Christopher Odde admires the established organic pizza companies such as zpizza and Pizza Fusion, but his new sustainable pizza concept lies in a somewhat ironic valley of the restaurant industry. Though many innovative chains have started in the small college town at the foot of the Rockies, the area is fiercely independent and rejects franchises.
Odde's new Boulder Organic Pizza – The BOP for short – is located on the downtown artery of Pearl Street, a mecca of local notable chefs. Odde's challenge as the owner of a sustainable-minded pizzeria is therefore to impress locals used to that level of culinary excellence, but also employ a reasonable, pizza-friendly cost point.
Sourcing many local markets several times weekly doesn't always help keep food costs down, but that's exactly what the culinary team is devoted to.
"We focus and spend a lot of time and energy researching our product to be organic, natural and local whenever possible," said Odde, whose family co-owns the concept. "So a lot of times if we can't get something that's organic, we will just take it off the menu when possible."
The basics, he said, are easy – you can always find natural flour, tomato and cheese for a reasonable price point, but then there is the more laborious task of sourcing seasonal items from local organic markets. Odde said they're taking on lower margins up front to offer this kind of dining experience, and bet it will pay off in the long run.
Banking on sustainability
Luckily, Odde has partnered with a veteran chef-restaurateur from Capri, Italy, who is no stranger to sustainable food concepts. Giuseppe Monaco owned a farm-to-table restaurant in Loveland, Colo., and has helped move The BOP in that direction.
"[We get] whatever is fresh," Monaco said of his meat and produce choices. "We sometimes have trips two or three times to different places to get items a day, because we're sourcing for the right items for us. We have many different purveyors – local people. Somebody makes tomato; someone does lamb, somebody does figs. Somebody brings arugula."
The payoff, the team hopes, will be in recognized innovation, customer loyalty and a new way of operating for the pizza industry.
"Your food cost is a lot higher, but we're trying to get a mission going – and a business mission. Because (you have to make) a living," he said.
Exemplifying the difference
Conveying that mission is crucial to making that business end of it work. That happens in many ways at The BOP, but it starts with simple menu terminology: "farmer find."
There also are the impressive bottles of local craft beer and biodynamic wines, and the table centerpieces made of beautiful stalks of basil and other fresh herbs for immediate use. And there is a trademark of Monaco's that brings the transparent angle of Old World sustainable practices back to the U.S. – tableside fish deboning.
"This is something normal for any restaurant in Italy," he said. "Whether it's pizza or fine dining. â€¦ People love to see the chef at the table to clean the fish."
But perhaps the thing consumers like to see most is a price point they can afford. This positioning is key to the sustainable niche's long-term success, Odde believes, and his front-of-mind mission.
He has decided, for example, that he would not charge customers more for gluten-free offerings. Odde's wife has a gluten allergy, and he said he never felt right about her being charged more for her needs. The restaurant also offers unique, two-course lunch specials each day for $10.
"It's about being accessible to anyone who wants to come in, keeping the food organic, natural and fresh, and offering it at a price where people can afford it," Odde said. "People are always surprised (at the cost), and I think that's a huge step in the right direction for sustainable foods.
"The more restaurants that go that (pricing) route the better off we will be – we're not blazing a new trail, we're following a model that we believe in."