What a difference a year makes, or even just a few months. Few who attended FS/TEC 2008 could have foreseen the convulsive change the U.S. economy would undergo in the year to come, or its potential impact on their businesses or, for that matter, the entire playing field.
It’s a story that continues to unfold as restaurateurs find themselves contending with higher operating costs, slimmer margins, and the unhappy prospect of the cash-strapped American consumer. As they converge on Orlando, Florida’s Orange County Convention Center on February 4–7, attendees of FS/TEC 2009 will be seeking software solutions to a host of new challenges, even as they seek to address legacy issues ranging from PCI compliance and inventory controll to labor management and scheduling.
It’s a small coincidence that this year’s event is dedicated to “Keeping Cool When the Heat Is On” and, as in years past, attendees and exhibitors alike will be seeking relief with ICE, meaning Integration, Communication, and Efficiency.
All three are essential to thriving in times of economic distress, say members of FS/TEC’s advisory board, which counts IT executives, consultants, and academics among its ranks. In particular, members say, operators must find more profitable ways to capture, integrate, and transmit critical data across the entire enterprise.
Now that FS/TEC is running concurrently with NAFEM, an event focused on equipment, look for those efforts to extend to the kitchen in order to enhance energy management, portion control, and food safety, among other concerns.
Also look for operators to tap into emerging technologies to step up their marketing efforts, whether via text-messaging or digital signage.
And that’s just the exhibit floor. Along with vendors previewing their wares—or software, as the case may be—expect plenty of discussion at educational sessions dedicated to social networking; hand-held and wireless marketing; and supply-chain management.
To gain a better sense of what FS/TEC 2009 will offer, we asked members of the event’s advisory board to offer insight.
We’ll be seeing and hearing more about PCI—more especially payment security. Everything needs to be secured, networks included.
Another issue of interest is digital drive-thru displays. One advantage is that operators can quickly change the signage in accordance with each daypart. Digital also allows operators to use displays as a marketing tool—specifically to configure signage into something much more alluring than a standard menu. Digital is costlier to implement than a standard display, but let’s not forget there is the potential for a proportionately higher return on the initial investment. We’re beginning to see more and more digital displays abroad, and I suspect it won’t be long before we see more of them here.