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On Sept. 18 and 19, more than 70 fast-casual executives and industry representatives will descend upon the Hotel Palomar in Dallas to attend the 2007 Fast Casual Executive Summit.
 
The Summit will begin Tuesday with the keynote address: "Innovative brand topics for growth: Lessons learned on the front lines," given by Tim Pulido, CEO of Shakey's USA.
 
The two-day schedule includes four 1½-hour collaborative sessions led by experts in their fields who also will break down results of the 2007 Fast Casual State of the Industry Report. Paul Barron, event chairman and publisher of Fast Casual magazine, will lead Tuesday's first session, "Industry awareness and strategic planning."
 
During his session, Barron will discuss time compression and its 10-year societal impact. Over the last decade, Barron said, time compression has occurred based on technological and speed-of-service advancements, "which are some of the big reasons why limited-service restaurants have started to rule the land."
 
"In 1999, MP3 displaced sex as the most-popular searched term on the Internet," Barron said. "When you think about what MP3 is (a faster way to get music), that's the kind of mind-set people are in."
 
Consumers experiencing time compression also are more focused on quality and convenience.
 
"The real thing that makes the difference here is, in the time-compressed world, consumers are stepping up in terms of quality," Barron said. "People are willing to pay more (for quality and convenience). That is what is happening identically to fast-casual restaurants."
 
Barron started tracking the fast-casual segment in 1996.
 
"At the time, I thought this was an extension of what quick-service would become," he said. "I didn't realize it would be two different segments."
 
To help fast-casual operators share their experiences, talents and ideas, the Summit will focus on issues and trends within the segment.
 
Closely following Barron's session will be "Innovations for marketing and branding your fast casual business," led by Linda Duke, CEO and principal of Duke Marketing.
 
On Wednesday, Rudy Miick, founder of Miick & Associates, will discuss "Recruiting and retaining passionate people," then Pattye Moore, co-founder of Instincts LLC, will close with "New frontiers in franchising and expanding your brand."
 
Miick hopes to equip attendees with an arsenal of tools that will continue to help companies long after the event has ended.
 
When people walk away from his discussion, "they'll leave with ideas, they'll leave with tools, they'll leave motivated and inspired to create high retention and high performance, especially in an environment where we often hear there's no loyalty."
 
To make the most of having so many top executives in close proximity, opportunities are scheduled for peer-to-peer communication. Thirty-minute breaks between sessions can accommodate extended discussions as well as time for introductions or continued fellowship with other participants. Tuesday evening will feature one of the Summit's highlights, a private dinner event at the hotel's restaurant, Central 214.

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