2006: A Year in Review
January
 
Crazy eights: After 46 years in operation, Domino's Pizza opened its 8,000th store in Panama City, Panama. At the same time, it also opened its 5,000th domestic unit.
 
No wonder everyone brought cheese balls to the holiday party: Cheese block prices, which began slipping in late 2005, plummeted to $1.23 per pound, their lowest since June 2003.
 
We pay, you go away: Pizza Inn paid $150,000 to end a long-running dispute with former vice president Keith Clark. The company alleged Clark played a key role in the formation of fat labor contracts written for him and three other Pizza Inn execs.
 
Also in January, Pizza Inn vice president Shawn Preator, another member of the infamous four, resigned.
 
Bits and bites: Pizza Hut launched its new Cheesy Bites Pizza.
 
We have enough evidence to convict: Kansas City, Kan., police said after Virgil Dennis ordered three pies, he robbed the delivery driver at knife point. When the crime was reported, police traced the number back to Dennis' apartment, where the not-so-brilliant 22 year-old opened the door while eating a slice of pizza.
 
February
 
Web of sales: Domino's Pizza U.K. & IRL reported its Web site sales soared 70 percent in 2005 and that the site accounted for 10.4 percent of its delivery sales.
 
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Cheese, this is good! Block cheese prices slipped below govt. support to trade at $1.1275 a pound.
 
In memoriam: Keith W. Carpenter, longtime Wood Stone Corp. sales and marketing vice president, died at age 76.
 
We're going to Pizza Land! Don Schmitt of Bexley Pizza Plus (Bexley, Ohio), and Eric Lippmann of EJ's Neighborhood Pizzeria and Italian Eatery (Cypress, Texas), out baked 73 other contestants during the annual Pizza Pizzazz contest held during the North America Pizza & Ice Cream Show. Both traveled to Salsamaggiore, Italy, where they competed in the world championships.
 
Turning Japanese: California Pizza Kitchen announced it signed a deal to open 15 CPK locations in Japan by 2016. The gourmet pizza chain has 13 Far East locations.
 
March
 
Hay rapido y barrato! Dallas-based Pizza Patrón, a Latino-centered pizza brand, introduced its Pizza Lista (meaning "ready now") program in all 54 of its locations in the Southwest United States. Pizza Lista pies are large 15-inch pepperoni pies sold for $4.99. The program was started in hopes of regaining market share lost to Little Caesars stores selling $5 Hot and Ready pies.
 
Mama, that's good! Jodi and Jeff Aufdencamp, owners of Mama Mimi's Take 'n Bake Pizza in Columbus, Ohio, won a $2,000 first prize in the 2006 Pizza Festiva contest held at the International Pizza Expo in Las Vegas. The winning pie was the Mama's Marmalletta Amore, a combination of a sauce of apricot preserves, herb-roasted chicken, mozzarella and gorgonzola cheeses, and caramelized onions.
 
Caesar on the march: Little Caesars Pizza announced an aggressive growth plan to add hundreds of sites to its 1,900-unit system in the cities of New York, Philadelphia, New Jersey, Atlanta, Portland, Ore., St. Louis and Washington, D.C.
 
April
 
WOW, that's fast: Papa John's announced it garnered exclusive rights to purchase the new Middleby Marshall 770 WOW! Oven for three years. Middleby claims the new oven slashes pizza-baking times by 30 percent and cuts energy consumption by 25 percent.
 
Serving three squares all day: Happy Joe's Pizza & Ice Cream signed a five-store development agreement for its new Caféz concept, a fast-casual, pizza-centered restaurant open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
 
We're done Down Under: Restaurant Brands announced it would sell its struggling Australian Pizza Hut (in the state of Victoria) to franchisees. A long run of losses and closures posted in the highly competitive market forced the move. Later in the year, Yum Restaurants International bought more than 50 of the stores.
 
May
 
Old-school pizza: Papa Gino's Pizza rolled out its Rustic Pizza to all 170 stores in its system. The hand-stretched dough yields a free-form, Neapolitan-like pizza topped with a blend of Asiago and Romano, and guests' choice of toppings. Donatos Pizza launched a similar high-end pie later in the year.
 
So, we bake the pizza, eh? Nick-N-Willy's World Famous Take-N-Bake Pizza entered the Canadian market in the city of Halifax. Take-and-bake has yet to spread widely north of the U.S. border.
 
It's a looker: Donatos Pizza launched a trendy new store design in its effort to rebrand itself as a premium, fast-casual restaurant concept. (One month later, the company closed all seven of its Philadelphia market stores, expensive all brick dine-in pizzerias built during its stretch under McDonald's ownership.)
 
June
 
Extra toppings cost a lot: A Pizza Hut in Newcastle, Australia, was fined more than AUS $13,000 (U.S. $9,600) for selling unsuitable food, including one pizza bearing a cockroach baked into the cheese.
 
Runaway Tran: Dennis Tran, a Domino's regional director from Gaithersburg, Md., won $10,000 for being the chain's fastest pizza maker. In the contest, he made three one-topping large pizzas in a lightning-quick 55 seconds.
 
Hip to be square: Domino's outlets in southeastern Michigan began testing a deep-dish-style square pan pizza in April. No word on the results of the test.
 
Ripe for a sauce price increase: Though cheese prices dropped throughout the year, pizza sauce providers warned that foul spring weather would send prices for processed tomatoes up sharply in 2007.
 
July
 
Overtime is costly: Pizza Hut settled with 88 plaintiffs involved in a labor lawsuit over alleged misclassification of exempt employees who were said they were due overtime pay for non-managerial duties. Pizza Hut paid out $12.5 million.
Bar the door, it's Domino's: Domino's Pizza told Forbes magazine its goal is to have 10,000 total units within a few years, including 800 new sites squeezed into the U.S. market.
 
Make 'em watch C-SPAN. That'll bore 'em to death: People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals purchased 150 shares of Domino's Pizza stock in an attempt to influence the company to purchase chickens "killed by the more humane method of slaughter called 'controlled-atmosphere killing.'"
 
The Feds want to know more: PizzaMarketplace broke the story about a government investigation into cheese trading practices at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange.
 
Can we get a refund on this? Yum! Brands bought back the remaining 50 percent interest of its 541 Pizza Hut units in the United Kingdom from Whitbread PLC, its long-time joint-venture partner, for $183 million plus the assumption of $25 million in liabilities.
 
Hurry home, honey, Lawrence Welk is on! Bill Reinl, a 68-year-old pizza driver, retired from Faye's Pizza, where he worked for 12 years. The reason? His wife wanted him home more often.
 
August
 
Happy birthday, old Buddy: Buddy's Pizza, a Detroit restaurant legend, celebrated its 60th birthday. The pizzeria has received praise from pizza connoisseurs and multiple media outlets including the Food Network, which dubbed it one of the nation's five best.
 
Everyone likes this kind of brown nosing: As only the mega-chains can do, Domino's Pizza conducted a nationwide free sample program to encourage customers to try its oven-baked chocolate Brownie Squares. It also gave away 60,000 free brownies during a NASCAR race at Michigan International Speedway.
 
June Cleaver's kitchen wasn't this clean: Gary's Original Pizza and Deli in Castle Rock, Wash., received its fourth perfect health inspection score in four years. "I was surprised," Warwick said. "I'd never had (a 100) before, not at the other restaurants I worked at. After the third one I thought I must be doing something right."
 
Never show your card: Potomac Pizza in Gaithersburg, Md., began testing a pay-at-the-table system for credit cards. The technology allows the customer not only to keep their credit or debit card at all times, all card information is removed from the handheld terminal as soon as the customer completes the transaction. LINK HERE
 
September
 
Shakey's Pizza settles down: With the nightmare of Inno-Pacific's ownership behind it, the Shakey's Pizza chain rolled out its new prototype restaurant, Shakey's Pizza & Grill. The flashy fast-casual spot features Shakey's legendary pizza and fried chicken, but also Angus burgers, tossed-to-order salads and local craft brews.
 
 
Dough-making do-gooders: The Ohio Restaurant Association awarded two-unit Angelina's Pizza, in North Olmsted, Ohio, the Restaurant Neighbor Award for its relief efforts following Hurricane Katrina. Owners Jim and Ann Reichle gathered enough supplies to fill three semi-tractor trailers and one 24-foot box truck. The supplies were driven the vehicles to Jacksonville, Fla., where they were loaded onto a Navy warship and taken to New Orleans.
 
Hey, stick to sandwiches! Panera Bread rolled out six varieties of the Crispani, a handcrafted, made-to-order pizza with select all-natural toppings. With the goal of boosting dinner sales, the company said the ersatz pizza will be sold exclusively in the evening.
 
Happy birthday: You're now a mega-chain: During its 25th birthday celebration, Papa Murphy's Take 'N' Bake Pizza announced it expected to break the 1,000-unit mark by the end of 2006.
 
Blue over cheese prices: Commodities analyst, Peter Ullrich, told the eDairy Inc. Outlook Conference in Chicago he expects cheese prices to return to their all-time high of $2.20 per pound in 2007. Dairy analyst, Alan Levitt, later told PizzaMarketplace he expects highs in the $1.70 range.
 
Parker gets paid, Pizza Inn gets the bill: Ronald Parker, fallen Pizza Inn chief executive and president, promised in court he'd go away for good if the chain paid him $2.8 million.
 
October
 
Habla Espanol y HTML: To better serve its Spanish-speaking customers, Papa John's added Spanish text to its online ordering site.
 
Maybe somebody needs to be retrained: Employees at a Pizza Hut say a ghost has been knocking boxes over and hiding their kitchen utensils, so they decided to call psychic Ray Kumar. His insightful assessment of the situation: "There is certainly something here."
 
It's good to be the king, but it's not easy: In third-quarter investor conference calls, Pizza Hut and Domino's share the bad news that 2006 continued to be a tough year. Both battled negative comparable-store sales and predicted 2007 would be just as tough.
 
We got your 'cell' number: When employees at a Dayton, Ohio, Donatos Pizza store recognized a cell phone number they suspected was connected to a pizza driver robbery, they called police. Dressed as a driver, an undercover officer made the delivery and arrested three men in the process.
 
Getting the mushroom treatment: High energy prices and unaffordable margins forced multiple mushroom growers out of business in 2006. The reduction in supply pushed prices for familiar fungi to record highs and pinching pizza operators' profits.
 
The streak ends: Papa John's reported negative comparable-store sales for the first time in 22 months.
 
November
 
Save the rubber for driver's tires: Hell Pizza rankled myriad New Zealanders when it conducted a direct-mail campaign for its Lust Pizza that included a condom and instructions for use.
 
Workers unite! After the formation of the American Union of Pizza Delivery Drivers in April, the nascent group held a protest at a Domino's Pizza store in Louisville, Ky., in objection to the firing of a driver who worked to unionize the shop. The vote to unionize the shop failed a week later.
 
It worked for Domino's, why not Pizza Hut? Seeking to spur sagging sales, Pizza Hut rolled out a $5 medium pizza deal centered on three medium, one-topping pizzas for just $5 each. In other Pizza Hut news, despite lackluster performance on his watch, the chain's president, Peter Hearl, was promoted to chief operating and development officer at parent company Yum! Brands.
 
December
 
Bingo and gardening are overrated: After a six-year retirement from Grimaldi's Pizzeria, founder Patsy Grimaldi, 75, came back to the pizza oven. The pizza legend called retiring "a big mistake" and "boring."
 
The Eagle has landed — with a lot of pizzas: Eagle Boys Pizza in Brisbane, Australia is donating 6,000 free pizza vouchers to the Salvation Army in December. The value of the edible Christmas present is AUS $60,000 (U.S. $47,000).
 
Trans-fat-free Apple: New York City legislators voted to eliminate all trans-fats from restaurant foods by late 2007. Restaurateurs, supported by the National Restaurant Association, say the ban isn't necessary and pointed to a dearth of research to support the claims that trans-fats cause heart disease.

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