Milwaukee-based pizza maker Palermo Villa Inc. is suing the designer and maker of a spiral freezer system that allegedly failed to properly get pizza crusts to a low enough temperature to be properly handled in the company’s production process.
Palermo says the system it purchased from New York-based I.J. White Systems cooled crusts to 14 to 17 degrees, not the 0 to 10 degree range that had been specified.
As a result, the crusts would stick together, ruining the product and preventing it from being sold. Rising crusts that were sold “had performance issues in the market place with customer complaints of gumminess or failure to properly rise,” according to the lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for Eastern Wisconsin.
Palermo is seeking at least $1.2 million in damages in the case, which roughly represents the cost of the system, although the company says it is also entitled to lost past and future profits and out of pocket expenses.
A Palermo spokesperson said the lawsuit speaks for itself and the company plans to make its case in court. I.J. White did not respond to a request for comment.
The origins of the case date back to 2018 when Palermo sought a spiral freezer to go with its new bakery. The idea is that freshly baked crusts could be placed on a conveyor, go through the freezer for a set time and emerge frozen for addition processing and packaging. Installing the system would eliminate the need to load and unload crusts from a rack freezer.
“Proper operation of the Spiral Freezer also would reduce Palermo’s need to purchase crusts from outside suppliers, thereby greatly enhancing Palermo’s profitability,” the complaint adds.
The initial specifications called for roughly 19-ounce crusts to enter the system at 90 to 110 degrees at a rate of 150 crusts per minute and exit at 0 to 10 degrees after 25 minutes. The initial system would cost around $1.1 million, according to the complaint. The proposal was later updated with additional equipment that dropped the time to 21 minutes and increased the cost to around $1.2 million, according to the complaint.
The system was installed in April, May and June of 2020, but allegedly never met the specifications. Instead, crusts came out at the 14 to 17 degree range and took 31 minutes to do so at around 138 crusts per minute, according to the complaint.
Palermo says the reduced efficiency of the system led to “expending considerable additional sums in wages needed to pay employees for additional hours needed to meet the demand for Palermo’s products.”
Efforts to improve the system, including adding baffles, changing defrost cycles, and collecting data from newly installed sensors, allegedly only led to an increase in the average temperature of crusts.
“The overall performance of the Spiral Freezer did not noticeably improve and in fact fell far short of the required performance specifications,” the complaint says.
Palermo’s lawsuit specifically alleges breach of agreement and warranties. The company is seeking damages, pre- and post-judgment interest and attorney fees.