Nuggets of Knowledge: 2019 ICSC Food for Thought Recap


Nuggets of Knowledge: 2019 ICSC Food for Thought Recap

May 1, 2019

Last week, we touched down in the land of Creole cuisine for ICSC’s Food for Thought conference to join leading industry experts eager to share what’s happening in the food and beverage industry.

Jason Kastner, Director of Real Estate at Sweetgreen, and Andrew McCaughan, Vice President of Development at Shake Shack, spoke about the importance of convenience and technology in the food and beverage industry. As experts from two groundbreaking tech-forward companies in the fast-casual industry, they provided key insights about revolutionizing the ordering and pickup process. Customers are demanding conveniences like digitized ordering counters, ordering and payment apps, pick-up windows, and drive-through lanes.

Paul Brown, CEO of Inspire Brands (who owns Arby’s, Buffalo Wild Wings, and Sonic), talked about Arby’s longtime slogan “Arby’s. We have the meats.” As younger generations are consuming less meat, they’re not as drawn to Arby’s signature roast beef as older Arby’s consumers. Brown spoke about repositioning the company in an effort to draw younger consumers to its restaurants using sandwich offerings other than roast beef. Its latest campaign pokes fun at how “the last time you went to Arby’s, you were with your grandparents who exclusively ate roast beef, somehow, for every meal.”

In the “Food Fight” debate, panelists were given a position on current food and beverage topics to determine if trends were passé or here to stay, as the audience chimed in through Twitter polls. Debator Melina Cordero, CBRE’s Global Head of Research, stunned the crowd with her expertise on trending food and beverage topics along with James Cook, JLL’s Americas Director of Retail Research. Their lively debate determined that food halls are not a fad and contribute a great gathering place to the community. The debate touched on the trend of fast-casual restaurants, which were predicted to stay but evolve into new variations. It’s no surprise that the debate determined that restaurant automation is here to stay. Tech advancements in restaurant automation will only get better, leaving room for employees to provide the human touch of hospitality that consumers appreciate.

In true New Orleans fashion, the entire conference strutted in a second line parade, dancing through the streets from the Roosevelt Hotel to Pythian Market behind an exuberant brass band. And of course, it wouldn’t be a New Orleans trip without noshing on legendary fried chicken at Willie Mae’s and beignets at Café Du Monde before paying a visit to boozy Bourbon Street.

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By The Streetsense Collective