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Highlights and takeaways from the 2022 Fast Casual Executive Summit

Steven from Force4Good at the FCES conference

A few weeks ago, I traveled to Indianapolis for the Fast Casual Executive Summit. In its 17th year, the two and a half day conference is a gathering of executives, leaders, and vendors from across the restaurant industry. From giant established restaurant chains like Chipotle to Wow Bao’s groundbreaking culinary concepts, the conference is an opportunity for innovators to learn from one another through presentations, interactive sessions, and networking events.

As Force4Good sponsored FCES, I made the trek to Indy to connect, learn, and talk restaurant fundraisers with these industry innovators. I had a fantastic time and soaked up a ton of information and insights. Below are some of my key highlights and takeaways from the event.

The big issues:

It’s no secret that in 2022, the restaurant industry as a whole remains in an extremely mercurial state, meaning many of these issues echo from the last few years:

  • Labor shortages are still a problem. Despite improving in the last year, restaurants are still struggling to staff effectively. Solutions include: elevating company culture and leveraging technology to do more with less (e.g. AI/machine learning, self-service, robotics).
  • Supply chain disruption + inflation. Following COVID’s supply chain disruptions, 2022’s inflation made this one-two punch combo even more difficult to navigate. Solutions include: building strong supplier relationships, being transparent with guests, raising prices when necessary, and implementing loyalty programs.
  • Loss of restaurant culture during COVID. As restaurants closed down or limited service during the pandemic, restaurant culture dove sharply with them. Solutions include: employee loyalty programs, increasing hands-on training, community engagement and philanthropy (like restaurant fundraisers!).
  • Gen Z expects more from brands and has high standards. Consumers across the board, but especially Zoomers, expect more from the brands they engage with. Solutions: Personalized marketing, cause marketing, frictionless digital experiences, multi-channel communication.

Presenters speaking in a ballroom at the Fast Casual Executive Summit

The highlights:

On a more positive note, there’s no shortage of interesting and innovative things happening in the restaurant industry:

  • Daniel Shlossman, CMO at sweetgreen, shared how sweetgreen made a b2b expansion, placing their “outpost” to-go racks in hundreds of work offices (read about it here).
  • Scott Boatwright, CRO at Chipotle, explained how their brand is using AI/machine learning to predict sales volume and staff scheduling.
  • Jeff Hemschoot, VP of Marketing at Jersey Mike’s, detailed how they serve their restaurant’s growing 24MM “myMike’s” loyalty members.
  • Gracie Prasanson, VP of Sales at Jason’s Deli, revealed how Jason’s Deli leverages machine learning to detect when people fall off their buying cycle rather than just waiting for 90 days of inactivity.

Bottom line, while there’s still some serious issues restaurants are navigating in the short-term, there’s tons to be excited about in the coming months and years to look forward to. Thanks for the great time, FCES! It was Force4Good’s first big conference as a sponsor – I highly recommend this event to others in the industry. We had a lovely time!

Are you a restaurant leader or marketer looking to grow your sales and reach new customers while doing good? Learn about restaurant fundraisers and their potent customer acquisition powers by sending us a message or scheduling a demo.