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Where Geeks Always Rule: The Coolest Session At MURTEC 2019

It’s hard to believe Hospitality Technology’s MURTEC was just last week (hello, whirlwind!), where we officially launched the Restaurant Technology Network (RTN), a new membership community dedicated to innovation in restaurants. We took to the stage to share RTN with a record-breaking packed house of nearly 900 technology executives from quick-service restaurants, fast casual, full-service and upstart brands - as well as some of the most innovative technology company brands on the planet. And it was very cool.

In fact, Drew Lentz, a wireless solutions architect in the enterprise managed services industry who blogs about wireless technology on social media @wirelessnerd and on wrote, “One of the coolest things I got to see launch at this event (MURTEC) was the Restaurant Technology Network …You have scores of companies all trying to do almost the exact same thing… except everyone is forging their own way. This group aims to change that by putting together thought groups from the industry to determine what the main problems to solve are, and find out what similarities exist in affecting change.” Why, thank you, Wireless Nerd. We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.  

Workgroup Think-Tanks

The session that really stuck with me was“Meet RTN and Help Mold Workgroups that Work,” that took place on March 12th, hosted by Patrick Dunphy, CIO at HTNG (Hospitality Technology Next Generation). HTNG knows a thing or two about workgroups, which are industry think-tanks that bring the brightest minds in technology together, both from the operator and the supplier side - to tackle pain points and publish best practices and standards. HTNG has been hosting its own workgroups for nearly two decades for the hotel industry, and they’ve published 150+ industry standards, some of which are used every time a reservation is booked. Pretty impressive, huh? We think so! That’s why we’re replicating HTNG’s successful model, and we’re lucky to have them heavily involved in the formation, facilitation and execution of RTN’s workgroups. In other words, they’ve got our backs. They’ll keep the conversations productive, and keep the groups on task. Dunphy commented, “The people in the room that day were there to participate in a strategic discussion on the top technology issues facing restaurants today, and we are looking forward to solving these issues with thought leaders and RTN members over the coming months.”

Hungry for Change

The session was open to all, and packed with a healthy mix of restaurant operator and supplier company technical talent. We had nearly 120 people in that room, all of whom came to the table hungry for change. We couldn’t circulate the microphones fast enough, as these executives eagerly spilled out industry challenges to like-minds during a free-form discussion to kick-off the session. Dan Linker, Director Technical Sales, QSR Automations (founding RTN member shout-out!) commented, “It was encouraging to see the number of participants that attended the group’s inaugural workgroup session on Tuesday. The fact that so many that attended expressed similar concerns and challenges speaks to the need for and value of a group like this in our industry.”    

After the initial brainstorm discussion, participants were shuffled around into random groups. Each table discussed individual pain points and created group consensus around the most pressing issues. The groups then shared so many compelling topics, by the end of the workgroup session we had a huge wall of sticky notes filled with challenges. The enthusiasm in the room was contagious; we walked away knowing we were onto something big.

Sticky Situations

When the session ended, here’s what “stuck” (literally, like to the wall):

Universal and standardized APIs
Standardize the RFI / RFP process for equipment & services
Standard integration formats between POS - BOH - Payroll / Finance
Standard reporting platform
Standard customer record and its privacy
Integration with third-party platforms for delivery
Securing quality and security when it comes to food delivery
Common schema for online order integration
Security standards & practices
Deployment HW + SW + Patching
Legal compliance without timely audits
Connectivity best practices - How much bandwidth per store?
Seal of approval - system certification process
Training standards
Aging workforce - how to reorganize efficiently

Great Minds Think Alike

“I appreciated the opportunity to be in the room with so many operators at once, directly hearing their common pain points,” said Joshua Nord, VP of Software Development at QSR Automations. “If they can coalesce on the specific challenges they are facing, they have a lot of power as a group to affect change within the industry. I am excited as a solutions provider to work together through those discussions and help design processes and standards that benefit operators, vendors, and ultimately the restaurant guest.”

Tamy Duplantis, CIO, Return on Information Consulting and member of RTN Board of Governors, told us the biggest pain point she deals with is when big POS vendors “hold customers hostage” by requiring the use of their own stack of systems, making it virtually impossible to integrate with other solutions in the industry (like PCI payment providers, back office systems and catering systems). She wants to see this turn around, and for suppliers to do what’s in the best interest of the customer. 

Ready to Roll

Personally speaking as the worker bee behind building RTN, the session was hugely validating. The industry is ready for this. So ready, in fact, that the industry’s most talented technologists are willing to devote time and resources to participating in workgroups to bring about positive change that moves us collectively forward.

Joe Tenczar, co-founder of Restaurant CIOs, technology lead for Sonny’s BBQ and a member of RTN’s Board of Governors, was also in the room. He commented, “RTN workgroups are an essential part of moving the restaurant industry forward. With so much riding on the ever-increasing value of data in restaurants, it is awesome that we can all unite on the issues preventing information from flowing without friction. Whether that be technology standards, or just the way we come together conceptually as thought leaders, these workgroups are platforms for making the restaurant technology world a much better place.” 

In It To Win It

So who’s in it to win it so far? Founding restaurant member companies include Bloomin’ BrandsCali GroupCKE RestaurantsSonny’s BBQStackedTAO Group and  TGI Fridays. Founding supplier member companies are Comcast BusinessEpson AmericaOracleParTech and Revel Systems at Platinum; QSR Automations and  Qu at Gold; Intel and  Restaurant365 at Silver; and Tabit as a Start-up company member. Affiliate members include Return on Information Consulting, Restaurant CIOs and  Results Thru Strategy.

We’re welcoming new restaurants and suppliers as fast as we can get the word out. If you’ve read this far, RTN is probably your tribe. If there’s an issue on the list above you’d like to see solved, or if you’re experiencing a challenge not yet on the list, you need a voice at the “let’s-fix-this” table.

Last, but not least! At RTN, we believe in giving credit where credit is due. For far too long, this industry’s most talented technologists have been quietly and consistently working their magic in the background, plugging away to customize solutions and innovative inside their own organizations without much exposure to the industry at large. In workgroups, we are confident that technology talent will rise to the top, and we want to recognize those who stay the course and do the work. We will ask workgroup chairs to present findings, best practices and standards on stage at next year’s MURTEC, as well as enjoy the spotlight in press announcements and inside the pages of Hospitality Technology magazine, and on the RTN website and inside the community itself. 

Pull Up A Chair

 Will your company participate in workgroups, lending your voice and expertise to the industry’s next “big fix”? We hope to see you front and center at the head of the table, as a member of RTN - where geeks always rule!


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