Nation’s Restaurant News Wraps Up First Restaurant Leadership Conference Post-Acquisition

Florida Food Handler Certificates

Nation’s Restaurant News Wraps Up First Restaurant Leadership Conference Post-Acquisition

As Nation’s Restaurant News (NRN) wrapped up its inaugural Restaurant Leadership Conference (RLC) post-acquisition by Informa, the event marked a new era of synergy with Restaurant Business. Participants led and engaged in insightful dialogues on pressing issues facing restaurant operators today. Here are five key takeaways from the conference:

Labor and Wages in Focus

The recent passing of California’s AB1228 bill, which increased the minimum wage to $20 per hour, was the main topic of discussion at RLC. Operators shared mixed feelings: while one declared a halt to expansion in California, another expressed confidence in mitigating inflation impacts through strategic pricing and technology. Introducing this wage increase brings potential shifts within quick-service restaurants (QSRs) and possibly across other markets, stirring debates on whether California’s restaurant growth might slow among smaller entities, albeit not affecting larger chains significantly due to their scalability.

Revisiting Employee Propositions

A highlight of the conference was a power panel discussion on people strategies, featuring industry leaders like Kelly Costanza from Cava, Laura Rueckel of Freddy’s Frozen Custard, and Sara Bittorf from Red Lobster. The pandemic brought a significant labor shortage, pushing companies to reimagine their value propositions to employees. These now encompass wages, benefits, training, development, and cultural integration. Such holistic approaches are essential for enhancing employee satisfaction and retention, which drives customer happiness.

Technological Adaptations and Innovations

Post-pandemic, the restaurant industry has had to adapt to technological advancements rapidly. The focus has shifted from flashy gadgets to tools that enhance labor efficiency, such as kiosks and scheduling software, and improve back-of-house operations through systems like kitchen displays. Moreover, the integration of omnichannel strategies is becoming critical. The buzz around artificial intelligence (AI) on the show floor highlighted an urgent need for strategic approaches to harness AI, acknowledging that its impact is imminent and significant.

Embracing a Pre-Pandemic Mindset

Joe Pawlak and Rich Shank from Technomic provided a state-of-the-industry update, declaring 2024 the “year of a reality reset.” The past few years have seen dramatic fluctuations in sales and inflation due to extraordinary circumstances. However, the industry is returning to pre-pandemic patterns, signaling a time to stabilize and strategize based on enduring industry dynamics rather than reactive measures.

Celebrity Insights and Awards

The conference was not without its share of glamour, featuring celebrities well-known within and outside the industry. Peter Cancro of Jersey Mike’s transformed a local sub-shop into a nearly 3,000-location empire and was honored as “Restaurant Leader of the Year.” Meanwhile, Martha Stewart, a newcomer to the restaurant business at 80, shared her experiences and musings about the challenging yet rewarding nature of the restaurant industry. Her keynote highlighted the personal journey and late-career ventures into the culinary scene.


The RLC provided a platform for pivotal discussions shaping the restaurant industry’s future. The conference offered a comprehensive look at the sector’s challenges and opportunities, from labor laws and employee engagement to technological adoption and celebrity endorsements. As the industry continues to evolve, the insights shared at RLC will undoubtedly influence strategies and decisions for many operators in the coming years.


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***Please note that the insightful and engaging content provided on our platform is crafted by our dedicated Marketing Department’s content writing team. While Ken Kuscher is the esteemed figure and expert within our industry, the articles and blog posts available are not personally authored by Ken.


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