Hold onto your hats, folks, because the Restaurant Leadership Conference (RLC) in Phoenix was a wild ride this year! We’re talking candid confessions from Subway CEO John Chidsey about the sandwich chain’s mistakes (which have thankfully been fixed) and Yankee’s superstar Derek Jeter dishing out his hot takes on parenting.

This sold-out conference didn’t shy away from the restaurant industry’s significant challenges, including labor woes, ever-changing tech trends, and an uncertain economic future. But fear not, dear readers! We’ve got the inside scoop on the six major takeaways.

And for those of you who didn’t make it, we’ve got you covered. So buckle up and get ready for some seriously juicy insights!

  1. Hitting a TRILLION – Get ready to make it rain because the food service industry is about to hit the trillion-dollar mark! That’s right, according to Technomic, we’re looking at a whole lotta dough in 2023. This includes all kinds of food service (nontraditional, chains, and independents), but chain restaurants are set to make it rain with a 60% slice of the pie.

    Last year’s Top 500 hit a whopping $393 billion (about $1,200 per person in the US), with around 230,000 locations. And how did they do it, you ask? Well, they hiked up those menu prices to keep up with the inflation monster. So let’s get ready to feast and celebrate this upcoming financial feast!

  2. Labor – workforce issues continue – We are still seeing the impact of the pandemic. It drastically affected labor markets and a surge in remote work in others. This resulted in the need for new skill sets and adjustments in working conditions.

    The pandemic accelerated the shift towards remote work. This has also raised questions about productivity, mental health, work-life balance, and the need for new management practices.

  3. Operations and execution – It has gotten overly complex in the last few years. Seems that many people are looking to simplify the two.  Every decision must be carefully considered to ensure that processes are running smoothly and efficiently. Communication between departments is key for successful operations; processes should be documented, tracked, and communicated clearly to everyone involved. Everyone is looking to technology as the way to do that and craving solutions and partners who can help simplify the issue.

  4. Cyber-attacks are a HUGE threat –The show started with POS (Point of Sale) supplier NCR announcing they were dealing with an annoying cyberattack. The company took to the stage on Monday to tackle the problem head-on, providing a real-time example of the growing risks that restaurants face as they rely increasingly on technology and customer data.

    National Restaurant Association CEO Michelle Korsmo wasn’t mincing words during a panel discussion, reminding us all that we have a responsibility to keep our customers’ confidential information safe. The government is cracking down on how PPI is handled, so we better not take it lightly.

    It looks like it is time for restaurants to reevaluate their approach to gathering customer information for loyalty programs and marketing. As Brinker International CIO Pankaj Patra wisely noted, “You don’t want to be in the news for something that you’re not using,”.

  5. Ghost kitchens – who?  Seems to be a dying trend that once was the hot topic of all shows. We have seen Reef file for bankruptcy and Ghost Kitchens are working in specific areas but not the revolution some expected to happen. As the industry continues to evolve and adapt to new challenges, it will be interesting to see what other trends rise and fall in the coming years.

  6. GenZ and Millennials are in a rush – Apparently, they’re in a big hurry to get somewhere… even if they don’t know where that somewhere is! “What happens in today’s corporations, young people go through promotions so fast and they’re not really prepared to be the manager or leader and function at that level,” Taco Bell CEO Mark King said. “Enjoy learning and take your time.” As employers, we need to encourage these young team members to slow down, show them their paths and help them achieve their goals while ensuring they have the correct skills.

Overall, the Restaurant Leadership Conference in Phoenix this year provided valuable insights into the challenges and opportunities facing the restaurant industry. From the trillion-dollar milestone expected in 2023 to the need for careful consideration of workforce issues, operational efficiency, and cybersecurity, the conference covered a wide range of topics that are critical to the success of restaurants today. As the industry continues to navigate these challenges, CBS is committed to being there for you. We know it will be important to stay up-to-date on the latest trends and best practices in order to thrive in this dynamic and ever-changing environment.  We have your backs.

For more information on how to attend and be a part of RLC next year – visit https://restaurantleadership.com/

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