Who: Chip Bair, founder and owner
What: Beau Jo's – http://www.beaujos.com
Size: 6 company-owned units, 2 licensed units
Concept: Colorado-style pizza
Volume: $11-12 million for all stores
Menu stand outs: Out of 37 specialty pizza pies, the Dude Ranch, with Kraft Ranch Dressing as its base, is the number-one selling pizza
Famous for: Its extensive gluten-free menu and its commitment to using green energy sources, as well as its Colorado Mountain Pies
Case Study: Beau Jo's
Shares Its Pizza Success
An operator shares his story.
See how Chip Bair fills 600 seats in a town with a population of only 1,800.
Chip Bair offered the option of whole-wheat crust long before it was hip to serve whole-wheat crust. He started posting nutritionals and allergen alerts on his menu well ahead of government mandates. Green is not a new color at Beau Jo's. And through all of his 40-plus years running this Colorado pizza concept, which he took over in 1973, Bair has expanded his business tremendously, now boasting seven units in Colorado and one in South Dakota. When he bought the first Beau Jo's, in Idaho Springs, Colorado, it seated 17. Now? Six hundred. With a population of a scant 1,800 or so, that's a huge percentage of folks choosing Beau Jo's.
Why do they flock there? A good bet is so they can enjoy Beau Jo's legendary Colorado Mountain Pies. A thicker style of pizza, Beau Jo's braids the edges, so they're built up. The shells are filled with sauce, toppings and then cheese. And the most popular Mountain Pie? The Dude Ranch.
What's so special about the Dude Ranch Pizza?
Beau Jo's Dude Ranch features a spread of Kraft Ranch Dressing over the thick dough. Slices of tender chicken, mushrooms, Roma tomatoes and smoked bacon sit atop the dressing. Shredded Monterey Jack and smoked provolone round out the profile. "The flavor combination is wonderful on this pizza," says Bair. "We strive to use the best products at Beau Jo's, so we went with Kraft's ranch. I don't even question the consistency and quality of the dressing." Heating ranch dressing in a pizza oven can bring challenges. "Kraft Ranch doesn't lose its flavor or texture, so we get a really great end-product," he says. Three other specialty pies rely on Kraft Ranch Dressing for their bases: Highland Mary (ranch dressing, black olives, Roma tomatoes, chicken, whole-milk mozzarella, Parmesan and basil); Bacon Cheeseburger Pizza (ranch dressing, ground beef, Roma tomatoes, red onion, mild cheddar and Monterey Jack); and the Green Chili Cheeseburger Pizza (ranch dressing, ground beef, Roma tomatoes, green chilies, red onion, Monterey Jack and mild cheddar).
Better for you, naturally
"I've tried to stay on the healthier side of things since we opened," says Bair. Indeed, Beau Jo's has always used honey instead of sugar in its dough, it has always featured fresh vegetables on its pizzas and turkey pepperoni has always been an alternative to traditional pepperoni. "I know there's a big focus now on healthier menus, but it's not a new feature for us—it's not a marketing angle. It's a core value," he says. Beau Jo's worked with a restaurant consultant to develop its nutritional and allergen chart, which breaks down the menu by ingredients, alerting diners about: calories, total fat, saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, sodium, carbohydrates, proteins and dietary fiber. Beau Jo's also features a Smart Meal Menu, with lower-in-fat, saturated fat and sodium options than standard restaurant meals.
Kraft Dressings for Beau Jo's Salads
Beau Jo's features an extensive salad bar, presented in quaint claw-foot tubs. They feature Kraft Dressings in both the salad bar and with their to-go salads, including Kraft Thousand Island Dressing, Kraft Golden Italian Dressing, Kraft Poppy Seed Salad Dressing and Kraft Blue Cheese Dressing.
Adding Gluten Free to the Menu Mix
Bair introduced a gluten-free section of the menu in 2005. It includes five appetizers, four sandwiches and 14 pizzas. Gluten-free menu items account for upwards of 10% of sales. "It's impacted our bottom-line substantially," says Bair. "But more importantly, we feel like we're meeting the needs of an under-served and growing population." Beau Jo's relies on products from a gluten-free bakery, including its gluten-free pie shells. "We just couldn't dedicate the space needed for gluten-free production," he explains. But extensive training on handling the gluten-free menu is still needed. To help create the gluten-free menu, Bair hired a consulting company specializing in nutrition and ingredient analysis, ensuring that none of the components contained gluten.
Innovative Ways to Go Green
Beau Jo's strives to infuse as many sustainable practices into its business model. "Not only does it save us money and garner local publicity, but it's the right thing to do, and our customers appreciate that," says Bair.
- Implemented a wind-power program, where the company purchases 100% of its power through wind-sourced energy
- Installed a unique system to capture heat from its ovens to heat its water, going from three hot-water boilers to one
- Installed 48 kW of solar photovoltaic solar arrays (35 kW in Idaho Springs, 10kW in Boulder and 3 kW in warehouse), which paid for itself in lower electric bills within 36 months
- Expanded recycling programs by increasing the use of recyclable to-go containers and utensils, T-shirts, hats, (bamboo & organic), and by reducing paper in office
- Replaced throwaway kids' cups with reusable kids' cups, saving nearly 100,000 plastic cups a year
- Applied a one-napkin-per-customer policy (unless more are requested)
- Installed waterless urinals, dual-flush toilets, low-flow pre-rinse, variably controlled makeup-air system and the most efficient HVA system available