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National Restaurant Association - Green pioneer finds different situation 5 years later

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Green pioneer finds different situation 5 years later

Building an eco-friendly restaurant is a lot easier and affordable than it was five years ago, Pizza Fusion co-founder Vaughan Lazar is learning as he midwifes a second green venture.

When he and his partners launched Pizza Fusion, “there weren’t a lot of sustainable restaurants out there,” Lazar recalls.

Half a decade ago, it was more difficult to find the elements, or even the ideas, that would reduce a new restaurant’s environmental impact. The National Restaurant Association member company is now regarded as one of the industry’s greenest chains

“There might have been things out there, but they were cost-prohibitive,” he says.

This summer, he’s finding no lack of ways to shrink the carbon footprint of Kapow!, an Asian restaurant he’s opening in Boca Raton, Fla., with two longtime restaurant friends, Scott Frielich and Rodney Mayo. They asked Lazar to add a green sensibility to the venture as a sideline to his job as CEO of 18-unit Pizza Fusion.

“It’s a different situation today,” Lazar says. All the wood in the restaurant has been reclaimed from old barns and other sources. The bar top was made from compressed sorghum straw, which grows like a weed in hot areas.

The restaurant uses woks, which can require considerable water for cleaning. Kapow! found a version that enables the cooks to turn the water on and off with foot pedals instead of letting it run constantly.

Lazar studied the website of the Food Service Technology Center, an efficiency-testing facility in California, to choose his kitchen equipment. “Every piece I needed was on there, and it’s a free resource,” he says.

Kapow’s menu of noodles, sticky buns and other small-plate-style food will feature as many sustainable components as possible, says Lazar. Those, too, are easier to find today. Boca Raton is about to open the city’s first community garden a block from the restaurant.

“A lot has changed in five years,” Lazar remarks.

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