Small Print Pizza’s Moral Compass And Getting The Right Kind Of Attention

Editorial Team | Interviews

The co-founder of Melbourne’s Small Print Pizza believes a menu laden with vegan options is not only better for the planet but better for your business’s bottom line too.

Small Print Pizza, a name derived from its “small eco-footprint” mission statement, is the brainchild of Adam Chapman, Phil Gijsbers and Neil Mills, whose love affair with Neapolitan pizza and sustainable business principal spawned the creation of a restaurant concept that looks to serve slices consciously.

When the venue started to sling stone-fired, slow-dough back in 2016, the owners weren’t sure their minimal meat idea would prove a hit with customers. “Small Print Pizza is sustainably-focused focused on sustainable eating,” explains Chapman. “I think it’s a moral imperative of ours to give people the opportunity to try and be better with the foods that they consume.”

The dough is hand-made slow, left to rest for 48 hours, and then hand-stretched and stone-fired at 400 degrees for that perfect woodfired-styled texture. The result is “fluffy and chewy” and although the menu does include some meat products, there is a heavy skew to plant-based ingredients such as mushrooms, eggplant, potato and meal alternatives, which get as much airtime as ham, chicken, and spicy pepperoni.

“People are looking for businesses that are doing
the right thing and aligning their ethics and
morals to that business.”

Chapman’s decision to move towards a more sustainable menu follows a wider trend and interest in veganism in Australia with a food market projected to be the third-fastest-growing vegan market in the world with a growth rate of 9.6 per cent. Plant-based eating seems to have gained a firm foothold. According to research company Roy Morgan, about 12.1 per cent of Australians – that’s nearly 2.5 million people – were on mostly vegetarian diets in 2019, showing an increase from 11.4 per cent in 2014.

With the food industry helping to contribute to greenhouse gas emissions, Chapman recognises that plant-based menus can offer customers interesting, tasty food and be made in a sustainable way.

“Vegan options should be prominent on a menu and not just an afterthought, you know? And while we know what we’re doing won’t save the planet, it’s something every person can do to lessen the impact from an individual perspective,” he says.

This ethos extends beyond the menu itself and into other aspects of the business. “All of our pizza boxes and take away cutlery are made from recycled materials. We compost all our waste. Our bar benches are made from recycled timber and even our bar is made from the old St Kilda pier. And everything we can’t make ourselves come from companies who share the same passion for sustainability as we do.”

Not only is this commitment something customers actively buy into and support, but the approach also helps the business’ bottom line states Chapman, who says that vegetables are often far cheaper than their meaty counterparts making margins more favourable on products such as pizza, which tend to operate around a specific price point regardless of toppings.

“If we didn’t put that clause in…that would’ve absolutely crippled us.”

When it comes to business learnings, there are many – creating community and a point of difference being just one of them. Alongside the marketing opportunities afforded Small Print Pizza due to its minimal meat menu, it’s ‘pizza in the park’ concept has helped to build the brand’s caring civic character. Customers place their order at the restaurant, receive a picnic rug and games like bocce and are invited to take to a pew in the neighbouring park across the road. “It’s been massive for our business,” says Chapman. “It really saved us as a business during the extensive lockdowns here in Melbourne due to the Coronavirus.”

Fine food and great customer service aside, “always check your lease terms,” advises Chapman. “When we first signed the lease, we put a clause in there that said we wouldn’t have to pay rent until our planning permit was processed because it was a convenience store and we had to change it to a licensed restaurant. That took us about a year and a half to get past…if we didn’t put that clause in, we would’ve been paying a hundred thousand dollars of rent for no gain… And that would’ve absolutely crippled us.”

Chapman says the venue has benefitted from having partners that have valuable experience in the hospitality industry and have learnt to protect themselves and their business during times of uncertainty, but he also recognises that customers will always support a business that stands for something more. As their company website proudly states:

“By making smart choices and thinking holistically about every aspect of food production, we’ve found it’s easy to make some damn tasty food without making a huge impact. We want to see change. As a small business we realise we’re only a drop in the ocean, but every effort towards being more sustainable and compassionate counts.”

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