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Two execs from Union Square Hospitality Group join the lineup for Restaurants Rise powered by MUFSO.

Chip Wade, Patti Simpson of Union Square Hospitality Group join panel on diversity and inclusion at Restaurants Rise powered by MUFSO

Plus, a look at the first two weeks of sessions, including menu development, consumer habits, QSR drive-thru metrics, marketing and more

Restaurants Rise powered by MUFSO begins Tuesday, Oct. 6, and new panelists have been announced.

Two new speakers have been added to Dr. James H. Pogue II’s panel on diversity and inclusion. Chip Wade, president of Union Square Hospitality Group (USHG), and Patti Simpson, chief people officer of USHG, will join Pogue.

Wade is responsible for enhancing and evolving the company’s culture, driving a greater experience for guests, and bolstering the revenue and profitability of businesses at USHG. Previously, he served as an executive at Red Lobster and TGI Friday’s.

Simpson’s duties include implementing key systems and benefits that align with USHG’s family values (excellence, hospitality, entrepreneurial spirit, and integrity). These enhance USHG’s philosophy of enlightened hospitality, which it defines as the belief that putting employees first is the key to running a meaningful and sustainable business. She was previously an executive at TGI Friday’s, Ruby Tuesday and Au Bon Pain.


Patti Simpson (left) and Chip Wade (right)

That panel, on Oct. 8 at 12 p.m.  EDT, will be a discussion led by Pogue on the restaurant industry’s role in diversity, inclusion and social justice.

Tune into the Restaurants Rise broadcast today at 12 p.m. EDT for a session with Erica Dhawan, founder of Cotential, on the power of connectional intelligence, and at 3:30 p.m. EDT, when Kelli Valade, CEO of Black Box Intelligence, will explain what winning in these challenging times looks like with an in-depth analysis on sales, traffic, workforce and consumer sentiment.

Here are some highlights from the first two weeks of breakout sessions:

  • Revealing the results of the 2020 QSR drive-thru survey with insights from SeeLevel HX CEO Lisa van Kesteren;
  • Learn how to best structure your marketing messages to lead a consumer trial and customer engagement with Anton Nicholas of ICR Inc.;
  • Menu experts Nancy Kruse and Bret Thorn discuss menu innovation in the midst of a crisis and examine menu newsmakers and rulebreakers, ideas and approaches that will keep operators competitive and top-of-mind with consumers now and as the industry moves through economic recovery; 
  • How social, cultural and political strife will impact brands, bottom lines and the ability to sustain businesses moving forward with Align Public Strategies;
  • AlixPartners’ Adam Werner sharing insights gleaned from the U.S. consumer pulse survey conducted by the consulting firm on how consumer dining habits have been shaped by the COVID-19 crisis and trends supporting longer-term sentiment;
  • The resurgence of contactless ordering and QR codes with Andrew Rebhun, vice president of digital for El Pollo Loco; Justin Keenen, director of IT for Tocaya Organica; and Susan Carroll, VP of technology for White Castle.

Below is the full schedule for the first two weeks of breakout sessions. Register here.

If you’d like to see the keynote schedule, click here.

Oct. 6

2:00 p.m EDT:

Re-Imagining Breakfast

Join us for this fun, fast-paced, and informative presentation. We will showcase how breakfast can be a very important part of your overall service, covering topics like: 

• All-day breakfasts 

• Labor-saving solutions 

 Food safety 

• Product cross applications in multiple menu parts 

• Focus on quality 

• Craveability 

All while demonstrating some really exciting concepts that will help you re-image your breakfast.

Reaching a Changed Consumer: Telling the Right Story with your Menu

The pandemic has lasted long enough that we're seeing fundamental changes in consumer behavior, creating new challenges and pain points that operators need to address. We'll look at which attitudes and expectations have changed, which haven't, and how operators can best address the new consumer landscape with solutions from product innovation to marketing messages. Foodservice research guru Maeve Webster of Menu Matters and Catherine Golding of True Aussie Beef & Lamb will share fresh consumer data and examples from operations around the globe. It’s sure to help you reset your go-to-market strategy, with a focus on how to do the storytelling that moves the needle.

FIELDTRIP: The Restaurant Leading Change

As profiled in Esquire, The New Yorker, and the New York Times, Harlem-based fast casual concept FIELDTRIP, founded and led by Chef JJ Johnson, builds community through celebrating the shared experience of rice.  In this interactive session, join Riley Lagesen of the National Restaurant Industry Practice Group and Johnson as Johnson discusses his inspiration for FIELDTRIP, its community efforts during the pandemic, and its growth plans to bring its food and culture to new markets around America.

2:45 p.m. EDT:

Leveraging Cloud Point of Sale to Enable Digital Dominance

COVID-19 accelerated three to five years of technology adoption into just six months. Technologies like contactless payment, mobile web, and QR codes — all that were experiencing slow and steady growth pre COVID-19— are now commonplace and unarguably the ordering standard moving forward.

This session will discuss how the acceleration blurred the lines between both on-premise and off-premise ordering and physical commerce systems (ie: POS terminals) and digital ordering systems (ie: mobile web ordering). 

Mobile ordering has shifted in this new normal, and we'll show you how to deliver systems that meet the new consumer demands of a post-COVID restaurant.

The New Normal: Labor Relations, Reputation Considerations, and the 2020 Elections

The Align Public Strategies team will walk us through how the political, cultural and social strife we are currently experiencing will impact brands, bottom lines, and the ability to sustain and grow your businesses going forward.

What Consumers Say are the Most Important Elements of a “Contactless” Dine-in Experience

Since COVID began, the noise around contactless technologies has grown from a “buzz” to a thunderstorm.  But what are consumers really afraid of touching? Cash or credit cards?  Menus?  Paper towel dispensers? Trash? We asked 500 QSR and Fast Casual consumers what they were concerned about touching and the answers might surprise you.

Oct. 8

1:00 p.m.  EDT:

QSR Unmasked: Revealing the 2020 QSR Drive-Thru Study Results

Join SeeLevel HX CEO Lisa van Kesteren as she delves into the latest data and insights in fast food drive-thru performance amid COVID-19 reported in the 20th annual QSR Drive-Thru Study.

Understanding the Beef Consumer at Foodservice

Every restaurateur and chef knows the value of having beef on their menu. Beef can be a major asset that contributes to higher check averages, larger profit margins, and increased customer satisfaction. Given beef’s significance on a menu, it’s important to understand who your beef consumer is and what expectations they have when you place down that steak, burger, or roast. In our keynote address, you will find out exactly who that consumer is, what purchasing behaviors they engage in, and how you can better create meals and experiences that will keep them coming back to your beef creations. Also, we cannot forget that COVID has drastically increased the number of meals consumers are receiving via delivery. As such, will also be giving a detailed analysis of consumer behaviors, perceptions, and expectations when it comes to ordering their favorite beef meal online.

1:45 p.m. EDT:

New Guest Behaviors Pilot New Opportunities for Restaurant Digital Technology

From the dining room to the drive-thru, ways guests are interacting with restaurants have changed, and there is an even greater emphasis on customer service than ever before. With new forms of customer behavior — contactless transactions, socially distanced dining areas, increase in curbside and food delivery pickup — comes the need for new forms of service and points of communication.

This session will explore the many opportunities there are with digital signs throughout the restaurant including curbside pick-up, back of house employee communications, drive-thru personalization and suggestive sell and safe-to-enter occupancy signage. Technology plays a vital role in keeping customer time and safety at the forefront of service while continually improving key KPIs including increased average check, satisfaction and speed of service. Digital displays serve as additional engagement points that make it safe and seamless to transact and build relationships with customers in a high volume, fast paced environment. Further, addressing operational challenges, technology and service automation throughout the restaurant helps in reallocating or reducing staff.

2:30 p.m. EDT:

Making your Message Matter: Cutting through the Clutter to Win Customers

Restaurants brands have a lot to discuss today: food safety, guest safety, takeout, menu options and more. Learn how to best structure your marketing messages to lead a consumer trial and customer engagement.  

ICR, the premier strategic communications consults, will walk you through programs that create connections and lead to increased brand awareness, heightened reputations and longstanding loyalty. 

Oct. 13

2:00 p.m. EDT:

Become No. 1 with Your Third-Party Delivery Platforms

As more restaurant operators rely on third-party delivery platforms for off-premise sales during the pandemic, how have brands effectively negotiated contracts that include promotions, placement and pricing? And how have they developed and maintained positive working relationships with the third-party providers?

Boost Operational Excellence by Leveraging Back-of-House Technology

Learn how Food Safety and Operations teams can achieve, verify and maintain operational excellence and accountability in four key areas: Employee & Customer Health & Safety, Food Safety & HACCP processes, Brand Standards & Food Quality and FDA Nutritional Compliance for Grab ‘n Go products.  

Hear from Nick Bouse of Love’s Travel Stops on how technology has helped Love’s ensure local teams are empowered to meet their goals.

2:45 p.m. EDT:

The State of the Plate

One of MUFSO’s most popular programs returns. This year’s State of the Plate 2020 presentation will explore menu innovation in the midst of disruption.

Nancy Kruse, menu trends expert and contributor to Nation’s Restaurant News and Restaurant Hospitality, will examine menu newsmakers and rulebreakers, ideas and approaches that will keep operators competitive and top of mind with consumers now and as the industry moves through economic recovery.

Oct. 15

1:00 p.m. EDT:

The Consumer Pulse on Dining in America

Distinctive consumer groups are coming into sharper focus: those who are willing to patronize restaurants in any way they can during this time and those who are categorically opposed (to a large group). To manage the challenges during this time, restaurants must craft tailored strategies for each group.  

Join AlixPartners’ Adam Werner, Global Co-Leader of the Restaurants, Hospitality & Leisure Practice, as he shares insights gleaned from the U.S. consumer pulse survey conducted by this renowned consulting firm on how consumer dining habits have been shaped by the COVID-19 crisis and trends supporting longer-term sentiment.

1:45 p.m. EDT:

Touchless Tech

How chains are reimagining technology with the use of contactless ordering and the resurgence of QR codes with Rebhun, Keenan and Carroll.

2:30 p.m. EDT:

Pork: Building the Story

From farm to fork, everyone is touched by the food supply and production chain.  We’ve all been impacted in some way by the pandemic but there is strength in coming together to share our stories and find solutions.  Our insights team at the National Pork Board worked to understand the current landscape of consumer demand for pork in the US and the truths that help build affinity for the product and brands.  Let’s uncover these truths and describe the opportunity to connect with your customers.

Post-COVID Capital Availability: A Look into the Investment Community’s Perspective of 2021 & Beyond

  • Current and future state of the restaurant industry – what we know and what we don’t know
  • What has worked, what has not so far (best practices / lessons learned) 
  • Post-COVID: The competitive battle to come 
  • What investors and the capital markets will be looking for moving forward


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