When Vaughan Lazar and his partners started Pizza Fusion in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., in 2006 it was almost impossible to get organic meat and produce through typical distribution networks. But that didn't faze them. Even though it meant embarking on a complicated search for producers around the country, they wanted a pizza joint that reflected their values and lifestyle. Not only does Pizza Fusion use all organic and natural products, its buildings are built to LEED standards (four are certified), many of its delivery drivers use hybrid cars and each restaurant buys enough renewable energy credits to offset the power used in a year. It's something you might expect at a local-focused mom-and-pop sandwich shop, but it's a pretty ambitious agenda for a 21-unit franchise.
Pizza Fusion is intent on taking its green message into the mainstream. But instead of tooting its hybrid horn, the company wants its eco-friendly mission to exist subtly in the background, to normalize it for consumers. That, Lazar believes, is the only way sustainability can ever work.
"A lot of changes we're making are to speak to the everyday pizza consumer," he says. "Our message was focused on green and organic consumers for so long, but we had a ridiculous 'aha' moment. We were talking to someone from Newman's Own, which we really respect, and she said, 'People don't want to chew on a mission statement.' That really hit home. And it's exactly the position we're going to take--food made with heart and soul with the cleanest and purest ingredients available. And, by the way, we use recycled countertops and reclaimed wood tables."
The company should have no problem making its pizza its main message. It consistently wins "best of" awards in almost every city where it opens. Lazar thinks Fusion's pie can go head-to-head with that of any chain and win over the average pizza consumer. "Instead of that core of eco-minded people, we're going after everybody. What they're going to find is delicious organic pepperoni pizza and sandwich wraps, nothing foreign to them," he says. "I think we're going to approach this much like Chipotle, which switched to natural chicken a few years ago. It's not something we're going to slide under the rug--this is the DNA of the company and how we live our lives. The messaging will still be there, but it will be very food-forward."