Young Entrepreneurs: Michael Ciapciak of Bang Bang Pie
Young Entrepreneurs: Michael Ciapciak of Bang Bang Pie

Quality food and innovative recipes aren’t the only things keeping customers coming back to Bang Bang Pie.

Michael Ciapciak has always had a passion for restaurants. That’s why after graduating college, he moved to New York to pursue a career in the industry. To say he gained valuable experience would be an understatement—Ciapciak worked for some of the industry’s biggest names, including Danny Meyer and Dan Barber. And even though he parlayed those jobs into a role as a top tier restaurant and hotel critic, there was never any doubt that Ciapciak was eventually making his way back to restaurants.

“When I was working as a critic, as I was constantly eating at the best fine dining restaurants around the world. But I always found myself wandering around whatever city I was in looking for those under the radar spots that have the best food and culture. I knew right away that was the type of place I wanted to open myself,” Ciapciak said.

Today, it’s clear that Ciapciak’s restaurant—Bang Bang Pie—has become just that. With a menu that boasts sweet, savory and seasonal pies and biscuits, Bang Bang Pie is one of Chicago’s hottest neighborhood spots. But it’s not just the food that makes the restaurant so successful—Bang Bang Pie is equally committed to its atmosphere.

Even though the restaurant is nationally recognized, Bang Bang Pie is casual and low key at its core. When there aren’t lines wrapped around the block on weekends, customers stop by the restaurant every morning on their way to work for their daily cup of coffee.

“I want every member of my team to form direct relationships with our guests. If you’re a regular, our staff will know your go-to order before you make it to the front of the line. That’s what makes Bang Bang Pie unique, and it’s how we stay ahead of the competition,” said Ciapciak. “What we do best—pies and biscuits—isn’t as common here in Chicago as it is in the South. Our mission is to put our own twist on those classics, and then serve them in an unbeatable environment.”

Consumers were quick to make Bang Bang Pie a hit. The brand’s original location in Logan Square was so popular that the brand opened a second restaurant in Ravenswood. Its products are also sold in about 40 different restaurants across the city. But for Ciapciak, this is just the beginning. Over the next five to ten years, he wants to see Bang Bang Pie continue to expand its reach. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean opening more locations.

“If the space, neighborhood and people were right, I would absolutely open up another Bang Bang Pie for business. But I don’t want to lose the intimacy that the restaurant currently provides—I don’t want it to be too big. As soon as we lose our signature vibe, there’s no point in continuing to grow,” Ciapciak said. “Every decision that I make has to stay true and authentic to the brand. We obviously need to bring in money, but that’s not the main thing that’s determining which steps I’m willing to take.”

So far, Ciapciak’s commitment to upholding the integrity of the Bang Bang Pie brand has proven to be successful. While he attributes some of that success to good fortune and timing, Ciapciak says its creating a positive culture is ultimately what makes all the difference.

“Managing people is one of the most challenging parts of being an entrepreneur. But building the right team around you is absolutely essential if you want to create something that lasts. You can’t do it yourself,” said Ciapciak. “I knew going into this business that I wasn’t going to be an overnight success. Seeing a return on your investment takes a while. But in my experience, the best return on your investment comes from seeing a happy customer, not what’s listed on the bottom of your P&L list.”