Can you really save the world one slice of pizza at a time? That’s the thinking of Pete Bonahoom, owner of Galactic Pizza in Minneapolis. After all, the pizza is delivered by superheroes. But I guess further explanation is probably necessary, so I’ll let Pete do the talking about how he made his pizza place the ultimate green business.
This is probably the question you get most often, but what is the deal with the superheroes?
The superheroes represent that we are here to save the world and help people, not just focus on the bottom line.
When did Galactic Pizza get its start?
About six years ago.
Yes. I started out with a job in investment banking. I didn’t really enjoy it, so I left that to do something different. So I started to learn about socially responsible business, looking at not just profit but how you can do good for people. With a pizza restaurant there are a lot of ways to do good for people through the environment, so I decided to open a socially responsible pizza place.
Was it easy or difficult to implement that vision?
There were a lot more challenges. We were trying to do things no one has ever done before. We were facing a host of challenges on multiple fronts. Just take the electric cars, for example, that we use as delivery vehicles. No one had done that before. Just going out to buy one is a challenge because no major automobile manufacture makes one that is readily available. The ones we use have three wheels so they can be classified as motorcycles, that way the manufacturer can bypass all the safety regulations and crash tests required. But that was a huge expense. And for the most part, they’re unreliable. They break down a lot.
The main reason we use help is that it’s good for you and it doesn’t take pesticides to grow. It’s definitely not cheaper or readily available. It’s more expensive. I’m not sure what the laws are now, but when we started using it, it couldn’t be produced in the United States. So we had to get all of it from Canada, which adds to the cost. We use it because it’s sustainable and can be used for many different purposes. You can use it to make paper instead of cutting down a tree. It also grows way faster than a tree. We really try to push things that are sustainable. Any way our daily operations can make some sort of difference, we do it.
What other types of green or sustainable business practices do you do?
We have incorporated a number of organic and vegan or vegetarian items into the menu. We try to buy as much local food as we can. Our biggest thing that we get locally is cheese, which we get from cows not treated with growth hormone. We can get local bison sausage year round and local wild rice year round.
We also get all of our power from wind power and we have in in depth waste reduction program that utilizes composting and recycling whenever possible. We use packaging that is either made from recycled materials or that is biodegradable. Our pizza delivery box is a coupon. If you return it to us, you get money off your next pizza. We try to implement as many ideas that make a difference as we can come up with.
How do you think it has affected your bottom line?
I think that’s impossible to answer, because the only way I know is how I’ve been doing it. I think we have a competitive advantage over everybody else that has allowed us to exist in a place where there are 15 other pizza places within a one-mile radius. People definitely come here because of our vision, but also because the food is good. Anyone can make good food. For us, it’s more than just serving good pizza.
You have a special Second Harvest Heartland pizza. How much do you think that has raised for the organization?
So far, not counting this year, we’ve sold 7,318 Second Harvest Heartland pizzas, so that’s $7,318. If you factor in this year’s number, it’s probably about $8,500.
Do you participate in any other charity programs or food shelves?
We give 5% of pre-tax profits to charity. We do local donations. We have a donation request form that anyone can come in and fill out. Each week I take a look and see what we can support.
What types of marketing do you do?
I don’t do any advertising. People always call and one of the biggest jobs I have is saying no to people. We don’t do it because all the extra of things we do here cost a lot of money. We have to get that money from somewhere. We could either charge $35 for a large pizza and advertise or we could charge $20 for a large pizza and not advertise. Instead, we use our advertising dollars to do something that is good for the community and people come here because of that. So it’s mostly word of mouth. It’s a different way of getting people to come to the restaurant, but we think it’s a better way.
Do you use social media to help promote Galactic?
A little bit. It’s something we have to get more into, but I really can’t hire someone to do that for me, so I have to figure out what works best for us. I’m still learning about that one.
Well, maybe GreenMarketing.tv can help you out on that one.