Pizza Fusion Founder Vaughan Lazar Talks Tattoos and Saudi Arabia

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Photo by Devin Desjarlais
Pizza Fusion co-founder Vaughan Lazar is humble about his success.
Vaughan Lazar, the man behind the legendary organic pizza chain restaurant, Pizza Fusion, happened to be at the Fort Lauderdale store last week. Granted it wasn't a far stretch since Lazar lives in Boca Raton. But when we found out he was schmoozing the customers in town all week, collecting Ed Hardy gear, and keeping South Florida classy, we just had to meet up with him.

Thankfully it didn't take much begging or pleading. Check after the jump for information on Pizza Fusion (no, it's not about their organic ingredients) and why we should have included Lazar in our "Chefs with Tattoos" slideshow.

New Times:
Ok, obviously you guys use organic ingredients in your food but come to find out all the materials in the store is recycled. How much does it cost to put one of the stores together?

Vaughan Lazar: It depends on the size of the location and local workers, but as far as materials when we first started out the cost of using green materials to build the stores started at least 15 to 20% more the cost of building a normal store. We've done such a good job over the years with sourcing materials so at most it's not a 3-5% premium. Building a Pizza Fusion can cost anywhere from $300,000 to half a million dollars but it really depends on the size of the store.You founded a restaurant that's on a mission to feed people good food. 

You raise money through marathons and triathlons to benefit Autism. Why do you care so much about people?

Um, it's almost a rarity in business, isn't it? When Michael [my business partner] and I first started this we thought business always profits from the community, how great would it be to have a business that actually profits from the business? The community could benefit whether through community service, treating local citizens of the community better by giving them health insurance, and things like that." So we just thought that was the right way to do business.

So why a pizza place as opposed to say... tacos?

Famous last words: we thought it would be easy, a lot easier than other restaurants. Pizza is basically dough, sauce and cheese, I mean how hard could it be? It's a lot harder than we anticipated but we didn't know any better.

Why should someone pay $14 for a large pizza here when they could spend $5 at Domino's?

If you look dollar for dollar we're the same price as Papa John's, minus the coupons. It's just like anything. I don't like to talk bad about other companies but Domino's is what it is, an inferior product. I don't think they use fresh ingredients; I don't care what they say. We take a lot of pride in what we do. We spend a little more money and source locally and I think customers these days, even given the current economic climate, do care where their food comes from. People just assume we're more money. It's $12 for a large cheese pizza and $14 for an extra-large. We've just got to do a better job with marketing and let people know "hey, we just make food with our hearts and souls and put good ingredients in there." Coke, pepsi, republican, democrat, you're never going to be right, you're never going to win. But we didn't get in the business to win or be right. We just want to make a better product.


Do you ever eat fast food pizza?

Absolutely. 

What place?

I can't say that. I'll tell you this much. It's a local coal-fired place that I go to often. They do a good job and there isn't a Pizza Fusion near my house yet. But we're working on it.

You guys have two locations in Saudi Arabia. Is there a high demand for organic pizza in Saudi Arabia?

There is actually. They love Western concepts. They're a lot more liberal than I even knew about. We started our first restaurant over there in Jeddah. There is definitely a growing demand for this type of food because it's not as easy to find as it is here. In terms of where we're at organic is probably ten years behind us. It's doing really well and the family that bought the rights to the franchise over there actually just signed a master franchising deal for 100 units throughout the entire middle east.

So maybe the soldiers fighting in the war could go to Pizza Fusion while they're in Iraq?

Yep, if we have one over there.

What's the best thing you guys serve?

Pizza.

Well duh, what kind of pizza?

I'm a little biased, I like the Founder's Pie. I came up with that one day. I wanted to make my own pizza. It's chicken, kalamata olives, red onions, and gorgonzola on top of regular cheese pizza.

So you once Tweeted us in response to our Chef Tattoo Slideshow. You said we missed the hottest chef of all. Can I see your tattoos?

Yes.

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Vaughan shows us just a portion of his tattoos.
Follow Clean Plate Charlie on Twitter: @CleanPlateBPB

Location Info

Pizza Fusion

1013 N. Federal Highway, Fort Lauderdale, FL

Category: Restaurant


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