Papa John’s is debuting a new menu item that the pizza chain is calling its biggest launch in over a decade.
On Monday, Papa John’s launched pan pizza — a style of pizza that is already available at Domino’s and Little Caesars.
“We used to get questions all the time, from consumers to operators to franchisees… ‘Why don’t you have pan?'” Papa John’s chief ingredient officer Sean Muldoon told Business Insider. “With our launch we think we’re going to bring in new consumers who are heavy pan lovers.”
Muldoon says that it took Papa John’s a year and a half to develop a pan pizza that fit the “cheesy, buttery, crispy” taste profile it wanted to achieve.
In order to see exactly what it takes to make Papa John’s new menu item, Business Insider stepped into the kitchen at a Papa John’s location in Manhattan to get a step-by-step look at how the pan pizza is made.
The pizza prep starts with the dough, which contains just seven ingredients and needs to be rolled out with a spiky docker to prevent bubbles.
What comes next is what differentiates the pan pizza from Papa John’s hand tossed crust: the pan, which allows for a semi-caramelised crust to form along the edges of the pie.
Papa John’s pan pizza required the company to make some slight variations to its classic dough and sauce recipes.
Toppings are applied before cheese is sprinkled on top.
Cheese is spread to the crust, allowing for what Papa John’s calls a “cheese ring” that further differentiates the pan pizza from the traditional, hand-tossed crust.
Then it’s off to the oven. One of Papa John’s biggest roadblocks when developing the pan pizza was that it bakes at a different speed than thin crust and tossed crust pizza, requiring locations to add special equipment or install two separate ovens.
A few minutes later, the pizza pops out on the other side.
The pan requires some swift, skillful manoeuvring. Papa John’s executives say the chain held national training efforts for employees prior to the launch of pan pizza.
The result is a pizza with a thick, doughy center, and an outer edge that is less crust and more of a caramelised crisp.
It’s a style that could help lure in pan pizza loyalists. According to Muldoon, pan pizza now accounts for a double-digit percentage of sales in test markets — a similar figure to thin-crust pizza.
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