September 1, 2015 |

Conversation with Nick Sarillo, Nick’s Pizza & Pub

By Pizza Today

Nick Sarillo Owner Nick's Pizza & Pub elgin illinoisNick lets us in on the pizzeria’s 20-year milestone and its company culture

Nick’s Pizza & Pub

Crystal Lake & Elgin, Illinois


The two-unit, Chicagoland pizzeria celebrates its 20th anniversary this year. Its company culture is unique and employee driven. Owner Nick Sarillo instituted “Nick’s University” a decade ago to train his staff. The program has since evolved into public leadership courses.


On Nick’s Pizza & Pub’s 20th Anniversary — We’re celebrating all summer long with offers for our guests, two family-fun festivals, new and different uniforms for the team, lots of fun stories from the past, and most of all…a ton of gratitude for our community.

On keys to longevity — Our people, the communities our restaurants are in and healthy fiscal performance.  The foundation to this success starts with being explicit about the culture we create within our organization. We create a meaningful place to work by knowing who we are and why we exist, which is why clear purpose and values are so important in that explicit, intentional culture. We don’t just read them from a piece of paper we BE-have them.

I have always believed in people, so I start with trust and the belief that people want to do their best. Then the process and systems we have in our restaurants support our people to be their best. The results are a great place work, food that is made with love and service that comes from authentic care.

On “Nick’s University” — In addition to our purpose and values, I would add our certification system, or what I call thinking of our business as a school. The whole idea is that each and every team member can see their career development path right there on a chart on the wall in both restaurants. From the 101 level to 201 to 301 to 401 levels, everyone could see how they could progress within the company and get their own raises — that along with 100-percent transparency and open books.

We treat each person as a leader of their own life, and their own path. Leadership and communication training is open and available to everyone in the company. The result is a business of business owners. A culture built around our purpose and values, and open books supports our team to innovate and perform at their best because they are intrinsically motivated. We don’t have managers commanding and controlling the team members. We trust the team, we track performance, and the team members hold each other accountable. What I believe is important in our industry, is that managers need to learn how to get out of the way. In this people-centered industry, managers need to learn how to be coaches and lead through inspiration.  I’m blessed with leaders in my company who understand this well.


What’s next?

I believe our country needs many more restaurants that truly serve that desire we have to feel restored, where families and friends could come together and enjoy authentic conversations and build lasting relationships with each other and the people who serve them.  Our country also needs more businesses that not only serve a need in the community, but they also serve to enrich the lives of the people that work there.  Pizza is a community food, and the perfect why for us to live our purpose and bring more Nick’s Pizza & Pub’s to more communities in America.