Seasonality and sustainability offers recipe for success for growing pizza firm.
Independent pizza brand Sodo Pizza is growing fast and a railway arch in Bethnal Green is home to its latest exciting venture.
Founded seven years ago by four friends, Sodo Pizza is an artisan pizzeria that prides itself on operating sustainably and sourcing ingredients responsibly, with a focus on UK suppliers. The friends – Mike Wellan, Will Dorey, Enzo Caffarelli and Dan Birch – are all in their thirties and are excited about the next stage in the growth of their business. They have established popular restaurants in Clapton, Walthamstow and Hoxton, and the new Bethnal Green location opens possibilities to grow further. Mike explains: “We started off as a monthly pop-up at E5 Bakehouse, which is based in a railway arch in Hackney. Growing out of that, Clapton was a great home for our first restaurant and we moved into Walthamstow just as the demographics started to shift and lots of our existing customers began to move there. The new location at Bethnal Green offers lots of exciting opportunities, particularly as the arch set-up we have means we’ve been able to house our first prep kitchen there, so we can now expand our offer, experiment more with our concepts, and prepare staple items like our sauces in bulk to supply all three of our restaurants. We still make our sourdough bases on site at each location to maintain the quality and flavour. This dough is unique, made from a specialist organic heritage flour sourced from Buckinghamshire, and it helps make our pizza bases more flavour-full, lighter and easier on our diners’ stomachs.”
Sodo Pizza has been operating from the arch at Poyser Street since November 2018. It’s the largest of their properties and following an extensive fit-out, during which the friends did most of the work themselves, working to designs created by a friend who is an architect, the restaurant has a unique feel that works perfectly for their concept. The addition of a mezzanine level to make best use of the space has allowed them to house the new prep kitchen, offering the opportunity to run pizza-making and sourdough-making classes that have generated more revenue for the business.
Mike said: “Finding an arch that offered such a large space at a value for money price was a real bonus. Bethnal Green is a really interesting local community and is a great location for us. While the area has lots of good restaurants it was lacking a really good quality pizzeria. Since moving here we’ve grown our customer base quickly through word of mouth, reinforcing our focus on quality and provenance.”
A crucial principle for Sodo Pizza is their focus on using seasonal and sustainable produce, which provides a key point of difference from other pizzerias. Mike said: “Our customers appreciate the freshness and quality that comes with using seasonal produce and the trend towards more environmentally conscious consumers means that sustainability is increasingly important. It’s a challenge to meet this commitment consistently and we’ve had to be creative, but we’re really proud to be able to offer something different. We work with a farm in Essex to source our Mozzarella, our meat comes from a supplier in Islington and we’re talking to a grower in the Isle of Wight about using their tomatoes instead of importing them from Italy. All of this means our pizzas taste fresher and, of course, lowers the carbon footprint of our business. We’re excited to be working with a growers’ community in Dagenham to source our salads and herbs, and the next stage in our supply chain strategy is to develop a closer relationship with a local community garden, based in Bethnal Green, to source more ingredients.”
As well as working with local growers, the team at Sodo Pizza also work hard to support other local businesses, including fellow arch-dwellers. They stock beers from a host of local breweries, including The Five Points Brewery in Hackney, Redchurch Brewery in Bethnal Green, and Beavertown Brewery of Tottenham.
Further expansion is firmly on the agenda for the friends and the relationship with brewers provides a potential angle for their next project. They are discussing ideas around a craft beer and pizza pub, but in the meantime their focus is on exploring the new opportunities that the Bethnal Green restaurant offers. Short-term plans include developing their pizza and sourdough-making classes to make them more regular, expanding their opening hours and offering a new brunch menu to draw customers in from the popular café and restaurant scene just up the road at Paradise Row.
For more information about Sodo Pizza, who are based at 266 Poyser Street in Bethnal Green and run pizzerias in Clapton, Hoxton and Walthamstow, visit www.sodopizza.co.uk. Follow them on Twitter or Instagram @Sodopizzalondon.