Event Recap: Restaurant CFO Bootcamp – Denver 2017

At this month’s Restaurant CFO Bootcamp in Denver, our team had the opportunity to lead an exchange of best practices, insights and key challenges among professionals from all corners of the restaurant industry. Read on for three takeaways from the event:  
A Fast-Moving Tech Target
Advancements in tech are perpetual, and having a profound impact on the way restaurants operate—from managing costs and inventory, to recruiting and gathering data for loyalty programs. When it comes to strategic investments, it appears customer experience has taken priority over efficiency. According to Hospitality Technology Magazine’s 2017 Restaurant Technology Study, 61 percent of restaurant tech investments are aimed at improving digital customer experiences and engagement, compared to 27 percent geared at boosting employee productivity. Meanwhile, measuring return on investment and constricted IT budgets remain a challenge among restaurateurs as they look to capitalize on industry tech advancements. 
High Highs & Low Lows
The diversion in sales across segments is notable, as casual and fast casual struggle and QSR and pizza are stable. Driving performance growth throughout the industry are strong hourly wage growth, low unemployment and energy prices, favorable food costs, technology and automation. Meanwhile, the popularity of locally-grown concepts, grocery and convenience store competition, high personal debt levels, unit oversupply and increasingly sophisticated consumers are negative catalysts. But despite the doom and gloom we read in headlines, there’s still a great deal of interest in investing in the industry—and the quality of deals has improved. Investors are more discerning than in previous cycles, and while they may be skittish about certain segments, they’re hyper-focused on the specific attributes they’re chasing. At the same time, private equity firms are getting involved at earlier life stages.
Overturning Turnover Trends
According to the National Restaurants Association, the 2016 employee turnover rate was 72.9 percent, costing businesses between $2,000 and $7,000 per employee. Restaurateurs agree that the best way to reduce turnover and encourage employment longevity is to hire smarter and invest in onboarding and training. From a recruiting standpoint, some suggest using digital tools to screen out unqualified candidates, while others arm managers with a script and training to vet candidates. But the effort can’t stop once an employee is hired: First impressions are key. In fact, turnover occurs most often in the first 30 to 60 day period. Best practices for ensuring a good first impression include building in adequate time before a new employee’s start date to properly prepare, taking scheduling concerns into consideration and helping set firm performance goals. Offering regular trainings to aid professional growth, ensuring employee voices are heard and implementing changes in response to feedback can also help significantly boost retention.
Stay tuned to the blog in the coming weeks and months for a closer look at these topics, and don’t miss our next Restaurant CFO Bootcamp in October—click here to register. Be sure to keep up our latest thoughts by following the practice on Twitter at @BDORestaurant.