Whether you're new to the pizza business or a wizened veteran, the 2006 Pizza Operators Workshop (POW) is a learning experience tailored just for you.

In its third year, the POW will offer two new learning tracks: Pizza Business Basics and Taking Your Business to the Next Level. Both are offered Feb. 18, a day prior to the North America Pizza & Ice Cream Show, Feb. 19-20 in Columbus, Ohio.

"Every attendee can choose the track that best fits their business," said Ann Reichle, NAPICS chairwoman. "In the past, some of the attendees wanted more of the basics, while others wanted to discuss new ideas. This year we're offering both."

Big Dave Ostrander and Kamron Karington will lead multiple sessions designed for each group. Both are former pizza operators who turned struggling businesses into multimillion-dollar revenue generators. Now, as consultants, each has the know-how to help new businesses get off the ground and push established ones into passing gear.

Tom Lehmann will lead hands-on troubleshooting sessions in the NAPICS test kitchen and discuss new menu trends. A director at the esteemed American Institute of Baking in Manhattan, Kan., Lehmann is known throughout the pizza industry as the Dough Doctor.

Sessions in both tracks will include time with seven operator experts who will answer attendee questions and facilitate small-group discussions. Their role, Reichle said, is to give attendees a high level of attention not found at other pizza trade shows.

The experts include: Jeff and Jodi Aufdencamp, Mama Mimi's Take 'n Bake Pizza; Debbie Antoun, Taranto's Pizzeria; Sean Brauser, Romeo's Pizza; Scott Anthony, Fox's Pizza Den; Michael Shepherd, Michael Angelo's Pizza; and Tony Palombino, Tony Boombozz Pizzeria.

Can't learn unless you come

Brauser said he's looking forward to the interaction with attendees. As the owner of three-unit Romeo's in Medina, Ohio, he knows how valuable education can be to a new business owner.

"You've always got to put yourself in a place where someone might say one thing that makes you change the way you think about your business," he said. "But you're never going to be at the right place if you always stay in your kitchen."

Brauser encouraged veterans to attend, especially if their business needs refreshing.

"Every time you learn something, you increase your sales," he said. "But if you don't want to learn and you want your business to stay as it is, then stay home."

The chance to talk to non-competitive operators is especially valuable he said. They'll share tricks that others within your trade area won't.

"That's the best thing about this: talking to the people who are working in the business right now," Brauser said. "You can ask me or Michael Shepherd or the Aufdencamps about an idea, and we'll tell you what we think."

Registration for the POW is $199 for the first attendee from a single business, and $99 for every attendee thereafter.

The day-long seminar includes lunch and admission to both days of NAPICS.

For more information, call the Ohio Restaurant Association at 800-282-9049.

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