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Breakout Session | October 19, 2015 | 9:30 -10:30am

Crossover: The Fast Casualization of the Restaurant Industry

No doubt about it, the fast casual segment of the restaurant industry is growing. Sales grew 11 percent last year, and unit count and traffic were up 8 percent at a time when numbers for other segments of the industry remained flat. With such strong numbers, it’s no wonder other segments are trying to get a piece of the action. This panel will feature leaders from brands in quick service and casual dining segments who are crossing over into fast casual. We’ll hear from them about what’s working, what’s not, and what they have learned from the fast casual segment.


John Featherston | Senior Director, Growth Strategies | Chick-fil-A

John currently invests his work in three primary areas of Chick-fil-A: establishing the business in urban markets, developing a model for international growth, and shaping new investments beyond the core restaurants. John joined Chick-fil-A in 1993 after ten years in the banking industry with the predecessor institutions of Bank of America and Wells Fargo. John’s professional associations include ULI (Urban Land Institute), ICSC, and IFA (Int’L Franchise Association). Community involvement includes Care for Aids, Young Life, and MTLTW (Music to Light the World).

Jim Greco | Chief Operating Officer | Newk’s Eatery

With a background in operations reengineering, strategic planning and brand positioning, Jim is an industry consultant and chief operating officer of Newk’s Eatery, a fast casual chain rapidly growing throughout the southern U.S. Greco has served as president and CEO of Sbarro and CEO of Bruegger’s Enterprises. Prior to this, he served in senior roles in the consumer products industry. In each of his leadership roles, Greco is credited for achieving exceptional results. Nation’s Restaurant News named him Operator of the Year in 2009. He is the author of several articles and a book chapter on management and leadership.

Tom Sacco | CEO & President | Cole’s Backyard Grill

Tom joined in Homestyle Dining in July of 2012 and was promoted to CEO February 2015. Tom has previously held various senior-level positions with such chains as BJ’s Restaurant & Brewhouse, Fox Sports Grill, and Wyatt’s Cafeterias. Additionally, Sacco is very familiar with the steakhouse and buffet segment of the restaurant industry having served as senior vice president of operations and franchise support for Bonanza Steakhouse and as vice president of operations and franchise support at Western Sizzlin Steakhouse.


Michelle Strong | Chief Marketing Officer | LRS

As chief marketing officer for Long Range Systems, Michelle is responsible for LRS’ product strategy, marketing programs, corporate communications, and sales support. In her role, Michelle works closely with LRS’ clients, business partners, and operating units to assess market needs, uncover emerging trends, understand competitive offerings, and recommend integrated hardware and software offerings that best address on-location communication needs. Michelle began her career in the media industry and held management roles in a variety of businesses including media, agency, affiliate marketing, and non-profit; with responsibility for overseeing sales, marketing, research, operations, and product development.

Sponsored by LRS