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Fueling Up Your Bottomline with Beverage Innovation

By incorporating and promoting new and interesting beverages, restaurants have been able to quench customers’ thirst and appeal to new customers and different dayparts. Fast Casuals can take this a step further by energizing their customers through beverage innovation. With a stimulating 10.5% increase in energy drink and caffeine-infused beverage sales and a high rate of ongoing consumption by nearly half of the of-age US population, restaurant operators are keeping pace by incorporating energizing beverages into their menus.

This session will feature brands that are exploring beverage innovations from ready-to-drink options and craft cocktails to shakes and smoothies.


Kristi Bullock | Director Menu Innovation | Tropical Smoothie

Kristi Bullock recently joined Tropical Smoothie Cafe as the Director of Menu Innovation and is responsible for delivering impactful LTO innovation across TSC’s vast menu of smoothies and food and AUV driving core menu evolution and expansion. A restaurant industry veteran, Kristi previously worked for Arby’s Restaurant Group for over 20 years holding various roles in Marketing and Product Development, including Menu Strategy & Innovation, Brand Marketing, Product Marketing and Product Development. Her passion is product development and shepherding the entire process to ensure every detail goes toward delighting and inspiring guests in addition to having a positive impact on the business. Kristi holds a B.A. in Nutrition and Food Science from Auburn University.

Steve Felson | VP of Operations | Bonchon

Steve Felson is the Vice President of Operations for Bonchon International with oversight for the brand’s Operations, Training, Food Safety and Restaurant Opening teams. Steve has more than 25 years of experience across multiple restaurant industry segments spanning a number of roles. Prior to joining Bonchon, Steve worked with the fast-casual chain BurgerFi as Executive Vice President leading Operations, Training and Marketing and, prior to that, as the Director of Field Training and Restaurant Openings for Denny’s restaurants. Steve received a B.A. degree in English from Stetson University.

Steve Schulze | Co-Founder & CEO | Nékter Juice Bar

Now with more than 170 locations, another 200 in development and $100 million in systemwide sales, Steve Schulze, as CEO, has grown Nékter Juice Bar into the clear leader and pioneer of the $2 billion juice bar industry. Founded in 2010 upon a promise to reinvent a restaurant category that had lost its way, Nékter Juice Bar has been a catalyst for change, vowing ingredient integrity and authenticity across its menu of 100% freshly made, nutrient-rich and entirely clean juices, Superfood smoothies, acai bowls, cleanses, and a variety of healthy snacks.

Samuel Stanovich | Senior VP of Franchise Leadership | Big Chicken

Samuel Stanovich is part of the leadership team of Big Chicken. Prior to joining Big Chicken, Samuel worked with Firehouse Subs brand as an Area Representative and Franchisee. Samuel’s past experiences include: Director Partner Product Development & Industry Relations, National Restaurant Association, President & CEO of the Heritage Corridor Convention and Visitors Bureau, in addition, he is a 12-year veteran of Marriott International. In 2020 Samuel co-authored the top catering book “Catering Domination” and is co-host of the Takeout, Delivery and Catering podcast. Samuel is an alum Johnson and Wales University and adjunct faculty at the College of DuPage.

Charles Watson | CEO | Tropical Smoothie Cafe

Charles Watson is the CEO at Tropical Smoothie Cafe and focuses on the strategic vision and sustainable growth of the franchise system. Prior to being named CEO in December 2018, Charles served as the Chief Development Officer for Tropical Smoothie Cafe. Under his leadership, the Tropical Smoothie Cafe system grew from 265 units to 725 units. Tropical Smoothie Cafe currently has more than 975 locations nationwide and will open its 1,000th location in 2021. A veteran franchise professional, Charles has worked for several hospitality-related companies. Charles is a graduate of The Hotel School at Cornell University and holds an MBA from The Terry School of Business at The University of Georgia.


Charles Dixon | On-Premises National Accounts Manager LSR/QSR segment | Red Bull

Charles Dixon began his career at Florida’s Natural where he worked in various roles in Florida and California. After 10 years with Florida’s Natural he accepted a position with Sara Lee Foodservice as Sr. National Account Manager selling value added protein, bakery and coffee/tea. From there his journey continued to Diamond Crystal Brands as Director of National Accounts and then Schwan’s Food Company. Finally landing him at Red Bull North America as National Account Manager focusing on Business Development in Limited Service Restaurants. Over the course of his career, he has encountered some exceptional people in this industry that have mentored him to achieve what he considers the most important goal: Building lasting relationships.

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