Photos by Josh Keown
When International Pizza Expo closed its doors at the Las Vegas Convention Center last spring, the staff breathed a sigh of relief –– then quickly delved into the 2010 show planned for next month. This year’s show brings the most informative speakers, the best products on the market and knowledge-hungry attendees together, all with one mission –– to make the pizzeria and Italian restaurant industry a knockout amidst ailing economic times.
And, it seems to be working. Last year’s show attendance registered at 5,900 attendees, and show management expects this year to be no different. At press time, the 2010 show was shaping up to be another sellout with 400 companies registered and just under 1,000 booths on the show floor.
“This year, we’re pulling out all the stops to make sure International Pizza Expo is the biggest and best show ever,” says Bill Oakley, executive vice president of Macfadden Protech LLC, parent company to Pizza Today and the Pizza Expo family of tradeshows.
“We’re expanding our educational program to include more than 70 business-boosting seminars and demonstrations. We’ve also added several new industry speakers who will address the hot issues facing pizzeria operators today.”
Pre-show workshops begin Monday, March 1, and cover topics ranging from catering to profitability. Kamron Karington and Big Dave Ostrander are back with their marketing and pizzeria-launching seminars, respectively, on that day. This year, show management brings its first all-day pre-show workshop hosted by Donald Cooper. This “boot camp” style event is designed to help business owners and managers take their businesses to the next level.
The show officially opens Tuesday, March 2, with a general session keynote address by industry insider Tony Gemignani. Gemignani, a familiar face at International Pizza Expo, is the co-owner of two successful pizzerias in California and is a nine-time World Pizza Champion in both acrobatics and pizzaiolo skills. Gemignani is also a master certified instructor from the Scruola Pizzaioli in Italy and has opened the International School of Pizza in San Francisco.
The keynote address on Wednesday, March 3, is headed by Dave Brandon, chairman and CEO of Domino’s Pizza. Brandon, who has ushered in a year of dramatic changes for the 50-year-old company, appears in his fi nal week at Domino’s. He has spent a decade in the public’s eye with the company and is moving on to serve as the athletic director at the University of Michigan.
There will be some familiar faces amidst the concurrent seminar schedule, but you’ll fi nd some new speakers as well. Cindy and Steve Berson own Pie in the Sky pizzeria in Vermont and will offer their experiences on being life partners and business partners. Industry veteran Ostrander will host two new seminars covering back office management skills and easy, cheap sales tactics to use in rough times. Californian Ken Whiting is also new, offering his experience on managing today’s young workforce.
This year, organizers have created a session module for senior level management and Pizza Expo veterans. “This is something that people who have been coming to Expo for years have been asking for,” says Linda Keith, vice president of meetings and conferences for Macfadden Protech LLC. “It goes beyond the basic levels.” Topics include managing today’s commodity markets, branding, the importance of client-vendor relationship, estate planning and others issues that go beyond daily operations.
And the educational opportunities don’t end there. Demonstrations continue on the show floor covering everything from homemade dressings and creative salads to creating the perfect Neapolitian pizza. Gemignani and former International Pizza Challenge winner Graziano Bertuzzo will hold a world pizza-winning demo. And Chef Lou Petrozza, first runner-up on Fox’s “Hell’s Kitchen” reality cooking show will battle the chef who bested him on the show’s fourth season, Christina Machamer, during their joint cooking demonstration.
“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 70-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 popular International Pizza Challenge is back this year with one major change –– no previous winners from last year will be allowed to compete. The reason? In the last several years, the same winners have swept the categories.
“It’s a rule we had in place with (the previously held Pizza) Festiva! and now that we’re in our fourth year, we have enough history with the Challenge that we felt it was time to make the change,” Keith says.
At press-time, all of the 60 slots in the non-traditional category (anything goes here) had been filled and nearly all of the spots slated for the traditional category were taken. In this division, operators create a pizza using no more than two toppings from a pre-determined list.
Contestants bake in regional heats and those selected move on to the final challenge on Thursday to compete against each other and winners from Pizza Expo sanctioned events held earlier in the year. Following the completion of each division final, the first and second place winners will compete in the 2010 Pizzaiolo of the Year contest, a blind-box bake-off. That winner claims the title of World Champion Pizzaiolo and assorted prizes.
The show-stopping World Pizza Games are back as well, facilitated by the World Pizza Champions. As last year, the highly charged freestyle acrobatics competition has been divided into masters and first (amateur) divisions. Competitors will also line up for the largest dough stretch, fastest dough, fastest box folding and the longest spin. The events culminate on Wednesday night, March 3, at the World Pizza games Finals & Rockin’ Party, with food sponsored by three show exhibitors.
The Beer & Bull Idea Exchange will be hosted by Pizza Today Publisher Pete Lachapelle and the Pizza Today staff. Here, attendees can sit back, enjoy a brew, ask questions and share ideas. It’s an open forum and anything goes. Find out what topics operators across the country are grappling with and learn solutions to problems ranging from marketing to creating repeat business.
Finally, the show ends on Thursday, March 4, at 2:45 p.m. with the $20,000 MEGA BUCKS giveaway. Winners are selected among those who visit sponsoring booths and turn in their game cards to the designated area. As always, you must be present to win.
There’s still time to register. “Attending an industry trade show –– even during an economic slowdown — is the best way to obtain new industry knowledge, insight and ideas that can help you position your pizzeria for future growth and prosperity,” says Lachapelle. “Another good reason to attend Pizza Expo is this: as an indepedent pizzeria owner, you may be under pressure and worried about how you’re going to survive in the current business climate.
“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 and brainstorming to come up with some new, innovative marketing ideas to boost your business.” Visit www.pizzaexpo.com or call (800) 489-8324 for more information.
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