Few people in the pizza industry haven’t heard of International Pizza Expo, the three-day event that brings together vendors, operators and restaurant professionals. The show has changed over the years, and 2013 is no different –– with competitions, cash giveaways, business-boosting seminars and a show floor filled with products, there’s more to see and do than ever, says Bill Oakley, executive vice president for Macfadden Protech, parent company to Pizza Today and Pizza Expo.
“This year we’re pulling out all the stops to make sure International Pizza Expo 2013 is the biggest and best show ever,” Oakley adds. “In fact, I’m pleased to announce that this will be the largest show ever in our 29-year history, with nearly 1,000 booths of pizza-related goods, equipment and services.”
The show kicks off on Tuesday, March 19, when keynote speaker Robert Irvine, celebrity chef and host of Food Network’s “Restaurant: Impossible” television series, gives insight on restaurant makeovers that can improve operators’ bottom lines.
The keynote speaker for Wednesday, March 20, is Bill Jacobs, owner of Piece Brewery & Pizzeria, Pizza Today’s 2011 Independent Pizzeria of the Year. Jacobs, a Connecticut native, has made waves in the industry with his New Haven-style pizza, clever marketing and craft beer.
During all three days of the show, concurrent seminars and panel discussions will be held in two sessions (morning and afternoon) and will cover topics ranging from hiring and marketing to customer service and mobile marketing.
“The one thing that really separates International Pizza Expo from all of the other general foodservice shows is our educational component, which we are expanding this year,” Oakley says. “There’s not another food show around where you’ll find 85 plus seminars and demonstrations devoted to a single industry except International Pizza Expo. In fact, I like to think our pizza-focused seminars and demonstrations alone are worth the price of admission.”
The final day of the show has been designated “All-Operator Thursday” with presentations provided entirely by pizzeria operators. Previous Expo attendees have cited peer-topeer interactions as especially beneficial in improving their own businesses. The Beer & Bull Idea Sessions on Tuesday and Wednesday let operators ask questions and discuss the industry’s most pressing issues.
If it’s a title attendees are after, there are ample opportunities to rack up.
The International Pizza Challenge includes four categories this year: traditional (up to two toppings from an approved list with a red sauce base), non-traditional (anything goes), American-Pan (deep-dish) and Italian- Style. The competition is open to 60 contestants each in the traditional and non-traditional divisions, and 16 each in the Italian-Style and American-Pan. Contestants face off in regional heats, with finalists competing for the top prize of Pizza Maker of the Year.
The Best of the Best competition contest brings back four former titleholders to complete in a head-to head battle.
The popular World Pizza Games returns to Expo with a new category, the Pizza Triathlon. The competition combines box-folding, dough-tossing and stretching, with the winner named from combined scores in all three categories. Returning competitions include two divisions of freestyle acrobatics (masters and novice), largest dough stretch, fastest dough and fastest box folding. Trials will be held through the day on Tuesday and Wednesday, with finalists competing at the World Pizza Games Finals and Rockin’ Party, which is free to attendees and exhibitors, on Wednesday night.
Also new to Expo is the addition of a craft beer pavilion on the show floor. Attendees will be able to sample craft brews from some of the top U.S. breweries. Panel discussions will be held in two sessions on Wednesday to help operators add that ever-growing craft beer aspect to their businesses.
“Craft beer is booming right now,” says Bruce Allar, vice president of meetings and conferences for Pizza Expo. “The number of brewers and revenue (has increased). Pizza and beer is such a natural combination. There’s more artisan pizza out there, and (those) are a natural pair. We’re trying to show attendees their options for adding that component to attract new customers.”
Cooking demonstrations will be held throughout the three-day show and will cover topics ranging from creating Margherita pizza for the masses, catering dishes and wings to salads and Neapolitan, gluten-free and dessert offerings. These will take place in a special demo area on the show floor.
Pizza Expo will have more than 400 exhibitors and 1,000 booths displaying the industry’s latest innovations, business essentials and must-haves. The exhibit hall opens at 10 a.m. each day.
At the conclusion of the show, operators will have the chance to win a cash prize in the $20,000 MEGA BUCKS Giveaway. “Pizza Expo is a spectacular way for pizza operators to come together, learn what’s new in the industry, network, find new ways of addressing problems and search for new products,” adds Pete Lachapelle, president and publisher of Pizza Today/ Macfadden Protech. “The industry is on the verge of growing, and what better time to find new solution and opportunities than at Pizza Expo?”
New Operator Monday
Monday, March 18, has been designated as New Operator Monday. Free seminars that day are geared toward fledgling operators and first-time Pizza Expo attendees and explore topics especially relevant for those operators new to the industry, such as competing with large chains and menu moneymakers and are led by several of the industry’s top experts.
A Power Panel of several single-unit operators — all whose restaurants bring in $1 million-plus annually — will offer insight and trade secrets for success.
A meet-and-greet reception will also be held for New Operator Monday attendees.
Mandy Detwiler is Managing Editor of Pizza Today.