2011 February: Il Pizzaiolo: Lucifers Pizza

It’s February, and that means the folks in the International Pizza Expo offices are putting the finishing touches on the annual event that brings more than 6,000 pizzeria operators under one roof. Slated for Tuesday, March 1, through Thursday, March 3, the show –– now in it’s 27th year –– will be held in the Las Vegas Convention Center and includes a host of seminars, events, contests and a show floor designed to help pizzeria owners and operators boost or start their businesses. “This year we’re pulling out all the stops to make sure International Pizza Expo 2011 is the biggest and best show ever,” says Bill Oakley, vice president of Macfadden Protech LLC, the Expo’s parent company. “In fact, I’m pleased to announce that this will be the largest show ever in our 27-year history with more than 940 booths of pizza-related goods, equipment and services.” New to International Pizza Expo is a series of seminars for new and potential operators and first-time attendees. “Monday, February 28, is being designated as ‘New Operator Monday,’ ” Oakley says. “The best news is this new 5-hour educational program is free to registered attendees.” Industry insider and consultant Big Dave Ostrander will moderate a panel discussion answering questions from attendees. “The cards are stacked against you when you open a new restaurant, and there’s no need to go it alone,” Ostrander says. “You risk losing your life’s savings! I have 30 years of experience and have helped in hundred of (store) openings. I’m here to answer all your questions. It all comes down to why on earth would you not sit at the feet of someone who’s done it and made all the mistakes there are?” There are also several pre-show workshops available for attendees. Ostrander will host seminars for those hoping to open their own shops in the future and another on menu pricing. “We’ve also added a new dough workshop that will be conducted by Master Instructor Tony Gemignani. If you’ve never heard of him, then all you have to do is Google him and you’ll see why we’ve invited Tony to offer this brand new three-part dough-making program.” The costs for these additional workshops range from $150 to $325 per participant.

Sean Brauser, president of Ohio-based Romeo’s Pizza, will kick off the first day of the event with a keynote address on Tuesday, March 1. Brauser bought a single location and has grown his company to 31 stores with 600 employees in just under a decade. The keynote speaker on Wedneday, March 2, is Joe Fugere, founder of Tutta Bella Neapolitan Pizzeria in Seattle, Washington. Pizza Today named the company’s its 2010 Independent of the Year and Fugere, a former executive with Starbucks, will share his passion and wisdom with the industry. Following the keynote addresses, attendees will take part in business-boosting seminars beginning at 9 a.m. that address topics ranging from dealing with difficult employees to legal issues and taking advantage of gluten-free opportunities. “We’re expanding our educational program to include more than 80 business-boosting seminars and demonstrations,” Oakley says. “We’ve also lined up several new speakers, developed new topics and planned new events to make this the only show you’ll need to attend to find out about new trends, products and services in the pizza industry.”

The International Pizza Expo show floor will open for action at 10 a.m. on both days. At presstime, officials said there were 940 booths slated for the show with more than 400 companies exhibiting. The show floor is the place to source everything from olives and POS systems to new ovens. Several free seminars will be held in the demonstration area during the course of the show. Among the many topics are: using ricotta; making fresh mozzarella; expanding your menu; the art of making Neapolitan pizza and creating house-made sausage. Times vary on Wednesday and Thursday.

Pizza Today Publisher Pete Lachapelle and the Pizza Today staff will host the Beer & Bull Idea Exchange at 4:30 p.m. on both Tuesday and Wednesday. It’s here that operators ask crucial questions and discuss the critical business issues relevant to the industry. Additionally, the International Pizza Challenge is back this year with two divisions ––Traditional and Non-traditional. In the traditional category, contestants use their own dough and sauce but may use only two of the following toppings: pepperoni, sausage; bacon, ham, mushrooms, peppers, tomatoes, onions and olives. The Non-traditional division allows no restrictions on dough, cheeses or toppings used. Entries are judged on the basis of taste and appearance; and in the non-traditional division judging, creativity is also considered. All 60 contestant slots in each category were filled by the first week of January. Contestants will bake in regional heats with the winners –– including two wild cards –– announced following the completion of preliminaries. The regional winners will compete in the finals of their division on Thursday and the overall winners will receive a trophy and $10,000 each. First and second place from each category will compete in the 2011 Pizza Maker of the Year contest, a blind box bake-off with a mystery ingredient that all competitiors must use. The winner will be named the World Champion Pizza Maker and will receive an additional $5,000. New to the show this year is the Best of the Best Pizza Box Challenge. The first 50 boxes entered at the designated staging area will be pitted against each other for attendees votes. The winning box’s operator will receive a $500 cash prize.

The World Pizza Games return with six categories this year: freestyle acrobatics with masters and first (novice) divisions; largest dough stretch; fastest dough; fastest box folding and longest spin. Finalists will compete at the World Pizza Games Finals & Rockin’ Party on Wednesday, March 2, beginning at 6:15 p.m. The games are facilitated by the World Pizza Champions, a group of international award-winning pizzaiolos and dough tossers from across the country. Members include former International Pizza Challenge and World Pizza Games participants and winners.

International Pizza Expo concludes on Thursday, March 3, with the $20,000 MEGA BUCKS Giveaway. Attendees who visit sponsoring booths and enter their gamepieces are eligible for the contest –– but you must be present to win. “In the current economic environment, it’s more important than ever to discover new, innovative ways to boost profits and improve efficiencies,” Oakley says. “What are you doing to increase sales and reduce expenses? Do you have financing and cash flow issues? At this year’s Pizza Expo, you’ll find solutions to these problems and more.” Specifically designed for pizzeria owners and operators, there’s something for everyone at Pizza Expo, whether you’re an industry veteran or just opening your first store.

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