Canadian Pizza Magazine

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Is your pizzeria sustainable? From the Editor’s Desk



Your pizzeria survived the pandemic. Knock on wood. Maybe you pivoted to curbside pickup, launched new delivery methods, diversified your business model and managed to thrive financially as 2020 turned into 2021. 

But is your business stronger, better – the best it can be?

After the initial cold fear eased into 24-7 uncertainty, many small business owners said the pandemic sharpened their priorities. Many said they became less materialistic. They cared more about their fellow humans. They appreciated the beauty of nature.

For restaurant owners, this prioritizing also took the form of taking care of loyal existing customers, partnering with local businesses, tightening health and safety protocols, and streamlining menus to what sells and what travels well.

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The cream will rise to the top, it’s often said. And plenty of industry leaders predicted this pandemic would change the industry for the better – some touted moving from tipping to paying a living wage, others talked about creating a more inclusive work culture (see “Inclusive kitchens” by Naomi Szeben). But if your business was not one of 3,000 unfortunate restaurant locations that closed in 2020, have you come out of this an improved business?

Are you more focused on what you want your business to stand for? You have sustained, but is your business sustainable in every sense of the word? 

Sustainability covers many facets of your pizzeria. The most obvious is your kitchen. Are you using recyclable or compostable products and demanding the same from suppliers? 

The federal government plans to ban use of certain single-use plastics by 2022. It is focusing on specific products commonly found littering the environment, known or suspected to cause environmental harm and not easily recyclable: checkout bags, stir sticks, beverage six-pack rings, cutlery, straws and food packaging made from plastics that are difficult to recycle. Banned plastics must be replaced with reusable products or materials that are easier to recycle. 

Although products that perform an essential function, such as for health or safety, and/or have no viable existing alternatives will be exempt, the move will force this industry to take steps in the direction of environmental responsibility. Producer responsibility is expected to put the onus on manufacturers to do better for the environment. Restaurant operators and purchasers can have a role by demanding cleaner, responsibly sourced products. For ideas and help with certification, talk to LEAF (Leaders in Environmentally Accountable Foodservice) or visit leafme.org/greenrestaurants.

Sustainability can also mean your staff and your community. Are you taking care of the needs of your team – including their mental health and well-being? Are you taking care of yourself by mentoring staff and delegating tasks? If you’re not treating people as the important resource they are, the dire labour shortage may hit you hard.

Sustaining your community has become a rallying cry. Are you buying from local vendors where possible to keep our carbon footprint low? Are you promoting other local businesses whenever possible? 

There are some great role models out there. UNA Pizza + Wine in Calgary strongly supports environment, staff and community. Management promotes causes that are important to its employees and has a program that pays staff to upgrade their culinary skills abroad. They constantly collaborate with small local breweries and ingredient suppliers. They have developed a butchery program to supply all of their needs. 

Successful U.S. chain MOD Pizza has a refreshing focus on employees and their needs. MOD runs several programs to help employees reach their financial goals and take care of their mental health. MOD welcomes people “who want an uplifting environment for their first job, who have a positive attitude and make an immediate impact, who’ve faced traditional barriers to employment, who live with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities or who identify as LGBTQ.” Check out their website for some inspiring but concrete staff-centred ideas to help you face the labour crunch.

Many operators have put more stock in planning ahead. Are you doing everything you can help your pizzeria live your values and run independently for years into the future?

2020 brought our values into focus. Let’s keep them front and centre. | CP