Business and Operations
Deliveries that go the distance
Tomasso’s pies are racking up frequent flier miles to feed the armed forces.
By Brandi Cowen
Shipping pies around the world is just business as usual for the staff at Tomasso’s.
Shipping pies around the world is just business as usual for the staff at Tomasso’s. It’s also evidence of just how much the restaurant has grown to feed the Canadian Forces in the 40 years since Jim Kotsovos began serving slices under the name Jim’s Pizzeria.
|The Kotsovos family from left to right: Mark, Mike, Tom, Cindy and Andrew.|
Tomasso’s Casual Dining & Jim’s Pizzeria, an independent Trenton, Ont.-based restaurant, has had a close relationship with the local Canadian Forces Base since its inception in 1970. Tomasso’s routinely delivers to the base and hosts large contingents of personnel in its spacious dining room. But the relationship doesn’t end when personnel from CFB Trenton are deployed outside Tomasso’s delivery zone. The family-owned restaurant’s pizza has been delivered to Canadian Forces personnel serving in such far-flung places as Haiti, Kosovo, Bosnia, and even Alert, Nunavut, in the Arctic.
“Sending the pizzas actually began as a military initiative,” says Michael Kotsovos, a minority owner of Tomasso’s and Jim Kotsovos’s son. “They approached us and they offered to pay, but we in turn just donated [the pizzas] since we think highly of the Canadian Forces and the work they do.”
When personnel get a hankering for pizza, a Canadian Forces supply officer contacts Tomasso’s, places the order and arranges a pick-up date. From there, Tomasso’s staff prepare the pizzas as normal; just as they would to fill any other large order for their popular pies.
“All we really need is a couple days’ notice,” says Kotsovos. “Then we can co-ordinate with our suppliers and we can bring in extra cheese, extra flour for the dough, extra tomatoes for the sauce. It’s not difficult and we can bump our inventory a little bit.”
On delivery day, Tomasso’s staff come in early to prepare the pizzas, cooking and freezing everything before the military arrives to pick up the order. The pizzas are then packed in ice and loaded on to a supply plane that will deliver other food, clothing and equipment to Canadian Forces personnel.
Tomasso’s staff usually co-ordinate with the military to have the entire order handed off before their lunch rush begins at 11:30 a.m.
It may sound easy, but when they first started taking orders for personnel stationed far away, Kotsovos says time and space were real issues. “We’d just have to set dough on the oven and let the heat cook it from underneath to rise the dough properly. There wasn’t a lot of room, so we could place, say, a dozen pizzas at a time on that. Then we’d have to wait for it to rise before we could place another dozen on there.”
But because the base is such an important customer – not to mention an important part of the community – Tomasso’s invested in new equipment to make processing such large orders a little bit easier.
“We actually had our supplier – Mona’s and Company in Montreal – build a proofer that can hold almost 200 pizzas, and we have an eight track conveyor oven so we can cook them up at the same time.”
For Tomasso’s staff, the benefits of working so closely with the military are two-fold. It’s a way for staff to show their gratitude for all the Canadian Forces, and especially the personnel stationed at Trenton, do for the country and the local community. It’s also a great way to build buzz about their business among personnel serving around the world.
The story of Tomasso’s is great proof of how a good home-cooked meal goes a long way.