Episode Summary

Join us as we celebrate getting back to the first in-person conference in 18 LONG months. This week’s episode is with Marcus Viscidi (Winsight Media) & Zack Oates (Ovation), as they reflect on the sweeping changes and impacts to the hospitality industry and how that made this first live event even more meaningful.
Marcus, a hospitality expert and leading Winsight Media spokesperson, has his finger on the pulse of all the hot topics in restaurants today. He emphasized the true heart and soul of the industry — SERVING OTHERS and discussed ways we can all do a better job of that.

Zack is the CEO and Founder of Ovation customer feedback software. He talked about how the meaning of integration has changed and evolved.  “There’s much more openness to integration today…and figuring out how to work together.  It’s all about “working together to find the solutions that fit your guests’ journey,” said Zack.


🍽 What they do: Marcus is VP of Enterprise Sales at Winsight Media. Zack is the Founder & CEO of Ovation.
🍽 Name: Marcus Viscidi & Zack Oates
🍽 Company: Winsight Media & Ovation
🍽 Something to note: This was everyone’s first conference back since the start of the pandemic, including Jen!
🍽️ Where to find them: Marcus’ LinkedIn & Zack’s LinkedIn

Key Insights

🌶️ In-Person Conferences Can Still Draw Attendees
450 attendees were at FSTEC 2021, a 5% increase from FSTEC 2019. Winsight Media made several steps to assure safety for all while attending a conference of this size. They had vaccine checks, mask requirements in the public areas, and made rapid daily testing available for all attendees. “Everybody’s social, and everybody wants to see their customers. They want to see their colleagues. You know, it’s been a long hard road to get here, but we’re very excited about the results and, you know, very bullish and optimistic for the future” -Marcus.
🌶️ Tech’s place at the table
Whether it be about point of sale, loyalty & guest feedback, or delivery/drive-thru, tech has its hands in every single bucket at a restaurant. Restaurant brands are now starting to realize their tech stack is ESSENTIAL to have streamlined operations. Conferences like FSTEC allow for operators to touch, feel, and see these products in action, necessary before making that big investment.
🌶️ The loyalty industry is actually the data industry
Customers know that their information is being gathered for analysis and marketing purposes, but loyalty’s greatest power is in the intersection between using that experience to deliver to customer expectations.

Episode Highlights

People want to “get back to normal” whatever that means
Although there’s still uncertainty on the horizon, restaurant owners and customers all desperately want to get to being in-person safely again. To bridge the transition to this “new normal”, operators must look to implement public health safety measures to have their team and their customers feel safe.
Jen, Marcus, and Zack all discuss how FSTEC was a great case study on how to make people feel comfortable especially in the hospitality industry.
“What we’ve just seen is that in the last 18 months, this industry is predicated on being able to congregate and everybody’s social, and everybody wants to see their customers,”, Marcus shares.
“This is such a service-driven tight-knit industry, and people really care about people in this industry.”, Zack says.
Look broadly at the business to stay on and ahead of trends
The pandemic has broadly taught business owners that they need to stay on and even stay ahead of trends. According to Marcus, vendors have pivoted from looking back to looking ahead — seeing blind spots on brands and see where the best can help operators succeed.
Restaurants cannot also look at the post-pandemic world and rest on their laurels. They too must continue to innovate, test, and search for ways to improve the customer’s experience.
“Every business has undergone substantial changes from suppliers to operators to restaurant companies to media… If you’re not continuously looking at all aspects of your business, you’re going to be forgotten. You’re going to be left in the dust. I think what we’re seeing from the operators, and the reason why they’re still coming to is that they are forward-thinking, they are being more nimble, they’re making investments, and they’re changing their models…” -Marcus

Breaking Down Silos

At past industry events, vendors catered to the separate departments in a company: IT, finance, operations. At FSTEC 2021, the spotlight instead moved towards the marketing teams at companies (we liked that!). There was also a large focus on breaking down silos between departments.
“In the past 18 months, we’ve made a much more deliberate effort to try and ramp up the marketing titles because what we’re seeing is these brands and these divisions are co-mingling more than ever before. Guest feedback is a function of IT, it’s also a function of rolling out a product, but what do you do with that feedback? Who owns it and how do we make improvements on those feedbacks? Also, how do you disseminate that feedback? So I think the best thing that I’ve seen from some of these brands is the silos are breaking down.” -Marcus 
“There are not online guests, there are not drive-through guests, there are not in-person guests. There are just GUESTS. And I will have the experience that I want to have, at the time I want to have it. What the brand needs to do is make sure that everything is in sync. And so I’m really glad that marketing has ramped up their voice”. -Zack 

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