What I Learned at the Restaurant Leadership Conference

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Article written by David “Rev” Ciancio

Jhe Restaurant management conference concluded last month in Phoenix, AZ. Winsight, the company behind the event, described it as “an information-packed program, expert speakers, top vendors and, of course, unique and unparalleled networking opportunities.”

Foodservice leaders and suppliers come together for a few days to meet, learn, and exchange ideas about what’s working, what changes are on the horizon, and what we can all do together to move the business forward. Ja Restaurant Leadership Conference was really a great event.

Here’s what I learned there that I can share to help inspire your growth:

1. Technology adoption is at the forefront of change in the restaurant industry

Between changes in the labor pool, online consumer habits, and the need for better cost control, the right technology will help you go faster, do more, and make things easier. To this It goes without saying that you need to evaluate your operations AND your marketing to see where you can gain efficiencies with technology.

2. Great experience > great food

You can serve the highest quality, most delicious dishes from the most amazing ingredients, but if the online and offline experience is poor or worse, you’re going to fail. We all have unlimited dining options and decide where to have our next meal based on the need for convenience or the desire for an experience. It’s likely that a person will pass several or even dozens of places to eat on their way to your dining room and be presented with a ton of choices online to place an order.

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3. Omnichannel marketing is the name of the game

Your guests are on TikTok, they read emails, they receive text messages, they have a mailbox in front of their house, they pass billboards. Maximize your ability to find yourself in front of as many of them as possible.

**Pro Tip** Use your current guest database to target across multiple channels. According to Stephan Farr-Jones of ADM Marketing, you can increase performance by at least 50%.

4. Forget the frictionless, go for the awesome

I have Jennifer Kern of Qu POS to thank for this. We’ve all talked about creating a frictionless online customer journey. All of that means it’s not bad. We should aim for a simple, smooth, fun, engaging and awesome design of how our customers find our restaurants and then transact.

Spendgo’s Ivan Matkovic gave an amazing presentation on how to create an amazing trip for guests. I strongly suggest you ping him and ask him for a copy of the presentation. We use Bbot at Handcraft Burgers and Brew and I will ask him to please share it with them as it was literally a roadmap. Which brings me to my next point.

5. Go Amazon, Go Tesla, or Go Home

Did you know that you can get a Tesla, a car that costs over $100,000 in your cart in less than 2 clicks on their website? Ivan has the merit of sharing this with us. You need to figure out how to put your menu items in a shopping cart in 3 clicks or less. Make it simple and stupid to order from you and you will get more orders.

6. Here’s your new guest acquisition playbook for virtual brands

I posed a question to Geoff Alexander, President and CEO of Wow Bao, Robert Earl of Earl Enterprise and co-founder of Virtual Dining Concepts, and Aaron Noveshen, CEO of Starbird/Founder and President of The Culinary Edge: as you acquire new guests. Here is a list of EVERYTHING they shared:

  • Push for pre-order/order ahead not only to capture customer data but also to make the experience faster for the customer
  • Show ads on third-party delivery service providers.
  • Have exclusive items available on third-party delivery service providers
  • Online order must have great photos
  • The experience must be awesome
  • The brand must have meaning
  • Follow up with your guests for feedback (I suggest using Ovation!)
  • Use influencer marketing
  • Update and manage both your listings and reviews for local search (I suggest using Marqii!)

7. Coupons increase frequency and average order value

SAY WHAT? There is however a catch. According to a panel I attended that included Earl Enterprise’s Trish Giordano, when you have a guest IN your loyalty platform, a coupon is more like a reward. This will encourage your guests to come back more often and spend more.

8. Limit your delivery area

When you tighten your delivery area, you improve delivery times, customer satisfaction, and increase driver tips. Before you start discrediting this idea, keep in mind that this was a suggestion from Ritch Allison, CEO of Domino’s. They might know a thing or two about delivery.

9. Marketers are always trying to make “BOGO” a word.

Ok this one is just for fun. I believe “BOGO” was an acronym created in a corporate boardroom that no real human (AKA consumer) uses. Can we please stop shortening this?

It’s buy one get one free. You know who likes buy one get one free? Everyone. BOGO sounds like horrible physical activity that I have to go through to get through the front door of your restaurant that looks like a bunny hop. I’ll just walk in and like a normal human and pay for my burger.

As I said, it was an excellent conference. If you were at the Restaurant Leadership Conference, what did you learn? Send me a message on LinkedIn or Instagram and let me know. I’d love to hear and if I share it I’ll give you credit!


David Rev CiancioDavid “Rev” Ciancio is a former bar owner in New York and knows exactly how difficult it is to operate and score a hospitality business.

He is now a hotel marketing consultant, customer and technology evangelist with over 20 years of experience in B2B digital marketing and business development, specializing in hotel marketing, content, local SEO, reputation management and marketing. influencer marketing. It helps tech companies, brands, and restaurants acquire and retain customers. Rev is known as an “expert burger taster,” writes hospitality and marketing tips on his @revciancio Instagram account, as well as on his LinkedIn profile. He believes pizza is a religion. Learn more at https://bit.ly/followersorders