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October 13-15, 2024 | Denver, CO — Registration will open soon! View News



| Registration

Registration Opens for Food Tour Participants

All attendees, sponsors and speakers must check in at the registration desk and pick up a name badge. Please wear your badge at all times during the Summit.

| Food Tours

Fast Casual Food Tours

Join fast casual restaurant executives and other Summit attendees as we tour and eat out at some of Louisville’s top local fast casual restaurants.

Tours include:

| Registration opens

| Welcome & Opening Remarks
  • Cherryh Cansler | VP of Events | Networld Media Group

| Opening Keynote

Burgers to Beans: Navigating Innovation from a Billion Dollar Company to a Growth-Oriented Company

Explore the journey and transition from the realm of burgers to the aromatic world of beans. Nathan Lester, senior director of drive-thru innovation for Scooter's Coffee, shares his adventure through experiences and lessons learned navigating the intricate path of innovation.

Discover how he successfully adapted his expertise from a billion-dollar company to embrace the challenges and opportunities of a growth-oriented coffee enterprise. With engaging anecdotes and practical insights, this keynote offers a roadmap for leveraging innovation regardless of your company’s size.

Keynote Speaker:
  • Nathan Lester | Senior Director, Drive-Thru Innovation | Scooter’s Coffee

  • Jocelyn Rodgers | Director of Brand Partnerships | Botrista Beverages
  • Jason Valentine | Chief Strategy Officer | Botrista Beverages

Sponsored by Botrista Beverages
Keynote Speaker
Nathan Lester
Senior Director, Drive-Thru Innovation
Scooter’s Coffee

| Awards Presentation

Fast Casual Hall of Fame

For more than 20 years, fast casual concepts have been at the forefront of innovation in the restaurant industry, proving to be trendsetters in store design, menu development, customer experience and restaurant technology. That would not be possible, however, without the blood, sweat and tears of the men and women who lead those brands each day.

The Fast Casual Hall of Fame will honor three individuals, who through their vision and leadership, have driven not only the success of their brands, but of the fast casual segment as a whole.

Join us as we recognize this year's Fast Casual Hall of Fame Honorees.

2023 Honorees

  • Laura Rea Dickey | CEO | Dickey's Barbecue Pit
  • Bill Phelps | CEO | Dave's Hot Chicken
  • Charles Watson | CEO | Tropical Smoothie Cafe
  • Stacey Kane | Fractional Chief Marketing Officer

| Networking Event

Welcome Reception

This is a great opportunity to meet some of our speakers, sponsors and your fellow attendees over hors d’oeuvres and cocktails.

Sponsored by Lunchbox


| Registration & Breakfast

| General Session

The Perfect Pitch

Following a global contest, several concepts have been selected to be part of The Perfect Pitch. Listen and learn as entrepreneurs pitch their fast casual concepts. The pitchers will address not only the Summit’s attendees but also a panel of advisers who will give them advice about how to grow their concepts.

It’s our “nicer” version of “Shark Tank,” which means it’s all about helping small but innovative concepts get off the ground. The audience members will vote on their favorite pitch, and the winner will receive bragging rights (of course), a $3,500 prize and 6 months of free service with Ovation!

2023 Finalists:


  • Dave Baer | COO | Mahana Fresh
  • Darshan Patel | VP of Franchise Development | Pizzawala
  • Vrijesh Patel | Chief Operations Officer | Pizzawala
  • Jason Sobocinski | Co-Founder & President | Haven Hot Chicken
  • Etkin Tekin | Co-Founder & CEO | Haven Hot Chicken
  • Dave Wood | Chief Strategic Officer, CEO & Founder | Hot Chikn Kitchn, Mahana Fresh

  • Kathy Doyle | CEO | Networld Media Group
  • Matt Friedman | CEO | Franchise Founders
  • Zack Oates | Founder & CEO | Ovation

Sponsored by Ovation

| Break

| Breakout Session

Is Your Brand Too Stacked?

Restaurants of all sizes have spent the past few years investing in a variety of technologies to help them understand the health of their brands, gain visibility into their spend management and streamline many of their processes. Although automation is imperative to cutting costs, brands are starting to minimize their tech stack and are focusing on “one-stop shop” solutions as they lack the bandwidth to manage so many platforms.

The tech gurus on this panel will reveal their strategies.

  • Steve Brooks | Sales Director | ArrowStream
  • Prakash Karamchandani | Co-Founder | Balance Pan-Asian Grille
  • Eric Knott | Chief Operating Officer | PDQ Restaurants
  • Andrew Maxwell | Owner & Operator | Boojum

  • Brian Foster | President | Buyers Edge Platform Back Office

Sponsored by Consolidated Concepts
| Breakout Session

Mastering Multi-Location Marketing

Although multi-location marketing requires a consistent brand message between locations, each store has its own unique needs.

This session will give you strategies to keep your branding on target while also addressing specific needs.

  • Alessandro Biggi | Founder | Avocaderia
  • Taylor Fischer | VP of Marketing - Fast Casual Division | FAT Brands
  • Jessica Serrano | VP of Marketing | DIG
  • Charles Watson | CEO | Tropical Smoothie Cafe

  • Emily Rugaber | VP of Marketing | Thanx

Sponsored by Thanx

| Break

| Breakout Session

Growing with a Leaner Team

Shortages when it comes to hiring cashiers, cooks and drivers aren’t the only labor issues facing the industry; corporate and franchise teams are also leaner than ever, which means those positions could use a little boost from technology as well as operations experts.

This session will teach you how the use of smart technology, combined with real estate brokers, in-house development and construction expertise can help you grow without hiring a new team.

  • David Bloom | Chief Development & Operating Officer | Capriotti’s & Wing Zone
  • Craig Blum | Owner & Founder | Johnny Doughnuts
  • Jami Bond | VP of Franchise Development | Goodcents
  • Bill DiPaola | President/Chief Operating Officer & Co-Owner | Swamp Dawg

  • Sam Gerace | CEO |

Sponsored by
| Breakout Session

Charting a New Course with Loyalty Marketing

Brands are struggling. Just consider these statistics from a recent study:

  • 54% find it difficult to interpret customer data and understand the needs of the moment.
  • 53% are challenged with creating personalized advertising experiences.
  • 47% said it is hard to deliver the right message at the right time, and 42% are struggling to find the right channel.
  • 23% are unsure what promotions will be most effective.
  • 19% can't change their strategy quickly enough to respond to unforeseen events.

So what’s a brand to do? Chart a new course, of course, and this panel will show restaurants how to rethink where and how they engage customers.

  • Bob Andersen | President | The Great Greek Mediterranean Grill
  • Jon Asher | Chief Marketing Officer | Nekter Juice Bar
  • Josh Halpern | CEO | Big Chicken
  • Sara Kear | Chief Marketing Officer | Condado Tacos

  • Dana Baggett | Director of Client Strategy, Restaurant Category | Vericast

Sponsored by Vericast

| Lunch & Learn

Drive More Orders and Higher Tickets with Targeted Local Advertising

Discover the power of local data as industry expert JR Hopwood discusses proven strategies to leverage it to boost order volumes and increase ticket sizes for your locations.
  • JR Hopwood | Solutions Consultant | Evocalize

Sponsored by Evocalize
JR Hopwood
Solutions Consultant

| Breakout Session

Driving Profits at the Drive-Thru

Although having a drive-thru used to symbolize cheap, fast and low-quality food, customers expect their favorite fast casual brands to offer the convenient service without sacrificing food quality. This panel of experts will discuss how and why they are adding drive-thrus to their service models.
  • Jim Bitticks | President & COO | Dave's Hot Chicken
  • Eric Knott | Chief Operating Officer | PDQ Restaurants
  • John Lucas | VP of Brand & Franchise Development | Farmer Boys
  • Chase Wardrop | Chief Operating Officer | Swig

  • Jake Berkowitz | VP of Enterprise Sales | Revel Systems

Sponsored by Revel Systems
| Breakout Session

Exploring Leadership Pathways for Equitable Representation

Although nearly half (47.8%) of all restaurant employees are minorities with workers of color comprising nearly half of the restaurant industry and women making up 54% of all restaurant workers, the leadership team at most brands do not reflect those numbers.

This session discusses how different perspectives and approaches are invaluable to any successful company and how your brand can create intercultural teams and strive to strengthen the diversity within the organization. 

  • Sawsan Abublan | Founder & CEO | Shawarma Press Franchising
  • Laura Rea Dickey | CEO | Dickey’s Barbecue Restaurants
  • Rickey McBride | Franchise Partner | Happy Joe’s Pizza & Ice Cream
  • Phillip Scotton | Franchise Owner | PRIMO Partners (Ben & Jerry's)

  • Amie Kromis | DEI Director, North America | Essity

Sponsored by Tork

| Break

| General Session

Brain Exchange

The Brain Exchange breaks attendees into small groups to discuss some of the most pressing issues facing restaurant operators today. These informal group discussions allow attendees to learn from one another’s mistakes and successes.

Brain Exchange Topics:

  • Future Proofing Your Restaurant | Sponsored by Elo
  • How Energy Efficiency Improves Your Bottom Line | Sponsored by Budderfly
  • How to Refuel On-Premise Dining | Sponsored by QikServe
  • Personalization at Scale: Stirring Up Your Marketing Mix | Sponsored by Uberall

| Break

| Breakout Session

Using Restaurant Design Trends to Streamline Operations

It’s tempting to rebrand or plan redesigns when you see the competition rolling out new logos, equipment and service models, but redesigns work best when done in tandem with operations teams.

This session will feature brands that have tested prototypes or remodeled in an effort to speed up service and enhance the customer experience.

  • Frances Allen | President & CEO | Checkers Drive-In Restaurants
  • Max Sheets | Founder & CEO | Chick N Max
  • Susan Taylor | President & CEO | Juice It Up!

  • Thomas Brooks | Chief Revenue Officer | Kitchen Brains

Sponsored by Kitchen Brains
| Breakout Session

Optimizing Your Menu to Speed Up Service

Optimizing your menu across channels is one of the most important tools when it comes to increasing customer satisfaction – which results in higher check spend and more frequent visits.

This session explores how and why menu optimization can yield a high ROI when done correctly and how technology can help you not only manage your menu but teach your employees how to work faster and smarter.

  • Scott Johnson | Head of Marketing | Smashburger & JFCNA
  • Adam Terranova | Sr. Director of Growth | WOWorks
  • Jeremy Theisen | Chief Growth & Development Officer | Craveworthy Brands
  • Annie Tselikis | Director of Marketing & Franchise Sales | Cousins Maine Lobster

  • Tanvir Bhangoo | VP, Enterprise Solutions | Toast

Sponsored by Toast

| Break

| Keynote Session

A PEOPLE-FIRST CULTURE ALWAYS WINS---Shake Shack's Playbook for a People-First Culture

Idris Stover, Shake Shack director of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Engagement, will chat about the importance of supporting diversity -- Shake Shack's Stand Together series, ERGs and diversity targets -- as well as strategies for retaining and recruiting and how preparing people for work is bigger than just burgers and fries.
Keynote Speaker:
  • Idris Stover | Director of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Engagement | Shake Shack

Keynote Speaker
Idris Stover
Director of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Engagement
Shake Shack

| Break

| General Session

FastCasual Fashion Show

Check out the industry's hottest styles as models strut down the runway showing off this season's must-have uniforms and accessories.
Sponsored by Threads Uniform Agency

| Bus Transportation to the Fraiser History Museum

| Offsite Event

Dinner Party at the Frazier History Museum

Join us for cocktails, dinner and live music from vocal ensemble Radius at the Frazier History Museum, the official starting point of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail.

Sample some of Kentucky’s famous bourbons and learn about the history, craft and culture of Bourbon inside an authentic speakeasy.

This private dinner party is included with your Summit registration at no additional cost. First buses leave at 6:15 for the 5-minute bus ride.

Sponsored by Botrista Beverages


| Breakfast

| General Session

Executive Perspectives: Inspiration for Today’s Restaurant Leaders

In this session, you will hear four short, thought-provoking talks that will leave you challenged and inspired.

  • Decoding the Future: Navigating Unexpected Consumer Patterns | Suzy Badaracco
  • Fast Growth: Growing Fast with Franchisees | Jim Bitticks
  • Scratch Made Success: Key Lessons Learned from a Startup Restaurant Concept | Chad Coulter, Lauren Coulter
  • Creating a Hiring Experience That Encourages Long-Term Employee Engagement | Desmond Lim
  • Suzy Badaracco | President | Culinary Tides, Inc.
  • Jim Bitticks | President & COO | Dave's Hot Chicken
  • Chad Coulter | Founder & CEO | Biscuit Belly
  • Lauren Coulter | Director of Franchise Sales & Development | Biscuit Belly
  • Desmond Lim | Co-Founder & CEO | Workstream

Sponsored by Workstream

| Break

| Breakout Session

Doing More with Less — Maximizing ROAS During Economic Uncertainty

It’s been a tough year for many industries as high inflation plagued the economy, forcing vendors across all industries to largely raise prices and consumers to pull back on spending. While the dining vertical has seen continued success thanks to value-based offerings, convenience and menu innovations, restaurant marketers are not immune to the pressure as budgets face increased scrutiny, and are thus forced to do more with less. As a result, marketers are forced to drive highly efficient campaigns, motivated to maximize Return on Ad Spend and drive sales.

Join this discussion to learn more about what tactics and strategies marketers can use to maximize campaign efficiency while still driving campaign performance.

  • Rob Elliott | EVP of Marketing | Hungry Howie’s
  • Chris Ruszkowski | Chief Marketing Officer | Bad Ass Coffee of Hawaii
  • Carin Stutz | Board Member | Kura Sushi, Hawaiian Bros
  • Julie Wade | Senior Director of Marketing | Taziki's Mediterranean Café

  • Alicia DiStefano | VP, Practice Lead | InMarket

Sponsored by InMarket
| Breakout Session

Embracing AI without Killing Your Budget

Cutting costs, reducing errors, improving customer satisfaction and enhancing the customer experience are just a few benefits of incorporating artificial intelligence into operations, but upgrading systems isn’t always affordable.

This session shows you the pros and cons of a variety of higher-tech solutions.

  • Steve Lieber | VP of Franchise Development | BurgerFi
  • Ray Sears | Director of Local Marketing | PJ Restaurants (Papa Johns)
  • Ryan Wilkinson | Vice President, Marketing | Primanti Bros. Restaurant & Bar
  • MJ Worsham | Director of Restaurant Technology | Five Guys

  • Ryan Gaylor | VP of the Restaurant Vertical | Upside

Sponsored by Upside

| Break

| Breakout Session

Driving ROI Through Offers and Discounts

Freebies can sometimes be the expectation for fast casual restaurants, but are they helping or hurting you? This panel will teach attendees how to craft offers and discounts that drive new adoption and keep franchisees or investors happy while also helping you grow your brand by using data to determine the best timing for offers.
  • Dan Harmon | CEO | Playa Bowls
  • MaryBeth Maskovas | Founder, Director of Analytics | Insight Lime Analytics
  • Doug Willmarth | President | MOOYAH Burgers, Fries & Shakes

  • Mandy Wolf Detwiler | Managing Editor | Networld Media Group

Sponsored by Insight Lime Analytics
| Breakout Session

Automation Beyond the Kitchen: Creating a Financial “Smart Stack” for Above-Store Efficiency

Business leaders understand that striking the balance between sexy, shiny new tech and good, old-fashioned hospitality is ideal when it comes to both finance and operations but figuring that out can be quite the conundrum. This session will discuss how to use ERP as the foundation to create the right software package for your data, benchmarking and operations efficiencies and will also reveal what to look for in a long-term, successful relationship with your accounting and technology advisors. Experts will explore how to power your decision-making with the right metrics and how to hit your organization's benchmarks with the right data to drive operational efficiencies.
  • Joseph Cox IV | Owner/Operator | McDonald’s
  • Troy Hooper | CEO | Hot Palette Holdings
  • Sam Osborne | Owner | Rock N Roll Sushi
  • MJ Worsham | Director of Restaurant Technology | Five Guys

  • Frank McLaughlin | Partner | Antares Group

Sponsored by Antares Group

| Lunch & Learn

Operational Efficiency with AI

  • Raghav Poddar | Founder & CEO | Superorder

Sponsored by Superorder
Raghav Poddar
Founder & CEO

| Breakout Session

How Small Brands Can Compete with Industry Leaders

It's always a challenge to contend with the Chipotles and Starbucks of the world, but it's not impossible for small and up-and-coming brands to grab a piece of their market share. In fact, three executives will reveal how they are accomplishing it as well as how they plan to stay competitive.

  • Chad Coulter | Founder & CEO | Biscuit Belly
  • Sean Kennedy | President & CEO | Cowboy Chicken
  • Jim Nagy | Production Manager | Wildflower
  • Otto Othman | CEO & Co-Founder | PINCHO

  • Brian Callahan | Director of Product | Facteus

Sponsored by Facteus, Inc.
| Breakout Session

Using AI to Enhance Customer Loyalty

Customers are looking for more than delicious menu items. They want a great overall restaurant experience that keeps them going back for more. Food ordering is a major component of that –and with innovations like voice AI, restaurants can deliver orders with the kind of speed and efficiency customers love. A huge 79% of diners agree that technology is a key to improving restaurant dining. This session discusses how restaurant technology like voice AI helps improve the customer experience and enhance loyalty.
  • Trish Giordano | Chief Sales & Marketing Officer | Earl Enterprises
  • Steve Lieber | VP of Franchise Development | BurgerFi
  • Mike Nettles | Chief Digital & Technology Officer | Zaxby's Franchising
  • Adam Terranova | Sr. Director of Growth | WOWorks

  • Dan Vorderstrasse | Director of Sales | SoundHound

Sponsored by SoundHound

| Break

| Breakout Session

Making Your Brand Investment Worthy

Whether your brand is looking to get acquired or is in need of funds to help expand and navigate the challenges spurred by labor shortages, supply chain and higher food costs, this session will teach what investors seek in a solid investment.

Hear directly from brands that have secured funding and from investors who will share what types of restaurants they avoid and what gets them to open their checkbooks.

  • Davide Macchi | Co-Founder & CEO | Due' Cucina
  • Gregg Majewski | CEO | Craveworthy Brands
  • Sarah Rigsbee | Chief Financial Officer | Farmer's Fridge

  • Stacey Kane | Fractional Chief Marketing Officer

| Breakout Session

Supercharge Revenue by Tapping into Your Customer Base with Technology

Although technology gives restaurants the power to unlock their customer base's full potential and drive revenue growth, it can complicate things when not implemented correctly. This session, however, will delve into how the use of cutting-edge technology — AI, food delivery tech, contactless payments and personalized customer experiences through marketing and loyalty programs — has revolutionized the way restaurants interact with guests. Attendees will learn how implementing new restaurant technology strategies can create a better customer experience and new revenue streams.
  • Julie Canseco | Chief Dietitian Officer | Main Squeeze Juice Co.
  • Caprice Kindgren | Director of Marketing | Urbane Cafe
  • Chris Medhurst | President | District Taco
  • Bill Mitchell | Consultant- Independent Board Member | HungerRush- (formerly of Dunkin Brands & Papa John's)

  • Josh Desmond | VP of Enterprise Sales | HungerRush

Sponsored by HungerRush

| Break

| General Session

CEO Roundtable / State of the 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 2024 and beyond.
  • William Dissen | Executive Chef & Owner | The Market Place Restaurant / Billy D's Fried Chicken
  • Elisia Flores | CEO | L&L Hawaiian Barbecue
  • Richard French | Founder & CEO | The Works Café
  • André Vener | Founding Partner | Dog Haus Worldwide

  • R.J. Hottovy | Head of Analytical Research |

Sponsored by

| Summit adjourns

View 2022 Agenda


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