Pizzeria operator Jay Jerrier succeeds with a blend of culinary talent and social media savvy.

With his quick wit, gift of gab and sharp business mind, it’s no wonder Jay Jerrier—owner of Cane Rosso and Zoli’s NY Pizza in Dallas—was once a superstar in the world of corporate finance. Luckily for pizza lovers, he hated every minute of it. So, when Jerrier discovered he also had a knack for making incredible pizzas, he ditched his coat and tie for a flour-dusted apron and cargo shorts and never looked back. A few years later, he has become one of the country’s best-known pizzaioli, thanks to both his culinary talent and his marketing and social media savvy.

Unlike so many of our readers, Jerrier doesn’t have pizza sauce in his blood. He taught himself the art and craft of pizza making (with help from the VPN, of course) and cut his teeth as an investor in Campania Pizza (campaniapizza.com) before launching Cane Rosso (Italian for “red dog”) in 2011. But he is certainly a natural-born marketer, and that’s what this month’s cover article focuses on. Unfortunately, space was limited, as always, so here are a few more marketing-related nuggets from my chat with Jerrier:

  • Don’t let Yelpers get to you. “When I first started, I was obsessed with Yelp,”Jerrier admits. “I would feel so bad if anyone said we sucked—it’s only my whole life I’m pouring into it. Now I try not to get drawn offside by Yelp. It has always been a forum for people with an axe to grind. They write one-star reviews because they had to wait 15 minutes for a table or they hate Neapolitan pizza. Why are you writing a review of a Neapolitan pizzeria if you hate Neapolitan pizza? There’s nothing I can do to change your mind!”
  • Use secret shoppers for the best feedback. Instead of stressing over Yelp reviews, Jerrier contracts with a third-party mystery shopper firm to receive impartial critiques. “They come in and review all of the things we want them to review, from how the restaurant looks to the service, the bartenders, the hostesses, the patio. They do each location about once a month or every six weeks and give us a really comprehensive look and a very detailed write-up.”
  • Use a light touch with the news media. When you’re outspoken and eminently quotable, the press will come calling. And it doesn’t hurt to call on them occasionally, too. Jerrier keeps an email list for both local and national journalists, but he makes sure to keep all contacts friendly, brief and informal. When Cane Rosso makes another national best-of list, Jerrier sends a short email with a link to the story—otherwise, no hard-sell message, no hype and no bother. “I generally reach out personally to them, so it’s not some generic press-release kind of thing,” he says. “And I respond pretty quickly to their requests and try to put a bit of humor into everything we do.”

Does Jerrier’s media-friendly approach and use of humor really work on journalists? So far, he and his restaurants have been profiled in D Magazine, the Dallas News, the Dallas Observer, the Arkansas Times, Eater.com, SeriousEats.com and Thrillist.com, to name a few print and online outlets. Oh, and he’s also that guy with the cute kids on our cover this month. So it’s safe to say he’s doing something right.

Rick Hynum is PMQ’s Editor-in-chief.