The National Restaurant Association announced the lineup of education session speakers and topics for the 2016 National Restaurant Association, Restaurant, Hotel-Motel Show, taking place at Chicago’s McCormick Place on May 21-24.

With foodservice changing at lighting fast speed, trend leaders share their insights on topics ranging from strategies for increasing operation efficiencies to implementing health-focused menus. The changing state of the fast-casual sector—from food safety to fine-dining chefs entering the market—continues as a prominent discussion. New thought-provoking topics include: new consumer and industry research from NRA, Mintel, and Euromonitor International; clean menu development and logistics with Panera Bread’s team; new thinking around tipping vs. service charges from Union Square Hospitality; strategies for hiring during a talent shortage with members of CHART; presentations around workforce engagement and development from current Taco Bell CEO and outgoing Yum! Brands Chair David Novak; and even a talk on the reality of prison meals with Department of Food Administrator at California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation Laura Maurino—beyond what’s portrayed on the popular series, Orange is the New Black.

Additional inspiring opinions and powerful messages providing intel to improve operations and spark new ideas include: retail and restaurant partnerships; adapting to Millennials and Generation Z, and beyond; dealing with food safety issues in the age of local sourcing; responsive menu development; the new face of online delivery; key business strategies; culture development; sustainable agriculture; the latest in labor and workforce issues; addressing food waste and donation; an overview of up-to-the-minute hospitality trends; and more. 

“Just about every major issue highlighted in the foodservice and restaurant news is represented in this year’s NRA Show educational lineup,” says Lisa Ingram, convention chair for NRA Show 2016 and president, and CEO of White Castle System, Inc. “This is an opportunity for attendees to gain real-time thoughts directly from the trendsetters, newsmakers and overall world-class leaders who come to reveal their own personal experiences and professional opinions and entertain live Q&A on each subject.” 

FSR magazine editor Connie Gentry will be leading a discussion on Healthy Lifestyle Choices. The daily stresses chefs feel on the job and beyond take a physical and mental toll that can lead to unhealthy choices. Hear how industry leaders are making self-care and healthier lifestyles top priorities to prevent burnout, illness, and bad habits that turn into liabilities at work.

Gentry will also present BAR (Beverage Alcohol for Restaurants): Signature Beverages: Collaborations for Wine, Beer, and Spirits. The beverage industry is a boom of chef-driven collaborations. Signature blends, brews, and spirits elevate menus. Chefs and restaurant owners discuss how they partner with breweries, wineries, and distilleries to create distinct, exclusive concoctions that build buzz and excitement.

QSR magazine, which along with FSR, is published by Food News Media, is hosting Fast Casual 2.0: Lessons from the Next Great Limited-Service Wave, led by editor Sam Oches. Fast-casual restaurants are dominating the foodservice conversation. Get to know the entrepreneurs who are rolling out unique, premium limited-service concepts that are chef-driven and pushing the standards for high-quality products, ingredients, and service. This is the future of fast-casual.

Some other sessions include:

Hire, Train, Reward, Retain: Developing a Team of Top Performers: Finding great people who do great work is a huge challenge. Learn more about effective, cutting-edge recruiting and hiring tactics, robust training for multi-generational staff, incentive and bonus programs to drive top line and employee engagement, and methods for increasing retention. Led by TJ Schier, president, SMART Restaurant Group.

Tipping Point: Experts Debate Gratuity Structures: Tips are top of mind for restaurant operators and consumers alike as high profile stories about the elimination of tipping make the rounds. This session will feature industry experts discussing how new models impact staff engagement, guest experience, and the future of dining. Hosts will be: Jim Coyle, president, Coyle Hospitality Group; Lauren Hobbs, director of marketing, Union Square Hospitality Group; Joshua Levine, director of operations, STARR Restaurants; Brett Traussi, chief operating officer, The Dinex Group. 

View from the Top: Trade Secrets for Success: Hear how nationally ranked operators reached elite status thanks to glowing online reviews, engaging company culture, and exciting menu offerings. During the session, attendees can learn specific strategies for achieving similar results that will wow loyal customers and gain accolades. Led by Ray Villaman, president, Tahoe Restaurant Group. 

Leveraging Unit Economics to Drive Brand Growth: Unit economics aren’t solely tied to revenue. Every decision made to support this type of business model impacts the overall experience offered to consumers in different ways. Uncover the key factors that are driving unit economics to support brand growth, including retail design, menu design, and supply management. Led by Steve Romaniello, managing director, Roark Capital Group; Juan Martinez, principal, Profitability; Lynn Rosenbaum, VP Retail Environments, Chute Gerdeman; Ric Scicchitano, senior vice president of Food & Beverage, Corner Bakery Café.

Cash in on Catering: The Secret to Boosting Profits: Savvy operators are racing to find creative low-cost ideas to get more sales out of the overhead they possess. Catering is the dark horse in that race. Explore how to create a marketing strategy for adding catering as a profit center and how catering menu design, catering sales building and repeat catering business improve existing catering offerings.

Hosted by Michael Attias, founder/president, Restaurant Catering Systems.

Under the Hood: The Mechanics of Social Media: Knowing what’s going on "under the hood" of social media marketing efforts makes a huge difference when it comes to the success of social campaigns. Learn practical steps for unlocking the full potential of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and video. Focusing on the topic of actionable moves businesses can immediately implement, speakers talk about how to turn social followers into loyal diners. Led by Joshua Swanson, marketing strategist & consultant, Lettuce Entertain You/Consultant. 

Lessons from Loyalty Program Experts: Mike Lynch of Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises will share first-hand knowledge of what works and what doesn’t in loyalty operations, analysis and keeping valuable members active for years. Learn how Lettuce Entertain You Enterprise’s 25-year-old Frequent Diner Club loyalty program has stayed fresh and modern, including a transition to mobile.

Menus 2016: Turning Trends into Money Makers: There’s been an unprecedented shift in diners’ expectations toward menus, ingredients, and transparency. These attitudes and appetites impact menu R&D across all segments. This fast-paced overview will cover top trends alongside examples of prep and presentation techniques that will guarantee a connection with customers. Led by Nancy Kruse, president, The Kruse Company. 

Menu Development: Translating Top Trends: Top trends drive menu innovation, but how do attendees add hot menu items in a way that feels natural to their business? This in-depth look at emerging foodservice trends for 2016 will guide guests through rationalization of trends, tips on ideation, and how to measure consumer reaction to new menu items to inform future additions. Hosted by John Csukor, president-CEO/CMO, KOR Food Innovation. 

Farm vs. Wild: The Fight for Better Fish: Responsibly sourced seafood is turning into a hot issue that can catch up with an operator if not knowledgeable. Learn more about fish labeling fraud, seafood farming’s environmental impact, and the truth about how eco-friendly wild-caught and farmed seafood really are. Led by Jeff Clark, conserve program director, National Restaurant Association.

What’s Your Beef? Eco-Protein Trends Explained: Sustainably sourced protein is all the rage. From grass-fed beef to antibiotic-free chicken, consumers care more about where their food comes from and what’s in it. Learn how supply chain choices affect the environmental and how to save money by appealing to customers’ eco-consciousness. With Laura Abshire, director, Sustainability Policy, Policy and Government Affairs, National Restaurant Association; Michael Berger, founding partner and the VP of Supply Chain, Elevation Franchise Ventures, LLC.

Cybersecurity 101: Delve into NRA’s newly released Cybersecurity 101: A Toolkit for Restaurant Operators and its five core phases for implementing an enterprise-wide cybersecurity program that reflects the most pressing issues operators face when developing protection plans. Learn about data breaches, protection best practices, and more from industry experts. Hosted by Laura Chadwick, director, Commerce & Entrepreneurship, National Restaurant Association. 

Swipe, Tap, Share: Meet the Smart Restaurant: In today’s connected era, restaurant concepts are using sophisticated technology to enhance the hospitality experience and provide benefits to both guests and operators. This panel will review the next generation of tech that chains are using to reinvent the dining experience and define the smart restaurant of the future. Led by Kristina Jorge, account director, ICR; Austen Mulinder, chief executive officer, Ziosk. 

The complete list of programs can be found on the National Restaurant Association’s website.

Food Safety, Industry News, Sustainability, Technology