Pizzeria Napoli: where traditional and digital join forces
A local institution since 1978, Pizzeria Napoli still gathers queues outside its original location in Tampere, Finland. People patiently wait for the famous 100 pizza menu, enjoyed at a table covered with a red and white checkered tablecloth. The scene screams traditional. Behind the scenes, however, it is everything but. Thanks to an innovative owner-CEO and digital kitchen management with Chefstein® this is very much a modern, tech-savvy restaurant.
Photos: Laura Tammisto, Studio Torkkeli
Kalle Räsänen, owner and CEO of Pizzeria Napoli, has been at the helm of the most well-known pizza restaurant in Tampere, Finland, since 1992. Together with his wife, Birgitta Räsänen, Kalle bought the business in the middle of the 90s economic downturn.
“There are many similarities between the 1990s recession and the current times. The beginning was challenging and, at times, very hard. On a positive note, we were able to hire talented chefs and start thinking about how to innovate pizza”, describes Kalle.
Pizzeria Napoli dates back to over 40 years ago. An iconic Finnish restaurateur, Rabbe Grönblom, started a successful pizzeria chain business in the city of Vaasa, in Finland. He expanded it across the country throughout the 80s. All the 14 restaurants were later sold to Kalle’s then employer, Elanto, and eventually he ended up buying one of them.
Pizzeria Napoli turned into a project fueled by the founding couples’ passion for a Southern European dining culture. Although times were hard, the restaurant’s strong Tampere roots kept it going. Still today Pizzeria Napoli is a family-run business. All 20+ of its employees are treated like family and hiring external contractors doesn’t fit the bill. Kalle and Birgitta’s son, Johannes, is also involved in the business nowadays.
No reservations, queues, hectic pace but all under control
Practically all Tampere locals know that a queue outside Pizzeria Napoli is a completely normal sight. Reservations are not part of the democratic protocol. Except for the current ‘new normal’ as all restaurants in Finland are closed for dining in and take-away is the only option. At the moment, tables at the restaurant are full of pizza delivery boxes instead of people.
Regardless of lockdown challenges, Pizzeria Napoli is the perfect example of a legendary food service business where the pace is hectic and compromises to the customer experience are not allowed. Ever.
One can’t help but wonder; how do you run a super busy fast-casual pizza restaurant with a beyond-ambitions menu of over 100 pizzas, while impressing your customers and keeping your kitchen and front of house staff committed and motivated, year after year?
Technology as fundamental part of restaurant business
Speaking with Kalle or reading online stories of Pizzeria Napoli and the impressive recognition it has received, the recipe for success seems clear, however multi-layered. It is to do with passion for food, restaurants and people, a true entrepreneur mindset and Kalle’s drive to optimize the business with a digital kitchen management system.
“We are moving forward, balanced on two very different wheels. One is tradition, the red and white checkered tablecloths and so on, and the other is modern technology. I have never felt that internet technology could not be a part of the restaurant business”, explains Kalle.
“In essence, it’s about convenience. I don’t want to have to go through papers, folders and book-keeping to remember what happened a year ago. An entrepreneur’s memory is short. Being able to quickly access all the info and knowing that it is accurate and reliable creates efficiency. This knowledge, and the data itself, is reassuring and calming”, Kalle summarizes humorously when asked about the benefits of Chefstein®.
Everyone in the kitchen team uses Chefstein®
The responsibility or running the routine kitchen workflow at Pizzeria Napoli is shared between the entire team. So is the use of Fredman’s Chefstein®.
As a digital kitchen management solution, Chefstein® is The Place where all the daily tasks are listed. The list is ticked off, item by item, by the team. Chefstein®’s predecessor (also by Fredman) was initially appointed to help with the legally required self-monitoring processes. To this day this covers a wide range of hygiene and food safety related functions and features, such as automated temperature checks of both appliances and food items.
All Pizzeria Napoli team members use Chefstein® daily to complete over 70 daily tasks, using two mobile devices. While Kalle and Johannes are the main users, shift managers can add new tasks to the daily routines lists and everyone can tick off a task once it’s completed.
“Everyone in the team uses Chefstein®. This is the only way that we are all committed and truly share responsibilities. If we are not all involved, the danger is that Chefstein® and what it represents remain distant and eventually it would become just another managerial checking tool. By having everyone use Chefstein® it becomes a significant part of our operations”, Kalle explains.
Chefstein® is like a trusted workmate
An attractive and intuitive user interface helps to get staff on board, as does the idea of an app-based holistic kitchen management system itself. It makes certain routine tasks, such as self-monitoring related temperature and hygiene checks, more meaningful as they are visually attached to the big picture of running a restaurant. In Kalle’s words: “a task is no longer just a separate task but part of a larger business operation, safety or even reputation management.”
On a piece of paper it would be much easier to tick off a task, but when done digitally it takes on a new meaning, and is easier to keep track of.
Chefstein®’s wireless probes monitor all cooling equipment 24/7, temperature checks of deliveries and steak meats are controlled with a Chefstein® Bluetooth probe and surface hygiene levels are continuously monitored through an ATP luminometer and its swabs.
Chefstein® has been tasked with various automated alerts generated by devices and even stock inventory. This ensures that the team can focus on creating the signature pizza experiences to customers. It almost sounds like the digital kitchen management system has been adopted as a trusted workmate!
In fact, Kalle’s keen eye for anomalies spotted fluctuations in the operating temperatures of one of the Pizzeria Napoli cold rooms over a few weeks. In true risk prevention style he took matters in his hands before the situation escalated to a breakdown. The cooling equipment was updated and compromising food safety was avoided.
Truly holistic digital kitchen management system
Pizzeria Napoli is a prime example of leveraging the potential of food tech and a digital innovation within a traditional food service business. Kalle’s drive, enthusiasm and adventurous willingness to try new things is evident, also in the way he has experimented with Chefstein®.
As Pizzeria Napoli started using the predecessor of Chefstein®, Kalle had visions of using it holistically to run and optimize his restaurant business. Obvious implementations include self-monitoring, workflow planning and inventory management but Kalle has come up with various other implementations tailored to Pizzeria Napoli’s needs. He says that Chefstein®’s adaptability has helped him design a number of shortcuts, generating savings and efficiencies.
“The data generated by Chefstein® has been helpful in planning the right workflow with optimal timings for certain tasks. Looking at the data I can quickly see where extra support may be needed, specific to certain days of the week and times of day. Similarly, it’s easy to see if resources are not efficiently used”, Kalle says.
Even health inspectors have been given their own login details for monitoring appliance temperatures and other data included in the legally required self-monitoring process in Finland. According to Kalle feedback has been positive and inspection visits are more efficient.
Using real-time data to optimize kitchen management
When asked what Kalle looks for as he analyzes the data gathered by Chefstein® he talks about using data as an asset. He looks for anomalies or repeating trends that highlight operations or predictions that didn’t go to plan.
“Digital data cannot be a passive replacement of paper where it ends up in a folder after a task or piece of information has been ticked off. With Chefstein® data is turned into an interactive planning tool”, Kalle highlights.
Kalle feels that the tools used by any kitchen team need to be ‘spot on’. On a practical level, involving the entire Pizzeria Napoli team in adopting Chefstein® in daily life has been simple. The user interface is clear and user-friendly. For emerging, younger generations of chefs and restaurant professionals using digital solutions at work is second nature.
Food waste management is the next step
Food waste management through Chefstein® is the logical next step for Kalle to implement. Quite timely too, as it seems that there will be some extra time available from normal daily routines this spring due to national restaurant closures in an effort to stop the spread of Covid-19.
Sustainability is a key value at Pizzeria Napoli, including complete transparency in its sourcing. The company lists its suppliers on its website. Systematic food waste management is the next step in its sustainability strategy. We have no doubt that Kalle will turn the Chefstein® food waste management and Smart Scale functionality to a tailored, highly intelligent, automated part of business operations that not only meets sustainability goals by reducing food waste but which also optimizes profitability.
Seeing the enthusiasm of a passionate, experienced restaurateur for tackling just about any business challenge by designing a tailored process with Chefstein® is truly inspiring. This is exactly what our original vision for developing a digital kitchen management solution was all about: the industry needed an end-to-end solution that can be integrated, scaled and experimented with to generate value across all areas of a food service business.