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.
These lessons come from an episode of Behind the Review, Yelp & Entrepreneur Media’s weekly podcast. Listen below to hear more from Demetri and Daniela, or visit the episode page to read more, subscribe to the show, and explore other episodes.
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