We last checked in with Pizza Verde back in April 2021, a few months before it opened its first brick-and-mortar location, after finding rousing success with a pop-up plant-based pizza operation. Recently, we circled back with Pizza Verde owners Jennifer White Cabarubio and Landon Cabarubio to see what it’s been like for a first-year vegan pizzeria in Fort Worth, Texas, a state known for its steaks and bigger-is-better mentality. But Pizza Verde has taken its area’s dearth of vegan options as an incredible opportunity to serve local vegans’ unmet needs.
What was your first year in business as a vegan pizzeria like?
Our first year was wild! There aren’t a lot of vegan businesses in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, considering the huge population here, so we had people driving 45 minutes to an hour on a regular basis, telling us they are so glad we are here and asking us to expand. We’ve grown as business owners, and I think every month we gain more confidence and run more smoothly and efficiently. We have settled into a really solid team here and are incredibly thankful for our staff.
How did you attract customers and spread the word when you opened?
We hung massive signage in our windows and focused on our social media channels, especially Instagram, where we have a really great following (@pizzaverdetx). We had done several pop-ups the year before, which helped us spread the word as well. Thankfully, word-of-mouth is a big thing in the vegan community, and being one of the only wood-fired pizzerias in Fort Worth has also helped people find us organically by Googling.
Were there any surprises or challenges in your first year of business?
Our biggest challenge is continuing to grow our customer base. We have an amazingly supportive community, but we need to continue to bring in new faces to keep sales where we need. Our location is tucked just off of a main road and doesn’t get the kind of visibility that would really help us. Additionally, just last month, our pizza oven decided to break down. We’ve been able to manage by utilizing portable propane pizza ovens, which has allowed us to stay open, but it has put a financial strain on us while we work on repairs.
What has worked particularly well, or what have been your major successes in the first year?
There are three things that jump to my mind that make us successful. One is the creativity of the menu! Landon has to be credited for creating a stellar menu of unique toppings, like the Potato Leek, the Kimchi, and the Verde (our namesake). Secondly, our housemade almond mozzarella has been a huge part of our success, and last month we began the journey into wholesaling for foodservice and retail. Lastly, a team of people who genuinely care about the growth and success of our business is critical. I’d love to specifically mention Marcos and Melina Quintanar, who have put their heart and soul into Pizza Verde and are fantastic, talented people.
As you alluded to, Texas isn’t known for its vegan fare, but it sounds like you have fulfilled a real need in the area.
The response has been unbelievable. I’m sure all small businesses feel this way, but I feel like we have the best customers. They are so friendly, and they go out of their way to leave positive reviews. We’ve gotten to know so many people, and honestly they make what we do worth it, even in the harder times.
Do you serve many carnivores as well as vegans and vegetarians?
Yes! I’d say it’s probably 50-50, vegans to omnivores. We have a lot of customers who say our pizza is their favorite in town, vegan or not, which is a massive compliment! I think there is a movement of awareness toward the environmental and health impacts of plant-based eating, and people are actively trying to incorporate weekly vegan meals even without committing to a 100% vegan lifestyle. We welcome people wherever they are on their journey, and we believe reducing consumption of animal products, even just a little, is a big deal.
What advice would you give to other pizzerias interested in either going fully vegan or adding a vegan menu or vegan menu items?
An extremely common response I get when I approach businesses about incorporating a plant-based cheese is “I don’t know if we have the customer base for this type of product.” Well, the truth is, businesses don’t understand the reason they aren’t seeing that kind of business is because anyone with a dietary restriction does their research before going to a restaurant, and they are skipping those restaurants altogether! In order to really test the market, you need to lean into creating delicious plant-based options, not just OK ones, and then market it as if it is just as important as your regular items. You’d better believe they will come out of the woodwork! We actually do consultations and are happy to work with any business interested in getting in on this here-to-stay trend. We are currently offering menu development, wholesaling our own housemade almond mozzarella, as well as sourcing quality ingredients (which might be the most important component).
What are your bestsellers?
Our bestsellers are the Potato Leek (oil and garlic base, mozzarella, potato, leeks, rosemary and a lemon aioli drizzle) as well as the Meat Lovers (tomato sauce, mozzarella, pepperoni, gochujang beef, chorizo and bacon, with a drizzle of oregano oil) We are also so excited to be partnering with Juicy Marbles for our newest pizza, the Chimi. The Chimi has an oil and garlic base, mozzarella, Juicy Marbles’ steak, red onion, chimichurri, and crispy Parmesan chips and is insanely satisfying, especially for those of us who miss eating a good steak!
We’ve just added this steak from Juicy Marbles, which recently launched wholesale to select restaurants in the U.S. We have big plans to grow the menu using this product, but right now we are focused on the Chimi, which has been extremely popular. Texturally, I haven’t tried anything on the market that compares.
What has the wholesaling process been like?
It’s a new venture for us! We have been selling retail out of our store for several months and will be supplying a local vegan deli and grocer soon as well. We are currently talking with potential restaurant partners, and we are focusing on foodservice only as we continue to perfect the packaging and scale up production before launching to larger locations later this year.