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Compiling subjective end-of-year lists is never easy, especially in a heavy news industry like foodservice. PizzaMarketplace tried its best with the top 2011 stories published earlier this week.

What stood out to us in 2011 was the unstoppable value of some pizza stocks juxtaposed with the struggles of other big names like Sbarro. Online ordering is no longer the future, it's very much now. Concepts are responding in droves to increased consumer demands for customization. New products were launched, big promotions were featured and footprints grew.

We tried to illustrate how exciting of a year it was to be in the pizza space in one article. But -- in the spirit of succinctness -- there were other big pizza stories not included in the year-end piece. They include:

Labeling controversy. Labeling regulations set for 2012 implementation continue to cause controversy within the pizza segment. J. Patrick Doyle, CEO of Domino's, even published a letter urging policymakers to be flexible with the menu labeling law, citing cost and logistics concerns specifically from the variable and delivery-heavy model of pizza operations.

Sense of community. Pizza chains jumped at the chance to help out with the year's numerous natural disasters, from Japan to Joplin, and Hurricane Irene to the lingering recovery efforts for Hurricane Katrina.

In the driver's seat. Pizza operators continued to take advantage of the growing food truck space, a trend that earned a spot on the National Restaurant Association show floor in 2010 and doubled in participation in 2011.

Top honors. What a year for Domino's and its CEO Doyle. The chain was honored by Forbes as the best franchise for the money. It received an innovation award for its Domino's Live, an open-source, enterprise 2.0 solution that has helped to enhance employee collaboration across more than 4,800 locations, and an Ogilvy award for its "Pizza Turnaround" ad campaign. Doyle was named as top boss by CNBC.

Another pizza chain, Papa Murphy's, was also recognized this year as a top food franchise for 2011 by Franchise Business Review.

Commodities spike. Spiking commodities prices caused quite the commotion this year. Restaurant operators experienced wholesale food price inflation of about 8 percent in 2011 – the highest increase in nearly 30 years. Adding insult to injury, gas prices averaged nearly $1 more year-over-year. Consensus is that there won't be much, if any, relief in 2012.

But to end on a high note, a majority of the pizza players successfully navigated the daunting commodities prices this year, and we're confident they'll continue to do so. And as pizza chains lead the way in the exponentially-growing online and mobile spaces, there is plenty of momentum heading into the New Year. Cheers!

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Alicia Kelso
Alicia Kelso has been a professional journalist for 15 years. Her work with and has been featured in publications around the world, including Good Morning America, Voice of Russia radio, and Franchise Asia magazine.
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