What is in this article?:
- MUFSO 2012: Industry leaders talk menu labeling, economy
- Menu labeling
Attendees heard from this year’s Golden Chain and Norman Award-winning CEOs
This is part of Restaurant Hospitality's special coverage of the 2012
Menu labeling and the economy were among the chief concerns addressed during the “Award-Winning CEO Panel” Tuesday at MUFSO.
The annual panel, sponsored by American Express, featured: Cheryl Bachelder, chief executive of Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen; John Cooper, president of Bonefish Grill; Rick Federico, chief executive of P.F. Chang’s China Bistro; Jimmy John Liautaud, chief executive and founder of Jimmy John’s Sandwiches; Stan Sheetz, chief executive of Sheetz; and Mike Tattersfield, president and chief executive of Caribou Coffee. Moderators were Randall Friedman, restaurant group publisher for Penton Media, and Robin Lee Allen, executive editor of Nation’s Restaurant News.
The post-recession economy continues to dog restaurant operators, the executives said.
“We see several challenges,” said Sheetz of the Altoona, Pa.-based convenience store chain. “We’ve seen the consumption of fuel continue to decline. It’s declining roughly 2 to 3 percent a year since at least 2007.”
Managing in a declining gas-sales market is difficult, he added, especially given that tobacco sales, another staple revenue stream for c-stores, are also declining. While those two areas are declining, food is increasing, Sheetz said. The units are built, owned and maintained by the company, and Sheetz said the company is set to grow at about 25 to 30 units per year.
Staffing for growth is a challenge, he added, even though store manager turnover is a only about 5 to 6 percent a year. “We’ve still got to put together 60 to 70 leaders every year to keep the business growing and running,” Sheetz said.
For Tampa-based Bonefish Grill, 2013 looks good, Cooper said, citing flat commodities.
“There is a need to stay fresh and refresh,” he said. “You can’t sit on your hands. I don’t think any restaurant in this industry today cannot afford to continue to change.” Cooper said innovation and change has to be aggressive.
At Caribou Coffee, which saw a run-up in coffee prices over the past several years, Tattersfield said, “We’re actually on the tailwind side. We don’t see that as a challenge going forward. But it’s what you do with that tailwind. How are you going to reinvest it into your business?”
Re-establishing value in the P.F. Chang’s China Bistro and Pei Wei Asian Diner brands is important in the year ahead, said Federico. “We’ve probably dialed back the innovation,” he said. “We used price to protect margin. In the past, we’d used price to offset costs that we knew weren’t going reverse … That means we would be taking price in our stores every couple of years.”
In 2009 and 2010, it became a tactic, Federico said. “We lost the ability to hide [price increases] and to move guests around the menu. For us, innovation is one of the bigger tactics to again enjoy the value equation.”