By Charlie Pogacar

Asked when he last stretched a dough ball, Chuck Lipp, president of Dewey’s Pizza, didn’t hesitate. 

“Yesterday,” he said. “The first time was probably my third day working at Dewey’s 22-plus-years ago. [My dough stretching] was kind of a mess back then.” 

Lipp’s dough stretching has improved over time, and even as president of the 25-location pizza chain based in Cincinnati, he isn’t afraid to get his hands dusty. This is standard at Dewey’s Pizza, which takes great pride in its dough management program. So much so that every single manager—even if they are set to work in the front-of-house—is trained on how to properly stretch a dough ball. Lipp and his team believe the management process is key to the brand’s calling card, which is its crust. 

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“When I talk to people that eat at Dewey’s, the first thing they always talk about is our crust,” Lipp said. “They all say it’s unbelievable. I’ve tried a lot of crusts, but none of them are quite like ours.” 

Before anybody in a Dewey’s location tosses the dough, the actual dough management process starts in centralized commissaries. The off-site space is where the brand’s fresh-never-frozen dough balls are created and left to ferment for 48 hours. This part of the brand’s process is so essential that when Dewey’s first entered the Kansas City market, for example, it erected a centralized commissary where dough balls would be made. No matter how big Dewey’s grows, one thing it will never compromise on is the quality of its dough, Lipp said.

The off-site kitchens also mean the same group of employees makes every dough ball that Dewey’s uses. In other words, the consistency starts right from the get-go. 

“The whole process is highly curated,” Lipp said. “It’s such a huge part of who we are. It all has to be perfect to get that beautiful crust people expect from our pizzas.” 

At Dewey’s, learning how to stretch a dough ball begins with tablework. This is where team members learn the basics of handling dough. “You can get pretty good-quality dough just on the table,” Lipp said. “That’s also where you start to get a feel for the stretchiness of the dough, so that, once you start attempting to toss it, you understand how it’s going to stretch and how pliable and malleable it is.” 

Once the team member gets comfortable with dough, the next step is dough tossing. For Dewey’s, the art of dough tossing serves two distinct purposes. The first is that it’s a more efficient process: A dough ball can be stretched more quickly by tossing it. The second is that tossing dough adds theatrical flair that’s become a hallmark of the Dewey’s Pizza experience. 

In fact, Dewey’s Pizza’s stores are designed with the dough toss in mind. At every location, there are great big windows in the kitchen that look out into the dining room. For added show-biz appeal, stools and benches are placed up against the windows so that kids can sit and watch dough being tossed and stretched.

“That’s a differentiator for us, as we’re showing off the product,” Lipp said. “It’s fresh, and it’s quality. And it’s also just cool to watch a dough ball spinning in the air and being caught and not becoming a catastrophe.” 

Food & Ingredients