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Artistic And Business Value For Independents


April 18, 2008
By Cam Wood

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CHICAGO – It wasn’t that much of a stretch to find some high-energy antics at the recent Chicago Pizza Expo.

Artistic And Business Value For Independents

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It was footloose choreography and dexterity that earned California’s Justin Wadstein first place in the individual freestyle acrobatic trials.

CHICAGO – It wasn’t that much of a stretch to find some high-energy antics at the recent Chicago Pizza Expo.

With the pre-qualifying trials for the World Pizza Games running both days of the exposition, the participants delivered some spectacular results to the gathered audience. In the end, three contestants advanced to the finals at the 2006 World Pizza Games, to be held next spring in Las Vegas.

Justin Wadstein, a 19-year-old pizzaiolo from Santa Cruz, California, edged out the competition with his pizza tossing tricks to win the individual freestyle acrobatic portion. Wadstein previously placed fourth in the 2005 World Championships.

Fastest pizza maker went to LeeAnna Shepherd, sister of World Pizza Champions founding member Michael Shepherd and manager of Michael Angelo’s in Kenton, Ohio.

Largest stretch went to Joseph Arcangelo, from the Italian Oasis Restaurant in Littleton, New Hampshire.

The winners each received $200 and free entry into the Vegas finals. Another round of pre-qualifying takes place in August at the New York Pizza Expo, once again sponsored by Pizza Today.

Tony Gemignani, whose name in synonymous with the World Pizza Champions, said the competition not only creates a competitive environment for the pizzaiolos to test their skills and enjoy the showmanship of their business, but it is also an excellent way to add value to the bottom line back home at the pizzerias and restaurants.

“We’ve gotten millions of dollars in free marketing from this,” he said of the World Pizza Champions, the games and the variety of public appearances the team has made. “It’s gotten us worldwide exposure, but it also helped my own menu get a lot more creative.

It’s made the whole ‘pizza persona’ progress … and it was just me trying to compete against the big guys.”

Gemignani said for independent pizzerias, the biggest challenge is to maintain that high level of visibility when the chain and franchise operations are spending significant amounts of money advertising and promoting.

“I saw it as an avenue (to attract customers) … you don’t have to be number one to get this. You can get the exposure by competing, and going back home and letting people know how you did. If you do well, the public relations and the news will come and business will increase.”

The five-time world champion knows of what he speaks. Gemignani said his sales increased 25-30 per cent after each show he appeared on.

“When you’re an independent, it’s big for business. It’s an art form you can incorporate into your pizzeria,” he said.

He suggested pizzeria operators consider doing what worked for him.

“Throw it in your window,” he said of the dough tossing art. “Run an in-house contest, or teach your customers how to do it … there’s a lot more to it,” he said.

Gemignani said anyone interested

in getting into the tossing competitions can get the dough recipe used in the games from the team website at www.worldpizzachampions.com.•

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spagnola giove
The dough was flying as Bruno DiFabio slugged his way through the fastest pizza making competition.  Christopher Spagnola worked his way through the individual freestyle acrobatic competition with some fancy footwork. Georgio Giove, above, dazzled his way through the preliminary round of the individual acrobatic trial at the Chicago Pizza Expo. Giove’s high energy routine wasn’t enough to put him into the winner’s circle, but earned him a solid second place finish. At left, LeeAnna Shepherd concentrates on stretching out the dough as much as possible in the largest stretch competition. 



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