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MURTEC 2012: Tech Execs Tackle New Age of Restaurant Operations

Now in its 17th year, Hospitality Technology’s Multi-Unit Restaurant Technology Conference (MURTEC) is roundly considered the gold standard for insights into restaurant technology. With its unique mix of informational sessions, networking, topic tables, exhibition space, and of course, the annual golf outing, MURTEC creates a relaxed and interactive environment for restaurant technology, finance and operations professionals to stay ahead of mission-critical IT issues. This year’s conference, held March 21-23 at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas, delivered the same winning combination, with a theme of “Technology-Influenced Dining: The New Age of Restaurant Operations.”

Record-breaking registration numbers and sold-out sponsorship saw the coming together of more than 500 restaurant technology executives and solution providers. During the opening night Welcome Cocktail Reception, attendees were energized and eager to see what new technologies were waiting for them in the exhibit hall. The event was made interactive with the debut of the 2012 MURTEC conference app, available for iPhone/iPad and Android devices. Registered attendees used the app to view the conference schedule, create a personalized calendar, find their way across the property with interactive way finding, and even upload and view photos and feeds from MURTEC.

The opening keynote address was presented by Mike Inman, partner in TableForce, and was titled, “The Art of Negotiation: Expectation Impacts Outcome.” Inman offered valuable perspective for owners and operators who are sure to find themselves at the bargaining table when it comes to implementing new technologies. Inman walked attendees through techniques designed to procure effective negotiation so both sides get something. “MURTEC is a collection of the finest multi-unit restaurants along with the best suppliers in the world. As a negotiations teacher, we like to be in the middle of people like that…it tells us what is going on in the industry and where technology is taking it,” reflected Inman.

The second day of sessions was keynoted by Jack Clare, vice president/information technology & CIO, Yum Restaurants International. In his session, “Success Through Synergy: Merging Technology & Operations for Back-of-House Efficiency,” Clare offered insights into how innovation in kitchen automation has yielded benefits for Yum brands including KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell, such as increased customer satisfaction, remote management opportunities, and decreased waste.

Also on the agenda was a comprehensive schedule of presentations with sessions boasting a variety of topics presented by high-level execs from throughout the food service industry. Paul Valle, CIO of Papa Gino’s, led a session entitled, “Integrating BI and CRM for Complete Visibility.”

“The session with Paul Valle was excellent. It was very insightful and relatable, for instance when he said, ‘We thought we knew the customer — we didn’t.’ That’s what we’re all trying to figure out — what the customer needs,” explained Caleb Mitsvotai, lead developer, Panda Restaurant Group, Inc, adding, “I come to MURTEC to get the flavor of the tech that is coming out. Having the time with vendors is great, but to also get to network with restaurant operators — it’s a double whammy!”

Results from the 14th Annual Restaurant Technology Study were shared in a general session co-presented by HT editor-in-chief Abigail Lorden and research partner Cihan Cobanoglu, PhD., from University of South Florida, Sarasota-Manatee. The study provided significant benchmarks for technology buying priorities, and research was further enhanced by several rounds of live polling conducted via text message response with MURTEC attendees. When asked what technology initiative their company was most likely to invest in this year, the largest portion of MURTEC attendees said back-office / business intelligence (32%), followed by POS hardware and software (24%).

Also on the agenda were several concurrent sessions, executive panels, and roundtable workshops, which provided MURTEC attendees a chance to hash out challenges and possible solutions with peers. “The number one reason I come to MURTEC is to see what other people are doing in restaurant technology. It’s my favorite conference of the year, plus it’s great to see industry friends,” said Melissa Fletcher, operations services manager for CafÉ Rio Mexican Grill and one of this year’s workshop facilitators.

MURTEC 2013 will take place in March in Las Vegas. Stay tuned to for complete details.

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