For Michael Gordon, saving the earth one pizza at a time is not just his company’s motto— it’s how he lives his life every day.
Gordon, who co-founded Pizza Fusion, a four-unit, Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based full-service pizza chain, along with his college buddy Vaughan Lazar, is committed to the idea that operating a socially conscious company not only reaps profits but also benefits the community it serves. Pizza Fusion already has 19 franchised units in the pipeline this year, Gordon said, and each store will offer a menu that is 75-percent organic and sports an environmentally friendly design.
“Our goal is for organics and socially conscious living to flourish in the future,” he said.
What’s the vision behind your company’s green practices?
Basically, we created Pizza Fusion to be the first socially conscious restaurant company in the country. We make our decisions based on the effects they will have on the community, and in return we get higher profits. We’re not willing to ruin the energy grid or not make logical environmental decisions. As we all know, you can either pay now or pay later. As a result, we’ve reduced operational costs by 15 [percent] to 20 percent, and without a doubt that is based on savings on our water, electric and gas bills.
What are some of the environmentally safe initiatives you’ve implemented at Pizza Fusion?
Vaughan and myself are very creative and like challenges. We’ve initiated things like not using hot-water heaters to heat our water. Instead we use a heat exchanger that goes through the oven. It fits on top of the oven and heats our water. Also, the countertops [in new units] are made from recycled bottles from our [existing] stores. We take them, crush them and put them in the counters of our new restaurants.
So it’s easy being green?
Here’s the thing: We’ve been getting a lot of calls from restaurant people about expenses [involved in eco-friendly practices], but it’s really all about the choices you make. Ask yourself if you want to make choices that are expensive now but will pay off as a good investment later. Making those choices will save you a fortune in the future, and that’s good business.
We hear that all franchisees must agree to purchase hybrid cars as delivery vehicles.
We thought about how we’d be able to serve organic pizzas with a car that wasn’t good for the environment. So it’s become part of our franchise agreement that every store buys two [Toyota] Prius [cars], and those are used for delivery. What you find here is a lot of passion with our franchisees. It’s not just about them wanting to get a job or make some money. It’s what they live for. They enjoy driving the hybrid cars.
It seems like being eco-friendly is more popular than ever before.
I think this country—along with many others—is applauding that movement. Everyone knows someone who has had cancer or an illness and they’ve scratched their heads and asked, “Why, why, why?” But now they’re putting the pieces together and asking where their water, food and air come from. It’s a shame people only learn after they experience sorrow.