2021 Restaurant Leadership Conference: A Time to Look at Tomorrow, Together

By: Brittany Maroney


This year’s conference brought together a theme of unity in the industry, one looking heavily into the technology of the future

As promised, this year’s RLC showcased an insight-filled agenda, expert speakers, leading suppliers, and, of course, unique and unparalleled networking opportunities. With a theme of “Together Towards Tomorrow,” many operators arrived looking to glean insights on the themes of 2021, as well as the opportunity to pull back the curtain on what 2022 may have in store.

And this year’s event did not disappoint. 

The agenda featured a broad mix of sessions, heavily focused on the staffing crisis, supply chain issues, and of course, the technology of the future. Threaded throughout the event was this theme about the omnichannel experience and how operators were going to engage consumers at all levels of the purchasing path and how they could improve the guest experience by replicating the brand messaging through all of these emerging digital solutions. 

There was also no shortage of amazing brands willing to speak on their experiences over the last 18 months and how their concepts were continuing to evolve with rapidly shifting consumer expectations. 

On Tuesday, Brinker International’s CIO Pankaj Patra spoke about wanting to reimagine its traditional approach to guest services while growing its digital presence, and their plans to consistently examine what it takes to deliver amazing, end-to-end guest experiences. Later, Dominos took to the stage to address the challenges to staffing and what the industry has in store. 

Wednesday’s sessions opened with a compelling presentation by our friends at Technomic, as they explored the question of, “How a guest experience is crucial to reviving dine-in traffic and sales”. The answer… know your customer and their desires from a data-based perspective. 

Rounding out the day was our own (PAR and Punchh) fireside chat with a panel of restaurant innovators on how to leverage an extensible unified commerce strategy to stand out in 2022 and beyond. PAR President & CEO Savneet Singh hosted Ryan Ostrom (CMO, Jack in the Box), Kelly Cooke (CMO, Salsaritas), and Jodi Boyce (CMO, Teriyaki Madness) in a rousing discussion on how loyalty and having an integrated techstack truly makes a difference. Advice was shared about not holding back on digital spend, the fact that loyalty can truly innovate your offers, and how all three brands look to continue advancing their unified systems- it was a presentation not to miss!

Later that evening, cultural icon and founder basketball star, Shaquille O’Neal, shared his experiences within the restaurant industry, including his time as a board member, brands ambassador, and investor in Papa Johns, in addition to his ownership over several other franchises, including Five Guys, Auntie Anne’s, and Krispy Kreme.

Guests were then treated to a networking trade show where all the latest technology and offerings were available, as operators wined and dined among the vendors. PAR hosted brands at their premier bourbon tasting station and showcased their latest products and innovations to a crowd of interested industry leaders. 

At the Punchh booth, we provided a live demo of our platforms and newest features to concepts across the spectrum, including growing regional brands and national franchisees. The overwhelming question? With loyalty now an expectation from our guests, how can Punchh take our brand to the next level in terms of offer management and guest expectation? 

The restaurant business has and always will be based on the simple concept of hospitality, but with the new contactless reality, new definitions had to be embraced by operators. At its fundamental core, a good customer experience comes down to a seamless, positive, and rewarding interaction at every touchpoint with a brand. Where once this was confined to the four walls, now guests are expecting the same level of service off of their digital devices, apps, in their social media feeds, and in their loyalty programs.

In this new reality, many brands are shifting to AI-powered cross-channel loyalty, maximizing consumers’ preferences to interact with the brand in new ways. Consumers are open to sharing their information with brands they love, as long as the concept is willing to provide that personalized experience. With a loyalty member 6 to 10 times more likely to frequent the brand, gone are the days where a restaurant concept could rely on a single channel eClub. 

Punchh can help. 

If you didn’t have a chance to meet with us at our RLC booth, or you are just interested in learning more about Punchh Loyalty solutions, contact us to schedule your one-on-one time with our industry-leading experts. We’ll show you how loyalty can take your brand into the future and beyond!

See you at RLC in 2022!

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