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  • First-ever Pizza Operators Workshop to kick off 2004 North America Pizza & Ice Cream Show

Think you know it all about the pizza business?

You might.

But if you believe there's more to learn—more ways to make a profit than simply blitzing a trade area with coupons—then you don't want to miss the Pizza Operators Workshop (POW), scheduled for Feb. 7, 2004. The event kicks off the two-day North America Pizza & Ice Cream Show (NAPICS) in Columbus, Ohio, which begins on Feb. 8-9.

This first-ever workshop is an unparalleled educational opportunity for experienced and novice operators alike. Over eight hours, four restaurant industry experts will share their secrets for optimizing profits through better marketing, pizza production, employee management, controlling food cost, portioning ... and much more.

For some, the POW will be a refresher course, while for others it will be an operational epiphany. Ann Reichle counts herself among the former group. The nine-year industry veteran owner of two Angelina's Pizza stores and a busy deli near Cleveland knows a lot more than she did when she and her husband first bought their pizza business. But she believes she still has much to learn.

"Many of us got into this business with no background at all ... but this course will give you the needed resources to ask the questions you need to ask," said Reichle, this year's NAPICS chairwoman. "This information is for operators who are brand-new and just trying to get their feet on the ground, and for those who've been in a long time but found they don't know it all."

According to Reichle, two groups of 60 operators each will attend two concurrent seminars in the morning before switching to attend the other two seminars following lunch.

A four-part curriculum

* Outwit, Outmaneuver and Outmarket Your Competitors—Business Building Secrets: Kamron Karington.

Several years have passed since Kamron Karington sold his pizza businesses, but he didn't forget the marketing lessons learned along the way.

A former nightclub owner and music promoter, Karington got in the pizza business almost by chance more than a decade ago. Though he knew nothing about running a pizzeria, he believed he could apply the same techniques he'd used to market his other businesses to reverse the fortunes of the struggling shop.

Not only did it work at that pizzeria, but at another as well, before Karington sold both and wrote a book about his experience. Called "The Black Book of Pizzeria Marketing," Karington's 300-page tome addresses every area of marketing and customer database management any pizzeria needs to succeed. He'll share that wisdom in his POW presentation.

Karington, whose marketing consulting business is based in Las Vegas, Nev., spends a lot of time on the phone counseling his clients, but he'd rather teach people face to face.

"There's a different dynamic when there are a lot of people in a room. I'm excited about it; I love it," said Karington, a monthly columnist on PizzaMarketplace.com. The interaction between other attendees often turns them into teachers, too, he said. "They learn things from others by asking questions others never thought of. That gives them a chance to share their own take on marketing, too."

Even two hours, Karington said, isn't enough to teach all he'd like operators to know about pizzeria marketing. To get their money's worth, all they need do, he said, is catch what he calls "the 10 percent solution." If operators can apply his advice to improve just 10 percent in three key areas of their businesses, their profits could rise by as much as 50 percent, he said.

"Everybody can identify with improving 10 percent; that's pretty simple, right?" Karington said. "There are three ways grow a business: get more customers; get them to buy more often; and get them to spend more each time. Marketing does that. There's nothing else you can do in a business to generate more money than marketing."

* Technical Solutions for Pizza Industry Problems: Tom Lehmann

For more than three decades, Tom Lehmann has helped pizza operators tweak their dough recipes and pizza production techniques. But as Lehmann's own retirement from Manhattan, Kansas's, American Institute of Baking draws near, he knows a lot of pizza operators are following him.

That means a host of industry newcomers need training before the "Dough Doctor" makes his last house call in a few years.

"I'm seeing a lot of the old-hand owners stepping down and retiring, and new owners stepping in to fill their positions," said Lehmann, a director at AIB. "There's a very dire need for training, to teach the basics again."

Lehmann, known to give one-on-one advice for hours after his pizza tradeshow seminars end, said both his e-mail and phone message boxes are always full of dough questions from new operators. Making dough diagnoses through electronic means, he added, rarely is as successful personal consultation.

"People always learn a lot in question-and-answer sessions," said Lehmann. "I'll be bringing a lot of presentation material, too, that talks about the basics of pizza production."

* Understanding and Managing the Business Side of Your Restaurant: Jim Laube

There's nothing sexy about the core of Jim Laube's topic—unless bottom-line growth turns you on.

Laube has built a reputation in the restaurant industry as a patron of the particulars, a former operator who believes that while marketing drives business, living and breathing the numbers maximizes profits.

As founder of the business education Web site RestaurantOwner.com, Laube is a Sugarland, Texas-based consultant and a familiar face on the foodservice industry speakers' circuit. What he hopes POW attendees will take away from his seminar is an increased understanding of inventory as cash on the shelves, plus the ability to train employees to think the same way.

"I'm going to talk about some financial best practices, like good purchasing, and focus on the numbers highly profitable operators look at consistently, such as key margins and key cost areas," Laube said. "And I'll finish up with some hiring practices, and some employee retention practices."

* Perfect Your Portion Control & Pricing—Or Perish: Dave Ostrander

Were there an Everyman in the pizza world, it would be Dave Ostrander. Nearly three decades as an owner-operator earned Ostrander the reputation of a giant killer when his Big Dave's Pizza took on and defeated large pizza chains vying for his share of the Oscoda, Mich., pizza market.

Today Ostrander travels the world fine-tuning existing operations and helping others start new ones. He'll share some of his vast knowledge in his seminar.

"I want to show them how to organize their kitchens so they have perfect portion control on every entrée," said Ostrander, known in the industry as "Big Dave." "I basically want them to be able to go back to their shops and stop all the free-throwing going on in their pizza making."

With such low cheese prices for all of 2002 and much of 2003, too many operators lowered their standards on portion control, Ostrander said. Cheese price increases in the second half of the year, however, jolted them out of that complacency, and he said he hopes to re-ignite operators' desire to return to their standards.

"I don't want them to ever look at their P&L again, gasp and have to ask, 'How come food cost is up 5 percent?' " Ostrander said. "I want them to know 52 times a year what their food cost is, not wait until the end of the month before they figure out there's trouble."

Cost of the Pizza Operators Workshop is $165 per person, and includes lunch and admission to the NAPICS expo show floor and all seminars.

To register, click here.

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