The holidays sneak up on me every year. None of them should be a surprise, of course, but each year I am the one frantically realizing, “Thanksgiving is next week?!” “Tickets home for Christmas in 10 days are how much?!” “Hanukkah begins when?!”

What has saved me each year is anything and everything digital: online ordering of food and last-minute meals, online reservations at restaurants, online price trackers for travel, and online shopping. Make all of these activities mobile or app-related, and I’ve quickly created order from chaos. 

It’s obvious I’m not alone. In a story by Nation’s Restaurant News’ Mark Brandau on digital ordering, we learn that 50 percent of all adults said they would use a smartphone or tablet app to place restaurant takeout and delivery orders if the option were available, while 75 percent of 18- to 34-year-olds said the same. Would it be crazy to guess that the percentage would rise to 100 among the under-18 demographic? Probably not.

The runway is long when it comes to restaurants and digital ordering, payment and loyalty programs, and the data that can be collected by these efforts is a gold mine. Our report begins with a look at who is doing it right — mainly some of the largest pizza players, at least one of which has topped $1 billion in digital sales.

After the holiday panic subsides, there is some time to reflect. I like to look at the year that’s about to close and find lessons learned, and then look at the year ahead and set goals. A goal of mine — and I know it’s shared by many in the restaurant industry — is to find more ways to give back. The date of this issue, Dec. 2, is one day ahead of Giving Tuesday, a movement to create a national day of giving post-Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Cyber Monday. The movement was created by New York’s 92nd Street Y and the United Nations Foundation. On Dec. 3, everyone is encouraged to support a charity of his or her choice, perform a good deed or spend time volunteering.

A cause close to the restaurant industry and to NRN is the Share Our Strength No Kid Hungry effort. Seeking to end childhood hunger in the United States, No Kid Hungry is holding a Give-A-Thon on Giving Tuesday, with a goal of hitting $25,000 in donations. Tyson Foods has agreed to match that goal, meaning $50,000 can be raised in one day. It’s a pretty special way to celebrate the holidays. You can learn more at

Many restaurant chains, leaders and employees raise money for various movements, support local campaigns and perform acts of kindness on a daily basis. These efforts make the restaurant industry special, and they are often tirelessly led by executives in human resources and marketing. NRN’s Ron Ruggless reports from the annual People Report Best Practices Conference, which honors the best in HR management.

In the conference’s opening keynote, Denny’s chief executive John Miller provided an ideal sound bite as he discussed his company’s efforts to turn around the 60-year-old family-dining brand. What was the focus?

“It’s wasn’t about product; it was about people.”

A perfect holiday sentiment, indeed.

Contact Sarah E. Lockyer at
Follow her on Twitter: @slockyerNRN.