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Nick Sarillo on leadership, staffing and social media

3 min read


Nick Sarillo is the founder and CEO of Nick’s Pizza & Pub, located in Crystal Lake, Ill., and Elgin, Ill. This year, Nick graced the cover of Inc. magazine as the “Blue Collar Millionaire” and has been driving success with a unique leadership style. His leadership has helped his restaurant develop a set of innovative social media strategies, and SmartBrief is lucky enough to have him participating in a panel in the upcoming Facebook Success Summit. Rob Birgfeld (who will be moderating the October panel) had the chance to bounce some questions off of him in advance of the event.

You are known to create a culture at Nick’s Pizza & Pub where your employees feel empowered and are a key piece to sharing your message. How has that ideology applied to social media?

“That Ideology” — clearly defined purpose and values — is at the very core of being effective with social media. With that clarity, as not just a piece of paper on the wall, but actually a process to make decisions by, we allow the team to speak with their own voice. The other important element is that we hire people that are in alignment with our values, and we keep the bar high and hire high performers. It is no surprise to me that Cory [who now runs the social media efforts for Nick’s Pizza and will be presenting tactical strategies on the upcoming panel] would do this well, because he performs at a high level as a server and bartender at Nick’s Pizza & Pub.

How did Nick’s Pizza & Pub’s social strategy begin and how has it evolved?

I love that question. It began here like it has begun with everyone else, it was already happening. Just like the culture of a company, it’s already happening, so you need to decide if you want to just let it happen or do you want to define it; and I do mean define, not control.

In one way it began with me, because I noticed the trend and the opportunity, and I asked for help. I didn’t go to an advertising company or a consultant, I went to my team for help. I posted signs in the restaurant and I looked on Facebook for who was using it most. Cory and the team took it from there.

How do you staff your social presence? What level of involvement do you have on a day-to-day basis?

I actually don’t have a day-to-day involvement. We have a weekly strategy meeting and I visit the sites when I can or feel the urge to see what’s happening. I leave staffing our social presence up to Cory. When we have a specific initiative he will ask for help from our team in the restaurants when it’s needed.

We’re slated to talk exclusively about Facebook during our October event. What is it about Facebook as a platform that you see as beneficial to restaurateurs or other small businesses?

I think the most obvious one is marketing. It’s a great way to get the word out for very little cost. I enjoy seeing and being a part of how this world is changing.

I believe Facebook is about building community, and it is just doing it in a different way. We have a great opportunity to build the community we want our business to be a part of.