March 4 - 7, 2019
Exhibits Open: March 5, 2019
Las Vegas Convention Center


Opening a New Pizzeria?
Re-evaluating Your Pizza Dough and Ingredients?

Monday, March 19

The Monday program of seminars and early-evening reception are designed for anyone starting a new pizza company or seeking to improve an exiting pizza menu. All will take inspiration from the opening Special Seminar on “finding your niche” by independent pizzeria operator John Gutekanst, who is an accomplished pizzaiolo and baker and the owner of Avalanche Pizza in Athens, Ohio. He’ll be followed by three sessions aimed at helping new operators prosper along with another series of sessions designed to help pizza companies of all types upgrade their pizza flour and cheeses and manage the business they do with distributors. Join us as we get a jump-start on Pizza Expo week with this focused education programming.

Monday afternoon sessions are FREE FOR ALL REGISTERED ATTENDEES.



John Gutekanst

Special Seminar
12:30 – 1:30 pm
Finding Your Niche Using Creativity, Absurdity and Street Smarts
John Gutekanst

John Gutekanst opened Avalanche Pizza in 2000 in the college town of Athens, Ohio, and has built a business known for thinking outside the box. When he says, “We’ll try anything” he can back it up with data: Avalanche offers more than 60 toppings, 35 specialty pizzas, seven crusts, plus salads, wings, specialty breads and seasonal items. His energetic experimentation produces at times zany pizzas and nearly always comical promotions, but Gutekanst uses the best ingredients and watches the bottom line — and the customers keep coming. Hear his story of outsmarting, outmaneuvering and outperforming the chains during this opening session of our Monday programming for new operators and early-arriving attendees.



Panel Discussion
1:30 – 2:30 pm
Is 24 Hours Enough? — Understanding Fermentation and Factors Affecting Dough

Tom Lehmann, the Dough Doctor

Tom Lehmann

There are many conflicting opinions about aging or enhancing pizza dough. While some prefer same-day fermentation, others retard their dough for at least 24 hours — and some for as long as three or four days. And what about

Peter Reinhart

additives and dough conditioners? How can we better understand the pros and cons of this process, as well as the best choices for each particular situation, flour or pizza style? Discussing the topic will be moderator Peter Reinhart, an author, consultant and baking instructor; Tom Lehmann, the ever-popular Dough Doctor for Pizza Today and Pizza Expo; and Bill Weekley, corporate baker with General Mills.

Bill Weekley, General Mills corporate baker

Bill Weekley









Restaurant service and operations consultant T.J. Shier

T.J. Schier

1:45 – 3 pm
7 Essential Systems for Your First Pizzeria — and All That Follow
T.J. Schier

A successful launch of your first independent pizzeria is critical. This session will cover the essential systems necessary for your first unit — and for each new store as you grow your pizza sales. A restaurant consultant and the owner of 15 Which Wich Superior Sandwich shops, T.J. Schier will pass along proven systems you MUST have in place to be profitable, including hiring, on-boarding, training, operations, manpower planning, local-store marketing and rewarding your staff. Learn the keys to ensure your first restaurant is a success — as well as all future ones.


2:45 – 3:45 pm
Panel Discussion: Expanding Menus and Profits With Specialty Cheeses

Upgrade your menu with cheeses that go beyond mozzarella and Parmesan. We’ve assembled a panel of creative chefs who will talk about the experiments they conducted with new cheeses, what’s worked well and how to add them to the menu in a way that boosts profits. The panel includes Theo Kalogeracos, who runs Theo and Co. Pizzeria in Perth, Australia, and has written two pizza cookbooks; Laura Meyer, a past winner at the International Pizza Challenge and at the Italian competition in Parma and currently the regional corporate chef for the Pizza Rock group of restaurants under Tony Gemignani; and Tim Silva, our 2015 Pizza Maker of the Year and the menu guru at the Pizza My Heart chain in Northern California. The moderator is Ed Zimmerman, founder of, a website devoted to foodservice sales and marketing.

Theo Kalogeracos

Tim Silva

Laura Meyer

Ed Zimmerman








3:30 – 4:45 pm
Recruit and Retain Top Talent
Tim Kirkland

Tim Kirkland


In this engaging session, top restaurant consultant Tim Kirkland will identify how to find, engage and keep high-performing team members. Among other valuable takeaways, you’ll discover how to make hiring central to your routine, use the quality of your team as a competitive advantage and leverage retention to boost profits. Kirkland is the founder of the Renegade Hospitality Group and author of the trendsetting book, “The Renegade Server.” During his 30-plus years in the hospitality field he has led training and marketing departments for numerous respected brands.






4 – 5 pm
Panel Discussion: How to Get a Healthy Relationship With Your Distributor

Whether you are just opening a restaurant, redefining your concept or updating your menu, your distributor plays a key role in your success. How can this affiliation be mutually beneficial? Most importantly, are your needs being met? Let’s talk about food supply, broadline versus specialty distributors, marketing materials, menu engineering, food cost . . . and see if you have met your distributor soulmate. These and other questions — including queries from the audience — will be fielded by Expo veteran speakers Dan Collier (PizzaMan Dan’s, Ventura, Calif.), Mike Bausch (Andolini’s, Tulsa) and Brittany Saxton (Six Hundred Downtown, Bellefontaine, Ohio). Moderated by Scott Anthony (Punxsy Pizza, Punxsutawney, Penn.)

Scott Anthony

Brittany Saxton

Dan Collier

Mike Bausch










Panel Discussion
5 – 6 pm
Common Pizzeria Startup Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

This session will offer can’t-miss comments of value to anyone who has recently opened a pizzeria or plans a new one in the near future. All of the panelists have experience launching pizzerias and are willing to share. They are: Keith Coffman, owner of Lost River Pizza Co. and the recently opened High Tops in Bowling Green, Ky.; Scott Sandler, owner of Pizza Head in St. Louis; Melissa Rickman, founder of Wholly Stromboli in Fort Lupton, Colo.; and Pasquale Di Diana, who opened the 11th Bacci Pizza store in Chicago in 2016. Moderated by Pizza Today editor Jeremy White.

Jeremy White

Jeremy White

Keith Coffman

Pasquale Di Diana

Pasquale Di Diana

Scott Sandler

Melissa Rickman













6 – 7 pm
New Operators and Early-Arriving Attendee Reception

Network with your fellow Pizza Expo early birds at this informal gathering. There will be food and drinks, and a chance to connect with colleagues and speakers before the Exhibit Hall and other events kick off on Tuesday.