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Each year at Black Box Intelligence (formerly TDn2K)’s Global Best Practices Conference, restaurant leaders gather to discuss the state of the industry, potential challenges and celebrate the brands that have raised the bar through a focus on people, profits and planet. Earlier this week I recapped some powerful themes felt throughout the 21st Global Best Practice Conference, kindness and culture. There were two other resounding themes from speaker’s presentations: local and purpose.

Local – The topic of local came up related to two very important topics in the restaurant industry today. Local came up when discussing minimum wage increasing. Joe Kefauver, Managing Partner at Align Public Strategies, stated that over the past 40 years the industry has become a relevant player in DC. Over the past 20 years we have become relevant at the state level. Now its time to focus on our local communities and instead of asking them for help, we need to ask how we can help them. This is a critical component in order to regain trust from the public and break down the “us versus them” mentality.

Local is also important when discussing supply chain management. This came up multiple times with farm to table champion Chipotle being in the headlines with issues that are harder to prevent when sourcing local ingredients. Consumers are becoming increasingly educated about the food they consume. Chipotle has an opportunity to be a catalyst by figuring out how to manage local sourcing at an enterprise level.

Purpose – According to Tom Gardner, CEO and Co-Founder of The Motley Fool, people are willing to take a lower paying job if the organization is doing something that they care about. Joni Doolin, CEO and Co-Founder of Black Box Intelligence (formerly TDn2K), shared that trust, shared values and a deep understanding of and commitment to a purpose-inspired mission are the three fundamentals that produce competitive advantage and superior business performance. (citing the HOW research from LRN) She also shared a quote from Gandhi, “Happiness is when what you think, what you say and what you do are in harmony.”

In recent years our industry has faced pressure to ban smoking, offer affordable health care to hourly employees, increase minimum wage, put additional labeling on menus and more. These things may have side effects like doing away with tipping. While these changes aren’t necessarily bad things, they can require heavy investments and major changes in human behavior.

The way consumers dine out is changing. There are opportunities to provide more convenient ways for guests to access food how they want, when they want it and where they want it. Technology and the sharing economy have given the public more options with the ability to order online and dine in, order and pay through an app, use delivery services, and pay at the table with devices.

Restaurants have access to an overwhelming amount of data to help them understand consumers and address their desires. They can communicate with guests in real time and receive unsolicited feedback through social media. They can determine which data points have an impact on the bottom line with the intersection of tools like Financial Intelligence (formerly Black Box Intelligence) and Guest Intelligence (formerly Guest Intelligence (formerly White Box Social Intelligence))™.

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Climate change and the focus of younger people on culture and purpose bring opportunities to build restaurants that can grow their own food. Technology could increase efficiencies in supply chain management, food preparation and how guests order and pay for their food.

The discussions at the Black Box Intelligence (formerly TDn2K) Global Best Practices Conference were encouraging that the restaurant industry recognizes that they can no longer be reactionary. Leaders in the room addressed the issues facing them head on.

Caterina Bulgarella, Leader of Culture, Governance and Leadership at LRN, quoted Albert Einstein in her presentation, “We can’t solve problems by using the same thinking we used when we created them.” The jobs are coming back… but the old days aren’t.

Xz4lSjga_400x400 Jill McFarland is a Digital, Mobile & Social Media Consultant and owner of Stellar Digital Marketing. Connect with Jill on LinkedIn and follower her on Twitter @jillmcfarland.