October 1, 2011 |

2011 October: Expo News

By Bill Oakley

I’ve got some exciting news to share with you regarding next year’s International Pizza Expo®, which is slated for March 13-15 at the Las Vegas Convention Center. I’m pleased to announce we’ve lined up two of the pizza industry’s most influential and recognizable personalities to jump-start your day and provide you with motivation and insight. This year our featured keynote speakers will be Nick Sarillo, founder and CEO of Nick’s Pizza & Pub in Crystal Lake, Illinois, and Marla Topliff, president of Rosati’s Pizza in Elgin, Illinois.

In the mid-1990s, after 12 years in custom homebuilding, Nick decided to change career tracks and go into the pizza business. Rather than build a typical stand-alone pizzeria, Nick procured hand-hewn, 100-year-old beams and boards rescued from nearby Midwestern dairy barns and based his new building on a California horse barn he had seen. Not quite a barn, not quite a lodge, Nick’s Pizza & Pub is a place where family and friends can enjoy great pizza in a friendly atmosphere. The Sarillo-built, antique-stuffed and animal-filled 9,000 square-foot pizzeria now brings in well over $3 million a year in revenue and is paired with a second high-volume location, opened in 2005, in the nearby Chicago suburb of Elgin.

Nick grew up in foodservice. His dad owned a small beef stand in Chicago and later made pizza in the suburbs; Nick worked for his father throughout high school. In fact, he still uses his father’s tried and true old world sausage and sauce recipes. Beyond its family-style menu, the company stands out for an employee culture built on the tenets of “trust and track” –– educating workers on what it takes to make Nick’s pizzeria profitable and then trusting them to help grow the company. Nick’s stores have an employee turnover rate of just 20 percent and net operating profit runs about 14 percent a year. These numbers are a testament to the success of this unique strategy.

Dubbed the “Blue-Collar Millionaire” by Inc. magazine for his carpenter-to-restaurateur rise, Nick is writing a new book, A Slice of the Pie, which is sure to be a bestseller when it’s released in the summer of 2012.

Family-owned Rosati’s Pizza, headquartered in suburban Chicago, has undergone tremendous growth in the past decade. Marla Topliff has spearheaded Rosati’s growth from 60 stores in 1999 to the 170-unit, $150 million national brand that it is today.

Marla brings a unique perspective to the pizza industry, having cut her teeth in two unexpected educational settings: first as a Parent Teacher Association group leader and then in Welcome Wagon, where she rose to the position of national sales manager. “You do a lot of listening,” is how she describes those training grounds, and she’s carried that skill forward in working as the buffer between franchisees and vendors, ownership and franchisees and other parties involved in Rosati’s. She supervises all aspects of marketing, customer service, vendor relationships and store communications.

Her keynote will describe in detail the pivotal role of marketing and branding in the carryout and delivery niche. She makes that point to struggling franchisees by offering to visit their stores and find significant ways to cut expenses, if they’ll then reinvest those savings in marketing. She helps focus Rosati’s branding campaign on compelling stories about the family and its pizza and sees value in advertising in both new and non-traditional media. “The real secret of branding is in the message,” Marla says, “not in the vehicle you choose to deliver it.”

As a female pioneer in the upper echelons of pizza-industry management, she’ll also address the challenges and rewards that can come with being a woman in what has been a male-dominated field.

For more information on Pizza Expo or to register, please call (800) 489-8324, or visit our Web site at www.PizzaExpo.com.

Best regards,

Bill Oakley
Executive VP