Lessons on Business and Life from a Pizza Joint

agatucci-s-restaurant

On a business trip to my former home of Peoria, IL this week I was reminded of some valuable lessons for both my business dealings and life in general from my favorite local pizza place – Agatucci’s.

Over the 5 years we lived in Peoria, I would say I became a ‘regular’ at Agatucci’s. It was near our home and it became a family tradition for me to pick up our son on Friday after work and head to Aggies to pick up a pizza to take home. That isn’t really anything unique, people in Peoria have been doing it for almost 90 years. Agattuci’s moved to their current location on University Avenue in 1926 and members of the same family have owned and operated it ever since.

Here are a few lessons I took away from eating pizza at the bar while the current operators, Danny and Tony, worked the bar and ran the restaurant:

Do a couple of things well and stick to them. Agatucci’s serves 3 things: cold beer, pizza, and chicken. That’s it. No steaks, no hamburgers, no grilled chicken caesar salads. Just thin crust pizza in 2 sizes (large and small) and fried chicken. Sure, you can get a side salad, but the menu hasn’t changed for a long, long time. It is a good reminder for all businesses that you don’t have to be everything to everyone to be successful. I’m sure there are tons of people in Peoria who turn their noses up at the Agatucci’s menu, but it has not hindered them one bit in running a successful restaurant. Patrons know what they are going to get and they go there for the pizza and chicken.

Names matter. I haven’t lived in Peoria for over 3 years and have only been to Agatucci’s once since I’ve been gone. I’m not Facebook friends with either Danny or Tony, and they don’t follow me on Twitter. Nevertheless, when I walked in last night, they made eye contact with me like they do everyone who comes in the restaurant and then both smiled really big and said, “John, great to see you, what are you doing in town?” I can’t tell you how good that made me feel. I’m not great with names and I need to get better about it because names matter to people and when you remember their name, it makes them feel like they matter.

Take care of your customers and make them feel appreciated and valued. As I mentioned, my son, Jack used to go in for pick up with me when we lived in Peoria. He’d pull up a stool next to me at the bar and Danny would feed him lemonades in step with the 8 ounce draft beers I had while we waited. Jack got a kick out of it and Danny enjoyed asking him questions and answering the ones his 5 year old brain came up with sitting at a bar. When I was there this week, Danny of course asked about Jack, wanted to know what he is up to, and gave me the shirt below to give him when I left. He didn’t have to do that, and it made me feel appreciated as a customer.

aggiesjack

Stay the course. I had a colleague with me this time, so I implored Danny and Tony to recount some of the great stories about the restaurant. The fact that they have Liquor License #13 in Peoria County (issued the day after the 21st Amendment went into effect, lifting prohibition) which is now the oldest surviving because the other 12 places shut down. The story about the fire, the story about the cop car plowing through the front door and destroying the bar, and the story about the attempted robbery that Danny and Tony thwarted with their own pistol work and survived unscathed. The point is, things haven’t always been rosy for Aggatucci’s, I’m sure business has been tight at times, and things have been rough. Through it all, they’ve stayed true to the vision of their grandfather and stayed the course.

I hope that in my business dealings I can learn from Danny and Tony and make my customers feel as great about doing business with me as I do about going to Agatucci’s. I hope that in my life I can stay the course and in my friendships I can remember to make people feel appreciated. Thank you Agatucci’s for these important reminders.

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