Pivoting with purpose: From greenhouse to garden pizzeria

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

Small businesses constantly have to adapt, whether it’s a change in location or a logo adjustment. One business that’s no stranger to change is Garden Pizza, a restaurant located in Sant Cugat, a town near Barcelona, Spain. Owned by Nacho Nuñez and three business partners (Carlos Rocamora, Xavi Grau and Martin Marchese), Garden Pizza was originally a working garden centre owned by Carlos’ parents.

Before venturing into the culinary world, Nacho worked in advertising but had always wanted to own a restaurant. ‘It was a hobby I’d always had — I had some training just for the sake of it, and at a certain point I decided to take the leap and make a change.’ We talked to Nacho to learn how he and his partners successfully shifted their business into a Neapolitan-style pizzeria…and which marketing tools he uses to spread the word.

Locally grown

Before the pizza oven was installed, Garden Pizza (then known as Garden Rocamora) was a garden centre, where people could buy plants and gardening supplies. Gradually, it evolved into what it is now: a pizzeria housed in a lush greenhouse. They stay true to their roots, though — Nacho and his partners grow many of their own ingredients and focus on crafting family-oriented dishes from high-quality, healthy products.

‘The business didn’t change overnight. We were changing because the garden centre didn’t work, so we began to add food service. We were a pizzeria selling plants at the same time, and we’ve been 100% a pizzeria since 2019.’

News spread fast about the opening of Garden Pizza, thanks largely to their location, which has a close-knit community. Their unique business model and location has also helped their success — starting a pizzeria in a greenhouse has set them apart from other restaurants in the area. ‘It all worked almost from the first day. We were committed, we worked hard on quality and to make ourselves stand out by making really different pizzas.’

Standing out

In addition to their unique product and location, Nacho and the Garden Pizza team do a lot to stand out. ‘What makes us different from our competition is that we offer a quality product with no additives. Our dough is made from a type of flour that very few pizzerias in Spain use. The oven is another difference — it was brought to us from Italy, and is right in front of the restaurant, completely open. We feel people should see it because it’s a sign of quality that makes a difference.’

Garden Pizza’s vibrant branding also helps them make a memorable impression. Nacho and his partners worked with a freelance designer to create a logo and look for their pizzeria. In terms of branding, ‘we wanted to emphasise that we’re a pizzeria, but we’re not really Italian…so we didn’t want anything that reflected a trattoria or over-represented Italy. Rather, we’re a pizzeria in a healthy, plant-filled environment with a certain wellness idea.’

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‘We chose green and yellow because they combine well with our restaurant environment without looking too ‘vegetarian’ or ‘healthy’. We simply want to communicate that we work with high-quality ingredients.’ Their logo has stayed the same since the beginning, but they’re planning to adjust it to remove the location. ‘We’re going to remove ‘Sant Cugat’ because our idea is that Garden Pizza will expand to other locations.’

Growing the outdoor space

When restaurants had to shut down because of COVID-19, Garden Pizza pivoted yet again. They set up an online ordering system where customers could place orders for takeaway or delivery, and also made it a priority to give back to their community. They began distributing pizzas to hospitals, helping healthcare workers and patients in the area.

Once the shutdown was over and restaurants could reopen, ‘we focused all our business on what is now the terrace, adapting it to all weather. Now, the whole terrace is a dining room where people can enjoy their orders at no risk.’

The greenhouse is open indoors as well, at a limited capacity, ‘but basically is a ‘backdrop’ because it’s very pretty and has lots of hanging plants’.

Must-have advice

Nacho and his team got creative while their doors were closed…so they could still add value to the restaurant. ‘We shared recipes and performed online workshops with families and children so they could learn to make pizza dough together.’

Nacho’s marketing must-haves

Aside from word of mouth, Nacho says that when it comes to marketing the restaurant, ‘we use a little bit of everything’. But the first materials Nacho ordered for Garden Pizza were flyers to start promoting the business, and T-shirts for their employees. ‘We have different types of T-shirts our employees wear, and sometimes we raffle off T-shirts to customers.’

Another one of Garden Pizza’s early marketing purchases was a large vinyl banner. ‘We’ve hung banners outside the greenhouse so that people can see it, because the entrance isn’t an ordinary restaurant entrance…it’s an entrance to a garden.’

Like most small business owners, Nacho and his partners use business cards, too. They include a business card with the bill when it’s time to pay, so people can look at it and take it with them if they want. These days, ‘I don’t know many people who keep 60 business cards when you can search through Google and find what you need…but if customers take the business card with them, who knows where it will end up?’

Nacho makes sure to add their brand to everything, most often via a sticker with a logo or one of their slogans (‘Slice, slice, baby’ is a team favourite). Drinks containers, takeaway meal boxes and delivery bags get branded with stickers, and their kraft paper pizza boxes are stamped with their logo. If you’re dining in, laminated cards and larger stickers display QR codes so customers can read the menu digitally.

They’re also very focused on staying connected with their customers and encouraging people to come in. ‘We run little promotions, like maybe the first five people that mention it get a free pizza. We have games in [Instagram] Stories. We raffle off dinners for two people. We’re doing things like this so that the public is always connected with what we’re doing.’

And whenever they’re running a campaign or promoting a new product, they use flyers or posters to generate involvement and help people learn about new items.

Looking to the future

In the future, Nacho plans to continue offering delivery services and online ordering, and eventually offer a digital loyalty scheme. Garden Pizza wants to prioritise connecting with their social media followers, too. ‘Social media is what helps us have engagement with customers, something we’ve been working on since the first day we opened.’

Nacho and his business partners are optimistic about the future of the pizzeria. ‘We plan to open several more locations under the Garden Pizza logo. And we’re thinking that through right now. We signed with several investors a few months ago.’

Though they won’t be able to perfectly recreate the greenhouse dining experience in every new location, they’re scouting for spaces with the same vibe. ‘High ceilings and bright spaces where we can recreate a bit of the small oasis we currently have.’