Owning a restaurant can be challenging in a variety of ways. The industry is crowded, competitive and the profit margins can be razor thin. Entrepreneurs need every tool available to help them get an edge to compete.
Enter: the Canadian Restaurant Leadership Summit — a forum where Canada’s restaurant industry leaders, franchisors and suppliers can explore new ways for driving growth through innovation.
“We put the conference together to have one that was focused more on restaurants from an investment and innovation perspective,” explains Jacob Mancini, AVP, Restaurants, at CWB Franchise Finance. “Most of the other conferences out there are operations-driven, talking about food or service or how to run a restaurant.”
Fostering collaboration and networking among leaders
“It’s been building for many years, but I think this is by far our best turnout,” says Jacob. This year, over 300 attendees were on-site for the 10 presentations, panel discussions and breakout sessions. All of this collaboration gives franchisees and restaurateurs a great catalyst for learning and networking, the latter of which is lacking in other industry events according to Jacob.
“We wanted to bring a lot of senior level people together who are interested in talking about what’s going on in the industry,” he elaborates. “It’s a small industry and a lot of people already know of each other if they don’t already know each other, so this is a great way to get everyone together and talking.”
Eddie Tsang is a first-time attendee and CEO of Synergy Franchising, the master franchisee and developer for Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen in Northern Alberta. He agrees with the overall quality and value of the conference for both him and his team. “The calibre of the speakers and the networking opportunities were a huge draw for us and our team,” says Eddie.
Speaking to the calibre of the speakers this year, the keynote address was delivered by Manjit Minhas, the co-founder of Minhas Breweries & Distillery and a current star of the television program Dragon’s Den on CBC.
Getting the advantage from shared learning
But despite the quality of the speakers delivering the messages, it was the content of the information itself that held incredible value.
“It’s a hard industry,” says Jacob. “It’s labour intensive and extremely competitive.”
This means that any opportunity for owners to gain an edge is an incredible advantage. This year, much of the information was data-driven, giving attendees like Eddie great insight into both the industry and his own operations.
“I’m a data guy,” Eddie explains. “And the analytics that the Summit provided in some takeaways, the research they’ve done is really insightful.”
However, beyond the numbers, panels and guests, business at its roots always comes down to a face-to-face transactional experience. “We deal with a lot of people via email, but I always find value putting a face behind the name,” explains Eddie. “I get the most impact from conversations that are face-to-face as opposed to chain emails. That was huge value.”
“Sometimes we have blinders on,” Eddie continues. “We assess everything within our own business and kind of in a silo. And now, meeting other people in the industry gave us more perspective on how we’re doing in comparison to other people in our area. I found that really helpful.”
Helping owners like Eddie is the reason CWB Franchise Finance continues to build on the success of the Restaurant Summit event year over year. When Jacob looks to the future, he sees continued growth and success for both the event and its attendees. “It’s been building for many years, but this has been by far our best turnout,” he says.
“This event can be a great benefit to those in the industry. Things are moving and changing so quickly, so if you’re not at the front of it you’re already falling behind.”
“Our strategy has always been that we’re industry people first and organizing and presenting a conference like this is tremendously valuable for us, too,” says Jacob. “Other lenders in this space don’t have the ability or the contacts to execute this like we do."