3 Chains Rewriting the Restaurant Playbook at MUFSO

MUFSOJust like every other industry, the winners in the restaurant world are the businesses that can innovate. And not the kind of innovation that involves whipping up a new dipping sauce, but the innovative spirit that looks at the market, their stores, and their customers and says, “Let’s do even better.”

For nearly 60 years, MUFSO has been bringing together innovative executives from chain restaurants all over the nation, from the big names that dot the interstates to emerging brands hungry for market share. Here are three chains you’ll meet at MUFSO who we think are rewriting the restaurant playbook when it comes to employee culture, entertainment, and brand revitalization.

Shake Shack

In 2012, CEO Randy Garutti said Shake Shack wanted to embrace the concept of “enlightened hospitality” espoused by Danny Meyer by putting employees first. The chain created a work culture that encourages “championship performance” with wages over the federal minimum, health insurance after 90 days of work, and a matched 401(k) program. In addition to generous benefits, Shake Shack’s “Shacksperience” road map focuses on opportunities for training and promotion from within.

Garutti says rejecting existing restaurant wisdom was a guiding principle in the founding of Shake Shack: “But we kept asking the question, ‘Who wrote that rule?’ We posed that question on everything we did.”

Hear more from CEO Randy Garutti at MUFSO’s CEO Panel.

Dave & Buster’s

At Dave & Buster’s, a focus on entertainment — or more accurately, “eatertainment” — has led to continued robust sales and growth. “We lead with amusement … It is a point of differentiation for us and is the focus of our advertising,” CEO Steve King said in a June earnings call. The chain has also leveraged mobile phones to draw customers back into the arcade: Game apps like “Big Bass Wheel” and “Speed of Light” let customers win points that they can later redeem in-store.

Dave & Buster’s leads NRN’s Top 100 list of chains with $11.7 million in ESPU. And only 45% of their revenue can be attributed to food and drink; 55% is generated by arcade games like Super Shot basketball, Skee-Ball, and 5-foot-tall Rock ’em, Sock ’em Robots. We’d call that a surprise knockout.

Hear more from CEO Steve King at MUFSO’s CEO Panel.


As of August 2017, Fazoli’s has posted 17 consecutive quarters of same-store sales growth. Small changes helped them achieve this impressive feat: Fazoli’s switched from plastic plates to china and silverware, and ditched pagers in favor of delivering food to the table. These changes, along with others such as eliminating artificial ingredients, have given the chain a new image as a fast-casual destination with affordable food. “”I arrogantly and confidently say, ‘No one can do what we do at the $7.50 price point’,” CEO Carl Howard said.

Hear more about Fazoli’s story at MUFSO’s Nation’s Restaurant News Top 200 Turnaround Stories session.

Marketing Vitals can help your chain rewrite the playbook too, with tools that give you deep insight into your business, incentivize desired staff and customer behaviors, and grow exponentially. See why 100+ restaurants around the world already trust us to deliver on-target business intelligence: Request a free demo today.

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