Did you know that the greatest per-capita concentration of pizza operations in the United States is in Ohio and the five contiguous states?
The 4,500 attendees at the 2005 North America Pizza & Ice Cream Show did, and it's expected they'll spread the word to others like them and draw record numbers to Columbus, Ohio, when the show recurs on Feb. 19-20, 2006.
Angelina's Pizza owners Jim and Ann Reichle were about to close the doors of their Olmsted Falls, Ohio, shop when they came to the show looking for help in 1997. But their fortunes brightened quickly when the pair entered and won the show's Pizza Pizzazz competition.
"Winning that contest really put Angelina's on the map and kept us going," said Ann Reichle. "The PR we got was a huge boost to our sales and our reputation. But the help we got from contacts and friends we made at that first show is really what saved our business."
The Reichles' business now includes four units and a thriving catering business. Determined to help other operators the way she was, Ann Reichle got involved as a NAPICS volunteer and she's now the show's chairwoman. The networking and educational opportunities at tradeshows like NAPICS, she said, are a must for operators who want to grow their businesses.
"You don't often get the chance to talk face to face with experts in this industry — people who've really made it — but you'll find a bunch of them at NAPICS," she said. "Making those contacts and being able to turn them into long-term relationships is so beneficial to your business."
Easy, affordable access
Like no other pizza-focused show, NAPICS' host city of Columbus is an easy drive from some of the nation's largest cities. The area's thriving restaurant scene is always a draw for operators, and hotels surrounding the Columbus Convention Center are very affordable.
Plus, the $25 preregistration attendee rate is just about impossible to beat, especially considering the top-rate seminar offerings included in the price. In the past, NAPICS has featured experts in pizza operations, dough, marketing, human resources, and this year will be no different, according to marketing coordinator Judy Michaelson.
"We're finalizing the details of our speaker slate right now, but I guarantee it will be better than ever," said Michaelson. "I encourage everyone to visit our Web site, napics.com, to watch for updates."
Michaelson said the planning committee is working on a much-requested operator networking event. It appears other pizza business owners are like Reichle: hungry for time with their peers.
"People have told us that talking with other owner-operators gives them some of the best ideas for their businesses," she said. "So we want to give them the opportunity to learn from each other, as well as the experts."