By 1 p.m. on the first day of this year’s Pizza Tomorrow Summit, which took place November 8 and 9 at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, the show had already exceeded last year’s attendance. That’s partially due to the fact that in 2022—the inaugural rendition of the event—a late-season hurricane created travel snarls.

Glenn Celentano, founder of the Pizza Tomorrow Summit, was understandably relieved to have gotten beautiful weather for this year’s event. “Day one was amazing,” Celetano told PMQ moments before the doors were set to open for the day’s second and final day. “More and more people keep coming. Exhibitors are thrilled with the quality of buyers. We’re looking forward to another great day today.”

Here are a few things PMQ saw over the two-day event—and some reasons to look forward to next year’s show, which will take place November 6 and 7 at the same location.

Related: Pizza Tomorrow Summit Day One: Robots & Shark Tank Hopefuls

An overhead shot of the Pizza Tomorrow Summit, which hosted a much larger crowd than last year.

Imitation as Flattery

Things look a little different these days for Scott Fahey, owner of Palazzolo Cheese Hog, a cheese-shredding-machine company based in Cincinnati. When the company was founded by Fahey’s father about 38 years ago, there was nary a competitor in sight. Now there are at least several other companies that make machines that look a lot like Fahey’s, which he proudly had on display at the event, letting pizzeria operators run blocks of cheese through the shredder to see how efficient the machine is.

“We’re more flattered than insulted,” Fahey said of the new-found competition. “Because back in 1985, my dad had a vision. A lot of these companies said he was crazy for doing what he was trying to do. They said people would never be interested in [a machine that exclusively shreds cheese]. And the reason a lot of people have been, let’s say, inspired by our design is because every time they would go back into a pizzeria kitchen to sell another piece of equipment, they’d see our machine.”

The New-Age Dough Stretcher

Peter de Jong, founder and CEO of the Fiero Group Pizza Oven Company, is known as a pioneer in the pizza-oven industry. His booth at the Pizza Tomorrow Summit showed off a breadth of authentic Italian pizza ovens that can create just about any pizza style under the sun. Pizzaiolos took turns churning out top-notch pizzas on the Fiero Group’s ovens. It’s worth noting that the Fiero Group also lent its ovens to the U.S. Pizza Team for the Galbani Professionale Pizza Cup competition.

But it was a newer innovation that de Jong was all too happy to show off: the Operaprima Smart-Dough Stretcher. The innovation is aimed at pizzerias that are continually facing labor challenges—it can stretch a perfect pizza canvas in under 15 seconds.

“That means it can produce up to 200 pizzas per hour, and every pie looks exactly the same,” de Jong told a group of onlookers. “There is a difference between using a sheet or press and this method. This robot achieves more of the hand-stretched effect, where you get those air pockets. So you get hand-stretching without stressing the dough.”

Peter de Jong, founder and owner of Fiero Ovens, demos his new Operaprima dough-stretching machine.

Of course, there are employees who see innovations like the Operaprima as a way to replace their labor. That’s not really what’s happening, de Jong argues, saying it’s a tool designed to supplement labor rather than replace it.

“I’ll tell you this,” de Jong said. “When we talk to companies, the CEO gets it, but the CFO definitely gets it most of all. They see it for the smart investment that it is.”

Growing Connections

Galbani’s sponsorship of the Galbani Professionale Pizza Cup is something that makes Jim Binner, director of sales for Galbani Professionale, extremely proud. That sponsorship deal included chef coats for the U.S. Pizza Team with an emblazoned Galbani logo.

“Sponsoring the U.S. Pizza Team has been a long-cherished goal for us,” Binner said. “We’re extremely proud of our brand and products. Having the U.S. Pizza Team wear apparel with Galbani brand is significant. They’re the experts who use our product regularly, so their support is invaluable to us. It’s a perfect relationship.”

Binner said the show overall was a success for him and his team. “Day one exceeded our expectations with impressive turnout and traffic,” Binner said. “We fed many people, established valuable contacts, and generated promising sales leads. I’m very satisfied with the first day and looking forward to the second.”

The Galbani booth at the Pizza Tomorrow Summit.

Next Up

Celentano said next year’s show will be even bigger than this year’s. He said 2022’s inaugural event had 150 booths. The show, which is co-located and run in conjunction with the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Show, expects to have about 600 booths next year.

“We’ve experienced significant growth,” Celentano said. “Last year, we were a third of the size we are now. Next year, we’ll require an entire additional exhibit hall. It’s really, really exciting growth.”