This is a great topic! At La Nova, both as an operator and as a manufacturer, we have reaped the benefits of trade shows and gotten a lot of growth and revenue from attending events that were focused to our business. We have attended the pizza-specific trades and our distribution partner shows for years and actually developed our La Nova Wings concept based on attending the shows and seeing a need for the items we sold that was not being fulfilled! But the most important value to you, as an independent operator, is to find ways to grow and develop your brand and position it for the future. A good trade event can help you do just that.

One benefit and goal from attending an industry trade show is the ability to negotiate programs and take advantage of incentives offered by the manufacturers of items you use. Your key items, sauce, cheese, dough products, and, of course, wings are manufactured by brands that want to keep and grow your business. You can get everything from marketing programs negotiated to getting POS materials to drive more business at your stores. Manufacturers view this time as an opportunity to hear face-to-face about your business and help you expand and grow. You need to take that opportunity to ask them what they are offering to you as a partner. What current incentives are they running? What can they do to help you grow your business? What new products and innovations do they suggest to impact your bottom line in a positive manner? Ask those questions, and get more value from that time together.

Another benefit that brings to mind is new product and menu development. At a trade show, you have brands showing off what they believe to be their best products and highlighting new and creative ideas. Our goal is to always walk out of the show with at least one solid idea or item that we can add to our menu, or, just as importantly, do something more efficiently than we are currently doing it. You need to look at the show in a working capacity. Time away from your store should be about getting value out of the show, not using it as a social situation. It's good to go to a nice area and have a little fun, but if you approach the show with the mindset that you are going to work, you will find value much more often than not.

One last direction I want to give you is in reference to your distributor trade shows. During the show ship periods, manufacturers reward their customers with discounts and incentives. Make sure you don't only look for the new items, but go to the booth and book your deals yourself! Bring volumes on key items, and make it a profit center for you rather than letting your salesperson book your items for you.

You need to go to that show thinking about how much money you can earn there and save for sometimes up to 10 weeks!

La Nova Wings fully endorses and tries to drive as much activity at the trade shows as possible. We are a proponent of industry growth and we have strengthened our pizzeria operations by doing exactly what we are suggesting here. Go to your distribution partner shows and get your deals done. Find industry-related shows that cater to our specific needs and attend them annually. There is always something there you can find that will help you grow your business. Attend seminars that will teach you something that will help you add more to your bottom line. And most importantly, approach the show in a workman-like manner and try and find the one great thing that makes you better that you never thought about . . . it's there.

Joey Todaro is the grandson of La Nova founder Papa Joe Todaro and President of La Nova and La Nova Wings. He has spent the majority of his life in the pizzeria and buffalo wing business, and is responsible for overseeing stores that average $100,000 per week in sales.