Funny and thought-provoking quips were in no short supply for the almost 2,000 attendees at this year’s Restaurant Leadership Conference. Operators and other industry folks offered up leadership advice, gave an insight into the best practices of their brands and provided a glimpse into their brains.
Here’s a sampling of some of the best quotes from the conference.
'You can’t be a wimp.'
—Tim Ryan, president of the Culinary Institute of America
Ryan spoke extensively on the need for restaurants to revolutionize the industry. He used Bob Dylan’s life and transition from acoustic folk to electric rock-and-roll as an example to operators—keep innovating as it’s “the right thing to do in the long term, even if it might not feel good in the short term.” Among Ryan’s other suggestions for operators were “It’s OK to copy,” and “You have to be a constant tinkerer.”
'If you’re marketing to 23-year-old men and the word ‘naked’ comes up, I think it’ll be successful.'
—Greg Creed, CEO of Yum Brands
This was Creed’s answer to someone’s question on how he knew Taco Bell’s Naked Chicken Chalupa (the taco with the fried chicken shell) would be successful. Needless to say, the response garnered laughs from the general session audience. While Taco Bell declined to share numbers, “Sales of the Naked Chicken Chalupa are following in the footsteps of some of our most innovative products, including the Quesalupa and Doritos Locos Tacos,” said Matt Prince, PR and brand engagement manager. The latter did over $1 billion in sales in the first 20 months after its launch, according to Bloomberg News.
'Don’t talk so much.'
On inspirations: “John Wooden … and Jack Welch”; “Apple”; and “My brother Fred”
During the CEO Power Panel on the final day of RLC, Dawn Sweeney, president and CEO of the National Restaurant Association, asked each of the panelists who or what organization inspires them the most.
- Hart said it was John Wooden, the winningest basketball coach of all time, and Jack Welch, former chairman and CEO of General Electric, whose leadership skills most inspired him.
- Penegor said the Apple organization inspired him the most because of its ability and efforts to continuously reinvent itself.
- Greco pointed to her brother Fred DeLuca, co-founder of Subway, as the “most amazing leader” she knows. Upon DeLuca’s battle with leukemia and ultimate passing in 2015, Greco took over his role.
Some of the more senior members of the team smile at the junior staff who are excited to uncover an interesting trend in “eatertainment” or the latest single-ingredient concept. We try not to be condescending when we suggest they do some research by looking at past issues of Restaurant Business or old Technomic top chain reports before calling it the next big thing.