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.

“If you look up the original definition of restaurant, it’s ‘a place one goes to be restored,’” Sarillo says. “Each of us in my company, we’re all restaurateurs, and we’re all here to restore the souls of our guests.”

Restoring the souls of guests requires a team of employees who are happy working together and excited to work every day, Sarillo says. That way, he says, they can provide the ultimate consumer experience.

To instill that positive brand culture among his employees, Sarillo says, Nick’s hires people who share the brand’s many values, including “we have fun while we work,” “we treat everyone with dignity and respect,” and “we communicate openly, clearly, and honestly,” among others.

Once hired, an employee has access to the company’s open books, can work to build their own pay raises, and even has a hand in marketing and product innovation.

Not only has this commitment to brand culture and values kept employee turnover incredibly low, but it also helps to keep food costs low and profit high, Sarillo says.

 “Purpose and values have to be alive and vibrant in the culture of each restaurant,” he says. “That’s not something that there’s a guide behind.”

Thanks to Sarillo, however, there will be one soon. He’s authored a book about Nick’s people practices, Slice of the Pie, that will be released next year.

The National Restaurant Association Restaurant, Hotel-Motel Show is the restaurant industry's largest trade show. It takes place in Chicago's McCormick Place until Tuesday, May 24.

For more information, visit QSR at booth #4861.

By Sam Oches

Employee Management, News, Pizza, Nick's Pizza & Pub