Revenue growth conference presents a diverse toolbox for improving sales

Data and culture are industry differentiators

National Restaurant Association President and CEO Dawn Sweeney opened the first-ever Restaurant Revenue Growth Conference by admitting that it was a hard decision to host the two-day event at the same time as the Restaurant Show. Ultimately, the organization listened to its audience, who wanted information specifically for them. “We decided this could be a two-day master-level seminar, balanced against the Show’s educational sessions,” she said.

True to its name, the conference’s content focused on building revenue. The conference speakers addressed some unique methods to do so.

Billy Beane, subject of the book and movie “Moneyball” and vice president of baseball operations for the Oakland A’s, zeroed in on the use of quantifiable data to grow the business. “For 150 years, we’d been keeping statistics, but baseball as a business had ignored it,” he said. “In sports, we wanted to be recognized for making decisions from our gut.”

He said that the small team was losing money and needed a unique view if it was going to succeed. “That’s a great platform to try something new,” Beane said.

He hired Paul DePodesta, a 24-year-old Harvard economics major, to make sense of 150 years of data. He identified the statistics that most correlate with wins and came up with on-base percentage. At the time, those skills were undervalued.

“A bunch of players were mispriced because they didn’t look right,” Beane explained, noting that scouts were looking for a particular type of player. “We ignored that and just looked at the data.”

Restaurant operators in the room took away the lesson to start with the data on hand and learn how to measure everything. Correlate the data to business goals—sales, traffic, customer satisfaction. Focus on the actions that are moving the needle. Keep measuring and adjust based on the numbers, not on gut instinct or what you think you know.

Another counter-intuitive means of increasing revenue was highlighted by Scott Svenson, co-founder of fast-growing fast-casual pizza chain MOD Pizza. “Our secret sauce might not be what you expect,” he said. Svenson and his wife founded the chain to serve the staff and community, not just to sell pizza.

MOD Pizza ensures that staff is paid a living wage and tries to hire people who need a break. For instance, some employees are on prison work-relief programs, and others are learning disabled.

“If we were going to devote our life to a business, we had to focus on the why,” Svenson explained. He laughed that his wife said, “the last thing the world needs is another soulless restaurant chain.”

MOD Pizza enables its employees to own the culture, which makes them feel accountable. They’re allowed to do the right thing rather than follow a script, so they are authentic to customers. “Our people and our purpose are more important than our customers, products, or profits,” he said.

Beyond the keynote presentations, RRGC attendees also participated in smaller breakout sessions, many of which took place in a lounge-like atmosphere and were highly interactive. Topics ranged from monetizing social media to meal kits to store design.

This post is sponsored by The National Restaurant Association®