Pizza and therapy delivering life skills

Gateways participants with Steph Gunn and pizza

The enticing waft of homemade pizza during an occupational therapy session has led to a fledging business for Geelong brothers Charles and Dan.

Each month, staff at Gateways Albert St have the chance to order from the exclusive, office-delivered lunch service as the brothers hone their processes and develop their customer service and business skills.

Anthony Cunningham, an OT with Gateways Support Services’ Youth Plus team, says Bob’s Pizzas came about by chance as the brothers’ care team sought to find out about their meal preparation skills.

But coming from a home where severe cluttering made therapy service delivery next to impossible, the team decided to bring Charles, 20, and Dan, 19, into the office to use the oven funded by Geelong Community Foundation. On hearing this plan, the young men came up with the idea of making pizzas.

Charles and Dan enjoyed that first cooking session last November, demonstrating their solid knowledge of food preparation and handling.

‘As we were sitting down eating our pizzas after that first session, staff were popping into the room saying how good it smelt and someone suggested we should take orders,’ Anthony says. ‘We all had a bit of a laugh and then I thought, “well that’s not a silly question”.’

Anthony did some initial legwork; making up the ‘order form’, taking orders and buying the ingredients for the Hawaiian and ‘Bob’s Supreme’ pizzas. On the day, Charles and Dan arrived half an hour early and filled all 10 orders by lunchtime.

‘It was brilliant. They absolutely loved it; especially delivering the pizzas to staff at their desks,’ Anthony says. ‘It was an awesome opportunity for us as clinicians to do some skill development. Social engagement with others, thinking about other people and how they were giving someone else enjoyment.’

While that initial taste of business just covered costs, Charles and Dan were keen to come back for more.

Anthony says that as the brothers’ confidence and skills build, the therapists have been able to stay in the background and let them lead.

‘We tell them what jobs need to be done and between the two of them they work out who is doing what,’ Anthony says. ‘They look at the order forms, make each pizza up, spread the ingredients out and make sure everything’s on there that needs to be on there, clean the preparation surfaces and do the dishes, all with minimal supervision.’

Charles and Dan also love using their natural charm to have a bit of fun with staff as they deliver pizzas around the office. And they’ve started to make a small profit.

Anthony says the next stage will be for the brothers to arrive earlier to check the orders before doing the ingredients shopping themselves.
He says that, as well as being fun and teaching life skills, the project is also equipping Charles and Dan with self-confidence and inspiration for future work opportunities.

‘It allows us to work on everything from their self-regulation in a pressure environment through to budgeting, working out ingredients, communication between the two of them, shopping, time management – all of those job ready skills – so that we can actually use that information to help inspire them that you could work in a pizza shop if you wanted or you could do catering because you’ve had this experience and you’ve done really well at it,’ Anthony says.

‘The exciting bit to see now from an OT perspective is that we’ve been able to work on all of these skills to help these guys with some pathways forwards to other opportunities that might not have been there before we started.

‘It’s just been a really exciting development that came out of a crazy idea one day.’

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