When Daniela B.’s office celebrated her naturalization ceremony with a pizza party, she also hailed another milestone: her first vegetarian pizza.
Since the day of the party fell during Lenten season, when Daniela doesn’t eat meat, her coworkers ordered a veggie meal from Brick 3 Pizza in Milwaukee to mark the occasion. The slice was a revelation. “It was just the best pizza I had ever had,” she said. “I had this sort of magical moment.”
What made it so special? Even now, it’s hard for Daniela to describe: “It was the uniqueness of the veggie pizza. I thought, wow! It’s hard to put it in words, but the flavors that I got from it—it didn’t feel like a pizza without meat, you know? It felt like it was really something different.”
Luckily, she found the words to write a Yelp review later that day, moved by both the restaurant’s creativity, the quality of her meal, and the special moment that Brick 3 helped commemorate in her life: “We had it at work, and I was blown away by the veggie pizza. I’ve never had it before and it was supreme. On my second time, I had a caprese, which happens to be the house specialty. And again I was blown away. Fresh ingredients on a big, New York-style slice. I’ll come back for more.”
This combination of fresh ingredients and unique flavors is the foundation of a successful pizza, according to owner Demetri Itsines. At Brick 3 Pizza, everything is done from scratch. Take their chicken parm pizza, for example. “Most places will take a chicken tender, frozen from the store—cook it, chop it up, and throw it on a pizza,” Demetri said. “We take a fresh chicken breast that we cut ourselves. We put the breading on ourselves. We deep-fry it ourselves. We take it out. We do everything.”
Demetri is committed to quality. He wants his customers to keep coming back because they love the pizza—not because it’s a quick and convenient lunch. That’s why he eats his own product regularly: He wants to create an experience that everyone, including him and his team, can cherish.
“I ask everybody, even the employees here: ‘Is it a place that you’d want to go to?’” he said. “It’s been 13 years, and I still order a pizza once a week. I eat slices probably every three or four days, but it’s still something I want to be able to eat.”
Demetri also routinely asks for feedback from his team, which he keeps small, tight-knit, and family-oriented. In some cases, this actually means employing family members: Demetri’s father, who also owned restaurants and fostered a love for the industry in his son, works at the pizza place in his retirement because he misses the restaurant world. Meanwhile, employees who work on holidays celebrate Christmas together—on Easter—because it’s the first day Brick 3 closes.
Demetri said: “When I hire people, the first thing I tell them is, ‘In two weeks, tell me if you like this place or don’t.’ I don’t want you to just leave. I want you to tell me, I disliked this. I want to know because six people—even 10 people—is a small business.”
But even as a small business, Brick 3 has made a big impact on its community. Nestled in a high-traffic spot in the heart of downtown Milwaukee, the restaurant anticipates its customers’ needs based on sports schedules, conventions, and expos. The team works together to weather a big lunch rush or game day, and Demetri stays on top of the schedule to make sure he’s fully staffed for events.
In addition to foot traffic from city-wide celebrations, about 70% of the restaurant’s customers are regulars, Demetri estimates. Those who come on their lunch break from the nearby Fiserv Forum, home of the Milwaukee Bucks, love that the restaurant broadcasts its support with the team’s colors and a quirky collection of sports bobble heads.
From interior design to quality taste, Demetri has perfected the recipe for keeping customers coming back—again and again. Here are some other takeaways from the episode:
- High quality products win every time. Demetri’s quality ingredients and fresh vegetables sold Daniela on her first veggie pizza.
- Know your traffic patterns. If your business is near a high-volume area, keep your calendar up-to-date to make sure your business is prepared for busier-than-usual days.
- Excellent customer service will set you apart from the competition. The Brick 3 team works to connect with their customers, particularly regulars.
Listen to the episode below to hear from Demetri and Daniela, and subscribe to Behind the Review for more from new business owners and reviewers every Thursday.
Behind the Review, episode 39 transcript
Consistency that keeps customers coming back
EMILY: I’m Emily Washcovick, Yelp’s Small Business Expert. Every episode I pick one review on Yelp and talk to the entrepreneur and the reviewer about the story and business lessons behind it.
Lets see what’s behind this week’s review.
DANIELA: It was actually a very special moment in my life, as I had just had my naturalization ceremony the day before. So I thought it was going to be a regular day at work, and my team surprised me with a pizza party for lunch. And they came in with all these big boxes of Brick 3 pizza. And it was quite a surprise. And I think the best part was also that they said, well we know that you cannot eat meat. It was Friday during Lent, so we ordered a veggie pizza for you. And I appreciated that. When I tried it, I was like, oh, wow. I really liked it. I’ve never had a veggie pizza before. And it was just the best pizza I had ever had. I had this sort of magical moment.
And clearly this business really connects with a very special moment in my life.
EMILY: That’s Daniela, telling me about the first time she experienced Brick 3 Pizza. This moment in her life was memorable. She had achieved her dream of becoming a U.S. citizen and fittingly, she celebrated with one of America’s favorite foods, Pizza. After her first bite of veggie pizza, Brick 3 became her favorite pizza place.
Let’s hear Daniela’s review.
DANIELA: We had it at work and I was blown away by the veggie pizza. I’ve never had it before and it was supreme. On my second time, I had a capresi, which happens to be the house specialty. And again, I was blown away. Fresh ingredients on a big New York style slice. I’ll come back for more.
EMILY: Short and sweet, but informative! Daniela loves the fresh ingredients, and has experienced a few slices at the time of her review. She also included some photos.
DANIELA: I’m a very visual person. So being a restaurant or a business that sells food items, I think that it’s really important to be able to have the visual experience.
Particularly in the case of my review, I was just amazed how fresh ingredients were. It caught my attention that the house specialty was the capresi. Which is really far from I would say the average, the regular pizza. You know? It would have some kind of meat, sausage, pepperoni, that I was amazed.
I’m like, this is fresh, this is like a healthy slice of pizza. And I love it. So to me, it’s really important to try to communicate, not only with words, what my experience was, but also to show it because it talks a lot about the freshness, the quality and what the business has to offer.
EMILY: Showing visuals helps consumers get a sense of the business, the products and services they offer, and how they look ‘in real life,’ if you will, rather than maybe a styled professional photo.
Let’s hear from owner Demetri, on how Brick 3 Pizza came to be.
DEMETRI: We’re a pizza by the slice place. That’s kind of what we’re known for. By 11:00 AM, we have 16 different types of pizzas out. We offer 30 total. So if you order online, you can do all of that stuff. You can call in orders, just like an old school pizza place. We’re not forcing you to use GrubHub or DoorDash if you don’t have to, we prefer you don’t. But we’ve always had the pizza by the slice, which is just the easiest cause everyone wants to try something new. It’s boring, you can go get pepperoni pizza anywhere. You’ve got to try the fun stuff.
I have a family that has always owned restaurants. My dad has always owned restaurants since the day I was born. It’s all I know. I tried to do other stuff. I don’t know how to do other stuff. All I know is restaurants. Me and my friend always wanted to do a pizza place. We looked at a couple other locations. This one fell into his lap pretty perfectly. We rolled with this location. Thank God, because it ended up being perfect.
EMILY 4: Brick 3 is located on Old World 3rd in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. My hometown. Lined up and down the street are restaurants, pubs, local businesses, and just 1 block west is Fiserv Forum. The arena of the Milwaukee Bucks, the current NBA Champions. Demetri’s business has sat in this location since before Fiserv was even built. When the Bucks weren’t so hot, and they still played at the Bradley center. We’ll hear more later on how Demetri and his team plan for local events, games, playoff series and conventions. But first, here he is sharing a bit more about their fresh ingredients and commitment to high quality food.
DEMETRI: My dad’s owned a restaurant since the day I was born. And now that he’s retired, he comes in and works with me everyday, cause he’s bored out of his mind. So he pushes other things too. Like you go to some places, say like a chicken parm pizza. Most places will take a chicken tender, frozen from the store, cook it, chop it up, throw it on a pizza. We take a fresh chicken breast that we cut ourselves. We put the breading on ourselves. We deep fry it ourselves. We take it out. We do everything.
I tell everybody like even the employees here, is it a place that you’d want to go to? Same with food. Like it’s something that I would eat. I mean it’s 13 years and I still order a pizza once a week, I eat slices probably every three or four days, but it’s like, it’s still something I want to be able to eat.
I want everything to be fresh. A lot of people don’t even have sandwiches here, but the people from the Fiserv literally come every single day, six days a week, except Sundays, cause they’re off. And they have a sandwich. Like they love it every week. Those people all know it. Once people know about our sandwiches, they eat them a lot more.
But again, it goes down to Philly cheese steak, ham and cheese, like we don’t just go buy some ham that’s sliced. We buy it ourselves, we slice it ourselves. We do everything ourselves. High quality stuff. No basic, as much as possible.
EMILY: A commitment to quality ingredients that builds lasting relationships with customers. Everyone loves pizza, but there’s something about pizza with fresh ingredients that for many, is a reason to come back for more. Lets not forget that it’s not just pizza either! There’s sandwiches, salads, all prepared in house.
DANIELA: It was the uniqueness of the veggie pizza. I thought, wow! It’s hard to put it in words, but, the flavors that I got from it, not being, it didn’t feel like a pizza without meat, you know? It felt like it was really something different, something else.
So I can tell you that I eat pizza the most at the office, right? When we order something, it’s always pizza. And we try for different businesses. So, when I tried Brick 3, I could tell right away that it was something I liked so much more than other pizzas that I had had in the past.
So I’m pretty sure that even if he had been on a regular day, I would have still paid attention and be like, okay, well, what is, what is this pizza again? Yeah, give me a name again. And I’m pretty serious now about the whole pizza tasting thing. I have to tell you, I have a list. Like I created a list on my phone because, well, culturally speaking, right? I don’t, I didn’t grow up having pizza all the time. Pizza was something that we had once in a while. It was like a very special occasion when mom would let me have a burger or a pizza. So I want to learn about all these businesses.
I have to tell you I’ve been in the Milwaukee area for almost five years, so the fact that when we, I connected very well with Yelp, because I didn’t have any knowledge of, okay, what are the businesses? What are the best places to go to or the services, or what do the locals think of the places in the area where to eat? Where you should go to this place instead of another one?
So Yelp has in my personal experience has been my platform to understand, and to learn about my surroundings and therefore, in this particular time I have a little bit of, I have some fun with it. I have my own list of different pizza businesses and styles, and then we try but Brick 3 Pizza has been still my number one, I tell it’s not only mine, also in the office we really, really like it. And clearly we’ve ordered multiple times.
EMILY: I moved back to the midwest a few years ago, and I”ll be honest, I had to ask Daniela for her list of pizza places. But I too, put Brick 3 at the top of my list. Let’s take a quick break.
EMILY: And we’re back! A distinctive thing about Brick 3, is their boxes.
DEMETRI: No, the boxes is big! Honestly, that’s one thing I have a big, I’ve always had like big fights about. We’ve tried cheaper boxes. It doesn’t work. Like our slice is 10 inches big. So a lot of places you’ll see other places that use a slice box, which is like literally the shape of a pizza, like a triangle. Ours won’t fit in that. Our sizes are way too big. So you got to use a quality box. That was one thing my business partner stressed right away. Like, keep the logo and the stuff on the boxes, because that’s big, especially like you said, walking down north ave or I used to live at The Modern, you go in the garbage room and you see the box. You’re like, oh, I should probably get pizza today. So you’re paying for, it’s promotion is what it is. People get mad about the price of boxes, but it’s actually promotion.
EMILY: And while our reviewer Daniela still hasn’t been to Brick 3 in person, the interior and design of the business is another thing that sets them apart. They have a cool collection, and it connects them to the local community.
DEMETRI: So bobbleheads literally started because, the Admirals people, back when there was a Bradley center, would bring one in every once in awhile and then they would bring in like the next new one and then the Bucks would see it. So some of the Bucks guys would bring one in and this all started at Bradley Center and then it turned into fans would bring them in and I’ll trade them like a bobble head for a slice and a soda after a game. Then I started getting more. I have like another hundred in storage and I just don’t have the shelf to put it up yet. So we’re going to, I want to make it. It’s funny, I remember we had six and they started on top of our Coke machine and now it’s three levels already and we need to make more. Sports is big.
EMILY: In addition to the 3 level bobble head collection circling the walls of the inside of the business, Demetri has thought of, and changed the interior colors multiple times, until he found the right fit. Cleanliness and the presentation of the business is also huge for him.
DEMETRI: So originally when we opened it was red and black and I really disliked that because it made me think Chicago fans felt welcome and this was a Bull’s place. And I’m like, I don’t want that, so right away, I started changing everything. I changed to white. Then I changed once the Bucks came out with their new colors. I love the blue and green. So changed everything to blue and green. So now that’s where we’re at. And I’m going to try to keep it that as long as possible. I do, I love the white and black, again, like you were talking about the brick and mortar part. I love the inside, keeping stuff clean. We actually were on channel 4 for a clean award at one point a couple of years ago.
I have real OCD, not like people say, oh, I cleaned my bedroom twice and now I have OCD. No, it’s like, I count my steps. The basement’s as clean as possible, every health inspector that comes in here and says, I can’t believe how clean your basement is. This building is the oldest building on, like, it would have been cheaper for us to knock it down and build a new building here and they wouldn’t let us, because it’s a historic building. So you gotta keep it clean.
EMILY: Demetri has pride in his brick and mortar, and that desire to keep it up, and make it clean, friendly and welcoming is what results in so much repeat business.
DEMETRI: Our in-person people, I bet you it’s 70% repeat customers. If not more. It’s the same people everyday. Fiserv, law offenses, a bunch of those people that are right around this area within walking distance, you can tell how it gets better when it’s like 70 to 80 degrees outside, just more people want to walk. They don’t want to be locked in. And then that area in March where it’s like 60 and people in Wisconsin think it’s 90, so they’re all out and about. So it’s awesome. Then that helps. Delivery is all different types. We deliver to restaurants all the time.
EMILY: And carry-out. Like Daniela and her team.
The Brick 3 staff is small, but mighty. They’re great at making high quality food of course, but they also set the tone in the restaurant. Their energy and excitement to engage with the customer makes the in-person experience that much better. Demetri attributes this to the team being like family.
DEMETRI: I love my staff, I do. It’s sad where it’s at, I mean, usually we have 12, we are down to six. So it’s rough. But they’re used to working and they like it. I mean, it’s better, they kind of like it this way because they know that they’re still getting their 40 hours. So they don’t have to worry about bringing other people in. But we’re small. Like when I hire people, the first thing I tell them is in two weeks, tell me if you like this place or don’t. I don’t want you to just leave. I want you to tell me, like, I disliked this. I want to know because six people, even 10 people is a small business. And smaller than most. It’s not normal, most people have 20 employees, 30 employees. You go to any other restaurant out here, they have more employees than us. Insomnia cookies has more employees than us, and they’re half the square footage. So you can tell, I like to keep it small because I like to keep it family oriented. We actually celebrate our Christmas on Easter every year. Cause it’s like the first day we’re closed. So I take everybody to a restaurant. We all go eat and hang out.
EMILY: And that tight knit team works together to prepare for and survive the days when they’re slammed. The downtown location means sports schedules, conventions, expos, and other city-wide celebrations can significantly impact the foot traffic and business they do in a day. I asked Demetri how he prepares.
DEMETRI: Majority of the time it’s Fiserv. I check the Fiserv site, so I try to make two weeks’ schedules for the guys. So everybody knows when they’re here. Then I will put all the events for those two weeks on the calendar. So we know what’s going on. A lot of things won’t pop up and then I don’t really know about them until that day. But there’s other things that you will know about like the Shamrock shuffle is in two weeks. That’s like the biggest thing for this city besides the finals. Those are things that I do try to keep an eye on, but some things will pop up that I don’t know about. And we’ll get just smoked. Like I actually just thought about it yesterday that Harley Fest is this week. So I’m glad I thought about it because I need to staff more now for the weekend. Then there’s like the anime convention? I always forget about it. Huge though. Huge.You can tell right away, cause we start getting tons of deliveries cause they all stay at the Hyatt or the Aloft. And I try to keep Hyatt and Aloft employees happy as possible. Cause I always want them to send customers this way. So I always try that way.
EMILY: It’s not a perfect system, but few are! By staying in tune with the major venues and their event schedules Demetri and his team can be prepared a majority of the time. Beyond that, they know queues to pay attention to that might tip them off that business is picking up, so they can add staff and get prepared.
To close us out, I want to talk about reviews. Here’s Daniela sharing a bit of her experience in hospitality, as well as what motivates her to review.
DANIELA: I have a major in the hospitality business, so during my years in college, I was fortunate to train with some of the best in the hospitality business. I was trained by masters, like the Four Seasons Hotel, Intercontinental, Japanese Nikkon. I had all these great teachers and I learned so much from that, the importance of service, right?
How you need, or should be serving. Where does that need to come from? So I totally understand I’ve being on the other side, providing the service, right? To a customer. So to me it’s really important to give feedback mainly, you know, to appreciate, to give feedback.
If it’s not such a positive experience, to give feedback to the business. Or I feel like I have notice little things just because I’ve also been on that other side. And what drives me to share my reviews or to write the reviews is that I used it so much myself. When we first moved to the Milwaukee area, it was really my guide, in so many ways, and it helped me so much. Just having a platform like Yelp helped really gave me an idea on tips and comments.
I think Yelp is so much more than just, oh, this is a good place or a bad place or donate here. No, I think that you can really share so much about a service or a business. Whether it’s a tip, right? A tip about it or something you could ask or know about the business. Or some feedback to the business. Which I personally have found so useful when being able to have that platform, to let the business perhaps know, I have a suggestion for you if that’s okay. Here’s my suggestion to the business. And they’ve responded. I’ve gotten a really great response from them on many occasions. So, that’s what drives me to produce the reviews, for the businesses and for other people that are just like me, were clueless at some point, I didn’t know where to go, you know?
EMILY: And for Demetri, like many entrepreneurs, Yelp is an asset, and a challenge.
DEMETRI: So I see certain businesses that push really hard towards getting reviews. Like that’s their goal. I’m not trying to get reviews. Do I appreciate reviews? A hundred percent. And it’s cool because now they’re pretty much on everything. Like if people order through Door Dash, I get a review. If people order through Square, when you get your receipt, you can do a review.
Yelp to me is awesome, and I dislike it at the same time. When I go anywhere outside of Milwaukee, I use Yelp a hundred, a hundred percent of the time. It’s not even a question. It’s just the problem to me as a business owner, the biggest thing to me is a customer can come in 99 times, never write a review. The 100 time they come in, there’s like a little piece of hair in there. Holy shit. I have to go straight to Yelp. I have to tell everybody this is bad news. Like, no, don’t do that to me. Like give me a review all the time, if that’s the way it’s going to be.
But like I said, I personally loved, you know, anywhere I go, like I remember I went to San Diego, I went to San Francisco. All I did was click on sort and did most reviewed and checked everything out that was there because you gotta do most reviewed too. You can’t just, highest reviewed, because somebody has seven reviews, they’re going to have five stars that happens. So you got to go to a place that has 3, 4, 500. I mean, I remember in San Diego, there was this place that’s probably 500 square feet. A little it’s called Oscars. It’s a little taco place. It had like 1900 reviews. I couldn’t believe it. Like the line is an hour long. It happens all day though, but it’s because of Yelp it’s because people check like, oh, like this place must be, it must be good. If Yelp has 1900 reviews is next level. I think we’re at like 300.
EMILY: And that concludes our episode! Be sure to subscribe so you get new episodes every Thursday. I hope you enjoyed it and were able to take a thing or two away to implement in your own life. Whether it’s a new idea that you can bring back to your business, or a fresh perspective on how to be a positive influence as a consumer, we share these stores to inspire and create more meaningful connections in your local community. For more information about today’s business, or to connect with me check out the show notes!
The information above is provided for educational and informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice and may not be suitable for your circumstances. Unless stated otherwise, references to third-party links, services, or products do not constitute endorsement by Yelp.