Nick's Pizza & Pub

More than Minimum Wage

With 12.8 million workers, the restaurant industry is one of the largest employers in the country. Industry champions often boast of the distinction, and particularly now, with national unemployment at 9.1 percent, it appears as if the restaurant industry is playing a hefty role in the U.S. labor market.

Of course, people who have had their eye on the industry for a while remember a time, before the Great Recession, when it wasn’t easy to recruit quality employees or even a full staff.

After Hitting Bottom, Nick's Looks to Customers for a Hand

When the economy had grown so sour that it seemed impossible to keep the doors open, Illinois-based pizza concept Nick’s Pizza & Pub looked for help from the people who possibly had the most invested in the company: its customers.

This was the case last week, when owner and founder Nick Sarillo realized his two units, in Crystal Lake and Elgin, Illinois, were on the brink of closing. Sarillo and his team of 200 employees sent a letter to dedicated fans announcing the potential close, and already have received an outpouring of support.

LIVE: Purpose, Value Help Nick's to 25% Turnover

Nick Sarillo, owner of Crystal Lake, Illinois–based Nick’s Pizza & Pub, told QSR at the 2011 NRA Show in Chicago that an intense commitment to brand culture and values among his workers has helped build business and keep his employee turnover around 25 percent.

Sarillo—who will speak at the educational session “Wake Up! It’s Ain’t the Marketing, It’s the Experience!” on Monday at the NRA Show—says his two-unit pizzeria company focuses on the people element of business above all other things to drive success.