Venezia’s Pizzeria has long been a Valley favorite, with menu offerings including scrumptious pizza, wings, salads, low-carb pizza bowls, sandwiches and much more, served up in fun, friendly and impeccably clean restaurants. It takes a special group of employees to make that Venezia’s magic happen for its guests each day and Derek Clark is an area manager who has shined throughout the years. Domenick Montanile has been impressed with Clark’s progress and dedication to the company.
Before joining Venezia’s Clark worked in retail at K-Mart, starting as a register operator and moving up into management once he graduated high school. Once he finished college with a degree in computer networking, he started looking for work in that field in 2002. The timing was not ideal as it was right after the dotcom bubble burst and he had difficulties finding work. Clark explains. “During that time, I needed a job and my brother was a manager at the Chandler Venezia’s store. He spoke highly of Domenick and really enjoyed working there and asked me to give it a try until I was able to find work in something I went to school for. I interviewed with Dom and got an assistant manager position at the Chandler store. It wasn’t that much different than working in retail, just selling food instead of sporting goods items, electronics etc. Expectations are always high working for Dom. You have to be very detail oriented and be able to hold others accountable so that we give the customer the best experience possible from service to the food we make.”
When originally hired in 2003, Clark intended his job at Venezia’s to be temporary until something became available in the computer networking industry. But, as he got to know Montanile and experience how motivated and successful he was with the company that was founded by his parents, he saw a great opportunity.
Clark says, “One of the items we discussed was me becoming a store manager at what later would end up being the East Mesa store, but it was going to be a few years until that happened. About a year later he came to me and said he was looking for a location in the East Valley and shortly after that, the Ellsworth and Guadalupe store was opened. I started out as the store manager and as the company started getting busier Domenick said he needed some help so I was appointed to area manager. The journey has been incredible watching a company go from a small store that we frequented in high school to five very successful stores. It’s also satisfying to know that I’m part of that growth and was able to help.”
As area manager, Clark is in charge of a variety of tasks, which keeps the job interesting. “I have to maintain the daily operations at all stores, watch the food quality to make sure it’s always top notch, check over daily numbers to make sure we are staffed accordingly, watch labor and food cost, hiring of managers, working closely with managers to make sure any new ideas are implemented, checking invoices to make sure we are being charged correctly and dealing with the everyday issues that come up without notice,” Clark says. “I just started learning some of the advertising and marketing things we do, too.”
Clark continues, “Domenick is a tremendous leader. Since the day I met him, he has taught me so much about the restaurant industry. His ideas have shaped Venezia’s to what it is today. From creating the daily slices and slice specials to the way we operate, his leadership has led to us being a very successful company. He’s constantly pushing us to be better while letting us make our own decisions. If you visit one of the stores, there’s a good chance that you will see him working at some point. He also understands what it takes to have happy employees and has provided a 401k plan, paid medical and vacation time. In this industry, most restaurants do not pay their employees and managers that well. Venezia’s has very competitive salaries for managers and also a high starting wage for employees. These are ideas that great leaders provide so they can keep their employees happy and long term.”
“I’m always at one of the locations either in the morning or night,” explains Clark. “We are very hands on and will help guide the managers if we see a problem with either the customer service or food quality. We have kitchen managers that do a really great job with the food quality and the managers work closely with all of our employees to make sure the customers always have a great experience. Whether it is listening to an order take enter an order or watching the food being made, we’re always looking to give the customer the best experience possible.”
“Venezia’s is very different from other pizza restaurants because we have the 24” Party pizza, we offer the 8 under $8 slice specials that other pizza restaurants do not offer. We’ve been able to manage high volume deliveries and inside customer traffic. Most companies have either/or and we have both. It takes everyone working closely to achieve this so that both departments are servicing the customer at the highest efficiency,” says Clark.
Montanile adds, “I am so grateful for the hard work and dedication that Derek and frankly all of my core employees. They are passionate and have taken grasp of the ‘Venezia’s Way’ of getting things done which involve putting quality first above all and understanding it is all about the details in life and in business!”
Clark finishes, “I’ve been working for Venezia’s for over 12 years and love it. The entire time I’ve worked here, I’ve always felt respected which goes a long way. It’s ever changing and never stagnant. I work long hours but it doesn’t feel that way because I love what I’m doing. I love the challenges that come up and being able to problem solve when needed. I’ve worked very hard for Dom over the years and he has rewarded me for my effort. Hey, you can’t say that about most companies!”
For additional information about Venezia’s, plus a list of daily specials visit www.venezias.com.