As part of its mission to celebrate organizations that push the foodservice equipment and supplies industry forward, the FEDA First Thing newsletter is publishing a series of Q&As with member companies. This week features Marra Forni, a growing manufacturer of handcrafted brick ovens for commercial and residential use. Located in Beltsville, Md., Marra Forni offers hand-crafted ovens built with modern manufacturing technology to produce some of the highest quality brick ovens on the market.
How many locations do you have?
Todd Griffith, vice president sales and marketing: We currently operate and manufacture Marra Forni Brick Oven Solutions in two separate facilities locations in Maryland. Our Corporate office, based in Beltsville, Md. (centrally located between Baltimore and Washington D.C). This facility supports metal fabrication, final manufacturing, crating and shipping, in addition to our Culinary Development Center and Pizza University. Our second manufacturing facility is located in Elkridge, Md., where we build our hand-crafted oven domes. Marra Forni is proud to be manufactured in the USA.
What are your primary categories and services today?
Marra Forni manufactures Brick Oven Cooking Solutions. Our core product category includes artisan handcrafted wood fired, gas, and electric brick ovens. Our products are completely customizable and unique to each customer we serve. We also offer turnkey installation and production systems including refrigerated pizza prep tables, mixers, slicers ventilation duct work and fan systems, and brick oven tools and accessories.
Who is your customer base?
Our core business is the “pizza segment,” and we partner with independent, multi-unit and national chains with our products and systems. Our products are marketed and sold worldwide and we have the distinct pleasure of partnering and collaborating with the finest Pizzaiolos in the world. While our goal will be to continue to maintain and grow our core business, we will focus upon expansion into new customer segments by re-imagining our products as “Brick Oven Cooking Solutions,” which can be used universally in the industry regardless of menu application or concept.
What is your latest and most interesting company innovation?
In 2018, Marra Forni was recognized with two NRA Kitchen Innovation Awards for designing a pass-through brick oven with a rotating deck, the first of its kind in the world. Additionally, we were recognized for our electric brick oven series which includes both static and rotating decks. Our most recent innovation is the introduction of our new electric vent-less brick oven technology which offers operators even more flexibility with oven placement to maximize product throughput and service efficiency. We are focused upon continually improving our existing products and integrating unique and innovative design, user features, and technologies into our future products. One example of this technology integration is our newly enhanced smart control digital interface designed to simplify and automate the oven functions and even allow remote activation. We have also recently introduced a new modulating power burner which gives Marra Forni the highest BTU efficiency in our product category.
How is your company making the best use of new technology?
Marra Forni is unique in that we truly are the intersection of artisan and technology. All our ovens are handmade in the same way that the Italian masons built the architecture of Italy centuries ago. We combine that hand-crafted art with modern manufacturing technology to produce the highest quality brick ovens on the market. We continue to invest in manufacturing technology as the demands of our business continue to grow, and our manufacturing philosophy is simple: to design and build for our customers the best brick ovens in the world!
What excites you about the future of our industry?
COVID has decimated our industry on a global scale, and as an essential business, we have been fortunate enough to continue operation through most of the crisis. Our saving grace is that the pizza industry has shown some level of resilience to the crisis due to the takeout and home delivery nature of the product. As such, most of our customers have been able to continue to operate throughout the past several weeks. While our business has expectedly slowed, we have been very fortunate in seeing a growing demand for our products as the global marketplace begins to slowly open again. We have continued to build and ship products and we are continuing to see that growth trend continue. While we don’t know what the “new normal” will look like, or how long it will take for the industry to return 100 percent, we continue to be optimistic about the future and to our ability to continue to service the needs of our customers with new and exciting products.
How has the way you serve customers changed during the COVID-19 crisis?
The way that we are servicing our customers really hasn’t changed except for following proper protocol regarding social distancing, proper and frequent hygiene and wearing masks while onsite. We have implemented a COVID policy in our facilities designed to protect our employees and our customers. We are slowly beginning to open our culinary center back up for customer training and demonstrations but we are being very cautious and intentional regarding safety and well-being first. We have become fluent, as have many since the crisis began, with supplementing our customer engagement with virtual contact. Because we are a social species, we have worked hard to remain in contact with our customers to make ourselves available to help where we can. I think I speak for all our industry colleagues when I say that we all look forward to the day when we can truly engage and socialize with our customers and colleagues again!
Are you doing any special things to support your community during the COVID-19 outbreak?
With the very serious impact upon independent restaurateurs we have actively and socially supported the restaurateurs as they continue to work to support their staff and their customers. The foodservice industry is a critical and essential industry and it has been encouraging and inspiring for us to see the entire industry come together to support each other.