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This Detroit pizzeria has saved thousands of dollars thanks to one radical tactic: 'There's a tricky balance there'

"We want to be able to offer a variety of things — but not at the expense of making more waste."


Photo Credit: iStock

PizzaPlex in southwest Detroit is on a mission to minimize its environmental impact, including redesigning its menu to eliminate food waste.

When it opened in 2017, PizzaPlex's owners had already taken steps to make the restaurant eco-friendly. The owners used salvaged wood for the bar, chose paint with the safest possible ingredients, and packaged their to-go orders in recyclable cardboard. 

Meanwhile, the pizzeria chose local suppliers for as many of its menu items as possible. This reduces the distance each ingredient has to travel, which means less fuel has to be burned to get each shipment of food to the restaurant — so the business causes less air pollution.

Even with all this groundwork, PizzaPlex has still run into issues with food waste. When ingredients spoil before they can be used or when customers throw away scraps uneaten, all the resources that went into growing and shipping that food go to waste. 

PizzaPlex turns all the unused food into compost, which helps fertilize future produce and reduce the amount of trash it sends to the landfill. However, to really meet its eco-friendly goals, the company needed to go a step further.

PizzaPlex's owners practice "source reduction" — meaning they design their business's whole process around reducing how much material they discard. This is good for the environment and also reduces costs for the business. 

For example, when the pizzeria adds an item to its menu, it pays attention to sales. If an item doesn't sell well, the owners will remove it from the menu when the first batch of ingredients runs out. That way, they don't have to carry food that will likely go bad before it can be used, just on the off chance that they get a few orders. They stop buying those ingredients, eliminating a source of waste before it can even start. 

"There's a tricky balance there ..." Alessandra Carreon, one of PizzaPlex's co-owners, told EnergyNews. "We want to be able to offer a variety of things. But not at the expense of making more waste." 

The pizzeria also makes just enough dough to meet its expected needs and is planning a waste audit to determine which ingredients are making up the largest portion of its trash.

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