Compostable pizza box promises restaurateurs cost savings

| by S.A. Whitehead
Compostable pizza box promises restaurateurs cost savings

Mark Marinozzi and Glenn Cybulski believe that PizzaRound will cut labor costs while helping the planet.

Among the plethora of challenges pizza brands face, these five are surely near the top of the list:
•    Escalating labor costs.
•    Squeaky tight job market.
•    Soaring real estates prices. 
•    Delivery product quality and temperature.
•    Waste and sustainability reduction. 

The creators of PizzaRound, however, claim that their compostable pizza delivery container addresses all those challenges in a single item that pizza restaurateurs use daily.

"The container is made from 80 percent sugar cane," said Mark Marinozzi, Vice President of Marketing for World Centric, the company behind the design. "It's the waste that's left over [after sugar cane is harvested] which is typically burned. So you're taking something that used to be burned or was literally thrown in a landfill and you're turning it into useful material. ... Plus [PizzaRound containers] turn into soil in 90 days, so you can literally throw that in the composter.  

Marinozzi and the product's co-creator — restaurateur, executive chef and World Pizza Champion Glenn Cybulski  admitted that the round pizza box, launched in March, is pricier on a piece-by-piece basis than typical cardboard pizza containers but said cost breakdowns indicate that the extra cost is more than made up for through the money it saves in labor and storage space, as well as the retention of pizza temperature, flavor and crispness. 

Plus, the PizzaRound, becomes a feast for the worms by turning to dirt in just 90 days. That trait alone gives operators a marketing edge in a current restaurant culture where customers seek out and patronize brands that promote sustainability through their practices. 

Pizza Marketplace recently chatted with Cybulski and Marinozzi about the PizzaRound's development and performance in action. 

Q: Glenn, as a longtime pizza restaurateur you were key in advising World Centric on the operator's needs in a pizza box. Can you give us some details about your input? 
For the design, there were several things that I knew had to be in the box if it was going to really make an impact and affect the industry. So, what I thought about was, "What am I using in my pizza boxes?"

Usually, everyone is using a tissue, and usually, everyone is using a liner that kind of raises the pizza off of the box a little bit to keep it fresh and crisp. Then, most all of them are using a table tent in the middle of the pizza so the box doesn't crush the pizza. ...

So, I suggested that because [PizzaRound] would be a molded product, if we put dimples in it that's going to eliminate a piece [the liner] since all of those dimples will allow it to wick away moisture and grease from the pizza while it's being transported. 

That also leaves that crust crispier and hotter and better. But, now when you combine that with the [pizza slice-spaced] grooves in the bottom of the box that can now be identified by the [staff] to cut down for easier slicing, and the attached lid that fits snugly around the box, then that's it.

Q: Does the raw material of this box affect pizza flavor at all, because cardboard is sometimes known to do that? 
One of the epiphanies that happened for all of us has to do with the fact that, not only is this material actually one of the best insulators and regulators of moisture ... but it doesn't [leave the pizza] tasting like cardboard ... 

Also, it has a storage [benefit] aspect and a labor-saving aspect, too. ... So basically your [traditional cardboard] boxes come in flats and you have to unwrap them, fold them, put your tissues in them. Then you have to put your liners in. So basically with this [PizzaRound] there's a measurable labor savings by not having to do that. 

Then those boxes, once they're folded are like 80 percent air, right? So they're just taking up space then and eliminating that is key because in your restaurant you're making money per square foot. Period. Every single square foot in that restaurant has got to be producing a dollar amount in revenue. Otherwise, you're not going to make it. 

So with these, you can just put a product in and close it, instead of assembling and setting up everything and stacking it all the way up to the rafters. So, we're saving time, we're saving labor, and most importantly, we're saving three SKUs of other products that you don't need now because you have the PizzaRound. So it's significant in bringing cost savings. And really, that's how you have to calculate it out from an operational standpoint. 

Q: How does this play into the current coveted millennial customer market and their sustainability demands from the restaurant brands they patronize?
Well, that's why it's so relevant why it'll continue to be so relevant and grow  because our demographics demand it. Young people that are coming up have a higher consciousness level of the environment wanting to support companies that support the environment. And if you look at the psychographics involved in that, there are reports done showing millennials will actually choose to go to places because of the culture ... and part of that culture is eliminating waste. ...

So from an operator standpoint, I'm going to look at how much marketing and how much goodwill with the community I can generate. ... The bottom line is that if you're not progressively thinking ... and you're doing the same thing that you did 20 years ago, you're losing revenue. Your business is going away and you don't even know it until it's too late. 
Marinozzi: A lot of municipalities are starting to ban pizza boxes in their recycling. 

Q: But the fact is these boxes cost more, so how do you address that very real concern for pizza operators?
[If} you look at the average price of a blank 12-inch pizza box per unit it's about 27 cents. ... Add to that the tissue liner ...the tents ... and then you take the labor to fold [the box, calculated] at about seven cents a box. That adds up to about 48 cents. That's a baseline. That's not taking into account the storage and real estate needed. So you figure somewhere between 45 and 55 cents. 

So really what that exercise shows is that the cost issue really isn't as much of an issue as we were quite frankly worried about. It [PizzaRound] is pretty much in parity when you add all the pieces together and you add labor. That kind of takes the operational cost off the table. 

Q: But this is new, and "new" means change, which as we all know is tough. So how do you deal with that when you approach brands and operators with this box, aside from the information you've previously detailed here?  
You know, nobody wants to change until the restaurant closes and then, they say, "Good Lord! I should have changed a while ago!" That's why I think the educational aspect behind this is important with the people you talk to. 
Cybulski:And we're getting a lot of feedback. So I went out to some of the biggest names in the industry, some of my peers and said, "Hey, what do you think of this?"

And we've gotten great feedback from some big names ... that we can't mention and you have to lay it out like Mark did with the numbers. They need to see that it's not just it's not just the box. This is affecting the environment in my restaurant that I'm going to be able to run more efficiently ... and you save the labor that you can now spend someplace else. So it's a good story and it has an emotional attachment. 

We all want to do better, but sometimes we don't know. So, this is a tiny small piece of what an operator can use to say this is what we're doing better. ... And that's a signal to their customers that they do care and ... you're going to do the right thing. ... Then their customers are probably going to go tell their friends to help them, too. 

Photo: S.A. Whitehead

Topics: Business Strategy and Profitability, Customer Service / Experience, Delivery, Dough, Equipment & Supplies, Financial Management, Hot Products, Marketing / Branding / Promotion, Operations Management, Pizza Sauce, Pizza Toppings, Product Reviews, Sustainability

S.A. Whitehead

Award-winning veteran print and broadcast journalist, Shelly Whitehead, has spent most of the last 30 years reporting for TV and newspapers, including the former Kentucky and Cincinnati Post and a number of network news affiliates nationally. She brings her cumulative experience as a multimedia storyteller and video producer to the web-based pages of and after a lifelong “love affair” with reporting the stories behind the businesses that make our world go ‘round. Ms. Whitehead is driven to find and share news of the many professional passions people take to work with them every day in the pizza and quick-service restaurant industry. She is particularly interested in the growing role of sustainable agriculture and nutrition in food service worldwide and is always ready to move on great story ideas and news tips.

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