2009 September: Toss Up

Hand Tossing Dough: Who’s got skills? (Videos)When I was 18, I tossed my very first pizza. It was my brother, Frank, who taught me the basics. Then I practiced every day. I noticed that customers were amazed when they came into our pizzeria — and back then I really didn’t do much … just a simple toss and catch. It has been nearly 20 years since then, and I have never forgetten that ‘aha’ moment. I knew there was opportunity there.

So each day I practiced. Having an open kitchen just made my pizzeria that much more exciting. Something as simple as pizza tossing has brought so many different variables for me as an operator. In fact, it has generated millions of dollars worth of revenue and free advertising.

Here are just some of the benefits of hand-tossing your dough:

  • Artisanship. By tossing pizzas, this shows your customers that your dough is made fresh daily and is not frozen.
  • Ambiance. If you do have an open kitchen, this sheds a new light on entertainment and supports customer satisfaction — especially if you have long lines.
  • Team-building events. Have pizza-tossing parties or team-building events. This can bring in a lot of volume and can be done before hours of operation, such as between 10 a.m. and 12 noon.
  • Employee morale. Sanction your own employee competition. Find out who is the fastest pizza maker, who can make it the biggest, who is the best pizza acrobat. Give away prizes. Make it a fun competition to bring up the morale.
  • Cooking badges. Cub Scouts, Girl Scouts and children’s organizations have events for kids where they can earn special badges for cooking. Approach your local organization and group rate. This can be a continuous
    revenue stream.
  • Compete at International Pizza Expo in Las Vegas. I can’t tell you how many operators have come up to me at Pizza Expo to say that having someone from their restaurant compete and represent their city has generated so much excitement and free advertising. Just remember: you don’t have to win to gain press. All you have to do is create a story for local media to bite on.
  • Free marketing. All of the above could lead to some sort of free marketing for you, but you are going to have to form your own press releases and market it yourself.

So, how do you get started? First, consider your hand placement. Using your hands or a rolling pin, stretch your dough into a 10-inch circle. Place the dough in the palm of your right hand (if you are right handed) or your left hand if you are left handed. Make a fist with your opposite hand and support the rest of your dough with it (so it stays level to the floor and doesn’t fl op).

2009 September: Toss Up Tony GemignaniNow you’re ready to toss. Rotate your hand toward your stomach while rotating your wrist inward. Then quickly push your dough up and fl ing your hand out. The dough will fl y into the air. Get ready to catch it! Close both hands into fi sts, with your knuckles facing each other, and catch the dough with your knuckles. Continue to toss using the same motions. The bigger your pizza gets, the farther apart your knuckles should be for both the toss and the catch.

Always catch wide and start your toss at stomach level, releasing it as you are going up past your head. Catch your dough at chest level — never above your head. Most importantly, have fun! 09.09.09