By Tracy Morin

Tuan Pham “Timmy” Nguyen, owner of a Pizza Guys location in Orange County, California, has prioritized providing job opportunities and giving back to his community through a series of efforts since opening in early 2023. Nguyen, an immigrant from Vietnam, believes that he has achieved the American dream: graduating from a local community college, becoming a real estate consultant (a job he maintains to this day), and now owning a pizzeria. But he is also enthusiastic about spreading his good fortune to young people by hiring high school students and offering 30% of his proceeds to local high schools on certain nights.

Nguyen recently sat down with PMQ to discuss his unexpected detour into pizza, why giving back is so important to him, and what’s next for his business in 2024.

PMQ: Tell us about your background. How did you get involved with Pizza Guys?

Timmy Nguyen: I am a real estate broker and one of the owners of Pizza Guys in Orange, California. I have been a real estate broker in Orange County, California, for the past 27 years and was very happy with my career. I never had any experience in the pizza or restaurant industry, nor had any interest in opening a restaurant, as I had high work hours throughout my career.

However, last year, one of my clients asked me about any commercial properties for lease. Out of curiosity, I asked him what he wanted to do with the property. He told me about Pizza Guys and how incredibly delicious and excellent their pizzas were. Immediately after hanging up the phone with him, I looked up the nearest Pizza Guys and drove to Santa Fe Springs with my family to try this new pizza place. I remember we ordered a Pizza Guys Combo and an artisan flatbread. Everyone was amazed by the pizza and thought that it was much better than the pizza around our area. Soon after, I contacted the Pizza Guys corporate office and expressed my interest in opening a franchise in Orange County.

Related: Meet Kaitlynn Caster, Pizza Guys’ youngest franchisee

Pizza Guys corporate was very encouraging and set up a virtual meeting with me very quickly. I spoke with [VP of operations] Mike, who later met me in Orange County to further discuss this opportunity. When we met, I didn’t ask him about how to open a store or profit margins. I only asked him one question: “Do you know that we have many mom-and-pop shops and large pizza chains such as Domino’s, Pizza Hut and Papa Johns? I’ve never heard about Pizza Guys. How do we compete with these chains if the people of Orange County and I have never heard of you?”

I remember he didn’t answer my question and just smiled at me. He said to me, “If I told you, you would not believe me.” He told me to visit the Pizza Guys website and choose any one of their stores and compare their rating with other chains around them. I did my research and was surprised that all of their stores had a rating of 4.0 to 4.5. After doing more research and trying more of their pizzas, I felt the need to bring this flavor and Pizza Guys to Orange County. It felt like Orange County would be missing out if we didn’t have a specialty pizza place like Pizza Guys.

PMQ: How has giving back to the community become an important part of your pizzeria?

Nguyen: I wanted many people around my area to have a chance to try great pizza like Pizza Guys. So, in the beginning, my team and I gave out a lot of pizza to the people living in Orange. I wanted everyone to at least try our products. I taught my team that customer satisfaction always came first. We help out the community through fundraisers and usually give back 30% of the sales to support the schools or any community services.

This photo shows Timmy Nguyen standing in front of his Pizza Guys location with a group of young employees.

Pizza Guys

PMQ: How have you helped shape and grow students in the community while also providing opportunities to older generations?

Nguyen: We help shape some of the high school and college students in the area. Most of the employees in our store are students, and our store was their first-ever job experience. A lot of students who work for our store did not know how to use a knife, but we train them like our own children, and we work together like a family.

One funny story happened before our grand opening, when my team and I were training two girls. They were preparing a pizza with sausage, which was raw meat. One of the girls asked my partner to put the sausage on, because she didn’t want to get her hands dirty. We laughed a lot, because the employee was asking the manager to do the job. The second girl was asked to cut onions, but then 10 minutes later she was standing in the corner and crying. I asked her if she cut her hand and she replied, “No, the onions are making me cry.”

At first, I had to train my employees about the little things, but now, I am really happy to see them change a lot. I see that they are maturing day by day. I told them that this was only their first job. Sooner or later, they will leave my store to continue on in their career, and I hope that they will be prepared when that time comes. We also provide opportunities to the older generation as well. Some of the people in our store are Vietnamese immigrants. Being Vietnamese myself, I wanted to help out people in the same community and offer them a position.

PMQ: What have been the community’s reactions to your pizzeria in this first year of business?

Nguyen: I feel like our team works really hard to deliver the best customer service. I am so lucky to have customers that gave us a chance and really enjoyed our store and pizza. Sometimes, our team makes mistakes or takes too long on an order, but the customers come to our store and are happy to hang out and talk. They don’t complain and are happy to get their pizza. Some customers even eat in the car and parking lot.

Another time, my team made a mistake on an order during rush hour. The customer called back and said that we made their pizza wrong. I apologized and offered to refund their order, but they said, “You guys worked hard, so you should earn that money.” So I offered them a coupon for a free pizza on their next order, but they refused and said, “The difference between the two pizzas was $5, so why don’t you give me $5 off my next order?” I really appreciate that our customers are willing to forgive our mistakes.

Another time, Pizza Guys changed to a new ordering system. A customer called and complained that the new system didn’t show what he previously ordered. He didn’t know how to order with the new system, so one of my employees took 20 minutes to show him how to use it. The customer asked to speak with a manager, so I picked up the call. I was expecting to hear a complaint about the time it took, but rather he complained about the new system. He told me that I have so many good employees taking orders and helping customers. He named almost all of my staff, and I was so surprised that he knew and talked to everyone in my store. I spent a good hour on the phone with him, but I was so happy that the customer enjoyed our pizza and customer service.

Pizza Guys has good pizza and will set you up with a strong foundation. All you need to do is work hard, follow their plan and give excellent customer service, and the results will naturally follow.

PMQ: What’s next for you in 2024?

Nguyen: My goal for 2024 is to have more people try our pizza and to provide the best service we can. I want more people in Orange County to try us. My biggest successes in 2023 were bringing the first Pizza Guys store to Orange County, helping the community and giving them great pizza.