One of the first things I did was observe the pizza competition. It wasn’t the branding fiesta I expected. I think I expected more of a cable television show competition vibe. It wasn’t like that. There was roped-off area with long tables. There were camera people filming the action. Pizza chefs and representatives were chopping, spreading and shaping their pizzas. But there was none of the formality. It was more of a mosh pit. Team members talked amongst themselves and occasionally spoke with other teams. I wasn’t close enough to hear if there was any smack talk (would have to be, right?). A disembodied voice on a microphone did quick, brief interviews with participants, and occasionally called out the participants that could line up to use the cooking equipment.
I’m going to list my takeaways here in case you are planning to attend one of these in the future. Or, in case you are a spectator like myself and want to know what to expect. I like to start with the negative and then sweeten things up.
Marketing/ Branding cons…
- The announcer was not allowed to say the names of the establishments as he interviewed participants for fair judging. But the participants mostly wore logo’d apparel anyway, though most logos were too small to see from the audience. So restaurants were prohibited from giving shout-outs. Fair, certainly, but less thrilling for spectators.
- No list of competing items. Forget the restaurant names, for us audience members it would have been nice to see the innovative pizza recipes. The announcer was visiting to ask what was being made, but between the hubbub and confusion, I only heard a couple. One described a short rib and meatball combo. Another was doing a buffalo wing pizza. I couldn’t hear the others.
- Couldn’t smell anything. Kudos to the excellent ventilation system. Non-kudos for not being able to smell pizza. I was slightly disappointed but let’s face it, a hundred different pizza smells in one place might not be so good, so maybe they were right on this one.
I’m not familiar with these types of competitions so my expectations were off. Far from being a spectator event, it wasn’t really designed for viewing and winners wouldn’t be announced until later in the day. I don’t imagine many other people who weren’t directly invested in the competition would come back later to find out who won.
Marketing/ Branding pros…
- Bragging rights for winning restaurants to use in their marketing, photos, and likely a trophy or some other item to take home and show off on-premises.
- Opportunity to turn participation into a story for media
- Chance to try out new recipes on the judges — an unbiased focus group
I stayed for about forty minutes but then the floor opened up and I had to go. And though it was around 9:00am, I had watched enough preparation to be hungry for pizza. Turns out there was a lot of it on trays cut into tiny little squares at exhibit booths on the main floor. I was told that the Expo used to be primarily a pizza event. I partook but I’m watching my carbs so could not shove more in my face like I wanted. And without the smell of it in the air I did not feel temptation quite so strongly.
Don’t worry. I came across a booth giving away beef patties. I was all over that. Oh, and the wine. Yes, it was way before 5pm. Don’t judge.