Nicholas Eckerman felt enough was enough when it came to the cheapening of the pizza-eating experience in America.
“We looked at pizza as being constantly compromised,” Eckerman says. “Take a pizza that always had to be communal, always had to be shared. We wanted to go in the opposite direction. We wanted to create a product that was about a personal experience.”
So Eckerman; his father, Rodney; Rodney’s longtime business partner, Irv; and Irv’s son, Jeff, set out to create a pizza restaurant that would make Cosmo Kramer of TV’s “Seinfeld” fame very proud. At PizzaRev, you get to make your own pizza with whatever toppings you choose to put on it.
“When you order a pizza, you’re usually looking at a menu and going through it saying, ‘Let’s see,’” says Irv, who along with Rodney serves as co-CEO at PizzaRev. “You have plenty of time because the waiter hasn’t shown up yet. In our case, you’re front and center with a person saying, ‘What kind of sauce do you want? You’re engaged from start to finish and most people love that because they’ve never experienced it.”
PizzaRev opened its first store in April 2012, opened two more later that year and by 2014, had nine stores in Southern California. The company has created 400 new jobs in Greater Los Angeles, and thanks to a franchising deal with Buffalo Wild Wings, now has a presence in Minnesota and is looking to continue to grow its brand across the country.
“We anticipate having 28 or so stores by the end of this year,” Irv says. “We believe there is nothing about great thin crust pizza at your choice, customized the way you want it at one price, and done fast, that people don’t like. So we believe as long as we keep delivering on the model, the upside is endless.”
Look for desire
One of the keys to PizzaRev’s success is its ability to find people who bring self-confidence to their work, says Nicholas, who is the company’s COO.
“Those who make it into our organization are people who we believe are self-confident,” Nicholas says. “I don’t mean in the realm of speaking or of being overly confident. I mean they want to get out and do something. They wanted this job or they are confident enough to come and tell us they want to do this job.”
In any business, skill and character are obviously the key traits that you look for when considering someone for a job. But it’s more than just looking for people who are smart or who have the ability to work well with others. How much do they want to work for you?
“That’s what we look for in our team members,” Nicholas says. “They are interested in food and beverage and in getting skills out of the process for themselves. They want to learn something that they can continue to grow with our company or that they can take to another company or to their career. We want them to learn skills. We don’t want it to just be a job.”
Once you identify people who fit that mold and bring them in the door, the next step is to help them succeed in their work.
“It’s finding appropriate skill sets and motivation for the people you are going to work with,” Irv says. “If you can find people who can fulfill the job description and motivate them to do more with their ability, sometimes people are better than they even think they can be. When you put them into the job or you put them into a new position or a new idea, your attitude toward the growth of that position and how you inspire them determines how inspired they will be at the end of the day.”
Maintain the engagement
Once you’ve got your employees on your side and feeling upbeat about what you’re doing, you work on exciting your customers and doing what you can to keep them coming back for more.
“We never sit back and just watch things happen,” Nicholas says. “We want it to be better every single day. We want to engage every customer to the next level of even where we’re at today.”
He says his proudest moments leading PizzaRev are when he sees employees strengthen that engagement and advance in the organization.
“It’s been rewarding to building a foundation that others can build careers off of,” Nicholas says.