MURTEC Executive Summit, hosted by Hospitality Technology and the Restaurant Technology Network, took off last week, October 13-15 in Orlando, with a jam-packed agenda and a red-hot stage welcoming some of the restaurant technology industry’s most talented technology executives. The electric energy was palpable, pent up demand from an industry hungry to reunite, celebrate and talk shop. In case you missed it, here are some of my key takeaways.
Paul Macaluso, President & CEO of Another Broken Egg, took the stage to kick off Day 2, revealing the brand’s off-prem sales skyrocketed from 2 percent to 15 during the pandemic, and continues this trajectory, with some cafes experiencing 20 percent in off-prem sales. In addition to this new revenue stream, the brand is diving into catering with ezCater, rolling out a new POS from Revel, and guestlist solution from Wisely. New technology is fueling the brand’s rise, with 77 full-service cafes in 14 states (and expanding to new states, like Arizona). Nine new cafes came to life in 2020, and 10 more are opening in 2021.
To combat the rise in minimum wage in Florida, Another Broken Egg looked to crack its labor and operational efficiency code, hiring Labor Guru to analyze time and motion to hyper-identify opportunities to save time, step-up productivity and enhance the consumer experience - a tall order for any restaurant to decipher. But Another Broken Egg is going there, and delighting franchisees with corporate walking the walk. In an anonymous franchisee survey, the question “If you could do it over again, would you?” was answered with an overwhelming “yes” - above 90 percent, impressive for any brand especially during the pandemic when morale had every right to be rock-bottom.
Innovation Takes Center Stage
Anita Klopfenstein, CIO, Little Caesars wowed the room with a story about how the company sparks innovation around an Area 51 internal group, made up of mechanical and electrical engineers. Currently, the Area 51 group is working to automate things like Little Caesars' Pizza Portal. Klopfenstein revealed that the brand’s innovation stems from encouraging divergent thinking and asking what if.
Andrew Rebhun, VP Digital at El Pollo Loco told us he tackled four major initiatives simultaneously: A loyalty program to leverage relationships, a forward-looking AI to analyze data and make meaningful predictions, curbside service from zero to operational in six weeks, and (the star of the show!), backyard drone delivery for its most loyal fans. The secret? “Take little bets,” Rebhun learned from Peter Sims’s book Little Bets: How Breakthrough Ideas Emerge From Small Discoveries. And apply an innovation litmus test:
* Is it disruptive and will the customer notice it?
* Is it profitable?
* Is it operationally viable?
With a unique business model that flips the restaurant model sideways, ClusterTruck’s co-founder and CEO Chris Baggott shared that people are joining his brand because they see a future. “Everybody makes $15 an hour, everybody gets 14 paid days off,” he said. “The driver is our front-of-house. We treat them as if they are real employees, like any other company. Delivering food is the worst job in the gig economy; we wanted to take the worst job and make it the best. 75 percent of our drivers have been with us since the first week.” We don't ship maybes is Baggott’s die-hard belief. (Don’t believe me? Check out the tattoo on his forearm he proudly showed off on stage.)
You Had Me At KPI
In an interactive workshop, powered by Restaurant Technology Network rockstars Joe Tenczar, Co-Founder, Restaurant CIOs, Phil Crawford, CTO, CKE Restaurants and RTN CIO Patrick Dunphy, we 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 key is imagining what future KPIs will be relevant. The experience of the past year has shown that the game can change quickly.
Potential KPIs identified by the audience:
* 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)
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 (drum roll, please): 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,” says 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.” A huge congratulations to all the amazing brands recognized here.
Pain Points Persist
One word sums this up: Integration (rather, the lack of). Perhaps, sadly, this was the one thing that has remained the same, year after year, show after show. Integrations hurt yesterday, and they still hurt today. And they’ll hurt tomorrow if we all don’t get on board with open architecture and standardized data models to help systems speak the same language. The Restaurant Technology Network has published an Open API Framework, a Menu Synchronization Standard, and is working on a Customer Data Record Standard and a Transactional Data Record Standard (among many other public-facing technical guidance documents). Many restaurants and vendors at the event were excited about the strides RTN has made since inception just under three years ago. But there is still a lot of work to do. Collaborating to build on standards is a top priority with the hope that in the future, integration no longer tops the list when we come together and discuss industry challenges (#innovationoverintegration).
Who’ll Run the World? GIRLS.
My final session with Robyn Kesler, IT Director, Tupelo Honey Cafe, Karen Bird, CIO, HOA Brands, and Stephanie Nardini, VP of IRT, Jersey Mike's, was a highlight, as an all-female panel took the stage to close out the event. Everyone agreed that whether brands develop their own POS in-house or choose not to be a technology company and farm it out, technology must make sense for the brand and complement culture. For instance, drone delivery shouldn’t replace Jersey Mike’s friendly-faced staff or Tupelo Honey’s southern hospitality. But redirecting orders to a call center to improve employee engagement and leaning into virtual brands is a successful bet for Hooters.
That’s a Wrap
When the show wrapped, we all felt the sentiment behind HT’s VP & Publisher Abigail Lorden in her opening remarks. “How good does this feel? How amazing to see people coming together to share success stories and get it done. There’s no stopping us!” She’s right, you know. There is no stopping restaurants when it comes to being scrappy, getting s**t done, and going the distance. Though we may not have been reuniting in the past year and a half, we’re back. Cheers to an event like no other, and to MURTEC 2022, March 7-9 in Vegas, BABY.
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