Bakery E&S Brings Dough
As the number of bakery-equipment distributors decreases, bakers are looking to other sources for their E&S needs. This means that being able to fulfill bakeries' equipment requirements can lead to increasing profit opportunities for foodservice equipment suppliers.
The revolving rack oven (far left) at Ritzy's Restaurant and BSckerai, Rolling Meadows, Ill., supports the production of baked goods ranging from breads to cakes. The oven has six racks and can hold 18 sheet pans.
Bakeries are still a growing segment of the foodservice industry, with 31% of operators planning to open full-line retail facilities, according to a 2001 subscribers poll by Bakery-Net.com. And, while supermarkets may be more familiar customers for foodservice E&S dealers, their openings recently have been declining. However, about 9% of retail food stores polled by Bakery-Net are opening in-store bakeries, and 2% of those questioned plan to open bakeries in the future. One restaurant that has risen to success thanks to its bakeries is Ritzy's Restaurant and BSckerai of Rolling Meadows, Ill., which has operated a full-line bakery in its flagship restaurant for 20 years. Here, Denis Schersach, head baker, produces everything from cakes and cookies to breads and muffins.
The bakery at Ritzy's is located on a sublevel of the restaurant, about six steps down from the main kitchen. To produce his variety of baked goods, Schersach uses a revolving rack oven and a proofer. The revolving rack oven has six shelves that hold three sheet pans each. The unit is gas-fired and is supported by an auxiliary steam boiler. This combination, he said, works well for his baked goods, because it enables him to control how much steam enters the oven, resulting in the proper texture for his breads and cakes.
While some bakers can't live without a deck oven, Schersach said he prefers using his revolving rack oven because it allows greater air circulation around products. There is one caveat, he noted, and that is French bread. The rack oven cannot achieve the crisp crust and soft insides that a deck oven can. "Also, our rack oven often is too hot for baking pastries so, to compensate, I only put the sheet pans on the edges of the shelves. This keeps the pastries free of the center hotspot," Schersach said.
Proofers are another mainstay in bakery kitchens. Ritzy's electric proofer, which is also supplied with steam from a remote source, can hold two rolling racks. It has only simple manual controls, but that is fine with Schersach because the number of parts that can break has been minimized.
Of course, no bakery is complete without a mixer. At Ritzy's there are both 80-qt. and 20-qt. vertical mixers. Because of the tight space, he has no room for a spiral mixer, Schersach said. The 80-qt. mixer is very versatile, and he uses it for preparing bread doughs and cake batters, while the smaller mixer is used to prepare frostings and toppings.
Other equipment installed in Ritzy's bakery are a sheeter, which is used to produce croissants and layered doughs, a divider and a rounder. Schersach explained that the rounder is used to make rolls because it is much too labor-intensive to do these by hand.
Temperature is, of course, one of the key variables in baking, especially if bakers are preparing goods ahead of time. Schersach explained that he bakes cakes twice a week and then stores them in his freezers until he is ready to decorate them. He noted that he stores his cakes up to five days. To ensure that the cakes do not dry out or shrink, Schersach had the holding temperature of his freezers set to fall between 7F. to 14F. In total, the bakery at Ritzy's contains two walk-in refrigerators and three reach-in freezers, two two-door units and one three-door model.
If his bakery area were larger, Schersach said that he would like to add a deck oven to bake French bread. This is the only item that he cannot make because of equipment limitations. But despite this, he is content with the size of his bakery.
"I like the small footprint because everything is right at hand," Schersach explained. "When I opened a bakery in Salt Lake City many years ago, the setup was the same as it is here with all the equipment in the same, compact area. That way, you don't have to move all over the place for ingredients or supplies."
Although growth of in-store supermarket bakeries is limited, there are opportunities available for E&S suppliers. According to Bobby Turner, bakery coordinator at Atlanta-based Whole Foods, this supermarket chain recently moved away from commissary-produced products and is installing bakeries in its 133 stores. Now, customers can purchase bread that is just hours old. As a result, bread sales have increased two to three times, Turner said.
Despite high-volume production such as the 800 loaves of bread the company's Toronto location turned out on a recent Saturday, equipment needs at Whole Foods' bakeries are modest. In the production area of the chain's bakeries, which are not within customers' view, one 80-lb. capacity spiral mixer blends dough, along with a 50-lb. capacity vertical mixer. "We put in smaller mixers and ovens so that staff have to bake more batches, resulting in fresher product being offered at all times," Turner said.
Once bread doughs have been mixed, they are put in either a French bread molder or a dough divider/ press. Next, bread doughs must be proofed. Turner explained that each store's bakery has a proofer/retarder. This piece is especially useful for making surdough bread, as staff mix the dough at night then put it in the proofer where it is proofed and then retarded overnight. The programmable proofer enables Whole Foods bakers to schedule a time by which the dough will be brought back up to temperature. The unit has three doors and three shelves, resulting in a capacity of 225 bread loaves.
A temperature-controlled display case holds baked goods at Ritzy's. To prevent melting, chocolate covered items are kept away from the fluorescent bulbs lighting the case.
The ovens, which are electric stone-deck units, are located behind bakery counters. The ovens have three or four decks and are used for artisan breads because they provide a slow bake that gives a crisp crust and a soft inside to products, Turner said. He added that Whole Foods is now in the process of adding automated loaders to each store's deck oven. This is expected to save much time and labor, as a whole deck can be loaded at once with very little staff participation.
Turner added that each store also has electric convection ovens. Recently, Whole Foods began installing rack ovens in its stores for baking cookies, muffins, soft breads, cakes and pies.
The main bakery of La Bonbonniere Bake Shoppe, a chain of four retail bakeries based in Edison, N.J., is many times larger than the bakeries at Ritzy's and Whole Foods at 2,500-sq.-ft. Recently, it began adding soups and fresh-made sandwiches and salads to its menu, but this will never be more than a side business, said Matt D'Agostino, La Bonbonniere's owner. The production area of the Edison bakery is actually a commissary for the three other outlets. Equipment includes deck ovens, a rack oven, a revolving gas oven, pan washer, spiral mixer, dough sheeter and make-up tables.
D'Agostino purchased his four-deck oven a few years ago when artisan breads became popular, but he soon found that his customers preferred other sorts of bread. He noted that the deck oven is very labor-intensive because of its size, so he invested in a manual loader that staff can use to fill the oven more quickly.
"One good thing about the deck oven is that it is much more energy-efficient than my revolving oven, which holds 21 pans," D'Agostino said. "I was spending about $3,200 a month for gas using my oven, but my bill dropped to $2,100 a month when I started using the deck oven."
La Bonbonniere's newest piece of equipment is a rack oven that D'Agostino purchased from a German manufacturer. One of the primary reasons D'Agostino bought this particular oven is because steam is measured in liters rather than by time. This is important, he said, because, depending on water pressure from one day to another, different amounts of steam will be used each day. Now, however, D'Agostino will be able to give his customers more consistent products.
With an average production of 600 cakes a week, whipped cream is in constant demand at La Bonbonniere. D'Agostino recently bought a whipped cream machine that injects cold air into the cream, enabling it to stay good for five to six hours instead of the usual one hour. In the past, staff used a 20-qt. vertical mixer, producing only 8 qts. of whipped cream at a time. Now, however, the machine produces 30 liters of cream, with 25% more yield, resulting in labor savings.
Baking Up A Storm
Whether a facility is a pastry kitchen in a restaurant or hotel or a dedicated baking location, the artisans and craftsmen who turn a list of basic ingredients into an infinite universe of baked goods appreciate the assistance that the right utensils and equipment can offer.
For example, most bakers and pastry chefs buy ingredients in bulk, such as different types of flours or sugars. However, it's not practical to keep 100-lb. bags of such items on hand, so convenient ingredient storage is a top priority. At Ritzy's Restaurant and BSckerai in Rolling Meadows, Ill., Head Baker Denis Schersach keeps bulk ingredients on stationary wire racks. Unopened bulk bags of ingredients are stacked on heavy-duty dunnage racks to keep them off the floor to preserve sanitation. For everyday production, Schersach employs rectangular plastic ingredient bins with slanted see-through tops. "We keep the ingredient bins under our work benches to save space," Schersach said, "then we roll them to the mixing area when we need to." To transfer ingredients to scales, the bakers use metal scoops.
Matt D'Agostino, owner of La Bonbonniere Bake Shoppe, a chain of four bakeries headquartered in Edison, N.J., prefers to use metal ingredient bins with plastic inserts. "Because of our production volume," he said, "we found that plastic bins tend to crack and don't last long. The metal bins can take abuse better, while the plastic inserts make the interiors easier to keep clean."
To ensure even mixing of all ingredients, D'Agostino said his bakers use plastic scrapers to shear ingredients off the sides of mixing bowls before finishing the blending process. "Plastic scrapers are one of the handiest tools in any bakery," he said. "Unfortunately, they're sometimes hard to find. Suppliers used to give them away, but many don't any more. I'd like to find a reliable source, because we use scrapers for so many tasks."
When preparing doughs, Schersach uses a ruler to mark them at the correct intervals for consistent portion control, then uses cutters to separate portions. He also uses the ruler, when necessary, to portion finished pastries. However, D'Agostino has found a tool that makes short work of portioning finished pastries, such as brownies or Napoleons. "Full-sheet markers are indispensable," D'Agostino said. "We used to use a ruler to mark pastries before we cut them, but that takes extra time. With the markers, we get the cost control we need and save on labor, as well." He also noted that, because these aluminum markers are not adjustable, they must be purchased separately for each portion configuration needed for full sheets of products. -CK