Serving up some of the best pizza in Chicago doesn’t guarantee success. As owner of Paulie Gee’s Logan Square, Derrick Tung also understands the power of building relationships—with his customers, with the surrounding business community and with the global family of pizza makers and pizza lovers. “I’ve always believed that the relationships we have in life are extremely important and a key to building happiness for everyone,” Tung told Jonathan Porter of Chicago Pizza Tours in an interview for PMQ Pizza Magazine earlier this year.
“As a small business in an ever-changing neighborhood, I want to get to know our neighbors and guests,” Tung added. “Pizza has been part of our lives since childhood, and being a local pizzeria, we have an opportunity to provide not only food for nourishment, but also an enjoyable dining experience where they can unwind, relax and connect with each other—and with the restaurant itself.”
A firm believer in the old adage, “A rising tide lifts all boats,” Tung is also one of the first to come knocking when a new entrepreneur opens shop nearby. “Local businesses are going through the same trials and tribulations of dealing with inspectors, power outages and slow/busy seasons that we deal with, so having folks to connect with and support each other is important,” he said. “Whenever new businesses open in my neighborhood, I try to make it a point to bring by a pizza or two as a welcoming gift and get to know the owners. I also introduce my staff to them through staff outings or if [the new business is] a restaurant, by bringing their food in for a staff meeting.”
Social media is another tool for building relationships, and it’s one that Tung wields expertly. “I honestly don’t have a true strategy in place,” he admits. “I view social media much like a conversation, letting people know what’s going on with our restaurant.”
But he does abide by a few personal rules in building his pizzeria’s social media presence:
1. He handles all social media himself. “I want it to be my voice out there, not someone who might represent me. As we grow, this may become more difficult, but for now, I want to be the voice that everyone interacts with because the restaurant is a reflection of me.”
2. Respond to everyone. “My rule of thumb is to respond to every comment within 48 hours on social media (Instagram, Twitter and Facebook) and respond to reviews (Yelp, Google, Facebook, etc.) within two to three weeks. If the guest has taken the time to leave a significant comment, I try to respond in kind with a comment of similar length. If they left two emoticons, I’ll leave them a few back. If they’ve invested that time in you, you should do the same for them.
3. Be relevant and post regularly. “I try to post between one and three times a day, with my own posts—new pizzas, new stuff going on, events, etc.—and reposts of our guests’ posts—a great compliment, typically, because who doesn’t like their comment being showcased by the restaurant they just went to? I’ve been learning to use Instagram and Facebook Stories, focusing on stuff that’s interesting for the moment—whether on- or off-brand—but not necessarily tied permanently to the restaurant’s image.
4. Be authentic. “Ultimately, social media is a reflection of you as a person and as a business,” Tung concludes. “It’s important to be true to yourself and let your guests know who you are. If you’re the kind of guy that embraces pizza culture, who loves trying all sorts of foods (including other people’s pizzas), who has a family, etc., all of that should come through in your social media, too.”