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MURTEC Takeaway: IT is Onboard

When something takes 12 months to create, and then comes to fruition over three days of high-energy execution, the first thing you do is exhale, and the second thing you do is sleep. Finally, at recovery phase three, you reflect.

HT just wrapped up the Multi-Unit Restaurant Technology Conference (MURTEC) in March and, after moving through recovery phases one and two, I had a chance to reflect. The first thing to report is that technology showed up — big — for the foodservice industry. For those of you who keep hearing HT and other commentators talk about the importance of the CIO-CMO alliance; about the need to shift IT into a business mindset; and about the required transition to a more digitally-focused operation, my first major observation from MURTEC is that you hear us, and you’re in. This was the most high-energy, open-minded, marketing-savvy group of restaurant technology executives who have ever been a part of MURTEC.

Change is coming rapidly, and it won’t be possible to fully vet every IT roll-out as you’ve done in the past. As keynote speaker Jim Carroll stressed, you need to be able to think big, start small, and scale fast. Carroll delivered some of the best one-liners of the conference. Somewhere in between likening mobile payment to teenage sex (because no one’s really doing it as much as they say they are; and those who are, aren’t very good at it), and predicting that by 2017 we’ll be processing payments from our car dashboards, Carroll offered up this: 60% of Apple’s revenue today comes from products that didn’t exist four years ago. Would you be prepared to be in that position four years from now?

Facebook, too, offered up some thought-bombs. More than two-thirds of its traffic comes in via mobile. “The thumb is the new remote control,” FB executives said. “Create content that encourages the user to pause and spend time with your brand.” My outtake: If you’re online, but not optimized for mobile, you’re invisible. About 18 months ago, Facebook got serious about the restaurant industry and built a dedicated team to work with big brands. They offered a preview to MURTEC attendees of what they’re working on. Location-based messaging will be an area of focus.

Next year MURTEC celebrates 20 years, and if it’s anything like the high-energy group from this year’s show, I’m already looking forward to recovery phase three.

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