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Future Growth: ICR Conference 2019

Jan 17, 2019

RTS Partners Fred LeFranc, Jim Greco and David Farkas attended this week’s ICR Conference at the J.W. Marriott Grand Lakes Hotel in Orlando and listened as several dozen restaurant and tech companies presented facts and figures regarding their future growth plans. As usual, nearly every presentation was upbeat and focused on strategies geared to adding or acquiring units, improving operations and making better use of capital allocation.

Dave & Buster’s Entertainment’s new vice president of food-and-beverage, for example, added a new burger and chicken sandwich while increasing the speed service. “We understand people equate sped of service with quality,” said CEO Brian Jenkins, adding this year’s “key areas of focus” include the front desk, bar and dining rooms. The chain’s new concept, T&T Taco, which debuted in a Dallas D&B location last year, will be tested in other units in 2019.

Below is a brief rundown of several other presentations. (For more information regarding the ICR Conference, visit ICR’s website.)

Chipotle Mexican Grills presentation generated lots of interest given the company’s recent momentum (share price has swelled nearly 20 percent since January 1). Delivery is top of mind among company executives, who expect delivery will eventually add incremental sales. Today’s AUVs are $2.0 million, they said. Delivery along with improved marketing campaigns, faster throughput and effective pricing strategies could return AUVs to pre-food-poisoning levels of $2.5 million, according to CEO Brian Niccol.

Here are Chipotle’s main tactics for driving units sales.

True Food Kitchen CEO Christine Barone (below) explained how the 25-unit chain, which promotes a healthy lifestyles, will open more restaurants across the country in the years to come. This year, for example, she expects to add six to 10 restaurants. “All the leases signed, and we will open the first in Austin in February. We have a full pipeline for 2020, and we are starting fill the pipeline for 2021,” she said.

The restaurants run 6,500 square feet and ring up an average $7.0 million on average. Some restaurants, she added, even hold yoga classes.

Barone said True Food Kitchen’s customer base skews toward higher income, well-educated females. “If I’m a [shopping center] developer, I want [restaurants] who bring in shoppers,” she declared, boasting that the restaurants “have has many customers as a Starbucks on a daily basis.”

Christine BaroneTrue Food Kitchen CEO, talks about growth plans for the lifestyle brand.

Denny’s CEO John Miller announced the 1,600-unit family-dining chain will continue refranchsing restaurants by making from 90 to 125 units available to new and existing franchisees. In so doing, he hopes Denny’s can trim costs by as much as $10 million. He estimated the EBITDA multiples for the restaurants would be in the 4x-5x range.

Miller’s ultimate goal, he added, is to “deliver a differentiated brand, consistently operate great restaurants, grow globally and drive profitable growth for all stakeholders.

Denny’s CEO John Miller explained the chain is embarking on a refranchsing effort to make the franchisor even more asset-light.

On the tech front, Yumpingo Founder and CEO (and RTS friend) Gary Goodman (below) used a series of testimonial videos to demonstrate how the restaurant intelligence platform provides real-time insight into what customers thought of their dining experience. The UK-based company’s include Mitchells & Butlers, Jamie’s Italian, Bill’s and Wahaca — and recently signed a stateside agreement with TGI Fridays.

Restaurants using the technology invite seated customers to spend one minute answering questions about their experience — food first and then service. Goodman maintains that “50-66 percent take part in a review.”

In one of the videos a restaurant owner says he would recommend Yumpingo “to anyone who is willing to hear the truth.”

RTS friend and Yumpingo Founder and CEO Gary Goodman

If you’d like help boosting sales and profits in your restaurants, please let us know. We’d be happy to discuss approaches and solutions with you. Please call 888–812–2150 or email RTS Founder Fred LeFranc at


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