Video: What's the Godfather himself have to say about the competition? Click here to find out.
Showcase: See more photos from the Godfather's Olympics.
Eric Bauldwin never made pizzas so quickly or under so much pressure.
The employee of the Godfather's Pizza at 63rd Street and Ames Avenue spread sauce onto the dough, added Canadian bacon pieces and kept his cool even after a few slipped from his hand and on to the counter.
He weighed the cheese and spread it on top. He took a deep breath and moved on to the next pizza. Time was ticking. He was thinking fast and working even faster.
The 31-year-old delivery driver and “do everything” employee wasn't filling a big order, trying to meet a deadline or cooking a pizza for a VIP. Instead, he was going for the gold, hoping to be the quickest and most accurate pizza maker in the 2012 Godfather's Olympics.
The inaugural two-day event, which kicked off Tuesday at the company headquarters near 108th Street and West Maple Road, was launched to improve training and, in turn, customer experience.
The event is timed to the 2012 Summer Olympics as well as the release of Godfather's 2012 operations manual, which had some changes to product temperatures, product shelf life and recipes, said Kathy Johnson, senior vice president of franchise services for Omaha-based Godfather's.
“Instead of just handing the employees the operations manuals, we wanted them to really know them and study them,” she said.
Of about 500 employees who participated in the “pre-trials” — competitions that were held at most of the Omaha locations — about 30 moved on to the Godfather's Olympics.
Tuesday's competition and training tested quality and speed of assembling pizzas and packaging pies for delivery. Today, employees will compete in a “Jeopardy”-style competition, emceed by the Godfather spokesman, with questions focused on the new manual's material. An awards ceremony will follow. Top competitors will receive medals, gift certificates and plaques for their stores.
“We wanted to create some excitement around it,” Johnson said. “Fun is one of our values so we wanted to have fun with it.”
According to a study done by Econsultancy, only 26 percent of companies have a well-developed strategy in place for improving customer experience. Johnson said Godfather's Pizza wants to be a leader in customer experience and knows that a well-trained, informed staff is the best way to do that.
“Godfather's Pizza wants to make sure all employees have the tools they need to do the best job and make every customer experience a positive one. The proper training benefits the company, customer and employee,” she said.
Johnson said company officials will get feedback on the new training program, see how to improve it and then possibly roll it out in other states.
Godfather's, which has 627 locations — 23 are corporate-owned and the rest are owned by 137 franchisees — in 40 states. There are 25 restaurants in Omaha and Lincoln and three in Council Bluffs.
Founded in Omaha in 1973, Godfather's Pizza locations range from traditional pizza restaurants to nontraditional locations in convenience stores, airports, truck plazas and schools. About half of the restaurants are nontraditional. The privately owned company doesn't disclose annual sales figures.
And back to the pizza topping event, the Godfather cheered on each of the four competitors. “You're doing a great job. I'm not afraid to tell you that,” he said.
Mary Lusajo, a training development employee at Godfather's, said the event boosts employee morale and allows them to build on their teamwork skills.
“Having that friendly competition is important,” she said. “Consistency in the products is also important.”
Out of the four competitors in the pizza topping event, Bauldwin was the quickest, making five pizzas in eight minutes, 52 seconds. He'll automatically get the best score for speed. But when it comes to accuracy, he knows his pizzas weren't perfect. But none of the competitors' were.
“I know I messed up and made a regular instead of a super combo,” said Dreu Karstens, who works at Godfather's at 141st and Q Streets. “But it's all for fun.”
The competitors appreciated that their employers bring excitement to their jobs.
“I will definitely go back to my job with more enthusiasm,” Karstens said.
Contact the writer: 402-444-1336, email@example.com, twitter.com/LeiaMendoza