Chepri recently sponsored the Restaurant Innovation Summit (RIS) in Cleveland, Ohio, where thinkers, leaders, and doers from the restaurant industry put their Ideas Into Action.

The National Restaurant Innovation Summit is a one-of-a-kind gathering convening the most innovative and forward-looking adopters within the restaurant industry, providing actionable insights for solving pressing challenges affecting the sector and marketplace.

A RIS reception was held November 4 at the Hilton Cleveland Eliot’s Bar, named for Prohibition-era crime fighter Eliot Ness, providing an opportunity for participants to meet & greet over appetizers and drinks.

With most RIS participants rooming at the downtown Hilton, Tenk West Bank served as the conference venue, an unconventional meeting space geared toward innovation. Transportation limos ferried guests to and from the Hilton and Tenk West Bank, with breakfast and lunch served between presentations spread throughout each day.

The Summit is for senior-level professionals in the development, finance, marketing, operations, research and technology disciplines of the restaurant industry who are building growth strategies, improving processes, and maximizing performance to take their brands to the next level.

Using keynote speakers, panels, and workshops, the RIS provided participants with perspectives, skills, and takeaways that could be put into action immediately. RIS content and sessions were aligned to help deliver solutions, build relationships, and bring new ideas to life.

Photo Courtesy Manny Languasco

The RIS opened on Tuesday, November 5, with remarks by Laura Chadwick, National Restaurant Association Membership & Program Director, and John Barker, President & CEO of the Ohio Restaurant Association.

“The National Restaurant Association’s Restaurant Innovation Summit is a unique opportunity for operators to access cutting-edge thought leadership on how to approach the process of innovating. It’s also a chance for us to highlight leaders in the field of restaurant innovation,” Chadwick said. “The agenda for this year’s event was unique in that it focused on design thinking and process building.”

Each presentation was segmented, beginning with MIT Professor David Robinson outlining his strategy for complementary innovations around core products and services by creating ecosystems making those central products or services irresistible to customers.

Photo Courtesy Lauren Evans

Terry Grim of Foresight Alliance introduced the audience to disciplined ways of thinking, and processes that prepare operators to take their organizations into the future. Lightning Rounds followed with Zak Weston, Analyst from The Good Food Institute, and Athena Thomas, Channel Strategy Manager from Wingstop outlining innovation skills.

Speaker Rachel Antalek, Chief Innovation Strategist from Antalek Strategic Innovation Partners, described how putting employees at the center of any company’s innovation efforts improves customer experience and operational growth. Leo Chan, Senior Innovation Lead from Chick-fil-A delighted the crowd with tactics that build a strong culture of innovation within an organization.

Photo Courtesy Lauren Evans

The second Lightning Round featured Manny Rodriguez, Sr., Director, Ops Systems & Performance from Church’s Chicken, and Anita Swope, Enterprise Account Executive for Inkling, with Ignite Presentations, followed by “Engines of Innovation: Diversity & Inclusion.” This panel, moderated by Gerry Fernandez, President of the Multicultural Foodservice & Hospitality Alliance, featured speakers Laura FitzRandolph, EVP & Chief Human Resources Officer of HMSHost, Carin Stutz, Restaurant Executive, and Kamiliah Knight, MPA, Diversity & Inclusion Lead from Unilever.

Photo Courtesy Tracey Minor

The middle of the afternoon presentation focused on ways restaurants can produce innovation through leveraging startups, hosted by Innovation Leader Magazine’s Kaitlin Milliken. The panel included Kevin Myers, Chief Marketing & Information Officer for Donatos Pizza, Thomas Grote, Chief Advisor of the Edge Innovation Hub, and Breck Hapner, Marketing Director from Chepri, LLC.

RIS 2019 Running with Unicorns panel.

“Keeping restaurants innovative and on the cutting edge can help business owners retain customers,” Milliken said. “Creating the right mindset for innovation, especially when it comes to working with startups, can be the first step to lasting change.”

RIS 2019 at Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, Cleveland

The final Lightning Round featured Heather Pederson, Dean of Students from the EDWINS Leadership & Research Institute, followed by a conversation with AnnMarie Rockwell, General Manager, IOT Solutions & Azure Sphere Business Development of Microsoft, and Terry Erdle, Chief Operating Officer of the National Restaurant Association.

Capping the day’s programming, an exclusive RIS dinner reception was held at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, followed by a chance to explore the museum privately.

During the entirety of the second day, Wednesday, November 6, presentations were traded for the Design Thinking Workshop “ExperienceInnovation,” presented by ExperiencePoint in collaboration with IDEO and Firefly Facilitator Kimberly Douglas. The workshop focused on mastering a design thinking methodology for spotting and creatively tackling opportunities leading to innovations increasing revenue and revitalizing brands.

Photo Courtesy Lauren Evans

“The speakers and the full-day ExperienceInnovation workshop lead by ExperiencePoint in collaboration with IDEO, were designed to spark thought and action,” Chadwick said.

Presented by The National Restaurant Association, the largest foodservice trade association in the world, representing and advocating on behalf of more than 500,000 restaurant businesses. They serve members by advancing and protecting America’s restaurant and foodservice industry, working with state associations, industry leaders, and suppliers to help restaurants increase profitability, and develop employees.

The 2019 Restaurant Innovation Summit was sponsored by American Express, Microsoft, Chepri, EZ Cater, Inkling, and Kappus.

“We hope that every participant walked out of the Summit with new ideas about how to innovate, who to include in the process, and what innovation can mean for their operations,” Chadwick said.