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MURTEC Executive Summit Recap: The ROI of Experience

A group of industry innovators discussed trends and the findings of the 2019 Customer Engagement Technology Study.
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MURTEC Executive Summit delivered senior-level restaurant executives a one-of-a-kind educational and networking opportunity deemed “The ROI of Experience.” Held Oct. 28-30 at Four Seasons Scottsdale at Troon North in Arizona, this year’s Summit kicked off the afternoon of Monday, Oct. 28. Attendees could choose from a round of golf or from a Desert Jeep Adventure Tour.

The educational sessions kicked off Monday afternoon with an interactive workshop on “Bridging the IT & Business Divide,” led by Little Caesars, the 2019 Breakthrough Award Winner for Customer-Facing Technology,  and Jersey Mike’s, a 2019 honorable mention, who shared how their organizations have transformed their digital footprints. In this hands-on session, attendees were able to workshop how to benchmark competition, identify areas of opportunity, and how to create cohesive omni-channel strategies in order to yield positive business results. 

The day’s picture-perfect weather continued for the networking reception, where attendees gathered on the terrace overlooking the striking desert skyline to meet other senior level executives through a fun and casual networking game.  

Tuesday, Oct. 29 kicked off with a networking breakfast featuring table topic discussions where executives could discuss challenge and share ideas on topics including Ghost/Virtual Kitchens, the Future of Own Channel Delivery, and Delivering on a Mobile First Strategy.

The day’s general sessions kicked off with a welcome from Adrian Butler, CIO Dine Brands Global and honorary MURTEC Summit chairman.  Emphasizing the role technology is having in on society, Butler asked, “Is there anyone who isn’t talking about tech today?”

Shawn G. DuBravac, a New York Times best-selling author, futurist and trendcaster, delivered a thought-provoking keynote address, “What's Real & What's Next in the Service Experience.” DuBravac, who worked for 12 years as the chief economist for the Consumer Technology Association / CES tradeshow, took attendees on a journey outside of restaurants and hospitality, illustrating how other industries are rethinking their customers’ journeys.

Dubravac peeled back the onion to illustrate how these innovations “have been building for decades." He cautioned against rushing to dismiss technology advances. “There’s a tendency to say, ‘That’s not for everyone’ about new technology,” he said. 

As retail is adding AR to help customers visualize how items will look on them or in their homes, customers will come to expect the same technology in hospitality as well. For example, customers will use AR to the burger they’d like to order. “The lines between the physical and digital worlds are blurring,” DuBravac stressed.

“Products are changing based on the digitization going on now,” DuBravac said, encouraging attendees to look at industries “going through these waves and how it is impacting them … how does the experience change with all these things playing out.”

The keynote was a perfect segue to the first Innovation Lab: Building the Next Generation Customer Journey. White Castle’s VP of Technology Susan Carroll-Boser shared how the QSR is building its next generation customer journey and debuted many of these new technologies at its Scottsdale location that opened Oct. 23. This prototype includes geolocation, beacons, tableside ordering and more.  (Attendees were able to take a late-night party bus to see the location firsthand.)

Carroll-Boser shared how to approach the IT roadmap with the customer journey as a foundation, showing benefits, needs and the expected ROI. She led attendees through several exercises to identify problems and the appropriate solutions to solve for business problems.

In the session, Refreshing The Enterprise: Digital Download from a Global Leader, Coca-Cola executives shared their insights on how brands need to refresh digital tech strategies to deliver on customer demands.

 "The consumer has never been this unreasonable and they’ll never be this reasonable again," said Melissa Fahs, Vice President, Foodservice Digital Commerce.

The morning conclude with a special awards ceremony. MURTEC Summit recognized some of the year’s most impressive restaurant technology accomplishments with its MURTEC Breakthrough Awards.

This year’s competition, which attracted a record-number of entries, had three honorable mentions: Jersey Mike's for its integrated learning management system; Salsaritas for its document management solution and streamlined workforce processing workflow; and Cousins Subs for its implementation of a back-office solution that has saved the company $250,000.  Read more about the 2019 winners and honorable mentions here

The group broke for lunch and more networking and table topic discussions on Successfully Managing Major Deployments within Franchisee Environments, Delivery Marketplace Orders: Accuracy and Management, Tech Stack Strategy: Best of Breed vs. Consolidated, and Avoiding the Traps of Cloud POS.

The afternoon’s sessions reconvened with the second hands-on innovation lab. Kathleen Chugh, North America CTO for Nando’s, walked attendees through an exercise designed to help executives visualize technology investment through a lens of level effort, output and expected returns.

The afternoon’s schedule featured lively panel discussions, including Digital Transformation: Business Enabler or Security Disabler? Kiosks and digital menu boards and more are increasing efficiency, but are they also adding more vulnerabilities to your network?  This panel, including Carissa De Santis, Vice President - Information Technology, Dickey's Barbecue Restaurants; Intel Corp, and Fortinet tackled this complex issue.  De Santis suggested a stress test: hiring your vendor to hack and evaluate your network. The average data breach costs $3.2 million, and restaurants’ network departments are tremendously understaffed.  The conclusion: for many organizations, the best road to a secure enterprise involves outsourcing. 

The afternoon’s sessions concluded with a second panel discussion on Mastering the Evolving Ordering Experience. Executives from Red LobsterMOD Pizza and Sonic shared how their brands are addressing customers’ shifting preferences to order ahead or bypass human servers. In short there’s not one size fits all solution.

Brandon Coleman III, president of Del Frisco’s Grille (, kicked of the the third and final day with a rousing keynote on the who and why of customer experience ROI. He shared the equation he uses to measure the viability of new technology on customer experience. In short, customers need to get more than they give up.

Before a brand can embrace next-gen customer-centric tech, he asserts it must not only know the customer, but also stay true to the brand itself. “Be specific,” Coleman advises. “Your offerings will have different values for different people.”

In what has become a MURTEC Summit tradition, the conference concluded with a panel discussion around the 2019 Customer Engagement Technology Study.

Panelists included: Honorary Chair, Adrian Butler, CIO, Dine Brands Global, Anita Klopfenstein, CIO, Little Caesars, Dave Harris, CIO, Shake Shack, and Chris Satchel, CIO, Zume Pizza. Moderated by HT’s editor-in-chief, Dorothy Creamer, the group shared their views across a range of topics from how to apply convenience to the experience without sacrificing quality, to how to get buy-in from franchisees and staff. Butler brought it back to basics saying, “how do we help our franchisees become more profitable?” 


Stay tuned for details about MURTEC Executive Summit 2020.  MURTEC 2020 will take place March 9-11 at the Paris Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas. 

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