Top Six Restaurant Leadership Conference (RLC) 2022 Takeaways

Restaurant Leadership Conference 2022 top takeaways. This year's RLC was focused on technology, curbside and in-store pickup, CDP, labor shortages, and supply chain issues. Search Discovery's analytics team can help with all these data maturity issues.
As a company that helps brands transform their businesses with data, Search Discovery was thrilled to attend RLC 2022, where the quick serve restaurant (QSR) players are all in agreement: The restaurant business is focused on catching up with the technology, data, and analytics used in other industry verticals to drive business results. To recap the 2022 Restaurant Leadership Conference, here are our top 6 takeaways.

1. Technology is in demand and data is gold

The restaurant industry is about 10 years behind other industries in terms of technology and data maturity. As such, there’s a scramble for brands to ramp up their capabilities within their technology, people, and processes to be able to use data more efficiently and enhance the guest experience for in-store and online ordering.


Recent years have brought more technology into this business than ever before, and operators want to talk about what works. That’s because technology can be an answer to many of the challenges operators are facing. That may be the biggest opportunity of the post-pandemic era—the opportunity to bring restaurants to the same technological level as other industries such as hotels or retail.” (source)

Brands who want to take advantage of opportunities in technology should identify where they are in a data maturity model and whether they’re measuring the right KPIs. A brand should know answers to questions like these:

  • What data is available to me today
  • Where does the data live (external vs. internal)? 
  • Are there additional data sources to acquire?
  • How can I get that data to speak to each other?

2. There’s a huge need to better understand the customer

Paul Brown, Cofounder and CEO of Inspire Brands (whose portfolio includes nearly 32,000 Arby’s, Baskin-Robbins, Buffalo Wild Wings, Dunkin’, Jimmy John’s, Rusty Taco, and SONIC Drive-In restaurants worldwide), talked about getting to know customer targets so that brands can better market to them and enhance their experience. Notably, he said, “You can’t know your target without analytics and tech.”

Brands should be asking more questions like these: 

  • Who are my best customers? 
  • What are they worth to me? 
  • How do I get them to return and spend more? 
  • How do I find more “best customers”?

The more a brand knows about their guests, the more they can define and understand their target.

We’ve written at length about how a CDP might be advantageous for businesses wishing to analyze and act upon the customer journey. Download our free ebook to help you decide if this technology is right for your business.

3. Curbside and in-store pickup is eclipsing delivery

Pepsi led a session on online ordering that highlighted the importance of getting curbside and in-store pickup right. Online ordering was already experiencing a significant upswing since the start of the pandemic.

But now, more than ever, QSR customers want to order ahead and pick up their order to forgo the higher costs of delivery. According to research by Epsilon (a main sponsor of the RLC that does research in this space), there was an 11% increase in pickup orders in 2021, so many brands are looking to optimize the pickup experience both from a web/app perspective and an in-store perspective.


Mobile ordering and delivery have become a part of everyday life and are no longer nice to have, but expected, and operators need to continue to enhance these offerings to keep up with competitors.” Mark Wasilefsky, Head of Restaurant Franchise Finance Group, TD Bank (source)

4. Data is key to drive decision-making at quick serve restaurants (QSR)

In an industry where sales, valuations, and activity are strong but profitability is not, data can not only reveal challenges and issues, but it can and should guide brands through how to improve their business. Overheard at the conference: “No decisions should be made without some level of insight gained by understanding your numbers, and not just sales!”

What numbers should brands be watching? Data can drive opportunities for both innovation and growth within ordering, to create a better user/guest experience, to grow the customer base, and to achieve better return on investments in advertising.

Contact us to see how we helped brands like Checkers, Cooper’s Hawk Winery, and Nandos make the most of their data to attract, engage, and retain customers.

5. Marketing analytics is a big deal

For brands that are leading the industry in innovation and growth, marketing analytics don’t just measure and improve sales, rather they underlie successful marketing efforts in the following areas: Engagement, Customer Lifetime Value, Awareness, and Loyalty.
According to a survey of over 250 US restaurant operators performed by ENGINE INSIGHTS for TD Bank, brands noted that their top areas of investment in 2022 include 

  • Mobile Ordering (54%)
  • Delivery Services (47%)
  • Technology such as new POS digital signage or other in-store tech (45%)
  • Alternative payment methods (37%) (source

This shift in priorities makes necessary a lot of investment in technology, so it’s more important than ever to use marketing dollars more wisely and efficiently to attract new customers and retain loyalty among existing customers. Having a sound, comprehensive data strategy is key to competing and thriving in the new normal that includes an increased demand for off-premise dining. 

6. Supply chain problems and labor shortages are the industry’s biggest challenges

Both of these issues dominated the conference, and, good news, both of these issues can be improved by attention to data, especially as the cost of goods continue to increase.


Roughly 50% of restaurant operators in the full service, quick service, and fast-casual segments expect recruiting and retaining employees to be their top challenge in 2022.” (source: National Restaurant Association 2022 State of the Industry Press Release)

For example, Search Discovery has partnered with a leading QSR brand to help recruit and retain top employees. Not only have we helped implement a more seamless applicant tracking system, but we’ve also helped our client establish a measurement framework, hypothesis library, and benchmarks for recruiting efforts. Search Discovery has supported all of this strategic work by building a dashboard to monitor our client’s online job applications. This dashboard (focused on the brands’ specific recruiting goals) allows the brand to see—in real-time—how test implementations, paid media efforts, and other optimizations to their web recruitment strategy are influencing overall applications.

How Search Discovery helps our restaurant partners

We love conversations about ordering analytics, measuring marketing’s business impact, and loyalty program optimization especially, but our end-to-end data, analytics, and marketing services can help brands catch up and thrive in an industry focused on using tech, data, and analytics to drive business results.

Search Discovery partners with the major marketing and data platforms. We’re a certified Salesforce Marketing Cloud Partner and a Google Premier Partner. We also work with many of the key ordering, POS, and loyalty platforms in the QSR industry, including Olo, Koala, and Punchh among others. We’ve worked with over 40 top QSR/hospitality brands to attract new customers, increase engagement/conversion of online orders, and retain customers through loyalty programs. Search Discovery loves our restaurant brand partners!

Please Contact us today to fully leverage your technology and data and win in this fast-evolving industry!

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