We are now nearly midway through the second quarter of 2009. The pizza industry has felt the burden of the greater American economic picture, but the dismal landscape outside our piece of the foodservice sector hasn’t kept operators from moving forward. There is no doubt times are tough. If your comp sales are fl at, you’re doing well. If they’re only down 3-5 percent, you are in the same boat as much of the rest of the industry.
But there’s light at the end of this proverbial tunnel. In fact, a bright beacon of hope shone in mid-March at the International Pizza Expo. In Las Vegas, of all places, light is in ready supply. The 2009 version of International Pizza Expo was no exception. When the exhibits closed for the final time on Thursday, March 12, approximately 10,000 pizza professionals had gathered under the same roof to advance our industry. The show had more than 900 exhibiting companies and nearly 5,700 attendees. The latter number virtually mirrors the attendance at International Pizza Expo 2008, which turned out to be the second-largest Expo in history.
To put it simply: this year’s Expo was a resounding success. For me personally, it turned out to be the most enjoyable Expo I’ve ever worked. Not because it was the show’s 25th anniversary or because it was so busy, but because I could sense the palpable resolve and vitality that threaded its way through the air. The hard-working pizzeria owners in attendance weren’t rolling over in the face of adversity. They were fighting back. They were unified in their determination and I didn’t feel a sense of desperation. Instead, I picked up on an urgent desire to utilize education to the fullest by way of the Expo’s seminars — and to put new ideas to immediate action. The attendees were hungry, but in a healthy way. Driven might be a better word.
As I walked the show floor or sat in the Pizza Today booth, I had scores of pizzeria operators pull me aside to share a quick ‘Thank you.’ They weren’t thanking me personally — they were thanking Pizza Today and International Pizza Expo. They shared stories of how a certain article in the magazine or a certain product they found on the show floor of a past Expo helped catapult their business to profitability. Many told me they wouldn’t be in business today if it weren’t for the magazine or the tradeshow. As you might imagine, these remarks served as an elixir — they reminded me of why the staff of Pizza Today and International Pizza Expo take their tasks so seriously. Thank you to everyone who took a moment of their time to say hello during the show. Your feedback is essential to us here at Pizza Today.
If you were at this year’s Expo, then I have no doubt it rejuvenated you and gave you hope that better days for this industry are just around the corner. In fact, it should have told you that this industry is healthier than you dreamed to imagine before March 10. Pizza has finally shed its passive defensive mentality and moved into attack mode. There’s momentum to build on — don’t back down now.
Jeremy White, editor-in-chief