Execs in Restaurant Management Forecast the Future of the Industry
Education and Careers Two of the brains behind HotSchedules, one of America’s largest online restaurant management platform, open up about the state of the restaurant industry today.
Mike, you have a strong background in SaaS. What attracted you to the restaurant industry?
Mike Arenth: I joined HotSchedules a little over 18 months ago. It’s incredible to be a part of a company that has over 2.8 million of the industry’s 15 million hourly workers. Restaurants are an $800 billion industry, and we have the privilege of supporting the most iconic restaurant brands — 33,000 customers with 160,000 locations across 56 countries. It was that size, scale and level of customer engagement with our solutions that brought me on board. You don’t see that in most SaaS companies.
Last year was tough. Traffic and sales were troubling. Should restaurants be optimistic in 2018?
David Cantu: Across size and segment, the issues are almost the same: rising labor and food costs, compliance concerns, turnover, delivering on the promise of off-premise ordering and unit-level economics continue to challenge performance, growth and status-quo operational models. We’ve also seen the challenges of having to rely on legacy systems in a fragmented market made up of hundreds of point-solution technology vendors. At the same time, we have a lot to be optimistic about. Brands are using their tax reform savings, for instance, to reinvest in next-generation technology, infrastructure and initiatives that will solve a lot of these people, product and operational challenges.
There’s certainly a lot of disruption. Where should restaurants focus their energy and investment dollars?
MA: As a company that invests 20 percent back into R&D, we’re always asking those questions. When I joined, we kept coming back to the fact that great product and great experiences drive satisfied customers who return again and again. The problem is that it’s getting harder and harder to make that equation work.
DC: Through discussions with our customers, our advisory council and industry analysts, we determined and validated that a store’s performance is really determinant on the retention and success of the restaurant manager.
So manager retention is the performance indicator. How is technology going to help brands retain managers?
DC: For starters, we have to acknowledge that we haven’t made managers successful yet. We add more and more things to their plates, and we don’t take anything off. That’s when we said we have a real opportunity here to innovate quickly to make good managers great with an integrated, intelligent restaurant operating platform.
MA: It’s the most important problem we can solve, and we did it fast because we already had the best-of-breed solutions under our portfolio. In Q4 of 2017, we launched HotSchedules Clarifi, the industry's first cloud-based, intelligent restaurant operating platform that solves the people, product and operational challenges. As we look at the pace of change and ongoing headwinds restaurants will face, leveraging the data they accumulate every day to proactively help managers perform at their very best is mission critical.