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12 Must-Attend 2020 Conferences for Restaurant Executives

12 Must-Attend Events in 2020

Restaurant conferences are alive and well – and more necessary than ever.

Front- and back-of-house automation, delivery and labor challenges, and massive changes in consumer mobile-local search behaviors all require you to re-think operations and marketing.

Even if you regularly consume trade and business media, you’ll only discover new ways to compete and grow by showing up at these major events where solutions come to life – literally.

Conferences offer unique benefits:

  • Trend tracking. You’ll get insights into where consumers are heading and how you can transform your business to stay one step ahead of demographic shifts and tastes.
  • A preview of new products, services, and technologies.
  • Best practices insights and solutions from other foodservice and hospitality brands facing some of the same challenges you are.
  • Exposure for your own brand as thought leaders. Taking the stage at an event or sponsoring a session can help garner media exposure or attract new talent.

Just as some restaurants are large and bustling with vast menus and others are cozy and intimate, different conferences offer varied experiences for attendees. Attending a diverse mix provides you with a broad and deep perspective. Although some of the faces you see will be familiar, you’ll also meet newcomers and hear about the people and technologies that are shaping and disrupting our industry.

MomentFeed’s “Top 12” 2020 list comprises both restaurant-specific events and cross-industry events that will transform your thinking about tomorrow’s consumers and how to market to them.

Mega Events

Consider these the “Disneylands” of the conference world. Use the event apps in advance to map out your time and schedule meetings. But walking the trade show aisles and can also lead to unexpected discoveries and experiences.

National Restaurant Association
May 16th-19th, McCormack Place, Chicago

Why? A high-level overview of where the industry is heading, it’s filled with technology demos, new food products, equipment, and a new beverage showcase. It’s always well-attended by media. See MEG, below too.

June 22nd to 25th, Enercare Centre, Toronto

Why? 1,600+ CEOS, 1,300+ journalists, and 30,000 attendees from over the globe “collide to speak about innovation and disruption. The exhibits change daily and most of the sessions are only about 20 minutes long. Great ideas can come from any industry.

Collaborative Think Tanks

Meet your peers and the up-and-coming leaders and the brands that partner with them.

Restaurant Leadership Conference
March 22nd to 25th, Marriott Desert Ridge Resort & Spa, Phoenix

Why? This invitation-only gathering draws C-level executives from major restaurant chains. Celebrity entertainment and thought-provoking keynotes abound.

Restaurant Franchising & Innovation Summit
March 16th to 18th, Westin Buckhead, Atlanta

Why? Franchises face unique challenges and with close to 200,000 units in the U.S., executives need to innovate in order to compete. You’ll hear from new and established brands and investors

Marketing Executives Group (MEG)
May 13th to 15th, Revel Fulton Market, Chicago

Why? This elite group is connected year-round but gathers annually to tackle the unique challenges restaurant marketers face. It precedes the National Restaurant Association Show.

Fast Casual Executive Summit
October 18th to 20th, Westin, Charlotte, North Carolina

Why? Exclusively for top-level executives in the fast-casual industry, the format allows for informal discussions and new connections.

Boutique & Specialty Events

Whether you’re exploring a new food category or need more cost-effective solutions to talent challenges, you’ll find targeted ideas in these intimate (but no less substantial) events.

Multi-Unit Food Service Operators Conference (MUFSO)
September 28th to 30th, Sheraton Denver Downtown

Why? It features a wide range of conference sessions for chain brands, as well as a well-curated show floor and an inside view of the Denver food scene.

Restaurant Directions
July 12th to 20th, Austin, Texas

Why? This is the event for regional and emerging restaurant chains looking to take their business to the next level. A small and focused gathering, it’s ideal for newcomers and investors.

International Pizza Expo
March 31st to April 2nd, Las Vegas

Why? The first restaurant category to embrace technology-assisted food prep and delivery, the pizza industry is still a source of new ideas. The event includes education, experiences, and competitions.

Consider too specific food and beverage events like The Fancy Food Show, Expo East & West, The Nightclub & Bar Show, the Snacks & Sweets Expo, Catersource, and local/regional events.

Consumer Trends

LSA Localogy, 2 events: Localogy 2020 and Localogy Place

Why? Local restaurant search using mobile devices and voice search is the new normal and big brands find themselves competing with small local businesses for share of device. The Local Search Organization (LSA) gives you insights into how to navigate the rapidly-changing local search world.

Interactive Customer Experience (ICX) Summit
June 3rd to 5th, Columbus, Ohio

Why? Leaders from both the restaurant and retail arenas reveal the technologies and touchpoints that lead to growth. Major brands and technology providers attend.

Future Festival
various dates and regions

Why? Major consumer brands like Google, Universal, and Budweiser share cutting-edge perspectives on tastes and behaviors

Although we’ve limited this list to 12 worthwhile events, many more exist. Whichever you attend, be sure you:

  • Have solid strategic objectives for your attendance
  • Bring the right team members with you
  • Download the event app to facilitate planning (but leave free time for exploration)
  • Capitalize on media attendance and look for opportunities to build your own brand’s and executive team’s reputation
  • Share your learning with your team and use what you’ve learned to grow your business

The team from MomentFeed will be attending some of these events! Please get in touch to schedule a time to set-up a personal meeting.

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