A pizza chain looking to operate in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is coming under fire in that community for a promotional offer.
One of the fastest-growing restaurant chains in the nation, &pizza offers custom pies and a slick decor. It's fast-casual-meets-urban-hipster. The Cambridge Board of Zoning Appeal voted unanimously Thursday night to allow a restaurant to open. And any time a new location opens up, there's free pizza for an entire year, to the first 23 customers who get permanent tattoos featuring the company's ampersand logo.
"I don't think human body parts should ever be used for the sake of consumerism," said Harvard grad student Marcus Melo.
He says it's also offensive when CEO Michael Lastoria refers to employees as "tribe members," especially African Americans.
"When you have a white CEO calling low-wage workers this term, sort of harks back to that history," Melo said. "Tribe was a colonial-era term."
Workers are also encouraged to get inked up. Harvard professor Suzanne Blier says this is overt corporate pressure and a form of owning people.
"I might do it, because salary could be determined by that, or even ones hours," said Blier.
They're both part of a neighborhood coalition asking this company to stop with the permanent body art.
Lastoria initially agreed to an on-camera interview, but later, a spokesperson said he was unavailable and sent NBC Boston a statement, reading, in part, "We do it as a gesture of support, we want our team feeling they can express themselves, that they're part of something bigger. To us, it means, connection, inclusion and unity."
Lastoria knows all about innovative marketing. Before co-founding the Washington-based pizza chain, he sold his advertising company to Asian cosmetics powerhouse Shiseido.
Boston University marketing professor Susan Fournier says this strategy is outside the box, and may not actually build long-lasting brand loyalty.
"It moves from being a relationship founded, sort of, on commitment and belief, to something that's just a transaction," said Fournier.
Fournier says whether you agree with this marketing strategy or not, people are now talking about the brand.
&pizza got approval Thursday to set up shop in the old Crimson Corner and Tory Row space. The restaurant could be selling slices and offering free tattoos sometime next year.