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At a Dallas launch event, from left: Thanx CEO Zach Goldstein, Meredith Sandland, formerly of Kitchen United, and Greg Creed, former CEO of Yum Brands Inc.

Restaurant industry is on cusp of new ‘category killer,’ executives say

Greg Creed, formerly of Yum, and Meredith Sandland, formerly of Kitchen United, join Thanx CEO Zach Goldstein at launch event

Two seasoned restaurant executives and recent authors provided insights into the future of personalization and digital layering in the restaurant industry during an event this week in Dallas, saying the industry is on the verge of another “category killer.”

Greg Creed, former CEO of Yum Brands, and Meredith Sandland, former chief operating officer at Kitchen United, joined Zach Goldstein, CEO and founder of San Francisco-based Thanx, the loyalty and guest engagement platform, at The Henry in Dallas to discuss the future of restaurant marketing.

Creed is the author of “R.E.D. Marketing: The Three Ingredients of Leading Brands,” with “R.E.D.” referencing relevance, ease and distinctiveness, and Sandland wrote “Delivering the Digital Restaurant: Your Roadmap to the Future of Food.” (Sandland is also a regular contributor to NRN’s Speakerbox contributing author series.)

“We're in a new era,” Goldstein said before the event. “And I'm actually really excited about this new era.”

Click here to stream the entirety of “An Evening with Restaurant Industry Veterans,” hosted by Thanx.

Citing Sandland’s book, Goldstein added that “where digital has become a key element of every restaurant is that data and personalization becomes far easier because you know more about your guest. You're not guessing.”

“We've seen this in another part of hospitality with travel. We've seen this with e-commerce brands, and we are going to see this with restaurants,” he said, “where it's not just about the quality or food service and location. Now it's about how deeply you understand your guests through data and how you are using that to differentiate. That's actually really exciting. It's hard. It's a new skill to build, but it's a really exciting for the years for to come.”

The pandemic accelerated digital adoption, said Creed, noting that “disruption is a wonderful thing.”

“When disruption occurs naturally rather than have to be forced the big guys have to defend themselves like they've never defended before,” Creed added. “And the small- and medium-sized guys have a chance to disrupt the big guy.”

Everyone is going to have to improve, Creed said. “It's just such an exciting time because everyone is going to have to really get their act together. They're going to have to be much better at marketing. They're going to be brilliant at digital. You have to be brilliant at everything because otherwise the guys that are big today won't exist then the guys are small and medium now have a fighting chance, which I don't think they had 20 years ago.”

Sandland, who admitted to using smartphone apps not for the rewards but for the ease of ordering, said some concept will combine all the elements “into what is the next category killer.”

Restaurant quick service was followed by casual dining and then fast casual, she said.

“Each of those in successive waves took over the restaurant industry,” Sandland said. “And someone is going to figure out how to combine all of this e-commerce consumer data stuff, electrification of kitchens, ghost kitchens, delivery, off-premises, new cooking methods [and] direct-to-consumer brands.

“Someone's going take all of those ingredients and mix them together in an amazing way that becomes the next category killer,” she said.

Creed recently joined Thanx as an adviser to the board.

Click here to stream the entirety of “An Evening with Restaurant Industry Veterans,” hosted by Thanx.

Want to hear more from Creed, Sandland and Goldstein? Stream an interview below.

Contact Ron Ruggless at [email protected]

Follow him on Twitter: @RonRuggless

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