After Denver-based Mici Handcrafted Italian sold its first franchise deal in November with plans to open 30 more stores over the next 7-8 years, the fast-casual pizza and pasta chain began to look toward the future of expansion through franchising.
One of the biggest concerns Mici CEO Elliot Schiffer had was maintaining food quality as the company grows. Enter, the automated pizza press: Mici patented the device in 2019 and it began rolling out to stores in 2021, with the goal of making pizzas uniform and easy to create for any of Mici’s employees, without needing to have a specialized pizza chef. It’s just one way that automation and AI are taking off and making a difference in kitchens.
The pizza press can perfectly flatten the dough into a circle, stretch it, and make a raised crust around the edges: no dough-tossing required.
“You have the grizzled veteran pizza-maker in the kitchen and no one would want to get near the station because it was just so difficult to learn,” Mici founder Jeff Miceli said. “It’s a tough, physically demanding process […] It would drive me crazy to have to teach even kitchen veterans with experience how to put the crust on a piece of dough, and it would take two months to get them good at that. That’s where the idea of the pizza press was born.”
Now, even Mici’s delivery drivers think they have a pretty good idea how to successfully make a pizza.
“The pizza press plus the conveyor belt oven and the fact that we've put all those pieces together, not only is the training easier, but our throughput is doubled,” Micelli said.