must, but always great pizza."  
Craig's Neapolitan Garage

Offline invertedisdead

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Re: Rant...what should pizza place employees be expected to know
« Reply #2 on: July 15, 2017, 03:11:34 PM »
And so it seems many who make pizza for a living, do not live to make pizza!

Offline The Dough Doctor

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Re: Rant...what should pizza place employees be expected to know
« Reply #3 on: July 15, 2017, 03:35:50 PM »
Take it from me....for the most part, they know little about what they do or why they're doing it. Some have inherited the shop and run it "monkey see, monkey do" fashion. A great number of them had someone help them get started by giving them a formula and some type of dough management procedure to follow....but neglected the training part...so they don't have a clue as to why they are doing something but it seems to work so I'll continue doing it....and then something goes wrong....that's where I finally end up getting called in. As for line workers, well...that's just what they are, workers. They follow directions/orders and get paid for it...that's all. For all too many, it's just "a job". If you really want to get a feel for the depth of knowledge in the store you're going to need to speak with the owner...it all starts with him/her and some of it then flows down to the other workers, but more than likely it will not.
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Offline StateofMind

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Re: Rant...what should pizza place employees be expected to know
« Reply #4 on: July 15, 2017, 05:59:20 PM »
To play the devil's advocate here why should they know so much about pizza? They are in the trenches making the pizzas. Do they make good pizzas? Have they been trained well to do their job? I'm sure the chef/owner knows the hydration, proofing time, etc. I've been in the business for close to 15 years and probably trained over a thousand employees. Most just want to know how to do their job and not why. And a lot of those employees do a great job. This included cooks who make amazing pizzas but couldn't tell you the first thing about the science of pizza making. On the flip side I have had plenty of employees that want to learn the why and how behind the way things are done. In a professional setting I think it is most important to have a consistent and high quality product. If that is executed but the staff doesn't know all the details behind the process and ingredients you can still be very successful.

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Offline waltertore

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Re: Rant...what should pizza place employees be expected to know
« Reply #5 on: July 15, 2017, 06:07:04 PM »
To play the devil's advocate here why should they know so much about pizza? They are in the trenches making the pizzas. Do they make good pizzas? Have they been trained well to do their job? I'm sure the chef/owner knows the hydration, proofing time, etc. I've been in the business for close to 15 years and probably trained over a thousand employees. Most just want to know how to do their job and not why. And a lot of those employees do a great job. This included cooks who make amazing pizzas but couldn't tell you the first thing about the science of pizza making. On the flip side I have had plenty of employees that want to learn the why and how behind the way things are done. In a professional setting I think it is most important to have a consistent and high quality product. If that is executed but the staff doesn't know all the details behind the process and ingredients you can still be very successful.

The old school model I was raised in - the family model - you started washing dishes and worked your way through all aspects of the business if the owners see you as worth it, is just about extinct.  We counter this by myself and my wife being onsite every hour of operation and prep (me only on that).  If someone asks an employee a question they refer them to either Judy or myself.  Today pizza has for the most part become an assembly line thing with the dough maker clueless to baking and the baker clueless to dough, etc..  Greed is the driving factor as I can see it.  One shop is not going to be as profitable if it isn't open 12 hours or more a day/7 days a week vs. the hours we keep and multiple shops are even more profitable but with each dumbing down move to make more $ so the pizza almost always goes to generic garbage.  People come into our place that have been to many of the legends shops and wonder why we are not more crowded as most say they enjoy our pies more.   Those legends can make great pizzas but are often not onsite and consumed with promotion, quality control issues, employee issues, etc...  I view pizza as really good or nothing at all.  Walter
« Last Edit: July 15, 2017, 06:11:44 PM by waltertore »
SMILING WITH HOPE PIZZA MISSION STATEMENT
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http://www.smilingwithhopepizza.com/

Offline TXCraig1

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Re: Rant...what should pizza place employees be expected to know
« Reply #6 on: July 15, 2017, 06:11:12 PM »
I view pizza as really good or nothing at all.  Walter

I'm with you brother!
"We make great pizza, with sourdough when we can, baker's yeast when we must, but always great pizza."  
Craig's Neapolitan Garage

Offline waltertore

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Re: Rant...what should pizza place employees be expected to know
« Reply #7 on: July 15, 2017, 06:14:23 PM »
I'm with you brother!

And I judge myself by this every pie.  Sometimes we are not as top as I ideally want to be but if a pie is not near just right to me it will not go to the customer.  When you have employees and products that are not under direct supervision of the owners often times the quality control goes way south.  I believe this is why not one of the legendary pizzas in the USA, as judged by this forum and pizza nuts made the Yelp top 100 list.  Walter
SMILING WITH HOPE PIZZA MISSION STATEMENT
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http://www.smilingwithhopepizza.com/

Offline jkb

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Re: Rant...what should pizza place employees be expected to know
« Reply #8 on: July 15, 2017, 07:10:00 PM »
For all too many, it's just "a job".


I can't imagine how someone can spend so much time doing something and have no interest in doing their best and learning all they can.

Offline waltertore

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Re: Rant...what should pizza place employees be expected to know
« Reply #9 on: July 15, 2017, 07:23:28 PM »

I can't imagine how someone can spend so much time doing something and have no interest in doing their best and learning all they can.

I feel the same way. I approach life for meaning of the soul, social good, and help make the planet a happier place. This was my drive as a musician, special education teacher, and now pizzeria owner/operator.  Life is a one way ticket.  Helen Keller said - Life is daring adventure or nothing at all.  I don't judge others for how they live their life because no one knows what it is like to live in anothers shoes.  It is all a choice and how lucky we are in this world to have such a choice :)  Walter
« Last Edit: July 15, 2017, 07:33:57 PM by waltertore »
SMILING WITH HOPE PIZZA MISSION STATEMENT
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Offline StateofMind

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Re: Rant...what should pizza place employees be expected to know
« Reply #10 on: July 15, 2017, 08:16:03 PM »
I too came up the old school way. Started as a cashier out of high school and worked my way up being a district manager in a top 100 pizza chain. I now own my own place because of my desire to learn and perfect my craft. However lots of my employees are college students, aspiring musicians, or are working to support a family. I have very high expectations for all of my employees but I don't expect them all to be as passionate and knowledgeable about pizza and food as I am. However I do expect them to be able to speak knowledgeably about our food and the concept.
« Last Edit: July 16, 2017, 10:56:44 PM by StateofMind »

Offline Qapla

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Re: Rant...what should pizza place employees be expected to know
« Reply #11 on: July 16, 2017, 07:48:12 PM »

I can't imagine how someone can spend so much time doing something and have no interest in doing their best and learning all they can.

Do you drive a car? Do you use gas or electric oven? Do you have refrigeration units? Do you use a mixer to make your dough?

Can you repair the car? Wire the building and the oven? Run the gas lines? Repair the walk-in? Tear apart and replace the bearings or gears in your mixer if they go bad?

If not ..... how can you spend so much time using them and not learn all you can about each of those things?

The same can be said of making the pizza. Just because one spends a good deal of time doing or using something does not mean they know, or want to know, all there is to know about it.

Now, me ???????

Why do you think I am on this forum - to know more about pizza than the average guy.

The again ~ I can answer yes to all those questions I posed.

Offline jkb

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Re: Rant...what should pizza place employees be expected to know
« Reply #12 on: July 16, 2017, 09:44:34 PM »
Do you drive a car? Do you use gas or electric oven? Do you have refrigeration units? Do you use a mixer to make your dough?

Can you repair the car? Wire the building and the oven? Run the gas lines? Repair the walk-in? Tear apart and replace the bearings or gears in your mixer if they go bad?

If not ..... how can you spend so much time using them and not learn all you can about each of those things?

The same can be said of making the pizza. Just because one spends a good deal of time doing or using something does not mean they know, or want to know, all there is to know about it.

Now, me ???????

Why do you think I am on this forum - to know more about pizza than the average guy.

The again ~ I can answer yes to all those questions I posed.

I've done everything you listed.

Offline quietdesperation

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Re: Rant...what should pizza place employees be expected to know
« Reply #13 on: July 17, 2017, 08:06:35 PM »
I worked at a top steakhouse during college, they conducted wine tastings so we could describe the wine, ditto with all the food on the menu. We were also made to memorize the ingredients of every drink. But I didn't have anywhere near the body of knowledge needed to intelligently answer many of our customer's questions: "how does this vintage compare to the 82", "what's my favorite Paulliac", etc.

I think your expectations are far too high.
"Pizza is a lot like sex. When it's good, it's really good. When it's bad, it's still pretty good." - Woody Allen

Offline csnack

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Re: Rant...what should pizza place employees be expected to know
« Reply #14 on: July 17, 2017, 11:34:08 PM »


I've done everything you listed.

Lol.

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Offline jkb

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Re: Rant...what should pizza place employees be expected to know
« Reply #15 on: July 18, 2017, 10:35:03 AM »
I worked at a top steakhouse during college, they conducted wine tastings so we could describe the wine, ditto with all the food on the menu. We were also made to memorize the ingredients of every drink. But I didn't have anywhere near the body of knowledge needed to intelligently answer many of our customer's questions: "how does this vintage compare to the 82", "what's my favorite Paulliac", etc.

I think your expectations are far too high.

I don't think the expectations are too high if the waiters have had the opportunity to try everything on the wine list.  I wouldn't expect them to answer questions beyond the scope of what they've had the opportunity to taste.  That would be some expensive independent study.

Offline TXCraig1

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Re: Rant...what should pizza place employees be expected to know
« Reply #16 on: July 18, 2017, 10:47:43 AM »
I've never had to rely on the wine advice of a waitperson in a true "top" steakhouse. There was a time when my job regularly put me in some of the finest steakhouses - places where ordering 4-figure bottles of wine wasn't uncommon - when you'd order a fine bottle, the soms would regularly pull out their tastevin and pour the first sip for themself. I'm sure the breadth of wines they had tasted was stunning.
« Last Edit: July 18, 2017, 10:49:24 AM by TXCraig1 »
"We make great pizza, with sourdough when we can, baker's yeast when we must, but always great pizza."  
Craig's Neapolitan Garage

Offline JAG

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Re: Rant...what should pizza place employees be expected to know
« Reply #17 on: July 18, 2017, 11:18:50 AM »
I agree with all that is said about not being their job to know, not having the motivation to know, etc. etc. but looking at it from a different view, maybe the workers that might know are told not to tell, told to act ignorant or even give misleading info, maybe some places even have some type of non-disclosure agreement. I know several home pizzaiolo here have asked some of the "pros" for their process and ingredients and get told "sorry its a secret". I'm just saying it is possible some of those deer in the headlights looks might actually be a diversion, probably not, but possible.

Offline Pete-zza

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Re: Rant...what should pizza place employees be expected to know
« Reply #18 on: July 18, 2017, 01:23:04 PM »
John,

I recall several years ago where a member from Ohio started revealing the detail of the pizzas made at the pizzeria (a well known one) where he worked. The stuff he posted was really good. But I suspected that he was violating the trade secrets of the pizzeria or maybe even a non-disclosure agreement. So, I sent him a PM telling him that he could get into serious trouble if his employers discovered that he was disclosing details about their pizzas on the forum. Before I could blink my eye, he deleted all of his posts and closed his account.

More than once, I have had members willing to disclose things to me that they shouldn't.  I tell them not to disclose anything to me that is not public. Sometimes they ignore my advice but I still keep what they tell me in confidence.

I also recall another member who posted details of his work at a well known national pizza chain that, I am sure, would have met with disapproval from his employer. His post is still on the forum. But I won't tell anyone where it is :-D. It's simply because I respect the rights of others, even if their own employees do not, whether innocently or intentionally. I have done a lot of reverse engineering and cloning of doughs of others where it would have been nice to have insider information but I would not place any employee in the position of violating the trade secrets of their employers to make the task easier or better. But, once private information makes its way into the public domain, its pretty much lost and irretrievable. That's the way the world works today. Intellectual property rights that used to be respected are far less so today.

Peter

Offline waltertore

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Re: Rant...what should pizza place employees be expected to know
« Reply #19 on: July 18, 2017, 02:02:16 PM »
I agree with all that is said about not being their job to know, not having the motivation to know, etc. etc. but looking at it from a different view, maybe the workers that might know are told not to tell, told to act ignorant or even give misleading info, maybe some places even have some type of non-disclosure agreement. I know several home pizzaiolo here have asked some of the "pros" for their process and ingredients and get told "sorry its a secret". I'm just saying it is possible some of those deer in the headlights looks might actually be a diversion, probably not, but possible.

We are a shop that does not disclose recipe information.  We instruct all our employees that if anyone asks them such questions to tell them to hold on a second and they will get either Judy or myself and we explain our policy.  We are getting a lot of requests for dough balls and take and bake that took me by surprise.  I explain a pizza needs to be baked on site to get the end result we want. On dough balls we share our shop is so small we  need all the dough balls for making pies.  Most of the enquiries about our process -recipe, oven temps, are innocent from people that have no intention to take it for profit.  But we  have had 2 encounters so far with top brass from a very well known national chain and also from one of, if not the largest casino operation in the USA.  Both wanted info but balked at signing agreements for price and one sent "scouts" in to enquire before they came in. After it was all said and done we connected the dots...   I understand today cooks are celebrities thanks to all the food shows and disclosure is more common place on these shows so people feel it ok to ask.  Back in my youth nobody cared a darn about who the chef was :)  We are polite in our responses and if someone really wants our info we first need to get a legal agreement in place.  Walter
« Last Edit: July 18, 2017, 02:04:21 PM by waltertore »
SMILING WITH HOPE PIZZA MISSION STATEMENT
TO CREATE HOPE AND MEANING IN THE LIVES OF PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES
http://www.smilingwithhopepizza.com/

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