The Rise In Produce-Topped Pizza On The Menu


Foodservice chefs, produce professionals and industry experts tell how fruit and vegetable suppliers can help restaurant operators toss more fresh produce atop their pizzas.

1) Food Safety: “Ensure product safety at all cost,” says Fred Morgan, co-owner of Fired Pie, a 20-unit pizzeria based in Phoenix.

2) Availability: A strong relationship with supply partners is key, says Brian Sullivan, executive chef and senior vice president of culinary innovation for California Pizza Kitchen (CPK), a Playa Vista, CA-headquartered chain with more than 250 restaurants. “Keep us advised in real-time of issues or concerns in the industry, especially when it comes to supply.”

3) Varieties: “The industry needs to continue to show there are more options for pizza topping beyond the go-to, white button mushrooms,” says Steve Solomon, foodservice director for The Mushroom Council, in Redwood City, CA.

4) Specifications: “Operators can work directly with California avocado handlers/suppliers to deliver specific stages of ripeness based on their unique flow of produce through an operation,” suggests Jan DeLyser, vice president of marketing for the Irvine, CA-headquartered California Avocado Commission.

5) Packaging: “Smaller pack sizes and case breaks are something we often request for freshness on more unusual or seasonal produce items. This fits well within our logistics, as we get deliveries six days a week to each of our 200-plus restaurants in some 30 states,” says CPK’s Sullivan.

6) Fresh-Cut: Fresh is what’s most sourced in term of produce, says Kristie Waters, vice president of sales for PRO*ACT, in Monterey, CA. “But, with high demand to reduce labor costs and compensate for lack of skilled talent, many chefs and operators are looking to move to processed when it makes sense.”

Maeve Webster, president of Menu Matters, an Arlington, VT-based independent foodservice consultancy agrees. “I think value-added options such as sliced, diced, chopped, etc., all help operators with limited back-of-house staff innovate more with fresh produce.”

Fired Pie currently uses a processed pineapple product on its Hawaiian BBQ pizza, which is topped with BBQ sauce, Mozzarella cheese, Canadian bacon, cilantro and pineapple, says Morgan. “We’d like to use fresh and are looking for a company that can provide us with whole, yet peeled, pineapple. This form would be less dangerous, less chance of cuts and injuries,” says Morgan.

7) Shelf-Life: Using fresh produce means constantly walking a fine line between freshness and food waste.

“I’d like to see suppliers come up with ways to protect the product or prevent over-ripening via packaging technology that manages gasses rather than adds artificial chemicals,” says Dwayne Adams, vice president of culinary innovation for Sbarro, a 630-unit pizza chain based in Columbus, OH.