Crusty craftsmen create award-winning base for future toppings

By Tom Tanner, Sustainable Restaurant Association

There’s a perception that the bigger a restaurant business grows, the harder it becomes to retain, let alone expand upon, its principles. This year’s winner of the R200 Sustainable Restaurant Group of the Year, sponsored by Victoria Malaga (which we had the great pleasure of judging again), has shown in no uncertain terms how it’s possible to buck that trend. Congratulations to Pizza Pilgrims who, as they expand, are building in more forward-thinking, planet saving practices.

Modestly perhaps, Pizza Pilgrims sees itself as being on the journey without having yet reached its destination. It is though undoubtedly a good deal further down the road than most, thanks to the giant pioneering strides it has taken at one of its 17 sites in the last year.

The crusty craftsmen had the chance to open a restaurant at London department store Selfridges. They decided if they were to take up this unique opportunity, they had to grasp it with both hands, build on the good practices they already had in place while also going a whole lot further, using it as a test bed for a way more innovative approach, with new suppliers and ways of doing things. A year on from opening their doors on the top floor of the iconic Oxford Street shop, they’ve achieved their goal, and more.

Pizza Pilgrims’ ‘test bed’

From the moment diners sit down they can touch and feel the difference. All the timber in the fitout comes from FSC sources and the seats are upholstered with natural leather alternative made from pineapple waste. Upcycled plastic bottles have been transformed into terrazzo style tabletops.

Then came the menu-planning. How could the pizzas at this site really hit the high notes? Start with the most basic ingredient – flour – Pizza Pilgrims switched from their normal Neapolitan supplier to UK regenerative producer WildFarmed. The longer term, wider benefit of this move has been the conversation Pizza Pilgrims is now having with its Italian supplier about it switching to more regenerative methods.

What about the toppings? Two standout examples are the charcuterie and basil. The former comes from Cobble Lane Cured , using high welfare pigs, while the basil, previously sourced from across Europe, is now grown hydroponically by Harvest London in sunny Hackney – saving 350,000 food miles every year.

Keen to address that financial and environmental drain of every restaurant business right now – energy – Pizza Pilgrims at Selfridges is powered by 100% renewable energy and, in another example of building on their learning, they’re working with the manufacturer of their pizza ovens to reduce the amount of gas needed to cook every pizza.

This high-end hub of innovation is a template not just for the whole Pizza Pilgrims group as it continues to grow but for all multi-site restaurant businesses. And as the whole company progresses towards net zero with the help of Net Zero Now, Pizza Pilgrims has produced an award-winning performance.

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