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Breakout Session / Monday / October 9, 2023 / 1:30 PM

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
Sawsan Abublan is CEO and Co-Founder of the first Authentic Shawarma franchise in the US. Since opening the first fast casual Mediterranean restaurant in 2017, award-winning Shawarma Press has committed to a multicultural employee pool and a diverse menu that bursts with authentic and fusion flavors. The company has employees and suppliers from five different continents who converse in 10 different languages. Team members routinely prepare and deliver countless meals to help fight hunger. Sawsan is the winner of a Stevie® Award in the Diversity and Inclusion category in the 21st Annual American Business Awards® presented recently in New York.
Laura Rea Dickey | CEO | Dickey’s Barbecue Restaurants
Laura Rea Dickey currently serves as Chief Executive Officer of Dickey’s Barbecue Restaurants, Inc. Laura has been with the brand since 2009 and most recently served as Chief Information Officer before transitioning to CEO in 2017. As CIO, she implemented a new technology infrastructure for the brand bringing parity and integration to data reporting, information security and all digital sales channels. In her time as CEO, Laura has overseen the expansion of the brand by 28%, opened 15 international locations in 7 countries, and experienced the highest sales day in the brands 81-year history with the past three years being same store sales positive. She has managed the launch of three additional brands, opened a USDA processing plant to ensure the brand’s signature kielbasa artisan sausages are always available to guests and retailers, and optimized the brands menu by 42%. Laura also held a large hand in creating and publishing the brands second cookbook titled; Behind the BBQ: Recipes, Cocktails & Tall Tales from Dickey’s Barbecue Pit.
Rickey McBride | Franchise Partner | Happy Joe’s Pizza & Ice Cream
Rickey McBride is a self-made entrepreneur who thrives on building relationships with his partners and clients to be successful. Born and raised in Davenport, Iowa in 1978, Rickey made a name for himself in athletics around the Quad Cities. He thrived as a standout on the Central High School football, baseball, and track teams eventually earning a football scholarship to Georgia Southern University. He studied business and relocated to Atlanta, where he began multiple business ventures in the health, wellness and hospitality industries. Since 2020 Rickey has been one of the catalysts in the growing sea moss movement, which is now being recognized in health and fitness circles for its benefits and variety of uses. He owns and operates his own health and supplement stores in the Atlanta area. Rickey recently expanded his portfolio by partnering with his childhood friends to acquire the development agreement for two (with the option for more) Happy Joe’s Pizza and Ice Cream franchises across Texas.
Phillip Scotton | Franchise Owner | PRIMO Partners (Ben & Jerry's)
Phillip Scotton is with PRIMO Partners, the largest and only Black-owned/Black-led multi-unit franchise developer of Ben & Jerry’s, along with other enterprises. While attending the University of North Carolina, Phillip was reintroduced to a hometown scholar, UNC Alum Antonio McBroom, who had recently purchased a Ben & Jerry’s the same year. As the years passed, Antonio and Phillip grew closer. By 2012, Phillip helped to create The Pathway to Leadership Internship program with Ben & Jerry’s and gained the skills needed to become a serial entrepreneur. By 2016, Phillip was immersed in the business as a partner/full-time operator, where he has helped propel the off-premise category to double-digit sales growth each year and they currently tout the No. 1 ranking for Ben & Jerry’s globally. Phillip led the opening of their first Atlanta location, was one of the driving forces behind the acquisition of the Athens and Chattanooga locations, and helped develop locations in central Florida, around the Tampa area, and the Houston, Texas area.

Amie Kromis | DEI Director, North America | Essity
Amie Kromis pairs 10+ years of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) experience in the aviation, construction and health/hygiene industries with her mission to evolve business by making it more inclusive. Amie serves as DEI Director for Essity North America where she supports business leaders in North America in reaching Essity’s global DEI ambitions. She received her bachelor’s degree in corporate communications and public affairs from SMU and holds a MBA from Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business where she was a Forte Foundation Fellow. Kromis hails from Nashville, Tennessee and has made Washington, DC her home.
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