While we know that our computers need a refresh from time to time, it’s an important that each of us “refresh our browser” with the latest intel and trends! Second quarter has been an exciting time with new insights and information available from two of the hottest restaurant events of the year: the Restaurant Leadership Conference and annual National Restaurant Association Show!

Here are a few highlights that I thought might be of interest to you:

Chicago: National Restaurant Show

▶ Meatless was the hottest food subject this year (except for Nathan’s Famous Hot Dogs). Plant-based proteins had the biggest lines during the show and you could easily see why: the quality and taste were really good in my opinion! I thought that Impossible Burger and Beyond Meat were both really good. A pleasant surprise was Oumph which I thought had the best booth in show with smoke, heavy metal and tasty items.   Meatless Proteins

NRA Kiosk▶ Not surprisingly, there was a plethora of Self-ordering Kiosks including Square, Toast, Lavu, Nextep, Revel and others. Outside of FSTEC, the NRA is probably the best place to interface with technology.  Technology just keeps expanding year-after-year….it’s exciting to see.

▶ WhirleyI was proud that my client, Whirley Drink Works! premiered their new promotional partnership with No Kid Hungry. Now, restaurants can now easily create turnkey drink promotions to raise funds for this worthy charity. Whirley will also donate to NKH for every mug/cup purchased by participating chains.




Beverage Round Table


I was fortunate to sit in again this year on the Nation’s Restaurant News’ Beverage Round Table. This year’s session focused on Off-Premise: To Go, Delivery and Catering, and featured executives from Schlotzsky’s, Einstein’s, Corner Bakery, Dickey’s, Jason’s Deli and Fiesta Restaurant Group. Three key takeaways for me were:

1️⃣ Everyone agrees that these are three distinct lines of business between To Go, Delivery and Catering. Resources are being added in virtually all organizations to deal with the rapidly-growing demand in this part of the business.

2️⃣ Seal2GoThe panel spoke of increased emphasis on Packaging. One package that caught people’s eye on the Show floor is Seal-2-Go because of its tamper-resistant feature and the added integrity of food from leaving the restaurant team to being received by the guest.

3️⃣ Third-party delivery seems to clearly require the most time to figure out. One attendee said: “We are trying to perform well so that we remain on the FIRST page of the delivery providers.” Now, that’s honest.




Here are a few other things that caught my eye in Chicago:

NRA New Products


Scottsdale: Restaurant Leadership Conference 

Restaurant Leadership Conference


Fast Casual’s Demise is Just Not True

The AlixPartners annual consumer survey results just came out. You probably saw this headline:

QSR Headline

Of course, this is meant to draw you in…but it just doesn’t jibe with the numbers. Industry expert Technomic reported that Fast Casual was +9% in 2017, and as you can see below, it again is forecast to lead the way!

18 Segment Sales Forecast


New Brand CEO’s ….a little crazy about their brands

Kudos to RLC for putting together three “next generation” CEOs from Tendergreens, Disruptive Restaurant Group and CAVA Grill. There was amazing similarity across the brands:CAVA

▶  It was great to hear that culture and training are at the forefront of all three of these brands

▶ Technology plays a key role because “…consumers are addicted to on-demand everything.”

▶  None have plans to franchise: “We are a little crazy about our brands” ~ Brett Schulman, CAVA


There are amazing stories being written like these every day in our business! There’s an incredible opportunity to “refresh your browser ” a.k.a. your strategy and future ….can I help you with yours?


For 15 years, Growth Partners has provided outsourced Chief Marketing Officer consulting to restaurant companies. I am a fresh set of eyes for current CMOs, as well as an Interim or Part-Time CMO for concepts looking to grow their businesses and brands. Learn more at www.growthhq.com.