Getting a Slice of the Pie ... Pizza Pie That Is
Green Bay, Wis.
There's Chicago-style pizza. And then there's pizza inspired by Chicago, perfected in Florida and eventually settled down in Green Bay, Wis. And that's Gallagher's.
What started as a family-owned restaurant in 1996 continues today as a family-owned restaurant, just by another family. Or really, two families. The Gallagher family first opened the restaurant, but a few years later, they were ready to move on. Thankfully, John Hubbard and Kevin Osadjan, who together had more than 20 years of experience in the pizza business, stepped in and took in 2001.
Since then, the pair took their pizza-making and restaurant-management knowledge, which started in Chicago when Osadjan and his wife worked at Nancy's Pizza, and poured it into Gallagher's. Prior to Gallagher's, they had Crusty Louie's Stuffed Pizza in Sarasota, Fla., which Osadjan opened and his brother and Hubbard eventually joined and took over. Osadjan eventually left the business, but Hubbard pulled him back in and since 2001, they've opened two additional locations in the Green Bay area and continue to see business at their three locations soar.
"The quality of our food is unmatched," Osadjan said. "We cost more than the run-of-the-mill pizza places, but once people come in and try our pizza, they tend to stay."
The reasons for Gallagher's success are numerous. It's family-friendly. They connect with the community by sponsoring youth sports leagues. And they have good food with ingredients mostly sourced locally. They get sausages from Iowa, chicken and cheese from Wisconsin (they shred all the cheese in store), most vegetables from Green Bay and their Italian beef from Chicago because, "they have the best Italian beef around."
Osadjan learned how to make pizzas while working at Nancy's and he has tweaked the sauce to make it his own. "This is my own interpretation of Chicago sauce," he said. "It has a little more of a spicy bite to it. It has a little heat." When asked about what goes into it, he wasn't shy with his answer, "That's top secret."
What isn't top secret is how well they take care of their customers. Each restaurant has a party room, all of which are booked most weekends, a full bar and a separate game room. The game room and bar are key to a family having a good time out to dinner. "We have game rooms with video games in all of our facilities," Osadjan said. "This way mom and dad can come in with the kids, give them $5 and then relax with a cocktail before everyone eats and goes home." Osadjan said he and Hubbard both have kids and know how hard it can be as a parent to relax. "Sometimes I'll give the kids more [video game] tokens to keep playing so the parents can relax." Now that's customer service.
The service doesn't end there. They have a $7.99 lunch buffet Monday through Saturday to target the busy work crowd that may not have a lot of time, but wants something better than fast food. "People know they can buzz in and out within 20 to 30 minutes and get quality food and not drive-through junk," Osadjan said.
The buffet always features various pizzas, two pastas, bread sticks, onion rings, chicken wings, Italian beef sandwiches, salad bar, soups and cookies for dessert. "These are all things we have on our menu and it's not cheapened down," Osadjan said. "It's foolish to dumb down the buffet because if that's the only thing someone comes in to eat for the first time, they're going to have a bad experience. Once we get them in, it's our responsibility to keep that customer."
Gallagher's offers the same buffet Monday nights for an extra $1 "because people stay longer than they do at lunch," and a $9.99 seafood-focused buffet Friday nights, which started one year for Lent and stuck after people loved it. The restaurant runs other promotions through Facebook and does targeted ads toward people in the area, but it doesn't do happy hour or other drink specials. "You're either a family place or more of an adult crowd," he added. "We want mom and dad bringing their kids in."
Osadjan and Hubbard take care of their staff, many of which have been with them for many years, with profit sharing and health insurance benefits for full-time employees. And they treat them like family, just as they do their customers. It goes along with their tagline: Italian Food. Irish Spirit. This keeps things tied in to the Gallagher clan's original idea of a family-focused restaurant for everyone.
"In my eyes, an Irish spirit is very outgoing and family friendly," Osadjan said. "It's about the spirit and not the food. I played rugby with a bunch of guys from Ireland and they're the nicest group of people you've ever met."
Sounds like the kind of people you'd want to break pizza, uh bread, with.