The foodservice industry is becoming increasingly customer and technology driven. This shift presents more opportunities than ever for both vendors and operators to work together to create and utilize next-generation solutions to increase sales, efficiency and customer loyalty. The 18th annual production of Hospitality Technology’s Multi-Unit Restaurant Technology Conference (MURTEC), held March 13-15, 2013 at Caesar’s Palace Las Vegas, focused on this very concept with a theme of “Restaurant Technology in a Customer Driven Landscape.”
Roundly considered the gold standard for insights into restaurant technology, MURTEC boasts an industry-leading mix of informational sessions, networking, topic tables and exhibition space. MURTEC’s draw has long been its ability to balance a relaxed and interactive networking environment while still being a hub for leading-edge technology discussions. This year’s conference delivered the same winning combination, balancing an ever-swelling “wait list” of attendee and sponsor hopefuls with the desire for an intimate setting.
More than 550 restaurant technology executives and solution providers were present for this year’s MURTEC. In addition to the technology companies exhibiting in the sold-out main hall, this year MURTEC debuted its New Vendor Showcase — created in response to attendee demand for more technology — which featured a handful of technology companies that had never before exhibited at MURTEC.
One recurring theme throughout the event was preparing for and managing the immense amount of change the industry is facing. In the opening Keynote address, Chris Laping, CIO of Red Robin Gourmet Burgers, Inc., inspired his technology peers to take control of the business transformation process at their companies. “IT leaders have a lot of best practices at their disposal that are very applicable to driving big change initiatives beyond IT projects,” Laping noted during the presentation. He encouraged attendees to focus on how to evolve their businesses, offering this warning: “The fast companies will eat the slow companies. Driving change is the key.”
The MURTEC agenda was packed with an array of sessions, each with a laser-focus on specific foodservice trends and technology strategies. These sessions, workshops and panel discussions featured high-level executives from across the food service industry. Dave Matthews, CIO from the National Restaurant Association, led one of the most highly-anticipated sessions, “The Future of Payments.” On the panel were: Roxanne Amidon, director of technology strategy & planning, The Wendy’s Company; Mark Horwedel, CEO, Merchant Advisory Group; Frank Liberio, vice president & CIO McDonald’s USA; and Robert Notte, CTO, Jamba Juice.
The panel touched on many hot topics, including mobile payments, PCI and the emerging EMV payment standard. Liberio noted that McDonald’s philosophy toward emerging payment technologies is ultimately to embrace the opportunity to serve its guests. “We want to allow our customers to pay any way they want to,” Liberio said. Another valuable takeaway from the panel came when Amidon shared, “It takes six hours to realize you lost a credit card and 38 minutes to realize you lost your mobile phone.” The session kept attendees in their seats as Karen Amstutz, manager POS/PC In-Store System, IT, for Golden Corral noted, “We were sitting there over the allotted time and no one was leaving. The discussion really got going, it was great.”
Also on the agenda were several concurrent sessions, executive panels, and roundtable workshops, which provided MURTEC attendees a chance to hash out challenges and solutions with peers. During one of the concurrent workshops, the results from the Restaurant Technology Study were presented by HT editor-in-chief Abigail Lorden. The study provided significant benchmarks for technology buying priorities and revealed valuable insights into trends and drivers, including the fact that, on average, restaurants across all segments allocate approximately $26,000 annually to technology, with POS technology taking the largest portion of those budgets.
“I come to MURTEC to keep a finger on the pulse of what is going on in the industry and talk to others to see what items are important to them right now, and what initiatives they are looking to implement within their companies,” said Amy Schuster, PMP, Operations/JDD Technology Director for Jason’s Deli. “With all these emerging technologies it’s easy to get caught up chasing the latest shiny thing; but it really comes down to what’s relevant for you and your company and what will bring more guests in the door and help you take care of them better. MURTEC combines the latest technologies with peer feedback and insights that are vital to making the best decisions for your company.”
MURTEC 2014 will take place in March in Las Vegas. Stay tuned to www.murtec.com for complete details.