Michael Shepherd is a four-time World Pizza Champion who has owned and operated multiple pizzerias in Northwest Ohio, most recently – Six Hundred Downtown in Bellefontaine. Over a span of 20 years he has grown small-town locations into a multi-million dollar company by using nontraditional marketing methods, out-of-the-box thinking and a systemic approach to operations, staffing and public relations that consistently earned over 20% in profits.
Michael’s 24+ years of pizza experience started with one of the big chains where he delivered pizza through high school and college. He earned his Applied Business degree in 1994 and launched his first pizzeria in 1997. Since then he went on to open a total of three pizzerias in Northwest Ohio. His shops covered a wide range of concepts — a del/co, carryout only, and a full-service pizzeria restaurant with 120 seats. He was runner-up for the Ohio SBA’s Small Business of the Year in 2006, Hardin County Business of the Year in 2007, and won the 20 Under 40 Entrepreneur Award in 2008. He is also certified in Neapolitan & Classic Italian Pizza Making by the International School of Pizza.
His pizzerias have won numerous awards for pizza making over the years at pizza competitions across the country. Michael has earned eight medals from the World Pizza Championships held in Salsomaggiore, Italy, for Fastest Dough, Largest Dough, and Team Acrobatic, including three gold medals. He is the only American to ever win the Largest Dough competition at the World Pizza Championships.
Running three pizzerias over the years and being virtually self-employed his entire adult life, Michael has earned what he calls a degree in “Real Life.” He says, “When I started, there was almost no source of pizza information, no formal pizza education. Aside from trade shows like Pizza Expo and Pizza Today Magazine, 90 percent of my pizza education was self-taught.”
He built and refined his pizzeria systems from the ground up so that his business could run without him. “Every system in my pizzerias was built out of necessity and with hard work and research. From performance evaluations, employee handbooks, training manuals, and portion control systems to marketing programs — I designed them all. I wanted to run a business, not be run by my business.”
Michael is retired from operating his pizzerias but wants to share his vast knowledge of the pizza industry with operators such as yourself in hopes of helping you avoid common pitfalls and headaches that plague the industry and hopefully help you achieve profits that you never thought were possible.
Outside of pizza Michael’s time is consumed by family, running, and OCR (Obstacle Course Racing).