GRAPEVINE Texas The educational program for FS/TEC 2008 April 16-19 here covers informational territory as diverse as "Putting the 'Green' in IT" and "Digital Menu Boards & Mobile Ordering: Lots of Talk, but Where's the Action?" Not surprisingly, the operator presenters at the heart of the conference represent concepts, chains and companies that can be as different as night from day.
FS/TEC, which also is known as the International Foodservice Technology Exposition, is produced and managed by Nation's Restaurant News and Robert N. Grimes of Accuvia. The 2008 edition at the Gaylord Texan Resort and Convention Center in Grapevine, just outside of Dallas, marks the 13th running of the show.
Mixing up nationalities and sexes, as well as the companies represented, is this year's Chief Information Officer, or CIO, Panel, which addresses recent projects, general industry tech trends and anticipated challenges in the year ahead. Adding an international flavor to the session for 2008 is the participation of Przemyslaw Poppe, information technology, or IT, director for AmRest Holding of Warsaw, Poland. AmRest is among the largest foodservice operators in Central and Eastern Europe, with more than 240 units of various brands and types, including Burger King, KFC, Pizza Hut, Freshpoint and Rodeo Drive outlets.
Other CIO Panel participants include Tamy Duplantis, vice president of IT for Potbelly Corp. of Chicago, parent of the Potbelly Sandwich Works chain, and Debra Jensen, CIO for Jack in the Box Inc. of San Diego. Rounding out the group will be David Kaufman, senior vice president and CIO for contract feeder Aramark Corp. of Philadelphia, and Gary Trobaugh, vice president of business technology for Papa Murphy's International Inc. of Vancouver, Wash., operator and franchisor of the Papa Murphy's Take 'N Bake Pizza chain.
The CIO Panel, which is moderated by Grimes, is among the most popular presentations at FS/TEC — in part because it invites questions from the audience.
Audience questions also regularly enliven the annual Chief Executive Officer/Chief Operating Officer Panel, designed to give restaurant technologists additional insights into what overall company leaders want from the IT departments and their IT professionals. Among the CEO/COO panelists will be Clay Dover, president and chief executive of Metromedia Restaurant Group of Plano, Texas, operator and franchisor of Bennigan's Grill & Tavern, Steak and Ale and Ponderosa Steakhouse, among other concepts, and Charles Moran Jr., president and chief operating officer of Buffalo, N.Y.-based contract services firm Delaware North Cos.
Though they share Texas as their headquarters state, the operators on the digital menu board and mobile ordering panel come from companies fielding from one to more than 60 units and offering everything from tacos to tikka. On that panel is Jim Bodenstedt, chief operating officer for R&L Foods Inc. of San Antonio, a franchisee of Yum! Brands Inc., with dozens of KFC, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell and combined-brand stores. Joining him are Robert Andersen, president of Mooyah Burgers Inc. of Plano, parent of three-unit Mooyah Burgers & Fries, and Mark Brezinski, founder of Bengal Coast Restaurants LP, based in Dallas, operator of a fast-casual concept selling foods from "The Other Asia," including India, Malaysia and Thailand.
The earliest recruits for the Green IT session include Joseph Youssef, director of supplier management for McDonald's Corp. of Oak Brook, Ill., and fourth estate fellow and professional IT follower Don Tennant, editorial director of Computerworld and InfoWorld of Framingham, Mass.
Even before the panel has been filled, the "All Aboard: Aligning Your Franchisees with Your Tech Strategies" session can claim two executives whose chains include nearly 5,000 franchised restaurants in the aggregate. Signed up for the panel, to date, are Scott Bleau, IT director for Qdoba Mexican Grill of Wheat Ridge, Colo., and Robert Whittington, senior vice president and CIO of Wendy's International Inc. of Dublin, Ohio.
Lou Grande, vice president of IT for Rare Hospitality International Inc., operator of the Longhorn Steakhouse and The Capital Grille chains, is moderating "Measuring & Lowering POS Total Cost of Ownership." Offering up some insights during that exercise will be Jeff Gengler, vice president of IT for Rock Bottom Restaurants Inc. of Louisville, Colo.
"Spreading the News: Trends in Business Intelligence Tech & Dashboard Building" will be moderated by Jeff Chasney, executive vice president of strategic planning and CIO for CKE Restaurants Inc. of Carpinteria, Calif., parent of the Hardee's and Carl's Jr. chains. Also participating is Steve Brooks, director of mission control for Tumbleweed Inc. of Louisville, Ky., parent of the Tumbleweed Southwest Grill casual-dining chain.
Among the other educational presentations planned for FS/TEC and the operators involved with them:
- "Payment Card Data — Protection Strategies from the Trenches," with Jack Baum, chairman and chief executive of Food, Friends and Company of Dallas, operator of 13 full-service restaurants, including nine Cozymel's Mexican Grills, and Patrick Piccininno, vice president of IT for IHOP Corp. of Glendale, Calif., parent of the IHOP and Applebee's Neighborhood Grill & Bar chains. Tracy Libertino, Accuvia managing director of consulting, will moderate.
- "Tech Tools for District Managers: What's Working, What's Needed?" with Cyrus Mokhtari, franchise area director for Galardi Group of Newport Beach, Calif., parent of the Wienerschnitzel and Hamburger Stand chains, and Michael Taylor, senior director of operations, western division, Carlson Restaurants Worldwide of Carrollton, Texas, parent of the T.G.I. Friday's and Pick Up Stix chains.
- "Winning Strategies from FS/TEC & Nation's Restaurant News Technology Award Winners," with Chris Duncan, vice president of administration for Hooters of America Inc of Atlanta, Kevin Fritton, vice president of operations for eLanes LLC of Andover, Mass., a Wendy's franchisee, among other businesses, and Betty Ann Stephenson, director of hospitality for Scottsdale Healthcare of Scottsdale, Ariz.
- "Using Online Social Networking for Your Business," with Arie Ball, vice president of sourcing and talent acquisition for Sodexho USA of Gaithersburg, Md.
- "Marketing and Culinary Pros — The Technologies They Need," with Mike Plunkett, senior vice president of purchasing and international operations for Dave & Busters Inc. of Dallas.
- "Best Practices in Capturing Online Orders & Finding Support Vendors," with Hanie Hartman, web development/project manager for Buca Inc. of Minneapolis, operator of the Buca di Beppo dinnerhouse chain, and Brad Williams, senior franchise business consultant for Wingstop Restaurants Inc. of Richardson, Texas.
- "The Human Condition — What's Up with HR Tech," with Michael Everett, vice president of information services for Frisch's Restaurants Inc. of Cincinnati, and Trecia Wood, manager of learning systems for Carlson Restaurants Worldwide.
Scheduled among all of the peer-to-peer information exchanges involving restaurant operators is the annual Technology Executives Panel, comprised of leaders from leading supplier organizations who talk about current and future developments in their world and how they might impact restaurateurs. Among the panelists will be Paul Armstrong, chief technology officer for Micros Systems Inc. of Columbia, Md.; Paul Langenbahn, president of the hospitality division of Radiant Systems Inc. of Alpharetta, Ga.; Tom Litchford, industry solution director for Microsoft Corp. of Redmond, Wash.; and Karen Sammon, president of software solutions for PAR of New Hartford, N.Y.