Kevin Gist often features his wife and children in his Instagram posts along with pics of TnT's pizzas.

TnT Pizza / Instagram

Instagram Pizzeria Takes Donations for Its Artisan Pies

Kevin Gist and Joseph Wehrly, a pair of pizza industry veterans in San Diego, launched TnT Pizza on Instagram last year during the pandemic.

  • Kevin Gist and Joseph Wehrly use their Instagram pizza shop to test out their “weird ideas” for recipes in hopes of opening a brick-and-mortar restaurant in the future.
  • TnT Pizza offers about 50 pies every Friday, marketing them and taking orders strictly through their Instagram account.

Related: This Instagram pop-up peddles bootleg pizza to help nonprofits

How did a photo-driven social media app turn into a launching pad for new pizzeria concepts? Perhaps it just proves the old adage, “We eat with our eyes.” Whatever the explanation, add TnT Pizza in San Diego to the growing list of Instagram-only pizza shops.

Like several others featured in PMQ over the past year, Kevin Gist and Joseph Wehrly, a pair of old pals and pizza industry veterans living in San Diego, launched TnT Pizza last year during the pandemic. Instead of charging for their pies, they simply ask for a donation, with the money they receive going back to paying for ingredients and equipment, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune.

They suggest a donation of $22 per pizza, but if you can’t spare that much, it’s no big deal. “We don’t want to turn away anybody for not having 20 bucks to spend on a pizza,” Gist told the newspaper. “Right now we have that luxury since we are not a business.”

“We’re just [operating] strictly on a donation basis, and it tends to work out,” he added. “People are very generous.”

Gist got laid off from his job for six weeks in May 2020 and decided to spend the downtime working on pizza recipes with his wife, Jessica O’Shea. Wehrly soon jumped in to help, and the friends initially focused on making pies for their friends and family members. As word spread about their tasty food, requests from folks outside their social circle started pouring in.

Now they offer about 50 pizzas every Friday, showing photos of the pies and taking orders through their Instagram account. The site currently has 2,671 followers. They also started selling TnT swag, including T-shirts with the slogan, “If You Don’t Like It, Don’t Tell No One!”

Related: The “Pizza Jew” offers tips for building your Instagram pizzeria brand

Both Gist and Wehrly spent years in for-profit pizzeria management and helped open pizza shops for others. They are testing out their “weird ideas” for recipes—including vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free options—with a weekly rotating menu in hopes of opening their own shop in the future.

TnT’s pizzas are typically rectangular in shape and feature hand-picked veggies, housemade dough and homemade vegan ingredients. Pizzas on the menu have included the Roni Honey (pepperoni, habanero honey and basil); the Devils in Burkes (dates, bacon, pepperoni, hot honey and ricotta) and the Large Marge (beefsteak and cherry tomatoes, fresh mozz, garlic and basil). They also offer the Baked Tater, featuring tater tots, cheddar cheese, bacon and herbed sour cream, plus salads with names like Call It What You Will and Sally the Salad.

“It’s cool to feel the support, to know that if and when we open a shop, we have a very special opportunity for this to already have a pretty big following,” Wehrly told the Union-Tribune. “We definitely don’t take that for granted.”