Donatos Pizza Case Study
When meeting Roger Howard for the first time, it becomes clear what a large part the Donatos Pizza chain has played in his life. Just 13 years old when he began working for Donatos as a dishwasher, Roger steadily grew within the ranks to become Vice-President of Operations. Although he eventually retired as VP after 36 years with the company, his story with Donatos didn’t end there. Roger made a move back to the customer service side of the pizza operation, opening his own store in 2007 in Lewis Center, OH, a suburb just outside of Columbus. After opening this store, Roger soon found a new piece of cooking equipment, the newly developed Avantec double-belted ovens, which helped him to improve upon his already high quality standards and business model, making his store one of the top eight stores in terms of production within the fast-growing 200 store Donatos franchise.
Having worked in all aspects of the Donatos company, from the corporate office to the restaurant counter, Roger understands as well as anyone the simple philosophy upon which Donatos was founded in 1963: “To make the best pizza and to treat others the way I would like to be treated.” In order to follow this philosophy of high standards, Roger realized that he needed to make a few changes to his business plan, and one of the most important aspects of the pizza business is the oven used to cook the pizzas. Roger’s store had been using 8-year old Blodgett 70” ovens, but he decided to make the switch to the newer, faster and higher output 42” Avantec double-belted 3242-2 ovens.
“The Avantec ovens increased my production; I’ve cut at least two minutes off the baking time for each pizza. And, with a smaller chamber, I can do the same volume, if not more, than in a 70-inch oven,” Roger says. Producing a high output of pizzas is very important to Roger because of the amount of pizza they provide to local schools. The store bakes 300-350 pizzas on Mondays and Fridays during the school year. “The largest order we have is 48 pizzas at a time and it takes us only 20 minutes from start to finish using all of the belts,” explains Roger. Roger is also able to bake all five of the Donatos pizza crusts, as well subs, chicken fingers and even bacon for salads, in his new double-belted Avantec ovens, saving him even more time and energy in the production process by cutting down on additional equipment usage.
In addition to increased production, it is vital that the ovens’ bake meet Donatos’ high standards with regard to the quality of their products. According to Roger, his pizzas are moister and have a more consistent bake when cooked in his Avantec ovens versus any other ovens he experienced while heading operations for the company. “The most important thing,” notes Roger, “whether we’re baking one pizza or we’re at the heaviest rush, is that they’re always consistent.”
Perhaps most notable during these difficult economic times and for a business’s bottom-line is that Roger’s store is also saving money by using Avantec ovens. The Donatos corporate office recently did a study comparing the gas bills at Roger’s store to other Donatos stores in the same geographic area. They found that Roger’s store is using 10 percent less gas than other stores and saving around $18 in gas bills per month, and, because the Avantec ovens are smaller, the kitchen doesn’t get as hot, meaning that less electricity is required for air conditioning. The smaller oven size is also saving him in another way, as Roger happily notes, “I used to have to clean the ceiling tiles in the kitchen once per quarter, and now I only have to do it once a year. Our Avantec oven is smaller so the hood is capturing more of the grease and smoke, therefore keeping our ceiling cleaner.”
With all of the benefits and savings accompanying the use of his Avantec ovens, Roger has been able to live up to that original Donatos philosophy by creating a better, moister, more consistent pizza, all while delivering those pizzas to his customers in less time. As Donatos was built on three fundamentals - creating a superior product, hiring great people, and adhering to strong principles that promote goodwill in business and the community - Roger has shown how his new business plan including Avantec ovens has helped him deliver on Donatos’ fundamentals, making the highest quality, best tasting pizza possible.