This year’s International Pizza Expo is truly special — it’s the venerable trade show’s silver anniversary. To celebrate, the event will close by giving away $25,000 in cash. But there’s more to the show than the giveaway, say event organizers. Scheduled for March 10-12 at the Las Vegas Convention Center, International Pizza Expo brings together the $37 billion pizza industry’s best and brightest. By successfully pairing together the segment’s top suppliers with forward-thinking pizzeria owners, International Pizza Expo is the world’s oldest and largest pizza-centered trade show.
This year’s keynote address will be delivered by Michael J. Mrlik II, president and chief executive officer of Gatti’s Pizza. Mrlik, a restaurant industry veteran who previously held executive positions with New World Restaurant Group (Einstein Bros. Bagels, Noah’s Bagels, Manhattan Bagel, Chesapeake Bagel Bakery and New World Coffee), has guided Gatti’s Pizza to a brand overhaul and has stimulated relationships with the company’s franchisees. Gatti’s, currently ranked No. 20 on Pizza Today’s Top 100 Companies list, will celebrate its own anniversary in 2009 — the pizza chain is turning 40. Mrlik’s speech is slated to begin at 7:45 a.m. and run until 8:45 a.m. on March 10 in Room N247.
A second keynote will be given by Joey Todaro, president of La Nova Pizzeria, on March 11 (same room and same time as Mrlik’s March 10 address). Todaro guides the family pizza establishment founded by his grandfather “Papa Joe” Todaro, in 1957. La Nova Pizzeria is one of America’s most successful independent pizza restaurants.
Keynotes aside, International Pizza Expo offers a plethora of educational sessions. In fact, Bill Oakley, executive vice president of Macfadden Protech LLC, the parent company of Pizza Today and Pizza Expo, says “Our pizza-specific program of more than 60 seminars, workshops and demonstrations is unparalleled and second to none in the foodservice industry.” From marketing seminars by Kamron Karington and Scott Anthony to food demonstrations by Pat Bruno, this year’s speaker lineup and list of topics is diverse. For a closer look at the complete lineup, visit www.pizzaexpo. com.
As always, International Pizza Expo 2009 promises to be highly competitive. From the World Pizza Games to the International Pizza Challenge, this year’s Expo offers ample opportunities for attendees to get the competitive juices flowing. New for this year, says Oakley, is the fact that the International Pizza Challenge will crown champions in two categories — traditional and non-traditional.
“In all, more than $50,000 in prize money will be given away in our competitions this year,” says Oakley. As for the World Pizza Games, they’ll once again serve as the focal point at this year’s annual Rockin’ Party. The Rockin’ Party, slated for 6:15 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. in rooms N247 and N250 on March 11, is open to all show attendees and exhibitors. Complete with food and drink, it’s a social networking/entertainment opportunity like no other, says Oakley. This year, the World Pizza Games finals will crown champions in six categories: Freestyle Acrobatics, First Division; Freestyle Acrobatics, Masters Division; Fastest Dough; Largest Stretch; Fasted Box Folding and Longest Spin.
Finally, don’t forget the show floor. Packed with the industry’s leading exhibitors, the floor is open from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on March 10 -11, and from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on March 12. For more information or to register, visit www.pizzaexpo.com or call (800) 489-8324.