Technology cannot replace employees, but it can help make them more productive, efficient and safe. This is the case for pizza restaurateurs, for example, who are investing in new “stone conveyor” oven technology that requires fewer trained operators, produces results more quickly.
Bob Vasaturo, owner of Westshore Pizza in Tampa, Florida. He recently incorporated the Hot Rocks pizza oven into his kitchens. By combining the advantages of a high-speed conveyor with a granite baking surface, the oven produces pizza that looks and tastes stone-baked but is efficient enough to drive real labor savings.
The new Hot Rocks oven has increased production by 20%, baking up to 250 more pizzas per hour than his previous oven — without adding new staff. In fact, the new stone conveyor oven requires one fewer employee, saving Bob approximately $19,500 per year and allowing other employees to be redirected to pizza prep (to keep up with expanded volume) or shift to different roles, such as managing online and phone orders.
Additionally, the Hot Rocks oven requires less skilled labor, so new employees can be trained in 15 hours as opposed to the 90 hours needed to train traditional deck oven operators. Deck oven managers are specialty positions that earn an average of $25 per hour; Hot Rocks ovens operators are less specialized and make $15 per hour, thus saving restaurant owners money.
New technologies can also create a better workflow and a less-chaotic kitchen. For example, multiple Hot Rocks ovens can be stacked, with a designated oven entrance and exit, so employees do not have to go back and forth checking ovens, turning pizzas and bumping into one another. And, because the Hot Rocks oven perfectly times the cooking process, employees don’t have to check on pizzas. Vasaturo says this feature reduces the stress level in his kitchens and saves his employees an estimated 65% of the time they would normally spend checking on pizzas.
Improving the work environment
In addition to improved efficiency, technology developments are creating a better work environment for existing employees. Training new employees when previous ones quit is expensive and time-consuming; retaining current employees is much more cost-effective. But restaurant employees — especially from the millennial and Gen Z cohorts — are demanding more comfortable conditions. Technology can help.
In the case of Hot Rocks, the oven reduces kitchen injuries, such as forearm burns and shoulder or elbow injuries, because operators don’t need to open and close oven doors. The oven also reduces the average kitchen temperature by about 25 degrees compared to deck ovens because oven doors don’t need to be opened.
Making kitchens more pleasant leads to lower employee turnover, so employers save on onboarding and training. Vasaturo says the oven has extended his staff life by three years. They also encourage employees to accept overtime requests because they are not as tired at the end of a shift.