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Over the course of my career there have been many changes made in the way business gets done in the restaurant industry. One of the biggest accelerators to the restaurant business has been the advances in technology. There are new inventory management systems, POS systems, and HRIS systems that help operators and managers improve efficiencies, profitability and make decision for the business in real-time.
There have also been improvements in how we build restaurants. We can build them faster, with better equipment packages, and better amenities for guests to improve their experience, as well as building them with smaller footprints which help improve the economic model.
Over the last decade we’ve also seen a strong demand from guests for more transparency about where their food is sourced, and how that food is sourced. As a result, sustainability practices are now measured and reported on most every restaurant company’s scorecard.
All of these improvements have made a huge impact on the industry overall as the shift has been made from just dining out as a convenience to dining out as an experience, and it’s been great to see all of that unfold over the last three decades.
But the biggest impact that has been made across the restaurant industry comes from the way companies have invested in their people over the last 25 years. Starbucks, In ‘N Out, Chipotle, McDonald’s, and so many others have led the way in developing performance management systems that reward top performers, offering strong benefit packages and creating a clear career path that shows the way that an employee can build a future where their contributions are valued and they can share in the success of their company.
Why does this matter? It’s created an entire generation of leaders in the hospitality industry that may not have gotten there any other way. Many of us started in the business in high school, continued working in college, and learned far more than most business classes ever taught. I know many high-level leaders across different restaurant segments who never intended to stay there but caught the vision and saw that they could be a part of something that was bigger than they were, and I’m lucky to count myself among the many.
The next generation CEO’s in the restaurant industry are going to be the ones who grew up understanding that it isn’t all about them. It’s about investing in the NEXT generation of leaders and these CEO’s will create better operational systems, better performance management systems, and better career paths to leverage the talent coming up through the ranks. They will be better at identifying talent and creating opportunities for future leaders.
This will benefit the entire industry by creating better guest experiences, positive same-store sales, more profitable restaurants, and creating much needed growth after years of sales erosion and declining margins. It also provides growth opportunities for top talent with a platform for the development of exciting new concepts, the re-engineering of legacy brands, and the re-energizing of existing concepts who may have lost their way.
We can and should use technology as an accelerator. We should continue to channel innovation when we design and build restaurants. We should continue to make sure that food sourcing and sustainability continues to be a priority and that we’re serving the best food possible to our guests.
But the most important thing this generation of leaders can do, is to invest in the next generation of leaders and prepare them to invest in the generation that follows them, to ensure all of the advances the restaurant industry has made actually pay the dividends that they should.
Without great leaders that can execute the right level of experience internally (employees) and externally (guests), there is no way to leverage the advances in an effective way to drive long-term growth in the restaurant business.
Let’s invest in our people more than we invest in systems and technology. Let’s treasure our people as much as we treasure our guests.
Let’s help our people create opportunities for themselves that they may otherwise not be able to achieve.
Let’s create something that is bigger than we are and makes an impact across all of the communities where operate.
That’s how and why the restaurant industry matters more than ever.