by Edward Qualtrough

The Restaurant Group CIO Simon Iddon on front-end and back-end transformation

Apr 18, 2018
IT StrategyMedia and Entertainment IndustryRetail Industry

The Restaurant Group CIO Simon Iddon believes successful digital transformation programmes need to be business-wide initiatives led by multidisciplinary teams, and that it is an important responsibility for CIOs to be part of selling the vision for big change projects.

Iddon has been CIO since April 2010 at the London Stock Exchange-listed restaurant chain behind the brands Frankie & Benny’s, Garfunkel’s and Chiquito. In the casual dining market where high-profile chains including Prezzo and Jamie Oliver’s restaurants have taken emergency measures, TRG bucked the trend last month when it reported a return to profit after what CEO Andy McCue described as “a transitional year”.

The organisation has undergone a major front-end and back-end business transformation to remove legacy systems and deliver immediate benefits to customers, improve efficiencies, cut costs, and most importantly provide a platform for future digital enablement under Group CIO Iddon.

He told CIO UK that by bringing together multidisciplinary teams the programme was delivered on time, under budget and exceeded the board-approved benefits case.

“A transformation programme isn’t just an IT-led project, it’s a business-wide initiative,” he said. “You need to get a good balance putting the team together. We had a number of internal people and brought in some external expertise so they can learn from each other as part of a team. It also showed the transformation wasn’t an IT-led product and it never is.

“We’ve been on a big transformation to put in place a platform which gives immediate benefits and enablement of future projects. It allows us to have more choice inflections and options of how we can do a lot more digital integration and use APIs for restaurant consumers and internal users.”

Digital vision

Part of The Restaurant Group’s executive leadership, Iddon said that more than being a break-fix function CIOs needed to help sell the digital transformation vision at their organisations up, down and across the entire workforce – particularly working with boards and executive teams to highlight and showcase the case for change.

“It’s taking the board and the business on a journey to let them know what can be done, so I think it’s important to have a lot of vision,” Iddon said. “You still have to be able to listen and hear problems to fix – but there are challenges and opportunities; can the organisation do things quicker with technology, make it slicker, easier, more intuitive with less friction to free up more time?

“It is important to come along with your own ideas and not just challenges and problems to fix, and getting the balance between the two.”


With the incoming enforcement of the EU’s General Data Protection Regulations in May 2018, Iddon said that The Restaurant Group had taken a number of measures to ensure compliance.

Iddon said that many of the Information Commissioner’s guidelines around things like PECR, the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations, mean the fundamentals of GDPR had been embryonic for some time.

“GDPR has been around for two years and shouldn’t have come as a surprise,” Iddon said. “From a business point of view there’s obviously new stuff; more rights for consumers, more informed consent and definitions of what personal data is. But it shouldn’t be a massive sea change in what people are doing – organisations should be doing this anyway.

“We’re more confident than concerned, certainly. If people are just starting to come around to think it’s important, they’re in the wrong job.”