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The National Restaurant Association took place May 18-21 in Chicago. Here's a roundup of Cheers editor Melissa Dowling's coverage.

The entire foodservice landscape is shifting quickly, from the rise of fast-casual concepts to home delivery to changing consumer tastes and expectations. A keynote panel session at the National Restaurant Association Show in Chicago on May 19 titled The Future of Dining addressed this topic. Four leaders from major foodservice segments--Applebee's, Hy-Vee, Wawa, and Cooper's Hawk Winery & Restaurants--offered some insights into how people will dine in the coming years.

Moderator Dawn Sweeney, president/CEO of National Restaurant Association, asked the panelists how the growth of off-premise affects their thinking. As a convenience store, "delivery is the last mile for us at Wawa," said Chris Gheysens, president/CEO of Wawa. Customers want it now--while they are at home, he added. "I worry about the pace of change--customers are getting more picky, more demanding."

Randy Edeker, chairman/CEO/ president of Hy-Vee noted that customers say that they want the supermarket chain to be "what I want you to be when I want you to be it." People today "are really into food, ingredients and personalization," he added, so there is a lot of opportunity.

For Applebee's Bar & Grill, the tagline "'Eat good in the neighborhood' works well whether you're in the restaurant or at home," said the chain's president John Cywinski. In fact, 13% of Applebee's business is now off-premise.

Third-party delivery via services such as Uber Eats and GrubHub is "exploding," Cywinski added, driven by Millennials, Generation X and female customers. "But the economic model of third-party delivery needs to work with our franchise partners."

Grocers, convenience stores and full-service restaurants can all learn from one another, the panelists agreed. "We all compete for share of stomach," Cywinski said.

Where do these executivess find ideas and inspiration? Cywinski looks at the U.S. Military, as well as brands such as Chick-Fil-A and Apple, which is known for its focus on design and simplicity.

Tim McEnery, founder/CEO of Cooper's Hawk Winery & Restaurants, said that he reads magazines from other industries. He also looks at companies such as Pelleton and Soho House, and other "innovative brands that have taken mundane industries and blown them out."

Ideas are one thing, but "execution is the name of the game of what we do in this industry," McEnery said. "And it's the hardest thing to do on the planet."

Edeker agreed: "It's always the execution...the little things that get you." Operators have to be able to deliver a great guest experience, he noted. "Make the person that chose you today feel like they made a good decision."

Caption: The NRA Show Signature 19 panel on The Future of Dining, from left: moderator Dawn Sweeney, president/ CEO of National Restaurant Association; John Cywinski, president, Applebee's Bar & Grill; Randy Edeker, chairman/CEO/president, Hy-Vee; Chris Gheysens, president/CEO, Wawa; and Tim McEnery, founder/CEO, Cooper's Hawk Winery & Restaurants.

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Author:Dowling, Melissa
Date:Jun 1, 2019
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