RED BANK: GLUTEN-FREE EATERY GETS EARTHY

Paul Finkler is severing his ties with Pizza Fusion and rebranding his Broad Street restaurant Earth Pizza. (Click to enlarge)

By ROBERT KERN

You might call it a pizza “de-fusing.”

Just three years after opening a Pizza Fusion franchise in Red Bank, owner Paul Finkler is cutting the chains and rebranding his newly independent Broad Street restaurant as Earth Pizza.

Dissolving ties to a franchisor may seem daring, but Finkler looked at the restrictions imposed by the chain versus his desire to meet the needs of his customers, and said he knew what he had to do.

“Pizza Fusion is a franchise like McDonald’s is a franchise, and they don’t like people tinkering with the menu,” Finkler tells redbankgreen. “I wanted to give my customers what they were asking for, like more gluten-free and more vegan options. Being in a franchise, my hands were tied.”

Though the signage on the restaurant will change as early as next week, Finkler wants to assure current customers that dishes will still be “organic, pure and all natural” and that “nothing is being taken off the menu.”

Instead, he paid attention to the items his customers kept requesting that he couldn’t provide as a franchisee, he said.

New menu items include gluten-free chicken tenders, chicken wings and French fries. He’s also adding hummus-based items, including a hummus vegetable wrap. Neither would not be allowed under his agreement with Pizza Fusion, he said.

Finkler declined to discuss the process of ending his relationship with Pizza Fusion, except to say that “it wasn’t easy.” But the divorce will allow him the flexibility to grow and adapt his dishes to the tastes of his clientele, he said.

With only one location, the independent route is a better fit for him, he said.

“I want people to know this is a mom-and-pop,” he said. “It’s me and my wife [Lisa] who own this, and we want to be able to do our own thing and give our customers what they are asking for.”

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