Hot off the heels of the announcement made by Naked Pizza that it'll bust into the Mile High market comes word from another green pizza chain that Denver's its next stop: Fort Lauderdale, Florida-based Pizza Fusion will open its first restaurant in Denver in May, in conjunction with Colorado Coalition for the Homeless.
The pizza chain was born in 2006 by founding partners Vaughan Lazar and Michael Gordon, who wanted to provide a way to eat out organically. So in addition to pizzas made with organic ingredients, they stocked organic salads and sandwiches, desserts and beverages, including wine and beer. Environmentally conscious guys, they also decided to pursue LEED-certified green buildings when opening new locations -- and they deliver by hybrid cars.
That green focus made the chain a good fit for Colorado Coalition for the Homeless. The organization built the eatery, giving some of Denver's homeless population construction jobs, and the new franchise will serve as a training base in the vocational rehabilitation program.
"We'll train people here for six to nine months and then place them in the hospitality industry," explains Mary Putnam, a restaurant consultant hired by the coalition to manage the pizzeria. "We're trying to get at the root cause of some people's homelessness, which is job loss."
Putnam goes on to explain that if this works -- and the restaurant becomes profitable -- the organization will also look at opening more locations, expanding that kitchen training in the process.
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This Pizza Fusion will serve the same organic menu as the rest of the chain; it's also working on getting a liquor license so it can offer organic wines and locally produced microbrews.
The restaurant will hold a soft opening on May 9, though, says Putnam, "We're trying to get away from the industry standard grand opening. We'll run a several month-long opening campaign."