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Real-Time Coverage: MURTEC Executive Summit & Showcase

We’re delivering highlights, insights, and key takeaways from our educational sessions as they happen — check back throughout MURTEC Executive Summit & Showcase: Restaurants Reunited in Business & Technology (October 13-15) for updates!
a group of people on a stage in front of a store

IT Leadership Panel: Integrating, Connecting, and Writing the New Playbook (October 15, 11am ET)

Moderator Angela Diffly, co-founder of the Restaurant Technology Network, sat down with Robyn Kesler, IT Director, Tupelo Honey Cafe; Karen Bird, Chief Information Officer, HOA Brands; and Stephanie Nardini, VP of IT, Jersey Mike's, for an exceptional IT Leadership Panel to conclude our 2021 MURTEC Executive Summit & Showcase. 

Highlights included:

  • Customer expectations have changed, especially regarding personalization and self-service: Restaurants are a “people” business — it’s important to remove barriers between guests and the food. Personalization and off-prem solutions are now table stakes. Restaurants made sure staff could still prepare food and get it to guests during the pandemic, but it’s vital  not to disrupt service and the personal touch.
  • To build a proprietary POS or to work with a vendor: Brands that build their own POS do so in order to focus on their unique needs. Those that switch vendors require a deep dive into what is needed and what solution can deliver best. Either way, POS requires careful research and development. Ultimately, restaurants sometimes ponder the question, “Are we a food brand or a software brand?” The answer may differ from brand to brand.
  • Industry pain points: We’ve heard a lot of challenges and a lot of wins. Integrations and the management required remains a challenge — standardization can ease that burden. It’s the language that systems need to talk to one another. (And the Restaurant Technology Network can help with guidance via its workgroups.). Another challenge is that monitoring and alerting may have gotten lost — restaurants don’t always know when processes are failing. Kitchen capacity management is a major challenge — the orders coming into kitchens need to be managed more efficiently.
  • The panel included a freewheeling word-association, with Diffly throwing out provocative restaurant terms — such as “ghost kitchen” and “virtual brands” — to spark fresh thoughts and conversations.
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Research Super Session Panel: HT's 2021 Customer Engagement Technology Study (October 15, 10am ET)

Dan Connolly, professor of business management & hospitality at Drake University and co-author of HT’s 2021 Customer Engagement Technology Study, moderated a dynamic panel with Mike Maxwell, CTO, Hathway; Marybeth Pearce, Executive Director, Food & Beverage, Comcast; Skip Kimpel, Senior Vice President of Technology at Virtual Dining Concepts.

Highlights from the conversation included:

  • As guests return to travel and hospitality, it’s essential for solutions providers to listen to restaurant operators & guests: The panelists agreed that listening to the needs of operators is critical — new guest expectations will continue to shape technology implementations and innovative solutions.
  • How guests select a restaurant: Consumer reviews are critical, but so are “friction-free” transactions such as menus, ordering, payments, and food delivery/pickup. 
  • Turning technology costs into a revenue stream is essential. For example, guests’ desire for free Wi-Fi is an expense for restaurants, but it can be leveraged to create an exceptional customer journey, data collection, loyalty, and personalization.
  • Customers appreciate being informed about food safety and processes — it’s a win at every level. Important to leverage technology to not only ensure safety but also to clearly communicate it.
  • The notion of service is evolving, with technology more involved than ever. Customers still want the right food at the right time, and to the extent that technology can enhance those operations, the better it support a restaurant’s mission. 
  • 75% of guests prefer to order via native delivery — they want to get their order right, and to participate in a loyalty program rather than a third-party delivery service.
  • Personalization: All restaurants — full-service, QSR, fast casual, and virtual — are moving toward personalization that is appropriate to their missions. Making the restaurant experience special — the personal touch — can help generate the “wow” factor even when technology is facilitating “transactional” dining and touchless experiences.
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Dan Connolly, professor of business management and hospitality at Drake University and co-author of HT's 2021 Customer Engagement Technology Study, moderating our Research Super Session
Paul Macaluso standing on a stage in front of a screen

Another Broken Egg Hatches Tech Initiatives to Fuel Brand (October 15, 9am ET)

Paul Macaluso, President & CEO of Another Broken Egg, shares the brand’s tactics for growth. Some highlights of his conversation with Angela Diffly, co-founder of Restaurant Technology Network, include:

  • Another Broken Egg has 77 full-service cafes in 14 states, mostly in the Southeast; it opened nine cafes in 2020, and 10 are opening in 2021.
  • Off-prem went from 2% of sales to 15% during the pandemic — and continues to grow, with some cafes doing 20%.
  • The brand is focusing on labor and operational efficiencies: With a large concentration of cafes in Florida, where the minimum wage is rising, they recognized that they have to look at our operational performance, hiring Labor Gurus to analyze “time and motion” to determine opportunities for efficiencies. 
  • Another Broken Egg is testing a new POS: To replace its current process, where a server writes down an order and brings it to the POS terminal. Revel is implementing at-table tablets for the cafes, with orders going right to the kitchen display unit, and a receipt coming out with a QR code so the customer can pay with their smartphone. This is delivering more than 20% savings of time for servers, opening up opportunities for more tables served.
  • Touchscreens enhance the personal touch: Servers find that using a touchscreen actually improves customer service and the personal touch — it's not the distraction that some may fear it is.
  • Franchisee win: The brand conducted an anonymous franchisee survey, and scored extremely well, near the top of the food brands in terms of franchisee satisfaction. Questions such as “If you could do it over again, would you?” got an verwhelming “yes” -- above 90% But the lowest score was for using technology, so the brand has acknowledged is an area to work on.
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Ben Hall, CIO, Krispy Kreme, and Angela Diffly, co-founder, Restaurant Technology Network

Hot Now! Krispy Kreme’s Sweet Success (October 14 at 8:40am ET)

Ben Hall, CIO, Krispy Kreme, sat down for a Keynote “firechat” with Angela Diffly, co-founder of the Restaurant Technology Network.

Krispy Kreme needs no introduction: With 1,400 shops in over 30 countries, 84-year-old iconic brand Krispy Kreme experienced record-setting sales during the pandemic, and took a successful second stand on Wall Street, going public in July. Hall shared some cool insights into the brand’s growth and future plans. 

Highlights included:

  • Krispy Kreme donuts at the conference! Hall surprised attendees with boxes of fresh treats
  • Hall spoke of the challenges the brand faced in launching a flagship store in Times Square, working with New York CIty during COVID. The shop offers virtual queuing, virtual reservations, and lots of opportunities for social media synergies, including Instagram tables, giant donut boxes, and a glaze fountain. 
  • Hall notes that Krispy Kreme already had drive-thrus pre-COVID, but the brand is working to improve drive-thru, doing digital signage, and looking how to do AI, loyalty, and perhaps eventually voice. 
  • Hall maintains a five-year roadmap for tech implementations, which facilitates work with vendors, but he also reevaluates the roadmap each year because things change in our industry so quickly
  • Krispy Kreme is working to develop and improve native delivery and integrate with loyalty; the Issue with third-party delivery, of course, is that you lose some or all data
  • Hall is focusing on “demand planning” technology: To better handle challenges such as labor, supply chain and commodities — “Let’s get better at forecasting sales across all our channels, how much each factory needs to make, how many donuts each shop needs. Even the weather affects demand for donuts.” 
a close up of a box of donuts
Krispy Kreme surprised MURTEC Executive Summit attendees with boxes of fresh donuts!
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Innovator Roundtable: A Look at Groundbreaking R&D from Leading Suppliers (October 14, 9:30am ET)

Hospitality Technology’s VP & Publisher Abigail Lorden moderated our Innovator Roundtable with panelists Kevin Pierce, Viking; Jaime Ferreyros, Presto; Steve Womer, Interface. The panel did a deep dive into how innovative solutions can drive profits, identifying the right investments that are powering growth and ROI.

The session touched on an array of hot tech challenges, including security, ransomware, guest expectations, and workforce management. The full session will stream via video on demand here at after the conclusion of the conference, but here are a few highlights, focused on the current labor shortage:

  • A managed service solution is especially important for recruiting specialized skill sets, such as security, noted Kevin Pierce, from Viking. Ideally, solution providers are preparing customers for future issues, essentially solving problems before they become problems.
  • Restaurant technology can improve the experience of the staff, said Jaime Ferreyros, from Presto, helping with training, rewarding workers, alerting staff to make their jobs easier and help with operational flow. Ultimately, it can lead to better tips and happier employees.
  • While automated solutions such as voice and food prep may address near-term labor shortages, centralization can be key for brands that don’t have the physical resources they need on site, said Steve Womer, from Interface. Eye-in-sky video, for instance, can meet some security needs from a central location.
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Interactive Workshop: Identifying Restaurant Technology KPIs (October 14, 11am ET)

What a lively and insightful workshop! We all knew that key performance indicators (KPIs), are difficult to measure across the restaurant industry due to their varying definitions as well as the disparities among restaurant categories, size and structure. 

This interactive workshop, powered by Restaurant Technology Network stars Joe Tenczar, Co-Founder, Restaurant CIOs; Phil Crawford, CTO, CKE Restaurants; Angela Diffly, RTN Co-Founder; and Patrick Dunphy, RTN CIO brainstormed KPI categories and concepts, as a kickoff for RTN’s newest workgroup, designed to identify, collect and catalog KPIs for all restaurants.

As the workshop started, Tenczar and Crawford noted the importance of identifying goals. For instance, are you comparing KPIs to history? Or are you comparing KPIs to where you want to be in the future? Or both? Both leaders agreed that measuring speed of service and transactions is table stakes, but that it is always important ot imagine what future KPIs will be relevant. The experience of the past year has shown that the game can change quickly.

Dunphy facilitated small-group discussion and brainstorming in two rounds, helping participants hone in on the most important KPIs. Here are some of the KPIs identified as potential priorities:

  • Measuring happiness of customers and employees using facial recognition
  • Minutes saved per customer (for a better, quicker experience)
  • Which channels are producing the most tickets/revenue
  • What is your total system availability?
  • Order accuracy and consistency (beyond guest complaints)
  • Employee satisfaction with culture
  • Loss-prevention measures
  • Customer acquisition cost, lifetime value, and frequency
  • Kitchen efficiencies (time on check, time in the kitchen, availability of menu items)
  • Employee satisfaction and engagement (use of available technology tools)
  • Through-put through third party (broken down by region)

To learn more about Restaurant KPIs and other exciting RTN workgroup initiatives, visit Restaurant Technology Network.

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Patrick Dunphy and Angela Diffly, of the Restaurant Technology Network, knocking the KPI workshop out of the park!
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2021 MURTEC Breakthrough Awards (October 14, 1:45pm ET)

Sponsored by Fortinet, the 2021 MURTEC Breakthrough Awards were presented by HT’s senior editor for restaurants, Anna Wolfe and Fortinet’s National Retail CISO, Courtney Radke. The winners were: El Pollo Loco (Customer Engagement Innovator), Little Caesars  (Enterprise Innovator) and Amara at Paraiso   (Enterprise Innovator). Three runners-up were Firehouse Subs, Jersey Mike’s, and Taffer’s Tavern.

“This year’s Breakthrough Award winners further demonstrate that restaurant technology is now a straight-up revenue driver,” notes Robert Firpo-Cappiello, editor-in-chief of Hospitality Technology magazine. “From reimagining off-prem with drones and GPS to building a scalable cloud-based store platform and enhancing workflow with AI, this cutting-edge tech transcends the ‘capital expenditure’ label — it’s truly taken center stage.”

Congrats to all winners and runners-up!

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Firechat: How Cryptocurrency Will Impact Hospitality (October 14, 2pm ET)

HT’s Editor-in-Chief, Robert Firpo-Cappiello, caught up with Bo Friddell, President of Sunrise Salvador Development/Garten Hotel via pre-recorded videoconference to discuss the company’s adoption of cryptocurrency and the benefits to guests, staff, and the community. The video will stream on demand after the conference. Some highlights include:

  • As restaurants and other hospitality brands weigh the pros and cons of adopting  cryptocurrency from customers, "Bitcoin Beach," El Salvador, holds lessons for the hospitality industry.
  • Bitcoin Beach was a cash-only economy where locals often lacked access to bank accounts — and ATMs are an hour away. Here, the adoption of cryptocurrency has allowed locals to shop more efficiently, and has allowed the Garten Hotel to offer the convenience of a tap-and-pay or account-on-file via a custom Bitcoin Beach app that accepts Bitcoin payment.
  • The custom Bitcoin Beach app also allows guests to tip staff via Bitcoin, and opens up opportunities for leveraging guest preferences and history for future stays.


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Panel: Workforce Shiny New Objects (October 14, 2:25pm ET)

HT’s senior editor Anna Wolfe moderated a lively panel with Chris Baggott of Clustertruck and Joel S. White, Vice President of Marketing, The Genuine Hospitality Group. Starting with the firm belief that hiring and retaining staff has never been more important in the restaurant industry, the discussion featured two restaurant brands that are embracing technology in very different ways to ramp up efficiencies, increase employee satisfaction and maintain their current workforce.

Joel S. White noted that Amara at Paraiso, part of The Genuine Hospitality Group, employs AI (they call the system ELROY) to connect FOH staff using a NFC mobile device called an EMU, helping to manage workloads and enhance efficiencies — and also a health-monitoring bracelet to measure stress and help prevent burnout. White noted that he wasn’t sure how staff would react to the tech rollout, but was pleased to see them embrace its social-emotional benefits.

Chris Baggott’s company, Clustertruck, is focused on solving one of the restaurant industry’s critical challenges: “Delivering food is the worst job in the gig economy; we wanted to make it the best.” The company has succeeded in minimizing the stress in the stressful food delivery game. Food prep is timed to the arrival of the driver, and kitchen staff can monitor everything onscreen. Baggott says flat-out, “The driver is more important to us than the kitchen,” and the proof is in the numbers: Clustertruck has a low turnover rate and a waiting list for drivers.

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Reimagining Restaurants From the Ground Up (October 14, 2:55pm ET)

HT senior editor Anna Wolfe sat down with Anita Klopfenstein, CIO, Little Caesars, to get the lowdown on the brand’s extraordinary ability to imagine — then reimagine — their technology. So, how does Little Caesars foster a culture of innovation and reimagination? For one thing, Klopfenstein divulges that they have a group called Area 51 that works with mechanical engineers, electrical engineers. RIght now they’re trying  to automate things like the Pizza Portal. It’s all about encouraging divergent thinking, asking “what-if?” 

Not to mention developing a native cloud-based POS for its 5,000+ stores, CaesarVision (CV). Their “modest” goal was to develop a POS so user-friendly that a new hire could understand it within minutes of starting the job. (They even tested it on Klopfenstein’s husband, whose training is in welding, and he was indeed up and running in minutes.) Breaking down her process for goal-setting on the multi-year process, she notes, it had to be easy to use, ensure that BOH reporting was improved, and performance had to be fast. They completely rewrote their forecasting models, with an AI model built for every store that is trained to make forecasts based on that particular community, clientele, and even the weather. Then they showed their  franchisees the product as a test — and urged them to be as critical as possible. By early 2022, the new POS will be operational at all Little Caesars.

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Interactive Workshop: How to Innovate Under Pressure (October 14, 4pm ET)

Andrew Rebhun, VP Digital at El Pollo Loco, shares the secret to innovating under pressure with HT VP & Publisher Abigail Lorden: "Take little bets."

El Pollo Loco, a winner of a 2021 MURTEC Breakthrough Award, tackled four major initiatives at the same time:

  • Building a truly effective loyalty program that leverages relationships;
  • Launching a forward-looking artificial intelligence program to help analyze data and make meaningful predictions;
  • Taking curbside from zero to operational in six weeks;
  • Experimenting with backyard drone delivery for its top loyalty members.

The secret, “Take little bets,” is something Rebhun learned from Peter Sims’s book Little Bets: How Breakthrough Ideas Emerge From Small Discoveries. And to evaluate those bets, he suggests a three-question innovation litmus test: 

  • Is it disruptive and will the customer notice it?
  • Is it profitable?
  • Is it operationally viable?

Rebhun advised that if the answer to two or to all three questions is "yes," the idea may be worth a "little bet." The workshop concluded with attendees breaking off into small groups to brainstorm their own "little bets" and bringing them back to the general session — the first step toward innovations to come!

a person standing on a stage
Donald Burns, The Restaurant Coach, in action.

What Restaurants Can Do Better NOW (October 13, 5pm ET)

Donald Burns, The Restaurant Coach, kicked off MURTEC Executive Summit & Showcase with a bang, delivering his top tips on leadership, branding, culture, operations, restaurateur mindset, team development, behavioral dynamics, productivity & peak performance. 

Burns's dynamic presentation, following a welcome from Hospitality Technology's VP & Publisher Abigail Lorden, touched on a number of hot topics, including the current labor shortage, why most restaurants fail to rise above average, and the importance of culture. Highlights included:

  • "Restaurant success is not rocket science — it’s people science. All restaurant problems, all business problems are people problems."
  • "Brand is what your clients and guests say about you. Culture is what your team says about you."
  • 20% of restaurants have a bad, toxic culture; 60% are good; 15% are great; and 5% are outstanding — outstanding restaurants have a leadership culture, reaching to be outstanding in everything they do.

  • There is a recipe for culture — the “Kool Aid,” as Burns calls it — that your team needs to drink — but leaders have to drink it first (see image, below).

The Restaurant Coach's Recipe for Restaurant Culture
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