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Top 3 Takeaways from Restaurant Finance & Development Conference 2017

If this year’s Restaurant Finance & Development Conference in Las Vegas made one thing clear, it’s that the time has come for restaurant operators to be decisive in the midst of industry disruption. The restaurant industry is currently experiencing a historic level of change — new brands are emerging, old brands are trying to adapt, […]

If this year’s Restaurant Finance & Development Conference in Las Vegas made one thing clear, it’s that the time has come for restaurant operators to be decisive in the midst of industry disruption.

The restaurant industry is currently experiencing a historic level of change — new brands are emerging, old brands are trying to adapt, and the rapid development of technology is affecting both businesses and consumers.

RFDC brought together restaurant leaders, executives, investors, and innovators to explore all of these changes and the wealth of opportunities they open up for businesses as well as the banks and private equity firms investing in them.

It was a fantastic and illuminating three days, and believe us when we say we learned a lot from various industry heavyweights. Seriously, there was a lot. But in the interest of your time, we’ve narrowed down the three big things we learned:

The Demand for Delivery is Only Growing

Delivery is a huge trend right now, and it isn’t going away! Conference attendees heard from many brands who are ramping up their delivery strategies, from building delivery-only kitchens to entire locations specifically for delivery and take-out orders. What concerns operators is how they can offer delivery services while simultaneously preserving their brand experience.

And it’s not just about building out the delivery arm of your restaurant — many operators also want representation in the burgeoning third-party delivery market. There are currently 28 delivery companies, and operators agree that they need to negotiate a fair percentage (roughly 12-30%) with these aggregators — services like GrubHub, Seamless, UberEats, etc.

While the majority of operators know they need to address this demand for delivery, some are jumping in with both feet first, and others are cautiously observing for the time being. Corner Bakery, for instance, makes 25% of its sales from delivery orders.

We heard from multiple operators that the decision to offer delivery is highly dependent on the menu and current level of traffic in the restaurant. Technology solutions that provide the ability to forecast sales by revenue center can help operators and managers optimize their labor costs and increase sales.



It’s Time to Leverage Your Data

“Data.” That’s another word we heard constantly at RFDC. Your restaurant has a ton of it. Every restaurant does, really. But what are you doing with that data? Boston Consulting Group talked about the speed of consumer tech adoption and how progressive operators like Panera Bread, Starbucks, and Domino’s Pizza are thriving as they take advantage of the data they collect from digital orders and delivery.

These brands also described some pretty advanced applications of machine learning and robotics in the industry. Take Starbucks, for example — they have your data thanks to their incredibly popular mobile app. By adding weather and traffic forecasts and running that data through an algorithm, the app can make personalized offers to customers, resulting in increased per member sales growth.

These computer-generated recommendations, or insights, are the future of restaurant technology and will be the key to helping operators and their managers forecast needs, control costs and grow topline revenue across stores.

Commitment to Culture is Key

Perhaps surprisingly, a CFO panel focused less on numbers and more on the idea that corporate culture and community impact are vitally important to any business. We were particularly struck by the impressive, people-first mission at Mod Pizza, a chain that is committed to giving people a second chance through work.

We also heard from Snooze Eatery, a valued HotSchedules customer, who boast an admirable commitment to the environment. Snooze locations compost and recycle 90% of the waste from their restaurants, a move that resonates quite well with their millennial workforce.

“Culture is not what you put on paper,” said Bill Long, Snooze’s Chief Financial Officer. “It’s the set of behaviors that you see every day in the stores.”

For more information on how to drive employee engagement in your stores, check out our infographic!

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