Pizza hall of fame prize hard to top

WHEN you hear your name read out on a starry stage in a glittering ball room full of bling, beer and Bolinger and you learn you've just got into the Pizza Hall of Fame, you do what?

You jump up at your table and scream, of course.

That was the reaction in the Gold Coast Sheraton Mirage this week when Hervey Bay's Vinnie and Robyn Whelan, Eagle Boys pizza franchisees for more than 15 years, found out they had been propelled - in pizza circles - into near immortality.

“We were on the Gold Coast for the Eagle Boys conference and realising that 35 to 40 franchisees around the country could easily have won the company's Hall of Fame slot, we honestly couldn't believe it when we heard our names read out,” Mr Whelan said yesterday.

“It's not as though we asked for the lot but we got it anyway.”

The Hall of Fame inductees are anointed every two years. The Whelans are only the seventh inductees since 2003.

The Whelans, who were making pizzas in Mackay for two years before they started with Eagle Boys on the Esplanade 15 years ago, met in London when Mackay banker Robyn was backpacking and Dublin-born Vinnie was working in hospitality.

“I would have made in excess of a million pizzas and I put our success down to the Eagle Boys' secret pastry recipe, the back-up they give us and to good old-fashioned hard work.”

The Whelans said the most bizarre pizza they had ever been asked to make was with anchovies and cheese only.

“And one guy wanted a pizza with so much on it we couldn't get it into the oven.”

The Hall of Fame induction is reserved for those top Eagle Boys franchisees who have shown innovation and leadership and been part of the Eagle Boys network for more than 10 years.

Eagle Boys Pizza managing director Todd Clayton said Vinnie and Robyn epitomised the hard-working and dedicated franchisees who worked in Eagle Boys stores across the country.

Eagle Boys Pizza is Australia's second-largest pizza maker. It operates more than 280 franchise stores throughout Australia, employing more than 4000 staff and making more than 16 million pizzas a year.

These days the Whelans don't eat as many of their pizzas as they used to.

“Robyn won't let me,” Vinnie said.

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