Not-so-Random Thoughts From The 2012 RLC ...

Each spring, just as spring training is wrapping up, Scottsdale is the scene of the Restaurant Leadership Conference.  It’s neither the largest, nor by most measures the most frenetic of the key restaurant conferences; the first title must go to Chicago’s NRA extravaganza, and arguably the second goes to the well-run, but adrenaline-filled, RFDC in Las Vegas (the adrenaline perhaps unavoidably due to the locale as well as the deal frenzy which seemingly grips many of the participants each November).  Still, the RLC has proven valuable for many of its participants; its size and pace allow for both casual catch-up conversations and meaningful meetings in addition to the presentations.

Ah, the presentations ... perhaps the complaint I hear most often about the RLC is that it’s so well sponsored, many of the presentations devolve into infomercials from those who’ve paid to be here.  There’s some truth to that, although many of us learn from infomercials, so it’s not all bad.  On the other hand, there are always some memorable presentations and keynotes, and this year we were blessed with two.

Indra Nooyi, CEO of Pepsi, gave one of the most holistic and all-encompassing discussions I’ve heard in some time of how to manage (or at least set forth to manage) a company in our time.  The following are paraphrases, but I believe they’re consistent with her comments: she was blunt (“There’s no such thing as work-life balance for senior execs”), practical (“If I want to develop a manager, I have to think about how to fit his/her professional growth against the needs of the family as the children are moved to different schools”), and incredibly aware of the need for mutually beneficial partnerships (citing the examples of Sabra, the Doritos Locos Taco and Mountain Dew Coolatta, among others).  

She also acknowledged the tendency of successful companies to listen to themselves, almost always with bad outcomes.  Her “four necessities” are intended to combat that insular behavior -- Open Eyes (the ability to see your business as outsiders see you), Open Ears (listening to your partners for good ideas -- and criticism), Open Mind (question everything, act on new information, make necessary changes even at the risk of disrupting the home team), and Open Heart (performance with a purpose in mind; make a life as well as a living).  Near the close, she mentioned another of her guiding principles: Always Assume Positive Intent when dealing with someone whose view is different from yours, a message we could all take to heart in these charged political times.

Just when I’d decided her presentation was the high point of the conference -- and was thoroughly satisfied -- along came Ron Shaich, co-CEO of Panera, who totally rocked the house.  Ron’s entire presentation was on Indra’s fourth necessity, which he retitled Conscious Capitalism.  Using the growth of Panera as a model, his thesis is one which has been stated many times in many ways.  I’ll risk paraphrasing it, perhaps in a way he wouldn’t endorse, by saying “That business which exists to profit is rather likely to profit less than that business which exists to excel.”  In Ron’s framework, that striving to excel includes not only fulfilling a need for the customer in the best way possible -- quality ingredients, quality environment -- but acknowledging that the only way such a success is sustainable is by taking care of all the components, including the team.  They’re central to sustained success, and must be nurtured to insure longevity, consistency, and profitability.

Make no mistake: profitability is important to both these speakers.  In fact, the last of the four “rules” of Panera is that “Profit Provides Possibilities”; if there’s no profit, there’s no sustainability.  However, rather than the profit being the desired target, it’s the tool which permits the next step -- the reinvestment in the brand and the people, the further development in unique and relevant products and solutions which insure the company STAYs on top.  And, to finish on a note specific to our industry, Ron acknowledged that all this reinvestment needs to be focused in the people, products, and facilities at the restaurant level.  Everything derives from the unit, which is where the business either succeeds or fails in the consumer’s mind.

Views: 232

Tags: leadership, management, vision


You need to be a member of FohBoh to add comments!

Join FohBoh

Comment by Erle Dardick on April 4, 2012 at 3:19am

Nice post Rod.  I really enjoyed both of these speakers as well.  I had a great time making this video this year for the Bill Strickland introduction.  I'll post it here in case you missed it.  Nice to see you there.  




Social Wine Club for Craft Wineries


Fast-casual growth comes from new openings as market matures

Sales at fast-casual eateries are growing at a pace similar to that of quickservice and sit-down restaurants as young, high-i -More

Taylor® Grills. Cooking made Easier, Faster, and Smarter.
With efficiency and food safety top of mind, the Taylor® L810 two-sided grill is a foodservice industry favorite. Optimize profits and cooking efficiency with three separately controlled cooking zones, programmable cook times, pre-set temperature and automatic gap settings. To learn more click here.

In the swim: Gulf state seafood catch safe for now

Businesses fighting to preserve commercial access to seafood fished in the Gulf states scored a big win this month when the G -More

Ruby Tuesday revitalization prompts sales growth

Maryville, Tenn.-based Ruby Tuesday posted gains in same-store sales in the fourth quarter, with a 5% rise at franchised rest -More


Posting a job or finding a job starts here at FohBoh. Call us about special $50 posting packages to syndicate across all major jobs boards.

National News

Main Event Entertainment to Open First Center in the Rio Grande Valley

Main Event Entertainment, the fastest-growing family entertainment center in America, is celebrating its new center opening in Pharr, Texas, a suburb near McAllen in the Rio Grande Valley. Doors will open to the public at 9 a.m. on August 6.

Darden Announces Leadership Succession Plan

Darden Restaurants, Inc. (NYSE: DRI) announced that Clarence Otis is stepping down as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the Company. Darden's Board of Directors has appointed the Company's current Independent Lead Director, Charles A. Ledsinger, Jr., as Independent Non-Executive Chairman of the Board, effective immediately. The Company also announced that it has amended its corporate governance policies to provide for the separation of the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer roles.

National Restaurant Association Statement on NLRB Joint Employer Decision

Today the National Restaurant Association issued the following statement regarding the National Labor Relations Board’s (NLRB) decision asserting McDonald’s Corporation is a joint employer of its franchisees:

National Restaurant Association Issues Support for Clearer ACA Definition of Seasonal Employment

The bipartisan legislation will align the definitions of seasonal employment in the Affordable Care Act and streamline the applicable large employer determination process.

Rising India, Inc. Announces Acquisition Strategy Toward a Sizable Slice of the QSR Pizza Pie

Rising India, Inc. (OTC: RSII), announces today it will immediately begin work toward the acquisition of up to 5 profitable stores in the popular Quick Serve Pizza Restaurant segment. Current targets are currently earning about $450,000 in revenues per year, per store. Acquisition of targets would provide immediate cash flow identified from profitable longstanding, absentee owner operations with proven model success.


If you are looking for capital to start or grow your restaurant, create the next 501c3, develop and launch the next app for the restaurant industry,or want to help your peers in some meaningful way, we want to know about it.


TED: Ze Frank: Are you human? - Ze Frank (2014)

Have you ever wondered: Am I a human being? Ze Frank suggests a series of simple questions that will determine this. Please relax and follow the prompts. Let's begin …

TED: Heather Barnett: What humans can learn from semi-intelligent slime - Heather Barnett (2014)

Inspired by biological design and self-organizing systems, artist Heather Barnett co-creates with physarum polycephalum, a eukaryotic microorganism that lives in cool, moist areas. What can people learn from the semi-intelligent slime mold? Watch this talk to find out.

TED: Shih Chieh Huang: Sculptures that’d be at home in the deep sea - Shih Chieh Huang (2014)

When he was young, artist Shih Chieh Huang loved taking toys apart and perusing the aisles of night markets in Taiwan for unexpected objects. Today, this TED Fellow creates madcap sculptures that seem to have a life of their own—with eyes that blink, tentacles that unfurl and parts that light up like bioluminescent sea creatures.

TED: Nikolai Begg: A tool to fix one of the most dangerous moments in surgery - Nikolai Begg (2013)

Surgeons are required every day to puncture human skin before procedures — with the risk of damaging what's on the other side. In a fascinating talk, find out how mechanical engineer Nikolai Begg is using physics to update an important medical device, called the trocar, and improve one of the most dangerous moments in many common surgeries.

© 2014   Created by FohBoh.

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service