Business and Operations
Rocky Mountain Pizza
Bringing pizza to the environmentally and health conscious consumer
By Stacy Bradshaw
Dominic Fielden, co-owner and creator of The Rocky
Mountain Flatbread Company, is putting his own unique stamp on the
Canadian pizza industry with a truly progressive restaurant concept.
Bringing pizza to the environmentally and health conscious consumer
Dominic Fielden, co-owner and creator of The Rocky Mountain Flatbread Company, is putting his own unique stamp on the Canadian pizza industry with a truly progressive restaurant concept.
Fielden and his wife Suzanne opened the first RMF restaurant three years ago in the quaint mountain village of Canmore, Alta. This summer, they opened a second location in Vancouver’s popular Kitsilano district. Designed to encourage social responsibility and environmental sustainability, Fielden says the RMF brand is his way of standing up for positive change in the world. Meanwhile, he’s also carving out a brand new niche in the Canadian pizza market.
Rocky Mountain Flatbread specializes in all-natural, wood-fired flatbread pizzas. But as Fielden is quick to point out, the company is about much more than the pizza.
There are three main areas to the business. The full-service restaurants both feature a wood-fired oven and an open concept kitchen. The wholesale division sells RMF-brand frozen pizzas to grocery and health food stores in Alberta and B.C. The entire frozen pizza line is made inhouse and par baked before distribution. They’ve also developed an organic flatbread pizza base that is available to restaurants across Canada. Finally, the Rocky Mountain Education Society works with local organizations and schools to equip children with the knowledge and skills needed to become responsible citizens and entrepreneurs.
Each of these three key ingredients works to reinforce the RMF brand. According to Fielden, his frozen pizza sales in Vancouver have doubled since the Kitsilano restaurant opened in August. And the educational program has been an excellent publicity vehicle.
“It’s about looking at your business and saying what can complement and promote your business in a way that’s interesting and free,” he advised.
Rocky Mountain Flatbread’s three-tiered, integrated concept is an exemplary approach to marketing in the pizza industry. Call it “contemporary ecological marketing” or “socially responsible entrepreneurship.” Call it what you will, but the Rocky Mountain Flatbread Company has done something that they consider revolutionary. And they’ve done it by putting money that would otherwise be spent on advertising back into their community, back into their business, and back to their customers. By doing so, they’ve put pizza back into the typical Western consumer consciousness – one that places a high importance on health and environmental responsibility.
So what does it mean to be a socially and environmentally responsible entrepreneur? For the Fieldens, it starts with the food. RMF uses 90 per cent organic ingredients. They purchase directly from local farmers via an organic food distributor. The kitchen operates under a no waste policy that leaves its wastage at less than one per cent. The menu is also designed to minimize waste and control food costs. Over 80 per cent of the menu is pizza, but every pizza ingredient is also used in pastas, wraps, and other items. If it’s not, it’s used to make soup. Any other waste is composted and used in local gardens. Even the restaurant tables are made of eco-friendly reclaimed wood.
Fielden is careful to reiterate, how-ever, that his customers ultimately come for the taste. RMF’s commitment to the community and to the environment is a key motivator. But it’s secondary to the great tasting pizza. Fielden says they’re careful not to over-advocate their organic policies. Rather, they paint fun decals on the walls to feature the various organic ingredients.
|Why Pizza? Why Canada?|
Dominic and Suzanne Fielden, co-owners and creators of the Rocky Mountain Flatbread Company, began their careers in England. They both worked in the food and beverage industry, but not as restaurateurs. They were Change Management Consultants. In a nutshell, they helped food companies cope with necessary transitions in their business.
One thing they always advocated to their clients was the increasing importance of environmental and social responsibility. Frustrated by their clients’ unwillingness to embrace something they were so passionate about, the Fieldens decided to open their own business – one that stood for something they believed in.
But why pizza? And why Canada? According to Dominic, pizza was a logical choice because it’s something people eat on a regular basis. They chose Canada because it was a safe place to raise their young family. They opened in Canmore, Alta because it was a small town – a perfect place to test their concept. Once they had proof there was indeed a market, they opened a second location in the city of Vancouver.
It was always their intention to have both a frozen pizza line and a restaurant. After extensive market research, the Fieldens uncovered that the frozen pizza industry in Canada was the same as it was in England – plagued with cheap, manufactured pizzas or healthy ones that were lacking in taste. As for the restaurants, Western Canada had great traditional pizzerias, but was under serviced when it came to healthy pizza.
You’ll also find a Local Heroes gallery on the walls of both RMF locations. The Local Heroes Program, pioneered by the Rocky Mountain Education Society, lets students appoint local heroes who make a difference in the local community, including local business owners, teachers, vets, nurses, firefighters, and more. The portraits are displayed on Rocky Mountain Flatbread restaurant walls.
RMF also holds Crazy Fast Food Cooking Classes for kids. Once a week over a four-week period, kids are taught how to make pizzas, pastas and wraps. At the end of the course, the kids prepare and serve a meal for their parents.
“It encourages kids to start understanding that fast food can be healthy,” said Fielden. And the parents rave about it, he added.
Rocky Mountain Flatbread also holds adult cooking classes in its Canmore location, taught by executive chef, director, and shareholder, Ralf Wollmann. Although all students are charged a fee, the classes are not necessarily a profit-seeking venture. It’s all part of the RMF mandate to give back to the community.
Rocky Mountain Flatbread also uses its frozen pizzas for local school fundraising events. They sell pizzas to students at cost, who sell them to friends and family. One school sold over $3,000 worth in one month, said Fielden. And you just can’t put a dollar value on that type of publicity.
Whether it’s supporting local school initiatives or using non-toxic paint on the walls, the Fieldens are clear about what they stand for. The Rocky Mountain Flatbread Company is about community, minimizing its ecological footprint, and offering healthy, great tasting pizza. It’s a customer experience strategy that is truly unique to the pizza industry. They have successfully embraced the new consumer mindset. And they chose the perfect vehicle to do it with – the always diverse and adaptable, pizza.•