It's a difficult task to really stand out in the bustling, globalized metropolis that is China's capital city of Beijing. And—trivial as it may seem—it's no different with pizza. For years, chains like Pizza Hut and Domino's have only multiplied within the city, but the story of Gung Ho!—one of the most well-known pizza shops and delivery services in Beijing—is truly something extraordinary, and that makes it shine in the crowd.
"Gung Ho" soon became a slogan to express a whole-hearted devotion to a cause, which is exactly the spirit which inspires us nowadays with our business.
Founded in 2010 by New Zealanders Jade Gray and John O’Loghlen, Gung Ho!'s mission combines a strong sense of social responsibility, a participative management style, a commitment to being eco-friendly and a strong involvement in the local art scene. The source of inspiration behind the brand is unique as O’Loghlen explains, “Gung Ho! (modern Pinyin transliteration: gonghe) literally means 'work together.' The term comes from the Chinese Industrial Cooperative Association, founded before the republic by a bunch of foreign enthusiasts whose principal organizer was Rewi Alley—himself a Kiwi. The organization they built created several self-supporting rural cooperatives where workers and refugees from the Anti-Japanese War could work together on a common goal. 'Gung Ho' soon became a slogan to express a whole-hearted devotion to a cause, which is exactly the spirit which inspires us nowadays with our business."
Since they opened their first little delivery store in July 2010, Gray and O’Loghlen managed to create something more intriguing and appealing than any other competitor in town. While environmental awareness in China is not a chief concern for many of the country's businesses, Gung Ho! makes it a priority. By educating its staff and customers about environmental issues, recycling pizza boxes and delivery bike batteries and bringing green technology into the construction of their restaurants, the restaurant is setting the bar high for small businesses in China. Since 2012, Gray and O’Loghlen have worked with We Impact to build a sustainable business model; they also set up an environmental department and a “green team” of volunteers that deals with waste management and sustainability. In 2013 they climbed the Great Wall and collected 42 kilos of waste in the neighboring mountains, while their recycled paper boxes means they save 269 trees per year.
The duo was inspired by an excellent example of sustainability. “Someone we truly admire is Yvon Chouinard, founder of Patagonia. He’s a pioneer of a sustainable company, he donates one percent of sales to environmental campaigns and established the One Percent for the Planet program, whose mission is to build, support and activate an alliance of businesses financially committed to creating a healthy planet. We’re trying to do something with him—and we want to become the 'Patagonia of Pizza.'"
Making the idea of sustainability even more accessible and fun, since 2011 Gung Ho! has been running the Feeding Starving Artists project, for which local Beijing creatives are invited to design Gung Ho! pizza boxes. They have also been working closely with SURGE Art, a well-known platform dedicated to supporting China’s most promising artists. O’Loghlen says, “Pizza boxes provide a platform for burgeoning artists. They’re also beautiful to look at, presenting the viewer with unique local perspectives on Beijing life."
If the delicious, eco-friendly organic pizza and the artistic endeavors of the brand aren't enough to get a glimpse of the dynamics, when entering a Gung Ho! restaurant, the enthusiastic staff—from the founders to the delivery drivers—will certainly give an idea of the passion and the sense of community on which the brand is built.
Gung Ho! is at 101, Building 3 China View, 2 Gongti Dong Lu, Chaoyang district and various other locations throughout Beijing.
Images courtesy of Gung Ho!