If you liked February's North America Pizza & Ice Cream Show, you're going to love what's in the oven for 2005.
This past February's first-ever NAPICS surpassed organizers' expectations by drawing nearly 4,000 attendees from pizza and ice cream operations to see, sample and savor the wares served up by 200 exhibiting companies.
NAPICS chairwoman Ann Reichle expects this year's event, set for Feb. 26-28, 2005, in Columbus, Ohio, to be larger and even better attended.
"The positive response we heard from exhibitors this year was incredible. They were overwhelmed with the show floor traffic and quality leads they got," said Reichle, co-owner of three Angelina's Pizza units in suburban Cleveland. "When you have a show that good, word gets out and the crowds come."
NAPICS officially got its start 14 years ago as a general restaurant show for operators in the state of Ohio. But when organizers realized that the bulk of the show's attendees represented pizza and ice cream operations — many from surrounding states — they narrowed its focus solely to those industry segments.
Ironically, the switch attracted a wider base of attendees spread across a broader geographic area.
"Most come from Ohio
The show floor was busy at the 2004 NAPICS.
Reichle called this year's content "unrivaled" in the pizza industry because it will center on operator interactivity. From the day-long Pizza Operators Workshop to the Women's Roundtable, every seminar is designed to let operators communicate with the experts and each other.
"It's one thing to hear good advice from a speaker, but it's another to get to ask them specific questions about your operation," said Reichle. "We're doing everything possible this year to mix people together so they can help each other become more successful."
Content is king
* Returning to NAPICS in 2005 is the day-long, pre-event Pizza Operators Workshop on Feb. 26. Experts will lead four intensive and interactive sessions on marketing, operations, money management and dough production.
"We want these workshops to become mini-consultant areas, where there's interaction between speakers and operators," Reichle said. "There will be a lot of brainstorming and problem solving. You bring your problems to us, and we send you home with solutions to save money, make money and increase the effectiveness of your operation."
The first half of each session will be devoted to a presentation by an industry expert or panel of experts. In the second half, attendees break into small groups for focused troubleshooting sessions led by experts.
To promote long-term communication between workshop attendees, Reichle said each will be given a binder including registrants' names and contact information.
"The point is to create a community of operators who can talk to each other throughout the year," she said. "So many times people don't feel they have anyone in the business to talk to. What we want to do is help operators help each other."
* NAPICS will host its first keynote speaker in 2005: Tom Potter, managing director of Eagle Boys Pizza in Brisbane, Australia. Since founding his company in 1987, Potter has grown it to a 150-unit chain generating $75 million in annual sales.
His presentation will center on his company's battle for market share against Pizza Hut and Domino's Pizza, and how Eagle Boys has thrived in a pizza price war more brutal than that in the U.S. (Read also Who's Who: Tom Potter)
After leaving school at 15, Potter set off on a three-year-long baking apprenticeship. At 19, he and a partner opened and ran their own bakery, and at 23 he founded Eagle Boys.
In 1994, Potter was named the Australian Young Business Person of the Year by the Australian Financial Review. The honor included a scholarship to attend Harvard Business School's elite program for company owners, presidents and managers. In 1997 he graduated with an executive education degree and was the class valedictorian.
Tom Potter, founder and managing director of Eagle Boys Pizza, Brisbane, Australia.
Potter also will serve as an expert on hand during the Pizza Operators Workshop.
* Proof that pizza is far more than pepperoni and mozzarella is the continued growth in gourmet pizza sales. Plus, the emerging artisan pizza movement demonstrates customers' desire for unique, handmade products.
To address these issues in detail, NAPICS is hosting its first-ever Pizza Makers Panel. Like last year's well-attended Presidents Panel, this session also will include a two-hour question-and-answer period in which attendees are encouraged to query the experts.
The panel will feature four operators who know a great deal about adventurous pizzas, including Ed LaDou, owner of Caioti Pizza Café in Studio City, Calif. Not only is LaDou arguably the founder of the California pizza movement, he was handpicked by Wolfgang Puck to be the first pizzaiolo at the now-famous Spago, and he wrote and developed California Pizza Kitchen's first menu.
* When the Women's Roundtable returns in 2005, it will be both larger and longer. According to Reichle, last year's one-hour session lacked the time to finish the conversations started between panelists and attendees. She wants to see this year's session go further and deeper .
"There's no question that women in this business face unique challenges, and having a place to discuss those with women who understand and who can help is ideal," Reichle said. "We want them to build friendships and continue to network beyond NAPICS."
Reichle said that after the past roundtable, one panelist and an attendee kept in touch, became close friends and have visited each other's stores. "That's fantastic and exactly what we want to happen."
This year's roundtable will be moderated by Jane Grote Abell, chief operating officer of 182-unit Donatos Pizzeria. Grote grew up in the business on the heels of her father, Jim, who founded Donatos 40 years ago. She also learned the ins and outs of large corporation life during the chain's five-year ownership by McDonald's.
To add to the casual setting of the early-morning event, Reichle said coffee and donuts will be served to attendees.
NAPICS Prices and Registration
* Pre-registration: $25
* Onsite registration: $50
* Pizza Operators Workshop: $165
* Operator networking event: $20 per person
* Pizza Pizzazz: $100 per contestant, per contest.
To register, you may call 800-282-9049.
Non-stop networking ... with a little fun thrown in
Following NAPICS' opening day, attendees are invited to its first-ever operator networking party. Held at the spectacular Arena Grand Theater (located across the street from the Columbus Convention Center), the event will provide attendees a chance to socialize and relax away from the hectic pace of the tradeshow. The event includes a cocktail and hors d'oeuvre reception, followed by a movie.
"This event is designed to further build community among operators," Reichle said, adding that speakers and operator experts will also be in attendance. "We want them to spend a friendly couple of hours together so they can get recharged for the next day."
Let the battle begin!
Think your pizza is the best in the business? Then prove it by entering the annual Pizza Pizzazz contest.
As many as 100 contestants will vie for the titles of Best Gourmet Pizza and Best Traditional Pizza. Winners in each category win an expenses-paid trip to Salsamaggiore, Italy, to compete on the U.S. Pizza Team in March 2005. Second- and third-place winners receive cash prizes.
As a past Pizza Pizzazz winner, Reichle said bragging rights go a long way to building the champion's business (read also Who's Who: Ann Reichle).
"Being able to say yours is the best gets customers' attention," she said. "The exposure we got from that and the business that followed was unbelievable."