A 2011 survey by the National Restaurant Association found over 90 percent of restaurant operators claim changes in weather impact their businesses. Ninety-eight percent of quick-service operators and 96 percent of fast-casual operators noticed an effect of weather on their sales. Though this study is ten years old, the same principles apply.
The variance in temperature isn’t the only change seen in the colder months. One of the biggest impacts is on the menu, which makes sense. Colder weather leads to heavier and heartier orders, while hot weather lends lighter selections. And in the winter months, more people eat comfort foods with pizza being the favorite comfort food for people in 33 of the 50 states.
Let’s discuss comfort foods and how to prepare your kitchen for cooking in the colder months.
What Are Comfort Foods and Why Do People Crave Them During Winter?
According to the International Journal of Gastronomy and Food Science, comfort foods are foods that provide “consolation or a feeling of well-being.” Comforts foods are more often sweet or salty, not bitter or sour.
The changing temperatures during winter cause a spike in the popularity of comfort foods. This is because cold weather creates biological changes that drive us to eat more. When it’s cold, it’s natural for people to want food that will provide them with warmth. Frequently these foods are higher in sugar and fats than the food they’d otherwise consume. Add in the warmth foods can provide in cold weather, the need to burn more calories to maintain heat, and the great memories always associated with the holiday dinner table, and the correlation between comfort foods and cold weather grows even deeper.
As a result, cold weather affects how people want to fill their plates. For many pizza franchises, bad weather and winter months bring higher sales since a lot of people are craving comfort foods.
How Do You Adjust Your Pizza-Making Process to Winter?
As the seasons change and the outdoor temperatures begin to drop, so does the indoor temperature. Your walk-in coolers, prep areas, and even ovens are affected by this change in temperature.
Colder weather means that you are mixing, storing, and baking colder products. Since baking is a science, these changes in variables can bring a noticeable difference in your baked goods. You might lack the ability to control the weather, but you can manage the environmental changes that compromise the consistency and quality of your pizza crust and dough. Implement these simple practices:
Increase Your Bake Time
You need to find the perfect balance between time and temperature that will ensure the inside of your pizza is set and has a desirable color and finish. You can achieve this by increasing your total bake time until you get the perfect crust. Alternatively, you can increase your bake time while simultaneously reducing oven temperatures.
Ensure that you’ve given your oven adequate time to preheat. Cold stainless-steel equipment often takes a lot longer to warm up during winter. It would help if you also gave your oven time to recover in-between loads.
Control Dough Ball Proofing
Pre-made dough balls allow you to save time in the kitchen, enabling pizzerias to use consistent pie preparation across different locations. To tap into their full benefits, ensure you’ve dough proofed properly during cold months. Have a designated proofing area that is free from factors that may cause temperature fluctuations.
Adjust Dough Formulation
Humidity influences dough hydration and the hydration level is a huge factor that affects the dough and resulting crust. The higher the humidity, the more water the flour will absorb, and the higher the hydration of the dough will be. Conversely, lower humidity levels, typically found during the winter, will decrease the hydration level. You may have to add more water, if the ambient humidity is low. Depending on the type of pizza dough you’re making, aim for a hydration level between 55-65%. Oil also affects the quality and performance of the crust and makes it easier to work. You may also need to adjust the amount of oil you use to get the perfect crust.
Change How You Store Your Pizza
No one likes cold pizza. With the cold winter temperatures, you’ll need to ensure that your pizza is stored in a warm place. For operations that provide takeout pizza options, keeping pies stored in a heated food locker like the Carter-Hoffmann pizza style Pick-Up Cabinet, or PUC, is a great way to ensure takeout is kept at the ideal temperature.
Need Additional Tips on Cold Weather Baking?
Cold weather has more impact than you might believe. Keeping foods warm after preparation isn’t the only consideration, as lower temperatures can also change how pizza and other baked goods are cooked and processed. Our friends at Doyon are industry leaders in baking equipment, and with their expertise, we’ve put together a list of valuable tips to help operators maximize efficiency and productivity during cooler, winter months.