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CEO Roundtable / State of Industry

This panel packed with fast casual CEOs will talk about important issues restaurant operators face today and what it will take to succeed in 2021 and beyond.


Tom Gordon | Co-Founder & CEO | Slim Chickens

Tom Gordon is co-founder and CEO of Slim Chickens Restaurants, the Fayetteville, Arkansas based leader in the better chicken segment specializing in hand cooked chicken tenders, buffalo wings, sandwiches, salads, and wraps, Slim Chickens operates 111 restaurants, has 37 committed franchise partners, over 365 franchise unit commitments, operating in 17 states and an international presence in Kuwait and the United Kingdom. Providing personal and tailored support for franchisees in a rapidly-growing system, investing in cutting edge retail technology, and pioneering domestic and international expansion, Tom is the driving leader behind the brand’s goal to have a 600 unit footprint in the next ten years.

G.J. Hart | CEO | Torchy’s Tacos

G.J. Hart is CEO at Torchy’s Tacos, a craft-casual restaurant concept that serves Damn Good Tacos to guests in a fun, unique atmosphere at more than 75 locations in Texas, Oklahoma, Colorado, Arkansas, Missouri and Louisiana. A highly respected industry leader with 36 years of foodservice operations and management experience, G.J. has a proven track record of growing casual and fast-casual dining concepts. Preceding Torchy’s, G.J. served as Executive Chairman and CEO of California Pizza Kitchen. Prior to CPK, he served as President and CEO of Texas Roadhouse, where he expanded the brand to more than 450 restaurants in 49 states and two international markets.

Michael Lastoria | Co-Founder & CEO | &pizza

Michael Lastoria is an American serial entrepreneur and co-founder of &pizza, a creatively led, mission-driven, culture carrying, pizza chain voted one of Fast Company’s Most Innovative companies in 2018 and 2019 for Social Good. Referred to by Bloomberg as “what Jesus might look like if he walked in a Yohji Yamamoto show,” Michael grounds &pizza in a commitment to better flavor, quality ingredients, livable wages, and real actions. He has appeared on Fox Business, CNBC, MSNBC, and Yahoo, and has been featured in Forbes, AdWeek, the New York Times, and Washington Post as a distinguished entrepreneur and thought leader in the industry.

Mandy Shaw | CEO | Blaze Pizza

Mandy Shaw joined Blaze Pizza in January 2018 as the CFO and was named interim CEO in August 2019 and then President and CEO in November 2019. Mandy previously served nearly 13 years in various roles at Bloomin’ Brands, Inc. including as Chief Financial Officer for the international division, Chief Information Officer, and as Chief Accounting Officer during Bloomin’s transition to a private company and through its subsequent IPO. In March 2020, she was named one of the 50 most influential women in foodservice by Nation’s Restaurant News.

Christine Specht | CEO | Cousins Subs

Christine Specht grew up with Cousins Subs — the sub sandwich chain her dad, Bill Specht, founded with his cousin two years before she was born. Before taking on the role of Cousins’ human resources manager in 2001, Christine worked as a staff member of the Wisconsin Legislative Audit Bureau in Madison, Wisconsin. In 2008, she became the President and Chief Operating Officer of Cousins Subs and in 2015 assumed the role of Chief Executive Officer following her father’s retirement. Christine earned a bachelor’s degree in criminology and law studies from Marquette University.


Ryan Wuerch | Founder & CEO | Dosh

Ryan Wuerch is the founder and CEO of Dosh, the fastest growing cash back platform that automatically puts cash into the wallets of consumers whenever they shop, dine or travel. A two-time Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year, Ryan is a seasoned and proven leader as CEO, chairman, philanthropist, investor, and visionary, with a history of leading companies from inception to the public market. Before founding Dosh, Ryan launched Solavei, a social commerce network which was acquired in late 2015. He was the founder and CEO of Motricity which went public on Nasdaq in 2010, obtaining a market value that exceeded $1 billion.

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