The 3rd Annual Fast Casual Trends & Directions Conference Will Kick Off May 16 in Chicago

The fast casual segment of the restaurant industry has become the fastest growing, and with a new wave of super quality product, it will only continue to innovate. In order to stay ahead of the curve in all aspects — from technology to ingredients to consumer trends — there’s no better resource than the annual Fast Casual Trends & Directions Conference. This year, as a bonus, Pro Football Hall of Famer Marcus Allen will be featured as a speaker.

Kicking off its third year in Chicago on May 16, 2014 at The Ritz-Carlton, the conference — an invite-only event hosted by the National Restaurant Association, in partnership with DigitalCoCo and Technomic — provides C-level fast casual executives with a comprehensive outlook on the future of fast casual, as well as its current state.

“This segment is the future of how innovation in the restaurant business will happen. The [NRA’s] Fast Casual Industry Council provides a vehicle for like-minded fast casual innovators to come together for the sharing of ideas, but most of all, to forge relationships that can help the segment become the leader for upgrading the restaurant industry to adapt to the modern day food consumer,” said Paul Barron, CEO and Founder of DigitalCoCo.

Aside from being a great networking resource with key fast casual players in attendance, the Fast Casual Trends & Directions Conference will be a platform for industry experts to delve into detailed data on fast casual trends, consumer trends, insights, and foodservice knowledge.

“Executives in attendance will have access to exclusive research findings and information and leave with a competitive edge in the marketplace,” said Technomic EVP Darren Tristano.

This year, the conference will be sponsored by PepsiCo Foodservice and Primary Color.

For more information on the event, including agenda details and speakers, please click here.

Also, be sure to check out Fast Casual Trends TV, which includes some exclusive footage from last year's event.

Tales from a Former Server: Creating a Guest Experience (Or, Smile Damnit — You're on Stage!)

Tales from a Former Server: Creating a Guest Experience (Or, Smile Damnit — You're on Stage!)

By an Anonymous Former Server, as part of our new 'Tales from a Former Server' column

I’m just going to preface the following post with this: I am a service snob. You’d think, having been in the biz for so long, that I would give my servers the benefit of the doubt. But it’s actually quite the opposite: I expect a $hit ton from you. Why? Because I’ve been there, done that, and let me tell you: it’s seriously not that hard. This is especially true if you’ve worked at a place for more than a year. The menu hardly changes (unless you work at one of those finicky we-change-our-menu-all-the-time places, for which I feel sorry for you because daaaaamn, that’s a lot of memorizing), and your script should be the same for every single table. 

Nothing irks me more than a server who does not provide an experience. I once had a boss put this into perspective for me. He said, “This may be just another shift for you, but for your guests this is a birthday, an anniversary, an experience. So remember that you are on stage and go put on one hell of a performance.”

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From Farm to Fork: The Urban Farming Movement

Photo Credit: BBC News

Photo Credit: BBC News

The newest buzzword in the foodservice industry? Sustainability. With over 7 billion people on this planet, today's top chefs and restaurateurs are desperately seeking for a solution to make up for the limited availability of agricultural land and the logistical issues of transporting food over large distances.  

Many are turning to the root - no pun intended - of the problem, and are beginning to feed themselves by bringing farms into their cities.

In this 7-minute video, Journalist Adam Shaw of BBC News travels to New York, where he meets some of the pioneers of urban farming. A commercial organic farm that uses traditional agricultural methods, but is located on the roof of a six-story block in the shadow of the Empire State Building? It exists. As does the hope of creating a radical approach to growing food in cities through a multi-storied skyscraper farm. Read More