ATLANTA In a year when deadlines for compliance with challenging new credit and debit card data security standards have passed for some operators and loom large for others, payment systems education sessions are likely to be among the best attended during the 12th Annual International Foodservice Technology Exposition, or FS/TEC, to be held here from Oct. 10-13.
To be sure, some educators and consultants are playing important roles in the 2007 event, which is being staged at the Georgia World Congress Center in a co-location with the NAFEM Show equipment event. But Nation's Restaurant News publisher Alan Gould underscores that 3 dozen operators from chains big and small and all segments of the industry "are the key to FS/TEC 2007's peer-to-peer general sessions, breakout panels and keynote speeches."
NRN co-produces and co-manages FS/TEC with Robert Grimes of Accuvia.
The theme for FS/TEC 2007 is "Networking for Profits," and Grimes of Accuvia says that's as it should be.
"Networking and integration are key elements of any foodservice technology strategy, and technology increasingly is helping to build revenues and control costs, with the obvious outcome being enhanced profitability," notes Grimes. "This year's 'Networking for Profits' theme couldn't be more fitting, as it ties these important concepts together for our attendees."
FS/TEC exhibit hall hours correspond with those of The NAFEM Show, running from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily Oct. 11-13. Show managers say they are anticipating from 150 to 160 exhibitors of foodservice technology hardware, software and services, and from 2,000 to 2,500 FS/TEC attendees.
Career and social-networking events, free to all registered participants, are a major attraction for FS/TEC-goers, and this year's schedule calls for daily receptions and more.
Also an integral part of the conference — the Annual FS/TEC Awards Luncheon — is Oct. 12, from 12:30 p.m. to 2 p.m., and is free to conference registrants and ticketed exhibitors. This year's luncheon keynote speech is being delivered by Don Zimmerman, senior vice president and chief information officer, or CIO, for Arby's Restaurant Group Inc. of Atlanta.
NRN publisher Gould, who co-chairs FS/TEC with Grimes, says this year's education program touches on a wide variety of topics ranging from food safety and security tools to successful loyalty card programs to customer-activated kiosks. Payment processing issues will be top of mind for many attendees, he adds.
The growing acceptance of debit and credit cards among quick-service and fast-casual restaurant chains, along with some customer identity theft problems among large retailers and other businesses during the past year, have heightened operator interest in payment technology. Recently passed and pending deadlines tied to the Payment Card Industry group's new standards for tighter card data security — and threats from card organizations to levy fines for operator failure to comply with those new PCI standards — are making many restaurateurs anxious.
In response, FS/TEC is offering two relevant educational sessions: "The Changing Face of Payment Technology" breakout panel and a "PCI Compliance — It's Time to Act" general session.
The "Changing Face" breakout presentation will address a variety of hardware, software and services supporting faster or more secure payment processing. Panelists include Mike Achord, senior manager of application development for Applebee's International Inc. of Overland Park, Kan., and John Koontz, senior vice president and CIO for Real Mex Restaurants Inc. of Cypress, Calif. Joining them are Jeff Peterson, restaurant technology manager for Denver-based Noodles & Co., and John Thompson, vice president of information technology, or IT, for Canadian casual-dining restaurant operator and quick-service chain franchisor and airline caterer Cara Operations Ltd. of Mississauga, Ontario.
Bob Russo, general manager of the PCI Security Standards Council of Wakefield, Mass., is taking part in the "PCI Compliance" presentation. The session is sure to generate a large number of questions from audience members, if the initial reaction to the program by FS/TEC advisors and other operators is any indication.
Also taking part in the PCI discussion, among others, are Terence McCarthy, senior channel manager for AmbironTrustWave, a Chicago-based consulting company that audits restaurant company compliance with PCI directives, and Nick Ibrahim, CIO for casual-dining restaurant chain Ruby Tuesday Inc. of Maryville, Tenn.
The annual "CIO Panel" general session moderated by FS/TEC show co-chairman Grimes examines the organizational pressures and external factors that drive decision making among the chief information officers and IT executives of six major foodservice companies. This year's panel includes Steve Barrow, vice president of IT, Luby's Inc., Houston; Jeff Chasney, executive vice president of strategic planning and CIO, CKE Restaurants Inc., Carpinteria, Calif.; and Scott Dever, vice president of information systems, or IS, Logan's Roadhouse, Nashville, Tenn.
Others taking part in the CIO Panel: Mary Hamill, vice president of human resources and IT, Max & Erma's Restaurants Inc., Columbus, Ohio; Martyn Holland, senior vice president of systems and CIO, HMSHost Corp. Bethesda, Md.; and Robert Whittington, senior vice president and CIO, Wendy's International Inc., Dublin, Ohio.
The "Technology Executives Panel," is the supplier company version of the CIO Panel. Again moderated by Grimes, it puts vendor firm leaders front and center, so they can share their views about where technology is today and why and where it is headed in the next three to five years. As with the CIO Panel, questions fly fast and furious from the floor during the audience participation portion of the session.
Participating on this year's Executive Panel are Paul Armstrong, chief technology officer, MICROS Systems Inc., Columbia, Md.; Steve Garland, national sales manager, Epson System Device Group, Long Beach, Calif.; and Paul Langenbahn, hospitality division president, Radiant Systems Inc., Alpharetta, Ga. They will be joined by Karen Sammon, president, software solutions, PAR, New Hartford, N.Y.; and Kevin Tigges, managing director, retail and hospitality industry unit, Microsoft Corp., Redmond, Wash.
Rounding out the big picture general sessions is the "Feedback from the Top: CEO/COO Panel." This session is designed to give foodservice company leaders a platform from which they can share their ideas about how technology should be used in foodservice, and what they expect from their key IT executives as well as recalling the highs and lows of their experiences with technology.
Signed up for the CEO/COO Panel — and likely to be joined later by others— are Robert Baxley, chief operating officer, Zaxby's Franchising Inc., Athens, Ga.; Jim Grecco, chief executive, Bruegger's Enterprises Inc., Burlington, Vt.; and and Daniel Pittard, president and chief executive of Rubio's Restaurants Inc. of Carlsbad, Calif.
This year's FS/TEC is offering up two educational sessions dealing with equipment in recognition of industry interest in the convergence of technology and equipment and to mark the conference's co-location with the NAFEM Show, staged by the North American Association of Food Equipment Manufacturers.
Taking part in the "'Smart Equipment' Takes Center Stage" general session is Roy Hook, manager, equipment development, Wendy's International Inc., and Erik Krueger, senior manager, retail architecture and retail technology strategy, McDonald's Corp., Oak Brook, Ill.
Abreakout session titled, "Ease the Pain of Foodservice Integration," will look at foodservice technology standards developed by NAFEM and the Association for Retail Technology Standards, or ARTS. Panelist Eric Elwell, manager of equipment engineering for the Louisville, Ky.-based KFC division of Yum! Brands Inc., will talk about how KFC is putting equipment integration into practice and about the role it plays in the chain's future plans. Joining him on the panel will be Richard Halter, chief technical architect, ARTS, and Charlie Souhrada, director, member services, NAFEM.
Other FS/TEC educational sessions and panelists or presenters:
- "What's New in the Automated Restaurant?" — Ed Layton, director of food and beverage, Island View Casino Resort, Gulfport, Miss.; Carrie Maun-Smith, director, engineering & strategic planning, Wendy's International; Cyrus Mokhtari, franchise area director, Galardi Group, Newport Beach, Calif.
- "The Latest in Food Safety Technology" — Joe Amorim, president and chief executive Sadima Inc.; Mike Dunn, director, product quality assurance, Sodexho Inc., Gaithersburg, Md.; and Joel Ortiz, quality assurance-retail support, Whole Foods Market, Austin, Texas.
- "The Evolving World of Employee Training Tools" — Steve Brown, senior director, support services, McAlister's Deli, Ridgeland, Miss.; Todd Horchner, director, operations, CEC Entertainment Inc., Irving, Texas; and Mike McCoy, e-learning manager, Bravo Development Inc., Columbus, Ohio.
- "What's Ahead on the CIO Career Path – Trends and Tips" — H. Michael Burgett, president and managing partner, CIO Partners, Marietta, Ga., and David Mansbach, managing director, HVS Executive Search, Mineola, N.Y.
- "The Latest Twists in Self-Service Technology" — Michael Verdesca, divisional vice president, systems development, Jack in the Box Inc., San Diego.
- "What's New, What's Working in Loyalty Card Technology" — Jeff Gengler, vice president, information systems, Rock Bottom Restaurants Inc., Louisville, Colo., and Regina Jerome, director, technology, Avado Brands Inc., Madison, Ga.
- "Hot in the Kitchen: Looking Ahead to 2020" — Cihan Cobanoglu, associate professor, hospitality IT, University of Delaware, Newark, Del., and Fred DeMicco, professor and ARAMARK chair, Department of Hotel, Restaurant & Institutional Management, University of Delaware.
- "Stay Safe: What's New in Security Technology" — Dan Parsons, director, operations, Nature's Table Bistro, Orlando; Michael Simmons, director, risk management, El Pollo Loco Inc., Irvine, Calif.; and Esau Sims, director, operations, Hartsfield Hospitality, Atlanta.
- "The Brave New World of Digital Menu Boards and Other Restaurant Communications Technology" — John Lanni, co-owner and operator, Currito, Hamilton, Ohio.
FS/TEC's founding sponsors are MICROS Systems Inc. and Microsoft Corp.; the corporate sponsors are Epson America Inc., PAR and Radiant Systems Inc.; and HyperActive Technologies Inc. and Torex Hospitality are the affiliate sponsors.