Another June means another American Express Restaurant Trade Program—an annual feature of the Aspen FOOD & WINE Classic. In its 27th year, the Restaurant Trade Program gives attendees a chance to swap business ideas, discuss growth strategies, and talk about industry trends, as well as strengthening peer relationships.
Panels in this year’s event include one on how technology is impacting the restaurant industry, how mentors play a role in the development of new restaurants and emerging chefs, and how current economic trends and shifting consumer tastes are affecting restaurants.
In advance of the event, American Express conducted a survey of more than 500 restaurants across the country, asking industry leaders’ opinions about topics scheduled to come up at the conference.
Majority of restaurant operators feeling optimistic
The survey found that more than 70% of restaurant owners feel good about where their business will go over the next six months. Thirty-nine percent said the economy will improve during that time, and 32% said that no matter what the economy does, their business would grow.
As for technology and food, 87% of those surveyed said that incorporating technology would attract more customers. Seventy-five percent said their customers ask them for updated technology solutions on a regular basis.
Mentors are crucial to developing a food business; 59% of survey respondents said that they currently have a mentor to whom they can go with questions, and 93% said they’ve seen a positive impact on their restaurant business as a result of being mentored at some point.
AmEx dedicated to helping restaurants
Gunther Bright, executive vice president of merchant services at American Express, said that the company has been advocating for restaurant industry workers for more than 30 years. They provide insights and resources geared toward helping merchants scale their businesses and make innovations. “Restaurant operators see growing their businesses and making their restaurants more innovative as the two most important priorities, according to our survey, and the American Express Restaurant Trade Program creates an environment that fuels culinary inspiration and ideas to help drive the future of the industry.”
Celebrity chefs abound at festival
Presenters at the American Express event this year include Andrew Zimmern, co-creator of Bizarre Foods on the Travel Channel, Hugh Acheson, known as a judge on Top Chef, restaurateurs Tom Douglas and Barbara Lynch, and Tony Mantuano, chef and partner at Spiaggia. Wylie Dufresne, Marcus Samuelsson, Tyler Florence, and Christina Tosi will also make appearances.