Restaurant Rewind: The conference has grown from a few hundred attendees to several thousands, without losing the uniqueness of those early days. Here’s what’s in its DNA.

If you’ve been in the chain restaurant business for an appreciable stretch, chances are you’ve either attended or heard about the Restaurant Leadership Conference.

It’s the top-to-top event where you might see Magic Johnson jump off the stage to give someone a hug, two chain builders lay the groundwork for a merger (Cava and Zoes Kitchen, 2018) or a big-name CEO careening around a Go Kart track. Be mindful of who may be behind you in the coffee line, because it could be a best-selling author checking out the tech demonstrations in the tradeshow area.

Yet even longtime attendees are likely unaware of how the conference, now hosted by Restaurant Business parent Informa, came to be. In those roots are the reasons why the RLC continues to reign as an event where you’re likely to be surprised by what happens on the stage and the number of industry all-stars you’ll meet.

This week’s edition of our Restaurant Rewind retro-focused podcast revisits how the conference got started, why it zigged when other conferences zagged, and some of the brush-with-greatness presenters who left attendees a-buzz.

Check it out, whether you are there or want to be. Listen here.


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