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Pizza Executive Summit

Have you ever watched the Oscar’s on TV and thought “If only I was there with my favorite celebrities”? That was kind of like my experience back in June at the Pizza Executive Summit in Chicago. I am only aware of two pizza-related business events: The Pizza Expo in Vegas (on my list for next year) and the more operator-focused Pizza Executive Summit.

Cocktail hour after Day 1 of the Conference- Some pizza execs w/Carlos Herrera of Coca Cola

I was honored to attend and see the pizza industry from a whole new level. If you’ve ever read my posts, I usually write about customer experience, taste, and style, and what my overall feelings are… usually positive :). The demographic of owners, operators, CFOs, Presidents, etc, were concerned with a wider variety along with reaching ME, the consumer.

Among the many concerns, they wanted to know how to:

  • Bring in more business without sacrificing value or costs (Buy 1 get a free appetizer is better than $5 off… because it devalues the pizza)
  • Leverage social media (facebook, foursquare, twitter)
  • Compete against the $10 pizzas at the chain restaurants (Domino’s, Papa John’s, etc)
  • Optimize their pricing when ingredients are costing more & more (This is something consumers don’t even think about!)

A handful of talented speakers offered their advice & insight, and I listened and learned more about the pizza & restaurant world than I expected. Here are some key takeaways from a few speakers that interested me, and hopefully you will find them interesting as well!

YOUR BRAND & PIZZA

  • There are 68,000 pizza restaurants in the USA
  • Pizza is a $32 Billion Dollar industry! WOAH
  • Consumers don’t just buy things, they choose between a variety of options
  • Restaurants have to be different in a way customers VALUE
  • Every year, restaurants should be evaluating their consumers
  • The bigger companies may not be able to adapt to consumer preferences, but more nimble ones CAN
  • The focus is on consumer preferences and how they CHANGE! Mine change all the time, especially with the trends, so if restaurants are willing to work WITH me, that’s a huge bonus

-Gerry O’Brion

SOCIAL MEDIA

  • 22% of peoples’ time spent online is with social media
  • Companies should get focused and specify their goals..
  • People claim recognition more than a good meal, and that’s so easy for companies to do by using social media

-Michael Atkinson

  • Location-based applications (Foursquare, Facebook places, GoWalla)
  • Location changes everything for restaurants..  so they need to adapt
  • Companies need to get in front of their customers because they are ALREADY using these location apps
  • LOYALTY plays a bigger part in the dining experience again
  • I think these are great points of social media. We want our friends/followers to know where we’re eating, and why, and how great it is. If a company capitalizes on that and rewards us for being vocal or coming back again and again, it feels GREAT!

-Asif Khan, Scott Baitinger

All in all, I loved this event. I loved meeting people from all over the country who share in my passion for pizza. PizzaMarketplace.com and its employees were friendly and enthusiastic. I met executives from some of my favorites: Rosati’s Pizza, Nancy’s, Monical’s, Go Roma, and Homemade Pizza Company. Also, I met people from pizzeria’s I hadn’t tried because of location, and I can’t wait to visit one day!

As I approach my first blogiversary, I think of how thankful I am to have such supportive followers, friends, and family, who support my love for pizza. I’m so glad to have this as a hobby and one day will be able to do so much more with it!

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