After a successful spring conference in Chicago, which included some 400 attendees, the National Restaurant Association (NRA) Marketing Executive Group (MEG) has announced its bi-annual fall conference will take place in Denver on October 22 and 23. Registration begins online in mid-June
The theme for MEG’s recent conference in Chicago, which got underway a few days before the start of the National Restaurant Show, was Learn How to Build a Brand that Connects in a 24/7 Marketplace. The three-day event began with an opening night reception at the Westin Michigan Avenue featuring live entertainment, food and cocktail stations, and an abundance of networking opportunities.
“This was our most successful MEG Conference to date,” says Bill Ruby, co-chair of MEG and vice president of field marketing/vice president of company operations for Denny’s. “Our attendance was perhaps our largest in recent years, and our guest speakers were truly phenomenal. We are confident that the momentum we had in Chicago will carry over to our MEG Fall Conference taking place October 22 and 23 in Denver.”
The two-day conference featured an array of industry influencers and taste-makers, proven leaders, and consumer behavioral experts who shared their knowledge and expertise with the audience. A common thread among the presenters was the importance of company team members to connect with consumers in order to gain brand loyalty and build repeat traffic.
Clarice Turner, senior vice president of Starbucks US and the pioneer of “Starbucks Evenings,” illustrated how the well-known coffee retailer is becoming a community gathering place for PTA board meetings, knitting circles, and book clubs. And, by opening their doors to the community and creating an environment and hub for groups to conduct business and socialize, Starbucks has been successful in capturing a new “daypart” audience.
Jeff Harvey, president and CEO of the 39-unit Burgerville, showed how a company can “Serve with Love” stressing the importance of investing in community relationships. The company looks to partner with local farmers and suppliers and, most recently, each location has been renamed for the city in which it does business further creating ties to the local community.
Harald Herrmann, brand president of Yard House Restaurants, served as this year’s Industry Keynote Speaker. As co-founder of Round It Up America, where guests are invited to round up their checks to the nearest dollar with the leftover change donated to local charities and the American Red Cross National Disaster Relief Fund, which aids victims of catastrophic disasters such as the recent Oklahoma tornadoes, Herrmann said that guests feel empowered with the concept and have embraced the idea of rounding up. To date, Yard House guests have raised more than $1 million for food banks, homeless shelters, and the victims of national disasters.
Motivational speaker Erik Wahl inspired attendees with his oversized portraits of Bono and Albert Einstein, which were created on-the-spot as the audience looked on. Other significant topics discussed at this year’s MEG conference were the Millennial generation and their influence on brand loyalty, how brands can find their voice, embracing digital to redefine consumer engagement, and America’s eating patterns.
The Ken Dennis Memorial Scholarship, named in honor of longtime MEG leader and restaurant veteran Ken Dennis who passed away in 2002 of brain cancer, was awarded to University of North Texas student Taylor Long during MEG’s Chicago conference. Taylor, who has maintained a 3.8 GPA while working in several capacities at various restaurants near campus, is majoring in Hospitality Management and plans to pursue a career as an event manager in an upscale restaurant upon receiving her degree next year.
On Friday morning the second annual Facebook Morning After Run/Walk got underway at 6:45am as MEG attendees discovered Chicago on foot running and walking along Lake Michigan and through city streets.