Bertello After Shark Tank: We Caught Up With One Of The Founders

"Shark Tank" fans probably remember Andy and Eric Bert, the boisterous brothers behind Bertello backyard pizza ovens, from their successful 2020 pitch. Although Bertello wasn't the only pizza oven on the market at the time, it set itself apart from the competition with its compact form factor, reasonable price, and ability to use a variety of fuel sources including charcoal, wood, and gas. The company's outdoor pizza oven can reach over 900 degrees Fahrenheit — the blistering temperature necessary to recreate Neapolitan or New York-style pizza at home. The brothers received pushback from many of the Sharks, but they still walked away with a deal from Kevin O'Leary, who helped them demo their product by cooking a pizza on-air.

Tasting Table caught up with Eric Bert for an exclusive interview discussing his experience on the show and how Bertello has been doing since "Shark Tank." Eric has been the driving force behind Bertello since the beginning. A former structural engineer (and huge pizza fan), he was the one who conceived of the idea and designed the pizza oven, with his brother Andy (who worked in finance) chipping in some business assistance. He took us through the wild ride Bertello has been on in the years following the brand's first appearance on the show.

Eric Bert was surprised by the chaotic energy of the Shark Tank set

The edited version of a "Shark Tank" pitch looks like a carefully choreographed affair, with the Sharks taking turns asking questions. In reality, it's a bit more of a shouting match. As Eric Bert recounted, "They're all talking over each other, and you're sort of deciding who you want to answer. Sometimes you've just got to ignore a question because there are three questions coming at you all at once." The chaos of the pitching process caught Bert off-guard. He was also surprised by the attitude of some of the Sharks. As a fan who's watched every episode of the show, he thought he knew what each Shark's personality would be like, but his preconceptions were proven wrong. "The people that are the toughest were the nicest to me, and the people that are usually nice ended up being tough."

If Bert could redo his "Shark Tank" episode, he would pay more attention to Robert Herjavec, who is a pizza enthusiast and has his own full-size pizza oven in his backyard. However, Herjavec got lost in the shuffle as the brothers busied themselves answering questions from Barbara Corcoran and Kevin O'Leary.

The Bert brothers went into the pitch hot

Eric and Andy Bert knew they needed to add some showbiz flair to their pitch to help them stand out from the pack, and they introduced their product to the Sharks with a ton of theatrical energy. Eric talked in a fake Italian accent, at times screaming his words to add emphasis. But perhaps the most memorable part of their pitch was when Andy pied Eric in the face with a pizza.

Eric was the one who came up with the stunt, and he explained that the idea came to him because he wanted to include a visual gag in his presentation. The brothers took extreme measures to make sure the stunt looked as wild as possible. "We took a frozen pizza and covered the top with a bunch of extra pizza sauce so it would cover my whole face." Eric told us he almost fell down when his brother hit him with the pizza.

While the stunt was certainly attention-grabbing, it may have backfired a bit, at least in the eyes of one judge. Barbara Corcoran wasn't pleased with how much Eric's energy level dropped after he got pied. Eric perceived this criticism as a bit unfair, saying, "In the opening, I'm yelling at the top of my lungs ... How can I match that energy when I'm talking about sales channels? It would be disingenuous."

Bertello turned down a deal with Barbara Corcoran in favor of Mr. Wonderful

Eric Bert felt that Corcoran's criticism of his energy was a bargaining tactic to try to get more favorable terms on a deal. She offered Bertello $100,000 for 25% of the company — a harder bargain than the $100,000 for 10% the brothers were asking for.

Kevin O'Leary (AKA Mr. Wonderful) stepped in with a competing offer: $100,000 for 30%. The Bertello founders were able to talk him down to 25% and struck a deal. O'Leary's offer was enticing because of his experience as a chef (he calls himself Chef Wonderful), and because he promised a massive growth in sales. For Bert, the choice was easy: "Barbara, after insulting me, wanted to make an offer, but I wanted to like the person I worked with."

Bert went into "Shark Tank" hoping to get a deal from either O'Leary or Lori Greiner, as they are both passionate about food, so he's happy with how his "Shark Tank" pitch worked out. The partnership has proven fruitful, as O'Leary has used the Bertello oven himself and promoted it on social media and QVC.

Bertello saw a huge post-Shark Tank bump during the pandemic

The business experienced the benefit of "Shark Tank" publicity immediately. Within a day of its episode airing, Bertello sold $75,000 worth of ovens. But things quickly became complicated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Eric Bert recalled that his episode aired in March 2020, around a week before much of the world shut down. "I thought it was gonna be bad timing, but it turned out that sales were booming because restaurants were closed and everybody wanted to cook."

Bertello quickly reoriented its business around digital sales, a move that Andy Bert said "saved the company" in a "Shark Tank" update segment.

Although sales were booming, that didn't mean everything was easy. Per Eric, "There were shipping delays, of course. That was the downside ... that made it difficult." Despite these pandemic-related supply chain issues, increased customer demand led to $6.3 million in sales in the 16 months following the premiere of Bertello's "Shark Tank" episode.

Bertello has continued to thrive

Bertello's post-"Shark Tank" success wasn't just a pandemic-related flash in the pan; the company has kept on growing in the years since the lockdowns were lifted. Eric Bert attributes part of this success to his oven's design, particularly the unique (and patent-protected) system for cooking with a combination of wood and gas. The wood-gas combo allows home cooks to easily pre-heat the oven with gas and add wood for some smoky flavor right before they start baking pizzas. This is much easier than cooking with wood alone, which involves constantly babysitting a temperamental fire.

Beyond the inherent benefits of the Bertello oven's design, the brand's association with "Shark Tank" has been the gift that keeps on giving. As Bert put it, "I use the analogy of 'Would you rather own 100% of a grape or a percentage of a watermelon?' 'Shark Tank' took us from a grape to a watermelon." When the show aired its update on Bertello a little over a year after the brand's initial pitch, it generated three times as many sales as the first episode did. Kevin O'Leary's continued assistance has also been an asset. Bert told us that during a single QVC show in November 2022, O'Leary helped Bertello generate $3 million in sales.

What's next for Bertello?

Bertello expanded beyond selling ovens and oven accessories by introducing frozen pizza dough in February 2023. As Bert explained, "When people make their own pizza dough, it can either go horribly wrong or really well." He had always planned to start selling pizza dough someday, as it would help people make more consistent pizzas more easily at home. Since its introduction, the pizza dough has already become one of the company's best-selling products.

Beyond that, the company is starting to sell ovens in Australia and Europe after years of focusing on the North American market. Bert also said that, while the online market has served the company well in the past, he's making plans to start partnering with retailers to bring the Bertello pizza oven to brick-and-mortar stores.

In another piece of good news for the company, Bertello's ongoing journey with "Shark Tank" probably isn't over yet. Eric Bert told us that another "Shark Tank" update is in the works since Bertello has grown so much since the last update.