Leadership in the Restaurant Industry is Inspiring!

As Founder and CEO at MonkeyMedia Software and the MMS Catering Institute, I get to spend my time learning from great leaders in the restaurant industry.  I am so inspired by the passion, diligence and resilience of the great people that are responsible for today’s stewardship of the restaurant industry.

I am so grateful the the many supporters of this project, and our plan to donate this legacy story to the industry as an education piece is well on track.  Check out Back To Basics.

Check out this podcast with Nate Riggs from Last week;


Also, check out these great photos from the project so far with Ron Shaich, Ed Rensi, Darren Tristano and Matthew Corrin.  Later in the year, we will be filming with Kat Cole, Dawn Sweeney, Paul Mangiamele,  Jim Vinz, Al Bhakta, Ari Weinzweig and Jon Luther Sr.

Thank you to everyone who is supporting this project!

Mike Tyler getting his camera ready!
Matthew Corrin, CEO at Freshii getting ready for his segment.
Don Fox, CEO at Firehouse Subs shares is most regrettable Leadership Moment.



Saying thank you to Ron Shaich, Founder and CEO at Panera Bread after his very generous interview.
Darren Tristano, VP at Technomics, giving us an analysts perspective.


Ed Rensi
Ed Rensi, CEO at Famous Dave’s and Retired CEO of McDonald’s sharing great stories.


Rob Grimes – A Leader and Visionary for Technology in Foodservice


Next week in Miami, our industry’s best technology companies will be gathering for the resurgence of FSTEC NexGen from September 9th to 12th.

I am really looking forward to this conference.  My reasons are personal.  But I’ll save that detail for later in this post.

This year, the roster is impressive. The topics are relevant, thoughtful and objective.

How could you go wrong with an advisory board that includes the likes of Jeff Chasney (CKE Restaurants), Amy Cross (Aramark), Lori Kittle (Landry Restaurants), Kelly Maddern (Burger King), Patty Reilly White (Darden), Steve Schell (Starbucks), Shell Theiss (Papa John’s), Don Vietti (Carlson Worldwide), Rob Watkins (Compass Group), David Weick (McDonald’s), Don Zimmerman (Wendy’s), Ron Blum (Johnson Wales University), Cihan Cobanoglu (University of South Florida), Fred DeMicco (University of Deleware), Mehmet Erdhem (UNLV), Joe Finizio (RSPA), Cathy Hotka (Hotka and Associates), Mike Jarvis (Chain Store Guide), Mike Kasavana (Michigan State), Alan Liddle (NRN), Pete Nyheim (Penn State), Ron Paul (Technomic), Peter Romeo (VP Content Services CSPnet), and Greg Sanders (QSR Magazine).

What a great, smart and amazing group of people.

This conference is all made possible by a very important man in our community.  His name?  Rob Grimes.

Rob is a visionary.  A true leader.  Sure, he’s had his “ups and downs”.  But what amazing leader hasn’t?  I know I’ve had mine!

Rob’s dedication to our industry is not to be taken for granted.  He builds communities, pushes innovation and works hard to bring high quality technology practices into our community.

Rob, I want to thank you this year on behalf of the entire technology community for working so hard to bring your FSTEC vision back to life.  I look forward to seeing you in Miami.

Oh, don’t let me forget the “personal reason”.  About 7 years ago, as MonkeyMedia Software was growing out of my deli, I attended the NRA in Chicago.  On that trip, I heard about a dinner that was being hosted by Rob Grimes called the FSTEC Dinner.  At that time, my company was small and under the radar.  With typical entrepreneurial style, I snuck into the dinner!  Rob was kind and although I was not supposed to be there, he cut me some slack.  Rob, I am grateful for that opportunity.  Thank you for not kicking me out on the curb!

Today, MonkeyMedia Software is proud to be an exhibitor and supporter of Rob’s vision.  Our company has grown ten fold in the last 7 years and we need these venues to make ourselves better.  If we are to be global leaders for technology in the space where our customers “Feed their customers where they Live, Work & Play”, we need guidance from true professionals like Rob.

Rob, thanks for all you do!  See you next week!  If you are reading this, and you can make your way to Miami for this conference, I think it would be a great investment to help stay on top of the latest technology toys to help you grow your business.


Blown away by the quality of leadership in our multi-unit restaurant community

Last week in Scottsdale, Arizona I had the good fortune of attending the Restaurant Leadership Conference for 2012. I had so much fun, especially with sharing my dream about Ray Kroc in this Video!  For those of you that missed it, just before the Bill Strickland presentation, I’ll share it here just for fun.  I’ll come back to Bill Strickland in a bit.

So, I have to say, that I am blown away by our community!  Really blown away! I think many of the attendees were.  And so, as I returned to Vancouver, It really got me thinking.  I mean, REALLY got me thinking.

Here’s the thing.  Of the 30% of attendees that I was lucky enough to meet, to greet and to make some acquaintance,  I felt that the quality of the our conversations were insightful, optimistic, kind and generous.   Those conversations were a gift for me on a personal level.  These gatherings are so important for all of us, because the food business is about people.  Making connections.  Intellectual, spiritual and emotional.  It’s just about the people.

So I started thinking more about that.  I really started to zero in on the quality of the  Keynote Speakers this year. Not that previous years have been anything to sneeze at; but this year, it was different.

Indra K. Nooyi, Chairman and CEO, PepsiCo 

Joshua Olshansky Managing Director and Head of Consumer Retail Practice, Golden Gate Capital

Herman Cain Former President/CEO of Godfather’s Pizza, Former Chairman, NRA

Howard Stoeckel CEO, Wawa Inc.

Ronald M. Shaich Founder and Executive Chairman of the Board Panera Bread

Edward H. Rensi Former President & CEO, McDonald’s USA; Co-operator, Tom & Eddie’s.  

Seeing that this was a Leadership conference, I studied these leaders.  I observed, I listened and I learned.  I saw how each of them really connects with their audience when they are speaking.  They spoke with high energy, intense belief and a passion towards a higher purpose in their work.  It was fascinating for me to watch.  I was mesmerized.  Impressed.  And most of all, I was learning.  

“That’s it!”, I thought to myself.  “It’s the learning!  The intellectual connections!  The idea of advancement!  Of making our industry better, so we, as people can be better!”.  Well, at least that was part of it for me.

So I started thinking more about that. 

Then I thought about the followers under these great leaders and within that following is yet even more leadership.  As a matter of fact, each facet of our business operations needs to have solid leadership.  And so, I started to wonder where exactly that begins and ends, from an organizational perspective.

Then I thought to myself that not all people can be or even want to be leaders.  Or do they?  I mean, if leadership remains a key theme throughout the entire culture of our organizations, then clearly if we can be leaders in our markets, then all of the people who work for us will feel like leaders.  So, it’s not necessarily about individuals as much as it is about whole organizations, industry’s and communities.

I want to call out two particular things I learned from the conference.

1.  Ron Shaich spoke on the topic of Conscious Capitalism.  Ron’s message struck me hard.  It’s brilliant and he has taken this perspective and applied it to the Panera Cares concept.  Here is a video that I found on Ron’s fantastic and creative effort towards making a difference in the communities he serves.

When I heard this perspective, I felt like I was watching a master, an artist.  I was watching a man that had so much trust in the human spirit, that he risked his neck on a new idea.  One that everyone called crazy.  And guess what?  It’s working.  The communities are embracing this new economic model and while that is happening, less privileged people are eating great food at Panera.  Getting respect and the end result is that these communities are healthier and those that are suffering from hunger, are getting food.  This approach to our community issues is not only brilliant, it serves shareholders as well.  This presentation really blew me away at the conference.

2.  The second most important presentation for me was from Bill Strickland.  Bill was so effective in his presentation, that he had most of the room shedding tears.  Why?  Because of his authenticity in his mission and his ability to connect with the human emotion.  For those of you that missed Bill’s presentation, I am including a clip that I found.  

I was so moved by Bill Strickland’s work, that I decided to learn more about his education perspectives.  He is building a facility in Vancouver and my plan is to get involved, from the beginning.  To bring purpose to others, to wake with intention and to be involved in impacting the human emotion in a positive and purposeful way.  

I took away a feeling of hope from these speakers.  That in fact, we can do more in our professional careers to make a difference.  To really make the world a better place instead of just living to increase shareholder value.  I love that idea.  Build it and they will come.  If you look after your customers, and you create the right environment, behaviour will change.  Profits?  Well, according to Ron and Bill, if you don’t focus on them, and you just focus on your “higher purpose” as an organization, the money will come.

I woke up very grateful to these two leaders today.  I want to thank them both for the gift they gave me in Scottsdale last week.  I encourage each of you to learn more from these great human beings.