Clover: Out The Dough is a family-owned business, run by you, your mother, and your sister-in-law. How did the three of you enter business together, and how did you settle on cookie dough?
Angelo Lonardo: Both my mom and sister-in-law were working in insurance, but were looking for something with more creative freedom that allowed them to be their own boss. While they were considering a career change, I was earning my culinary degree on the East Coast in Baking & Pastry Arts with an emphasis in Food Service Management and a minor in Contemporary Pastry Arts.
After finishing school, my mom and sister-in-law told me that they were planning to open a small business, and they wanted me to move home and be part of it. So in May 2017, I came back to the Bay Area, and we, as a team, began the production of what would soon be called: Out The Dough.
We saw that cookie dough was becoming more of a niche market, and we were excited to see what we could bring to the table.
As a kid, I was always sneaking tastes of cookie dough when my mom was making cookies. In college, I would often make batches of cookie dough and put them in the freezer, unbaked, and eat it as a snack. It’s always been a go-to treat of mine. And so it just felt right for us. In November 2017, we opened up our first brick and mortar location, and the rest is history!
Clover: Amazing. Tell us more about your recipes. Particularly, how do you make cookie dough safe for raw consumption?
Lonardo: Great question. We knew that if we were going to run a cookie dough shop, we first needed to make our products safe to consume raw. We worked really hard to develop recipes to be both safe to eat as is and still bakeable. For our recipes containing dairy and gluten, we use heat-treated flour and pasteurized eggs. In both processes, the products are heat-treated to a safe enough heat that it kills off the bacteria but won’t ruin the integrity of the product.
To keep the cookie dough still bakeable, we preserve those main ingredients you find in most cookie dough recipes. We start with a base of butter and sugar — brown sugar, regular sugar, or a combination of the two — plus the addition of pasteurized egg or an egg replacer, and then flour, baking soda or baking powder, salt, and vanilla. You know, the typical ingredients.
We also pride ourselves on having a wide range of vegan and gluten-free options. After four years in business, I’ve developed an unfortunate allergy to both dairy and gluten. My allergies, as well as the popularity of veganism in the Bay Area, has inspired us to explore fun, new alternatives in our recipes that maintain that nostalgic flavor of cookie dough that you know and love.
Clover: How do you develop your flavors? It seems like you have a big rotation, and that you have these seasonal flavors, and like you said, you’re considering these various dietary needs and restrictions. What goes into the process of developing your flavors?
Lonardo: We rely a lot on feedback from our customers. We have a VIP list of our weekly customers and biggest supporters, so we really try to listen to their feedback. We also develop fun flavors that we ourselves have always wanted to try.
We launch two to three new seasonal flavors every month, so in the past four years, we’ve released over 60 seasonal flavors. Once we have an idea for a new flavor, we will do a couple of test batches in order to see what’s going to work. And then we’ll give out free samples at the store, and make the final tweaks to the recipe from there.
From our experience, we have a pretty good sense of what is and what isn’t going to work. We’ve developed set bases for all of the different types of cookie dough—whether that’s vegan, gluten-free, a sugar base, a brown sugar base. No matter what the flavor profile is, we’ll use those baseline formulas and then build from there.
Clover: Looks like you have cookie dough treats for dogs as well?
Lonardo: Yes! A few years back, we lost our family dog of thirteen years. When he passed we wanted to do a tribute to him at the store, so we developed a dog-friendly cookie dough. My dog’s name was Chewy, so we created what we call our “CHEW-licious DogDough™.” The little dog bone-shaped treats come in pouches of ten. What started off as an experiment to memorialize him has skyrocketed through the roof.
I love it when I see dogs realize that they are at Out The Dough, and come up to the door scratching because they’re so excited. Some customers buy five or six pouches at once and store them in their freezer, just to have them on hand at all times. Some customers don’t even get treats for themselves, just for their dogs. Chewy would have been happy to know they’ve become super, super popular.
Clover: Your website mentions that you ship nationwide. Walk us through your motivation to do so and the logistics of shipping cookie dough. How do you keep everything fresh during this process?
Lonardo: We launched nationwide shipping in November 2018. Our extended family on the East Coast and my friends from culinary school were eager to try our cookie dough after our business did so well in its first year. We also thought it would be a great chance to develop a customer base beyond the Bay Area.
When shipping long distances, we freeze the dough ahead of time, prepack the containers, and then ship in an insulated box with dry ice packs. This ensures that they will arrive chilled—sometimes still frozen—depending on where you are.
We were so lucky to have this system in place before the pandemic. When the pandemic first hit, our foot traffic in our store dwindled down to about three to five customers per day. We really had to encourage our customers to order online in order to help us stay open. This pushed us to do a lot more shipping.
In May 2020, Out The Dough was featured on Good Morning America’s “Deals and Steals” segment, which really helped get our name out there on the national level. After that appearance, we sold over 5,200 packages of cookie dough in under 48 hours to customers across all 50 states! It was crazy. I think our e-commerce site sales went up about four hundred percent over the span of the whole year. That has been a really big help for us.
Clover: Congratulations! How has Clover assisted you during this period of growth?
Lonardo: Once online ordering became available through our Clover POS, we immediately set it up. We love the flexibility and convenience it provides our customers. Many have told us they like having the option to schedule pickups on their commutes to or from work. The convenience factor alone has been such a beneficial aid in itself!
Clover: What other features of Clover have you found helpful for your business?
Lonardo: We use Clover Reporting on a daily basis to process our accounting. We have found it super helpful to access reports that track business on a daily, weekly, and even yearly level.
We also love that we can make edits on the Inventory app in real time—remove a flavor when we sell out of it, adjust prices as needed, and even look up past orders when necessary.
We’ve explored multiple apps for employee clock-in, and to this day, we continue to use the Cash Track app to keep our register till in balance at all times. We’re always on the app store seeing what tools we can further download to help our company efficiency and growth.
Clover: Do you conduct any sales outside of your brick and mortar?
Lonardo: Yes! As things have been opening up, we are booking more events. Recently, we’ve done pop-ups alongside some of our wholesale and retail partners, catering for tech and corporate conferences, and festivals like Outside Lands.
While engaging with customers at events, festivals, and pop-ups, we’ve found our Clover Flex to be one of the most beneficial tools. We are able to converse with our customers, sample our delicious cookie doughs, and simultaneously ring up their purchases. It gives us peace of mind using a portable POS rather than carrying cash, handling change, and everything that comes along with that.
We also appreciate tracking in real time how well an event or pop-up is going—using the device just like we do in the store! Plus, since the Flex has its own data connection, we don’t worry about transactions not being processed due to poor internet or hotspot connections. It’s been an incredible asset to our on-the-go events.
Clover: We’re so happy to be a partner in all of this!
Lonardo: We’ve used Clover ever since Out The Dough’s inception, and I’m always spreading the word to my friends and other small business owners. I’m part of this online restaurant owner support group, and just this morning, somebody was asking for advice on the best POS system. And I’m not kidding, I literally wrote a three paragraph answer about why I think Clover is amazing. I went through and gave all the details of how helpful it’s been and how easy it is to use once you get the hang of it.
Obviously, every new system is going to bring its challenges, but Clover makes it super easy to grow and thrive.