When the curtain closed on International Pizza Expo last year, plans were already underway for the 2012 show –– and the turn of the calendar ushered in some changes for the annual event. International Pizza Expo 2012 will feature more operator speakers, exhibitors and competitions than ever before, and with good cause. An ailing economy, increased commodities prices and employee satisfaction and retention remain top-of-mind for most operators, and International Pizza Expo offers them a leg up when it comes to succeeding in a competitive industry. “No other industry event brings together pizzeria operators and experts in this magnitude,” says Pete Lachapelle, president of Macfadden Protech LLC, parent company to Pizza Today and International Pizza Expo. “With learning and networking opportunities and a show floor with everything the modern operator needs, Pizza Expo is a must-attend in these lean economic times. We have a proven track record of helping operators succeed. Just one new idea or product can incrase sales and give them a competitive edge.”
The show is slated for March 13-15 at the Las Vegas Convention Center. “I expect Pizza Expo 2012 to be the largest show ever in our 28-year history, with over 940 booths of pizza-related goods, equipment and services. International Pizza Expo –– the ‘Show of Shows’ for the pizza industry –– is the only place to do business, learn, network and deal,” says Bill Oakley, Macfadden Protech’s executive vice president.
The show kicks off Tuesday, March 13, with a keynote address from Nick Sarillo, who owns Nick’s Pizza & Pub in Illinois. Sarillo was dubbed the “Blue-Collar Millionare” by Inc. Magazine, and he’ll bring his ideas on building a positive employee culture, increasing sales and succeeding in a tough economy. On Wednesday, March 14, keynote speaker Marla Topliff, president of Illinois-based Rosati’s Pizza, will use her unique experience to discuss marketing, branding, carryout and delivery.
Pizza Expo guests will have several seminars from which to choose during the three-day show, with speakers in two tracts. The Pizza Pro Series focuses on operator-led sessions hitting today’s critical topics. Among this year’s speakers are a Pizza Today columnist, members of the World Pizza Champions, award-winning operators and both independent and franchise experts. The line-up of speakers is a dedicated effort by Pizza Expo staff to put “more focus on pizza industry peer-to-peer information from operators who have excelled in certain aspects of the business, and they’re willing to share with others,” says Bruce Allar, vice president of trade shows and conferences for Macfadden Protech.
The Industry Expert Series includes a lineup of professional speakers –– including several new to Expo –– that will address issues from menu development and competition to benchmarking, increasing productivity and handling taxes.
“This year, our industry specific educational program will include more than 80 business-boosting seminars and demonstrations,” Oakley says. “We’ve also lined up several new industry 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. Today’s hot-button topics — such as social media marketing, employee retention methods, menu design and labeling, dough do’s and don’ts, and many others — will be thoroughly covered. Better yet, we’ve tapped top pizzeria operators to present about 40 of these sessions, making one-half of our program true peer-to-peer exchanges of inside-the-industry information.”
Expo will also host a new Power Panel each morning, which brings together operators and experts for in-depth discussions. “We’re really excited about our new Power Panels that are sure to jump start each and every show day,” Oakley says. “This year, you’ll have the opportunity to learn from some of the brightest and most successful pizzeria operators in the U.S., including: Dan Collier, owner of five Southern California-based Rusty’s Pizza Parlors; Jacque Farrell, founding-family member of six-unit Farrelli’s Wood Fire Pizza in Washington; Tony Gemignani, who co-owns three pizzerias and a pizza school in California, and George Hadjis, founder and CEO of 16-location Oggi’s in Southern California.”
Demonstrations will be held throughout the show, teaching attendees how to make everything from fresh mozzarella to Neapolitan pizza. Tim Weekly of General Mills and Tom Lehmann of the American Institute of Baking will hold a Pizza Crust Boot Camp in two parts on both Tuesday and Wednesday for those needing to kick start their dough recipes.
The International Pizza Challenge (IPC) returns to this year’s Expo, with a few changes. The Traditional Division allows contestants to use two of five ingredients atop a tomato-based red sauce. Anything goes in the non-traditional division. New this year are the American-Pan and Italian-Style divisions. Contestants will bake in regional heats in premilinary rounds on Tuesday and Wednesday. The first-place winners from each division will compete in a blind-box bake-off for the title of World Champion Pizza Maker.
Four past competition winners will compete in the new Best-of-the-Best Bake-off, an exhibition event which includes an blind-box competition between four former challenge winners. The winner will return next year to compete again.
The World Pizza Games return with six events, including: freestyle acrobatic dough tossing (broken into masters and amateur divisions); fastest dough; largest dough stretch; fastest pizza box folding and longest spin. Last year’s fastest box and spin winners broke industry records. Annual titleholders are invited to return to defend their titles in 2013. The Games culminate at the 2012 Rockin’ Finals Party on Wednesday night, which is free and open to attendees and exhibitors.
During the International Pizza Challenge’s final competition on March 15, show operators will give away a cash prize during the $20,000 MEGA BUCKS Giveaway. Game pieces will be given to attendees, who must visit sponsoring booths on the show floor. The drawing will be held after the Pizza Maker of the Year finals, and contestants must be present to win.
“The bottom line is there’s always something new you can learn or see at Pizza Expo that will improve your pizzeria and boost your sales,” Oakley says. “Attending an industry trade show is the best way to obtain new industry knowledge, insight and ideas that can help you position your pizzeria for future growth and prosperity.”
For more information or to register for International Pizza Expo 2012, visit www.pizzaexpo.com or call (800) 489-8324.
Mandy Wolf Detwiler is managing editor at Pizza Today.