|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?
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?
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?
Follow Clean Plate Charlie on Twitter: @CleanPlateBPB
|Vaughan shows us just a portion of his tattoos.|
1013 N. Federal Highway, Fort Lauderdale, FL