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Marketing, Operations and Technology Collide at Restaurant Executive Summit

Each fall, senior restaurant executives gather to share ideas at HT’s annual Restaurant Executive Summit. The Summit has earned a reputation for being a premier education and networking venue for senior-level decision makers from across the restaurant enterprise – including marketing, finance, operations and technology executives. This year’s Summit — the 10th annual installment — focused on the theme “Feeding Consumers with a #Digital @ppetite,” and put a laser focus on the ways that marketing and technology have collided and are now affecting all aspects of the dining experience, before, during and after a guest’s trip to the restaurant. The event was held November 3-5, 2014 at The Ritz-Carlton in Fort Lauderdale and is produced by Hospitality Technology magazine.

“What’s really key to understand about the Restaurant Executive Summit, is that it’s not a technology conference,” said Abigail A. Lorden, group editor-in-chief of HT, in her welcome remarks. “This Summit is about innovation for the restaurant industry, in all the ways that entails, including operations, marketing, social media, and yes, absolutely technology.”

This year’s honorary chairperson was Marcus Wasdin, CIO of Church’s Chicken. A self-professed “businessman that likes IT solutions,” Wasdin kicked off the Summit encouraging attendees to actively engage and participate in sessions and networking. “You get out what you put in,” he advised.
The keynote address got the rock star treatment from Jim Knight, founder, Knight Speaker and the former head of training and development, Hard Rock International. Knight wasted no time in connecting with and energizing the crowd as he spent the majority of the session walking among the audience. Knight’s session, titled, “Service that Rocks: How to Create a Differentiated Experience to Deliver Sustainable Results,” gave attendees real-life examples of how restaurants should be looking to foster a shared mindset among managers and employees in order to provide the best service to guests, ultimately resulting in loyal customers. “Good companies don’t talk about the product, they talk about service,” he stated, reminding the attendees that product is not enough, the experience is key. Knight urged operators to be like the band U2 and get “everybody singing off the same sheet of music” and to “hire only rock stars, not lip syncers.”

A recurring theme throughout the Summit was the importance of the workforce. T.J. Schier, president, of Which Wich Franchisee offered insights into the “Next-Generation of Workforce Excellence.” Schier stressed to attendees that if they don’t engage staff and offer them ways to see “what’s in it for them,” they won’t care. He noted that the most effective motivation for employees is offering them something they want. He shared his own experiences with rewarding staff explaining that “incentives won’t get the wrong people to do the right thing; incentives help good people be even better.”

Before heading into a networking break, HT’s Lorden presented the 2014 Restaurant Breakthrough Awards. These awards honor foodservice companies for outstanding vision and achievement in operational and guest-facing technologies. This year’s Breakthrough Awards were presented to Jersey Mike’s Franchise Systems and Truluck’s Restaurant Group (see below for more information).

William Fry, vice president, restaurant support services, A&W Restaurants, admitted to shamelessly stealing some ideas from several sessions, including “The Analytics of Influence: A Social Network Perspective” presented by Marc A. Smith, director, Social Media Research Foundation. Smith explained how certain analytics can help restaurants understand who key influencers are, how to maximize the value of social media and how to become “the mayor of your hashtags.” “A good page is a page that is pointed to by other pages,” he noted.
Day two was kicked off appropriately enough with a jolt of energy from Dunkin’ Donuts’ president, global marketing and innovation, John Costello. During his session called “Bottom-Line Branding: Keeping the Edge in Today’s Rapidly Changing World,”  he shared his perspectives into examples of omni-channel marketing from Dunkin’ Brands. Costello advised attendees to be agile and not afraid to innovate and take risks. He further voiced the opinion that consumer engagement is changing rapidly and that “digital advertising will eclipse TV in two years.”

To conclude the 2014 Restaurant Executive Summit, HT’s Lorden was joined by honorary chair, Wasdin and David Mitroff, Ph.D., CEO & founder, Chief Consultant, Piedmont Ave Consulting Inc. for the “The Ultimate Interactive Summit Wrap-up.” This closing un-session was a workshop format and gave attendees the chance to discuss key takeaways from the Summit and construct actionable strategies to take back to implement in their own organizations. Save the date! The 2015 Restaurant Executive Summit will be held October 7-9, 2015, in Laguna Beach, Calif. Visit for more information.

Jersey Mike’s Franchise Systems ( has been on a fast-growth trajectory over the last few years. Since the company previously won a Breakthrough Award in 2012, Jersey Mike’s has nearly doubled in size, with 140 new locations in 2013 alone. With such rapid expansion, Jersey Mike’s realized it needed a back-office system to monitor supply chain and provide purchasing compliance, contract price validation and recipe control. The company also recognized the need for granular corporate level reporting.

“We collect a tremendous amount of data from our POS, which we developed in-house, and needed a centralized data warehouse to help us manage and keep data safe,” explains Brian Loughran, director, field training, Jersey Mike’s Franchise Systems. Integrating the CrunchTime! system ( to its proprietary POS, Jersey Mike’s achieved its ultimate goal of helping franchisees increase top line sales and decrease costs while ensuring quality service and product across all brand locations.

“Our franchisees asked for a system to lower food and labor costs so we worked with CrunchTime! to create and implement in a very short amount of time, a standardized system for our 800 locations which would enhance product quality and give franchisees the information to manage their cost of goods better,” Loughran says.

As a result of the food savings, Jersey Mike’s saw that franchisees added two percent to the bottom line from 2012 to 2013. In 2014, the results included labor savings, which added an additional one percent to the bottom line. “This process also allowed us to build additional consistency and improve product quality,” says Scott Scherer, CIO, Jersey Mike’s. “By using food cost analysis we have improved customer satisfaction.”


Truluck’s Restaurant Group ( has been recognized for innovation in customer engagement for its implementation of a customer feedback platform that uses the tenets of psychology in order to pinpoint customers’ emotional peaks. Utilizing customizable Humm Systems ( technology, Truluck’s is able to gather feedback in real-time enabling managers to react and respond to comments immediately if necessary.

The Humm System allows Truluck’s to be more proactive to customer experience and gain more actionable insights from guests while on-premise. Truluck’s replaced its traditional check presenters with the Humm Guest Check Presenter which includes a 7-inch Android tablet. The guest is asked to engage in a short feedback session that lasts around 30-40 seconds. In the event a question is answered negatively, restaurant leadership is alerted via either text or email. Humm leverages technology to capture customer feedback, but plays on the psychology of consumers by inviting them to speak directly to a server about their experience while they are still engaged with the dining experience.
“Humm provided us an opportunity to receive real-time customer feedback and this information has been invaluable in assisting us to coach and direct our staff with opportunities for improvement,” says David Tripoli, operating partner, Truluck’s Restaurant Group.

Having this valuable data has enabled Truluck’s to make operational changes and has reduced negative online reviews by 32 percent across the entire organization.

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