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What You Missed at MURTEC 2011

For the last 16 years, Hospitality Technology’s Multi-Unit Restaurant Technology Conference (MURTEC) has been arming restaurant technology, finance and operations professionals with the insights and best practices needed to address mission-critical IT issues through a mix of educational sessions and peer-to-peer networking. This year’s event, held March 16-18 at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas, Nev., continued in that tradition with a focus on the theme: “The Integrated Enterprise: Aligning Technology Initiatives with Business Objectives.”
From social networking to business intelligence, MURTEC offered multiple sessions that were focused on the technologies that matter most in helping operators to achieve their business goals. In fact, live polling at the event revealed that operators are focused on: increasing guest counts (49%), increasing the average dollar amount of guest checks (10%), growing through new locations (18%), and improving productivity and efficiency (24%).
Key sessions
The opening keynote, “Roadmap to an Integrated Enterprise,” delivered by Nick Ibrahim, CIO of Ruby Tuesday, played directly to this year’s theme by offering a roadmap that focuses on needs assessment and system inventory, a better understanding of the real-world impact of integration on restaurant operations, a short- and long-term action plan for integration, and the pitfalls to avoid in the process.
Meanwhile, BJ Emerson, vice president of technology for Tasti D-Lite offered a day-two keynote that explored the role that IT can play within an organization to not only support, but provide influence and leadership in integrating the brand experience with online communities. In his session, “The Journey from Social Negligence to Social Prominence,” Emerson detailed how IT helped to propel Tasti D-Lite into online relevance through the creative use of social networking technologies. The company is currently converging social networking initiatives and its loyalty program at the point-of-sale to generate sales and reinforce brand allegiance.

While Tasti D-Lite offered insight into its guest-facing initiatives involving social media, Domino’s VP of application development, Chris Demery, reveled how his company is leveraging open-source portal technology to tap the collective wisdom of thousands of company associates. The power of wikis, blogs and discussion boards are redefining the company’s business and software development efforts, at a fraction of the cost of closed systems.
“My favorite presentation today was Domino’s and how they are working their enterprise portal and using Web 2.0 ideals to drive their franchisees to give them ideas and feedback. At HuHot we are trying to start a franchisee portal this year, so I got some great ideas from him,” says Monica Minford, director of web development for HuHot Mongolian Grill, and “Cashing in on Social Media” workshop facilitator.   
Additional sessions included:
  • “Vendor Selection Best Practices” with Martyn Holland, senior vice president and CIO for HMSHost Corporation; Brenda Parker, director of information technology and services, DineEquity; and Robert Notte, vice president of information technology, Jamba Juice Company
  • “Beyond Reporting: Learning Better Business Intelligence from Retail’s Leadership” with Mark Cornwell, vice president of It applications, Winn-Dixie Stores, Inc.
  • “Tech-enable Kitchen: How to Empower the Heart of the Restaurant” with Derek Boyd, director of information technology, Joey Restaurant Group
  • “Franchisee Case Study: Enterprise-wide Integration from POS to Back Office” with Brian Anthony, vice president of technology, Star Chasers Oklahoma, Inc.
  • “Applying IT Investment Savvy for Growth” with Ron DiNella, senior vice president and CFO, Morton’s Restaurant Group; Jeffery Gengler, vice president, business technology, Papa Murphy’s International; Pat Enright, vice president information technology, Cosi Inc.; and John McDermot, director of information technology and services, DineEquity.
  • “Streamlining the Front of House” workshop with Beth Briggs, vice president of IT, Einstein Noah Restaurant Group Inc.; and David Lehn, vice president of IT,Noodles & Company
  • “Back of House Smarts” workshop with David Starmer, director, store solutions and services, Papa Murphy's; and Fred LeFranc, president, Results thru Strategy
  • “Cashing in on Social Media” workshop with Monica Minford, director of web development for HuHot Mongolian Grill; and Christina Volpe, associate editor, Hospitality Technology
“I had a couple of great sessions that I saw, says Steve Brooks, Tumbleweed Southwest Grill’s director of mission control. “It was good to see the continued look at business intelligence and how different companies are using it, what kind of alerts they are setting up. That’s been a big part of our focus for the last year or two so that was a big take-away for us.”
The conference concluded with the first official presentation of the Hospitality Technology’s 2011 Restaurant Technology Study. In the session, “Restaurant Technology Study: Highlights and Analysis,” HT’s editor-in-chief Abigail Lorden, and UNLV assistant professor, Mehmet Erdem, PhD, CHTP, addressed the top POS system features and functions, an update on operators’ PCI efforts, drivers for new technology investments and more.
"Each year, MURTEC attracts the restaurant industry’s best and brightest technology executives to share their stories, and this year’s attendees benefited from an outstanding line-up of speakers,” says Lorden. “We continue to see feedback on Twitter, in our LinkedIn groups, and through personal ‘thank you’ emails that the education provided at MURTEC was invaluable. We’re grateful to the restaurant industry for sharing their stories and to the MURTEC sponsorship community for making this event possible.”
MURTEC 2012 is scheduled to take place March 21-23 at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas, Nev. For a full recap of videos from the 2011 conference, click here.
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