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By now, you’ve surely seen plenty of restaurants in your city or county close. It’s a sad fact: during an economic recession, the foodservice industry will suffer casualties. Thankfully, the pizza category, as a whole, typically fares better than other dining segments when the fi nancial markets tighten.
But the current recession isn’t a minor one, and it’s unrealistic to think that hundreds, or possibly even thousands, of pizza establishments won’t go out of business in 2009.
Is your pizzeria safe from the storm? Are you feeling the pressure? Is every facet of your operation running as effi ciently and profi tably as possible?
If you feel the least bit uncertain about your immediate or long-term viability, offi cials at International Pizza Expo say they have help for you. In fact, they say, attending the tradeshow this year is more crucial than ever before.
“Attending an industry tradeshow even during an economic slowdown — is the best vehicle to obtain new knowledge, insight and ideas that can help you position your pizzeria for future growth and prosperity,” says Bill Oakley, executive vice president of Macfadden Protech LLC, which produces International Pizza Expo as well as publishes Pizza Today.
This year’s show is scheduled for March 10-12 at the Las Vegas Convention Center, and it happens to be the Expo’s 25th Anniversary.
“As an independent pizzeria owner, you may be under pressure and worried about how you’re going to survive in this new economy,” Oakley says. “The fact is, you may need to slow down in order to speed up your business. You may also need to do some creative thinking to come up with some innovative marketing ideas to boost your business.”
Jeffrey Freehof, who pens the “Ask Chef Jeff” column in Pizza Today and also leads seminars at International Pizza Expo, has seen the tradeshow up close and personal from both sides of the aisle: before he was involved with the convention, he was an avid annual attendee. Still is, he insists. As owner of The Garlic Clove in Evans, Georgia, he has a business to run and gets many of his ideas at the Expo. Freehof says he agrees with the assessment that walking the show fl oor and attending the seminars this year is more important than ever.
“Restaurants are closing all around me, and things are certainly tighter than ever,” he says. “I’m certain one of the reasons I’m still standing is because of all that I gather at Pizza Expo, whether it’s marketing ideas or money-saving tools and equipment. Even though I’m busy giving demos, as an operator I make time to see every booth and always walk away with ideas and product that help me thrust forward in this diffi cult business climate.”
Scott Anthony, a Fox’s Pizza Den franchisee in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, feels the same way. Like Freehof, he also has led seminars at the tradeshow and frequently contributes articles to Pizza Today.
“For 2008, the saying was: ‘If sales are fl at, you did well.’ Unfortunately, many did not do well. As an industry, we all battled high food costs, increased wages and climbing utilities in the midst of a recession. Many of our contemporaries struggled, and some even failed,” says Anthony.
“Pizza Expo promotes the pizza industry and its many contributions to our society. The innovative ideas that Expo has yielded have positively changed the way I do business. The conferences at Pizza Expo have kept me from being a casualty of this system of things. My sales were up two percent in 2008. Reaffi rming relationships with vendors and sharing ideas with fellow operators at Beer & Bull are vital to keep up with industry trends. Now, more than ever, I see the need to be there and be on top of my game.”
The seminar lineup, says Oakley, is designed to propel pizzerias to increased profi tability. “The one thing that really separates International Pizza Expo from all of the other general foodservice shows is our educational component,” he says. “There’s not another food show around where you’ll fi nd 60-plus seminars and demonstrations devoted to a single industry, except International Pizza Expo. In fact, I like to think our pizzafocused seminars and demonstrations alone are worth the price of admission. But the bottom line is that there’s always something new you can learn or see at Pizza Expo that will improve your pizzeria and bottom line.” ❖
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