When Kim Kardashian starts endorsing a franchise like GroOrganic, and the self-proclaimed Franchise King sets up a Green Franchise Directory, does it mean green franchising has become mainstream? Should you be jumping on the bandwagon? Of course you should, but only after you’ve read this cautionary tale.
Don’t get us wrong, we’re all for saving the world, if for no other reason than simple economics – no world equals no market equals no franchises. And we’re aware that more and more savvy franchisors are not only doing their bit to save the world, they’re getting noticed – and making more sales – because they’re doing their bit. Like GroOrganic. And a Florida-based franchise chain called Pizza Fusion.
We got all excited when we first heard the Pizza Fusion story and immediately started writing a rave article on them because, on the surface, they epitomise a new breed of business that’s become wildly successful because of their green business practices. Unlike their many competitors in the food service industry, they don’t just talk about being eco-friendly, they live and breathe it.
Pizza Fusion pizzas aren’t just fresh and healthy, they’re made from gluten-free 100% organic ingredients which come from environmentally responsible suppliers who aren’t just carefully vetted but are actively partnered with by Pizza Fusion.
Pizza Fusion’s stores aren’t just built to green standards, they are LEED certified with non-VOC (volatile organic compound) paints, Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified wood cabinetry, smart lighting systems, low flow faucets, recycled furnishings, and Energy Star certified appliances.
And Pizza Fusion aren’t just about pizzas, they’re committed to educating their customers and the public the importance of sustainable living. They even get involved in lobbying for political action to support a more sustainable future.
Oh, and their slogan? “Saving the Earth, One Pizza at a Time.”
Whew! Pretty impressive. But, you may be thinking, has all this tree hugging, saving the whales stuff affected the bottom line? And is it attracting new franchisees? We wondered the same thing. And that’s when cracks started appearing in the pizza base.
To begin with, we found a 2008 media release from the company on PRWeb which claimed that their first year of franchising had been a success, having signed up 63 franchises committed to open in 10 states. But the Pizza Fusion website reveals they currently have only around eleven franchise locations. Hmmm.
We had planned to use a quote we found in an entrepreneur.com article “Franchising's Green Scene” about a new Pizza Fusion restaurant in California whose owners said they had “garnered a level of attention that they believe restaurants without such a commitment to green practices would not have seen – including coverage on most of the local broadcast news programs.”
A bit more digging revealed that “a deep and sudden slump in sales” had caused the store to close less than nine months later.
Evidently, the greenest business practices in America weren’t enough to stave off the effects of the recession. And that underscores a point we would like to make to anyone considering “greening” their existing franchise – by all means, go ahead but make sure the business is viable first and that the “greening” enhances rather than adversely impacts that viability.
“I feel as though too much emphasis was placed on their recycling, organics, and LEED certification, leaving less time to focus on and promote their pizza,” said blogger ToNeTo Atlanta about another Pizza Fusion store closure in the state of Georgia.
The compliance costs required by the franchisor may also have pushed Pizza Fusion prices too high.
“I found their pizza to be verging on the spectacular, but the quantity-to-price ratio just a bit too steep to justify ordering more than occasionally,” said a former customer on the review site Yelp about yet another store closure in Seattle. “Great service too. This is sad, but 28 bucks for a medium pie (they called it large. It wasn't) is just a bit tone deaf in the Great Recession.”
We applaud Pizza Fusion for what they stand for and hope that they haven't paid too high a price for being at the bleeding edge of the green business revolution.
Watch out for our upcoming article on how franchises are successfully using environmental, social and health conscious business practices to make a difference - to their bottom line as well as the earth.
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