With October being National Bullying Prevention Month, all 110 Pizza Factory restaurants will again promote the company’s “No Bully Zone” program.
Mary Jane Riva started the program in 2009 when she was a franchisee in Temecula, before she and her husband purchased the entire company of 106 restaurants in 2012. She then introduced the program company wide.
“We work with so many teenagers and when someone new was hired, sometimes they were not part of the ‘team’ right away,” Riva said. “I could tell how uncomfortable they were and also, if they were not friends with the other kids at school it was worse.”
Riva’s goal was to give the new teenage employees a chance to learn, and a chance for the other young adults to get to know them before judging them.
“Just because they may not hang out with each other at school didn’t mean they couldn’t be friends and, at a minimum, accept them,” Riva explained.
Riva also has some personal experiences that led her to the path of the No Bully Zone.
“Our son was also going through a tough time of coming out as gay which really gave us a personal experience of how mean and unexclusive people can be,” she said. “Being a bully isn’t always with words or physical harm, sometimes it is ignoring kids and not including them because of lack of compassion, ignorance or their own lack of self-esteem.”
Riva feels that working together, communities can stop bullying.
“It’s an epidemic that affects all of us - the scary truth is that 1 out of every 10 students who drops out of school is bullied,” Riva said. “This is unacceptable. At Pizza Factory, we’re committed to raising awareness to this growing problem in our communities.”
She also points out that bullies don’t have an “age” — they are kids, teenagers and adults, but the effects of bully attacks, whether verbal, cyber or physical, last a lifetime.
Pizza Factory franchisees are urged to support this important cause, and all across the West Coast, you’ll find Pizza Factory employees wearing “No Bully Zone” T-shirts on site and partnering up with local schools.
Schools, teachers, and students can also take an anti-bullying pledge where they agree to treat others with kindness and speak out against bullying. There’s also a sheet of exercises teachers can go through with their students about whether they’ve been bullied. Contact Pizza Factory at (559) 683-2700 for more information.
Riva makes visits during the year to different communities with a Pizza Factory restaurant to present them with a Buddy Bench related to the program. Each franchise decides where they would like the bench to go, but it is often an elementary school in the area.
Pizza Factory currently has 110 locations, with the majority in California. Pizza Factory restaurants have also been established in Washington, Nevada, Idaho, and Arizona.