With the restaurant industry beginning to recover from a record economic downturn, operators are looking up and forecasters are looking ahead, each watchful for signs that the rebound is real and sustainable.
It’s no coincidence that the theme of this year’s 51st Annual Multi-Unit Foodservice Operators conference, or MUFSO, 2010 is “Mission Possible: New Strategies for Success,” organizers said. It’s a rallying cry they say embraces the opportunity to capitalize on the upswing while recognizing the new challenges of a transformed — and, in some ways, even unfamiliar — marketplace.
“As the premiere education and networking event for America’s chain restaurant leaders, MUFSO addresses the critical trends, challenges and opportunities that affect the restaurant industry,” said Randall Friedman, publisher of MUFSO producer Nation’s Restaurant News. “This year’s show is largely about how to successfully navigate uncharted territory. In many ways, the industry has simply never been here before.”
Among the many questions that will be addressed during the Oct. 3-5 event in Orlando, one of the weightiest is: “Operators or customers: Who’s driving the chain?”
The topic explores whether operators are delivering what customers crave or whether customers who have tightened their belts for so long are just happy to get back to the table.
“Given its dependence and influence on consumers, the restaurant industry is both vulnerable and insulated from swings in the consumer economy,” said demographer and MUFSO 2010 keynote speaker Peter Francese.
Francese’s work is based not only on the last census, but also on the annual American Community Survey and the Current Population Survey, among other resources. Those statistical road maps, he indicated, point to the changing face of America in terms of ethnic makeup, marriage and family trends, the growing economic divide and our attitudes about ourselves and our capabilities as we age.
“Whether you have one restaurant or 5,000, they’re all going to be in a market that is certainly not average. The question to answer is: ‘Where are you, and what’s the demographic profile in the vicinity you’re serving?’” Francese recently told Nation’s Restaurant News, providing a glimpse of one of the insights he’ll share at MUFSO.
“I’m looking forward to speaking at MUFSO and discussing consumer and marketing trends there with the nation’s leading restaurant operators,” Francese said, underscoring the interactive aspects of MUFSO presentations, many of which include time for audience questions and comments.
For his keynote address Monday, Oct. 4, Francese is expected to bring a highly informed and analytical point of view as well as to drill down into the regional differences that operators need to know when developing their targeted marketing strategies in a special follow-up breakout session.
A widely recognized demographics and consumer markets expert, Francese is the founder of American Demographics magazine and the author of numerous books on the subject of marketing to consumers. Currently he is the demographic trends analyst for Ogilvy & Mather and director of demographic forecasts for the New England Economic Partnership.
According to show management, Francese is just one of many speakers and special guests being invited to participate in MUFSO 2010, where conference topics will include:
•2010 Census: The Story
Behind the Numbers •Social Networking •Menu Engineering •Financing for Future Growth •Successful Franchise
Relationships •Workforce Excellence •Legislative and Regulatory
Action •Revitalizing your Concept •New Growth Strategies
MUFSO also will feature social networking events, including the “Taste of What’s Hot” dining reception Oct. 3, sponsored by The Coca-Cola Co. Other anticipated highlights will be a panel of “Hot Concepts!” award-winning chain entrepreneurs as well as the Golden Chain and Pioneer awards celebration on Monday, Oct. 5.
Conference information is available by calling (212) 756-5201 or by visiting www.mufso.com.