Pizza Fusion Delivers on its Green Mission

The environmentally focused pizza chain is writing new rules for marketing.

Pizza Fusion is a national restaurant chain with a goal to be good for the environment, its customers, and its employees. And its marketing initiatives follow suit.

The company, which offers organic pizza, sandwiches, and salads, opened its first restaurant in Deerfield Beach, FL, in July 2006. The company has since grown to 63 restaurants in eight states. The food is delivered in hybrid cars, its ovens convert heat into electricity, and its countertops are made from recycled soda cans.

"This whole 'going green' thing is all about making conscious choices," says Vaughan Lazar, cofounder and CEO. "We decided that we would do what we think is best for the environment first, then customers, and for our pockets last."

Being an environmentally focused company means writing new rules for marketing. For example, menus, in-store signage, and other print marketing collateral are made from recycled materials and alternative sources like soy and sugar cane. The company invests heavily in such online marketing as banner ads, email, and online surveys, eliminating reliance on paper. And Pizza Fusion has created experiential initiatives that help generate awareness not only for the environment, but also for the restaurant.

Each restaurant holds monthly free educational sessions for children. Employees teach kids (and their parents) about recycling, organic foods, fossil fuels, and other environmental topics. The kids get a chance to make their own pizza and sit in the hybrid
cars. "You'd think they were sitting in a jet by the smiles on their faces when they climb into the car," Lazar says. The program has become so popular that the company is developing a six-week session that can also be brought to schools.

In addition, Pizza Fusion is very involved in the local community. Franchisees receive training on community outreach, as well as on normal store operations training. In Florida, for example, restaurant employees participate in regular local beach cleanup efforts and are encouraged to work with local charities, such as the Boys and Girls Clubs.

"Community involvement is really our best marketing," Lazar says. "At the grassroots level, we don't just say it. We really do get out there."

Lazar also considers the company's relationship with employees as an indirect way to develop positive word-of-mouth marketing. He and cofounder Michael Gordon interviewed employees at Starbucks and Southwest Airlines to learn employee best practices, like company-wide health insurance. Says Lazar, "If you've got a happy workplace and people are excited to be working there, it translates to the customers," who share their good experiences.

Pizza Fusion's price points are a little higher than competitors, but customers are willing to pay for the quality and the experience, Lazar says. And, he adds, "at the end of the day, we make really good pizza."