Shakespeare's Pizza is the winner of the "Best Bites: College Edition" contest on "Good Morning America," the show announced Sunday morning.
The downtown Columbia pizzeria had the most votes in 38 of the 50 states and the most internationally, according to the show's website. It had twice as many total votes as the other three finalists combined, Shakespeare's manager Kurt Mirtsching said.
Shakespeare's Facebook page declared, "You won, Columbia!" The Facebook post congratulated and thanked Facebook fans, Mizzou fans, Stephens College fans, the MU Alumni Association, Missouri in general, Columbia Public Schools, Twitter followers, Heart of Missouri United Way and Big Brothers Big Sisters.
"This has been a wild ride," Mirtsching said. "This is a once-in-a-lifetime kind of thing."
About 30 people gathered at the restaurant around 6 a.m. Sunday morning to await the announcement and share free bagels and coffee.
"We know how to be number one in Columbia, don't we?" said longtime Columbia resident Robin LaBrunerie, who stopped by Shakespeare's after the announcement.
Mirtsching said he started to feel confident yesterday around 3 p.m. when the number of votes from Missouri alone for Shakespeare's were more than each of the other contestants had.
Mirtsching stopped former Columbia mayor Darwin Hindman on his bicycle this morning to tell him the good news. Hindman said congratulations and that he was proud of the town and how it really rallies around its own, Mirtsching said.
Kate Santichen, production coordinator for "Good Morning America," said this contest brought in the most votes the show has ever seen. There were over 24,000 votes total, according to the show's website. Around 3 p.m. Saturday, Shakespeare's already had over 11,000, Mirtsching said.
During the show Sunday, anchor Ron Claiborne asked Mirtsching in a Skype interview what Shakespeare's secret for success is. Mirtsching responded: "It's just a big pizza party. ... We try to have fun and not take ourselves too seriously."