In the last 2 months I have personally inspected the dough at (almost) every single Toppers store. I’ve looked at (and sometimes touched and used) the dough on the counter, and I have looked at the “use next” dough in the walkin cooler. I’ve also spent good training time in the walkin with many Toppers Pizza leaders (read this: BAKERS) talking about the dough.
It’s a craft to make bread, even just one loaf, and we are making bread crusts by the hundreds! Our aim is to make our dough recipe perfectly, and then to proof every single dough ball so that it is at the optimal rise and temperature at the moment that we are making that pizza (the best food on earth!)
When we do it right, the crust has an incredible rise from edge to edge. It tastes wonderful, the blend of customized bold tastes on top of the subtle yeasty flavors of the crust. It’s easy and fast to use, and good to train with, because it’s the right amount of soft firmness.
Our processes have been honed to make it as easy as possible to make and bake perfect pizzas at high volume. But it takes trained people who care to make it happen.
A couple weeks ago I was in Virginia visiting with Stephen Nimer at the Del Ray store. Standing at the dough counter I asked him “What does your ‘use next’ look like?” He told me. Dead on, without missing a beat he told me exactly what the status of the dough in the walkin was. We went in there to look at it and talk dough (and sales building) for a minute. That guy knows how to manage dough to create great product every single time.
But I’m afraid there aren’t a lot of Toppers leaders in the system that are as trained and dedicated to dough management as Stephen is! We have work to do. Just yesterday I had an interaction that I’ve replayed many times in the last 2 months. FAR too often. I was in the walkin with a GM and an Area Supervisor. I asked the GM to evaluate the dough that was “use next”. He recognized that the medium and large dough were underproofed. He was also able to tell me how much of each size of dough the store would use the rest of the night.
BUT he was not able to accurately tell me how long the dough would need to be outside of the walkin before being at the optimal rise to make a pizza. He said of the medium that it would take 45 minutes, but the Area Supervisor accurately said it would take 2-3 hours.
The difference is significant. The difference is whether to pull out a stack of dough right now (yes!) or to pull out a few trays to warm up later as needed (not in this case!). The difference is whether our cherished customer is going to get tasty, well-risen, fully sized (14” = 14”) pizza … or bubbly, toppings slid to the middle, less tasty, possibly gummy, definitely shrunken pizza!! Nay nay nay!
I take a lot of blame for this one. We haven’t emphasized and trained (and trained and trained) this enough. And the many people that are very smart about dough (like that Area Supervisor) have to take some blame as well. We have to teach our people OBSESSIVELY about our dough and how to manage it.
We make our dough every day in the kitchens of every store. We don’t buy frozen crusts from a factory. Right? We’re proud of that. Right? It makes a better pizza. Right? Well, only if we do it right!! The reason those big chains go to frozen crust is because at least it’s consistent. Bottom line is we win this one all day when we do what we do the right way!
It starts with caring. Our people are proud of our food and they want to make the best. And they are capable of it. We have to teach them and show them.
Join me in a dough revival, fellow BAKERS!
See you out there,