Gathering at MUFSO CEO Panel the morning after the federal government shut down, restaurant leaders acknowledged that government regulation would remain a concern over the next several years, but remained optimistic that the industry could overcome challenges with the right strategies.

“You should make sure you get involved and engaged in advocacy to protect our business as we go forward, because who knows what’s going to happen in the next seven years,” said Arby’s chairman Jon Luther, winner of this year’s Norman Award. “The decisions that are made today can affect our businesses.”

To that point, Luther added, investments being made today in technology, supply chain, and culinary research and development would benefit the restaurant industry, as would foodservice’s continuing development of its people.

“Brands have to take a look at who they are today and what they want to look like in 10 years, and you can’t continue to do the same thing you’re doing today,” Luther said. “Norman [Brinker] said one time that you have to continue to grow, because if you stand still, you’ll be obsolete.”

The Golden Chain honorees joining Luther on stage agreed that evolving their brands and developing their people would carry them through whatever challenges arise.

“What’s the most bullish word you could come up with?” Ignite Restaurant Group chief executive Ray Blanchette, who was named Operator of the Year at MUFSO on Oct. 1, responded when asked for his projection for the next few years. “People are naturally aspirational, and when you look across the world, there are countries with massive emerging middle classes. … These folks are developing buying power and ultimately are going to be a disruptive force.”

Blanchette, who was recognized for turning around and growing Joe’s Crab Shack, added that the growing economic influence of Millennials would benefit the industry, as would advances in technology.