Restaurant Leadership Conference 2022: What You Missed + Need to Know

Article contributed by David “Rev” Ciancio

The Restaurant Leadership Conference just concluded in Scottsdale, AZ. Winsight, the company behind the event described it as “RLC is the home for restaurant executives to hone their leadership skills, discuss solutions to industry challenges, and connect with other senior leadership..”

Food service executives and suppliers come together for a few days to meet, learn and exchange ideas about what is working, what changes are on the horizon and what can we all do together to advance the business. I love the Restaurant Leadership Conference because it’s a little smaller, it’s a little more slower paced and its focused on both inspirational growth at the top level as well as tactical insights on how to advance your business.

For those that attended there was a lot to gain and I’m happy to share some of my key takeaways to help inspire your growth:


In nearly every single panel and presentation in some way or another, growth is tied to innovation from technology. From the C-Suite to the kitchen, we need to lean into tech that helps us to make better decisions, help our teams to be more efficient and to enhance the guest experience.


As an industry, we’ve been increasingly talking about getting more personalized in our marketing by analyzing our guest data, segmenting based on behavior and using triggered marketing to send “the right message at the right time.”

But Paul Brown, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Inspire Brands framed in a different way that really got me thinking. If you know your customer target, you can better market to them and enhance their experience. You can’t know your target without analytics and tech. So the more you know about your guest, the more defined you can understand your target.

Look at Arby’s as an example, they know exactly who is their ideal customer profile and speak directly to them.

BOTTOM LINE: GET A CDP AND START ANALYZING YOUR GUESTS! At Handcraft Burgers and Brew, we use Bikky and we love it.


I said this after the Bar & Restaurant Expo as well, but it bares repeating. The numbers clearly show that more and more guests want to order ahead and pick up their order. According to research by Epsilon, there was an 11% increase in pickup orders in 2021. That means we need to optimize the pickup experience.

Brisket sandwich platterDATA BACKED DECISION MAKING

No decisions should be made without some level of insight gained by understanding your numbers, and not just sales! We must become data obsessed if we want to continue to overcome challenges.


When analyzing our data, we need to look at all the data, not just sales.

One of my favorite examples came from a panel on Limited Time Offers (LTOs:) if you only base the performance of an LTO on how it sold, you’re missing the full story. What about engagement on social media, the lifetime value of guests who buy LTOs, awareness from press, etc.

It is the responsibility of marketing to help the organization understand the value of brand efforts outside of sales.


If the pandemic has taught us anything, other than QR codes are back, as an industry, we need to lean into flexibility and transformation. Supply chain, labor shortage, work from home … we are in a moment of flux and the better we are riding waves, the more successful we will be over time!


I was surprised to not see or hear anyone talking about web 3.0. I think NFTs, Crypto and the blockchain in general are becoming more and more mainstream. I was expecting to start the conversation as an industry at this show. Maybe aren’t even in the first inning yet!

If you were at RLC, what did you learn? Thanks for reading to the bottom. You are my favorite and that’s why I take the time to write and share this kind of info … I’m here to help you. Connect with me on Instagram or LinkedIn if you have any questions!

David Rev CiancioDavid “Rev” Ciancio is a former New York City bar owner and knows exactly how hard it is to operate and brand a hospitality business.

He is now a hospitality marketing consultant, customer and technology evangelist with more than 20 years experience in B2B digital marketing and business development, specializing in hospitality marketing, content, local SEO, reputation management and influencer marketing. He helps technology companies, brands and restaurants to acquire and retain customers. Rev is known as an “expert burger taster,” pens hospitality and marketing tips on his Instagram @revciancio, as well as his LinkedIn Profile. He believes that Pizza is a religion. Learn more at