Crafting dessert pizzas to keep customers coming back

Key points

  • If you’re not offering dessert pizzas, you’re missing out on a strong profit opportunity
  • Dessert is often what customers will remember most about their meal
  • The principle behind creating dessert pizzas is no different from that of regular pizzas
  • Presentation is as important as taste and dessert pizzas can add a touch of theatre to your service

At the beginning of the 2000s dessert pizzas were riding a wave of popularity, but in the intervening years that trend has peaked and faded. However former World Pizza Champion Theo Kalogeracos, who currently has eight dessert pizzas on the menu at his Theo & Co pizza restaurant in the Perth suburb of East Victoria, argues that by not offering dessert pizzas you’re missing out on a strong profit opportunity.

THEO MAKES THE POINT that as the final component of a meal, dessert is often what the customers will remember most about their dining experience. “I’m always seeing the customers who order dessert pizzas at the end of their meal walking past the till and saying ‘that was delicious, thank you so much’ — the response to the dessert is often even better than to the main. That may be because when people come to dine at a pizza restaurant, they expect a quality pizza as their main. But they may not expect a fantastic dessert pizza to finish off their meal so when they order it and it arrives and is a memorable experience combined with eyecatching presentation, that is a real bonus!”

When it comes to creating dessert pizzas, Theo says the principle is no different from that of a savoury pizza. “Pizzas are simply meals that are built to share, so you construct them well by ensuring the ingredients complement each other and are evenly spread across each slice,” he says.

“I look at other dishes and say, how can I adapt that to pizza? We do an Apple Strudel pizza, where we spread custard on a pizza base, add some sultanas then thinly cut green apples, spread brown sugar over so the apples slowly caramelise with the sugar while in the oven, then dust it with icing sugar, cinnamon and drizzle fresh cream on it just prior to serving.”

As another example Theo puts forward his Sticky Fingers dessert pizza. “I was at a café eating a sticky date pudding and I thought, ‘mmm, that has nice rich, deep flavours, how can I turn it into a pizza?’ So I made a sticky date pudding myself and then analysed the elements of it. With our Sticky Fingers pizza we make our own caramel sauce, add dates and cinnamon, spread it on a pizza base, cook it and add white chocolate sauce over it.”

Theo emphasises that in these days of ‘Instagrammable meals’ the presentation of food is as important as the taste, and dessert pizzas provide the opportunity for a bit of in-restaurant ‘theatre’: “In America a white chocolate brownie is called a blondie, so we offer a Blondie pizza. This has a vanilla lamington base which we top with walnuts and our own honeycomb which we crumble over the top, then when we serve it we take a blowtorch out to the table and heat the top so it caramelises over and gives the customer not only a touch of theatre but also that enticing aroma that the caramelisation process imparts.”

After 25 years in the pizza game, Theo is still focused on making his pizzas ‘the best ever’ and says dessert pizzas offer the opportunity to go up yet another level. “When you serve a dessert pizza with ice cream or chocolate soil drizzled over, and the customers see that going out to a table, it immediately creates attention — fingers are pointing and people are talking, because you’re offering something a little more than the diner expects.”