Rosa’s Fresh Pizza started its pay-it-forward $1 slice program, known as Little Rosas, seven months ago. The program allows customers to purchase prepaid slices for individuals in need, and Rosa’s has received over $8,500 in prepaid slices since the program’s inception.
Mason Wartman, Rosa’s owner, has learned a lot about homelessness in Center City since opening Rosa’s at 25 S. 11th St. in December 2013.
“I didn’t realize just how segregated society was between homeless people that have absolutely nothing and people that have a family,” Wartman said. “If you have a bad day or two you can lose everything.”
For some customers, finding a warm place to sit and eat a free slice of pizza is sometimes the best thing to happen to them all day, and $1 can really make a difference.
The evidence can be found on the interior walls of Rosa’s. When Wartman started the Little Rosas program, donors put Post-It notes on the wall to represent a free slice of pizza. Customers would request “one off the wall” to obtain a free slice.
No longer used as a tracking tool, the Post-Its, many containing inspirational messages, are now a symbolic representation of the pay-it-forward initiative. Alongside the brightly colored sticky notes sit multiple thank you letters and notes from Little Rosas recipients. By saving money on food each day, many of these customers were able to spend money on clothing and toiletries which allowed them to eventually obtain employment.
With a business model so simple and cost effective, Qartman wonders why other restaurants couldn’t offer a similar initiative.
“If I had my way. If I were say, ruling the world. I would set up some sort of incentive structure, tax structure or at least encourage restaurants to have a homeless menu,” Wartman said. He used Chipotle as an example, suggesting the restaurant chain could offer customers the opportunity to prepay $2 for rice and beans to be given to a customer in need.
“That’s even more nourishing than pizza, and rice and beans are cheap. I imagine they would still make a profit and increase sales,” Wartman said.
Rosa’s New Warming Initiative
As the weather gets colder, Wartman looked for another way to expand Rosa’s philanthropic efforts. Now customers can purchase a Rosa’s T-shirt for $14, and half of the proceeds from each shirt will go toward prepaid slices.
For $35, customers will get a Rosa’s sweatshirt and an identical sweatshirt will be donated to a homeless customer in need. Each sweatshirt has an insert sewn inside, listing locations and hours for soup kitchens in the area, as well as free computer classes at 11th and Spring Garden.
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The new shirts not only promote the Rosa’s brand, but also Rosa’s mission. Each T-shirt says: “This shirt feeds the homeless. Ask me how.” The sweatshirts read: “Ask me to take my shirt off. I’ll show you how to help the homeless,” referring to the informational patch sewn inside of the shirt.
“I wanted to provide the homeless with this information and encourage them to have it on them at all times. Hopefully they can better their lives in a more permanent way than a slice a day,” Wartman said.
Little Rosas slices and Rosa’s shirts can be purchased in the store and online at www.rosasfreshpizza.com
Photo by Mary Anna Rodabaugh-30-
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