Dawn Sweeney, NRA president and CEO, led a pointed discussion with three change agents who are upending industry conventions today, pulling out key insights that were thought-provoking, inspiring and potentially transformative during Sunday afternoon’s Signature ’16 session, presented by American Express.
Here’s a look at what these players are doing to disrupt business as usual.
Changing kids’ perceptions of food
Kimbal Musk, co-founder of The Kitchen Community, a nonprofit organization which impacts between 160,000 and 170,000 children a day with 300 Learning Gardens, discussed the idea of the slow-food movement.
The Learning Gardens serve schools as outdoor classrooms and experiential play-spaces that connect kids to real food and empower them to make healthier food choices. “They’re designed to be a place where students want to learn about food,” he says. “One of the best and favorite things the kids grow are carrots. When they pull a carrot out of the ground, it’s like a magic trick to them.”
To date, the Learning Gardens serve some of the largest school districts in the nation, including Chicago Public Schools, Los Angeles Unified School District and Denver Public Schools. “Growing food is a way to bring a community together and sit down with your family,” Musk says.
Revitalizing your brand’s competitive positioning
Red Robin Gourmet Burgers and Brews’ customer base ranges from baby boomers to Gen Z; from urban to rural; from the trendy to the traditional. Being a national chain means developing a brand that satisfies the broadest cross-section of consumers—attracting one facet without alienating the other.
To meet this need, Red Robin has undertaken several brand revitalization initiatives over the past five years, such as menu innovation, improving food presentation and introducing an improved customer service platform. It also expanded its beer selection, unveiling new “can-crafted cocktails” as well as a line of boozy milkshakes.
“We also needed to morph the design of our restaurants in a way that would accommodate different demographics,” says Denny Marie Post, president of Red Robin. Updates included the bar, a strictly 21-and-over area with beer-themed decor and a mature vibe; the gathering space, an area of the dining room where guests can sit in comfortable new red lounge chairs with a particular appeal to teens and young adults; and a family dining area intended for families requesting kids’ menus.
The new face of delivery
Uber turned transportation upside down—and now, it’s turning food delivery upside down. Uber launched its first standalone app called UberEats in 2015, which is currently available in 14 cities across three continents.
Uber’s model works by having restaurants make the food before customers order it and then distributes the dishes around to different drivers. Customers then order through an app similar to what they’d use to hail a ride. Just like finding an Uber driver, the app then dispatches the closest car that happens to be carrying that food order.
The big challenge in the meal-delivery game is making sure food arrives on time as well as ensuring quality. Lead time is usually longer for food delivery than for a ride, but the app provides users with a narrow delivery window. “UberEats eliminates long delivery times,” says Jason Droege, head of Uber Everything. “At peak service times at a restaurant, delivery times may go up. UberEats is consistent, with an average delivery time of 34 minutes. We also help with packaging and other delivery distance questions.”
UberEats is also helping restaurants expand their businesses—it connects people to restaurants and restaurants to people. “People may not physically go to a restaurant, but because the restaurant is on the platform, they may be likely to order and have the food delivered,” says Droege.
This post is sponsored by The National Restaurant Association®