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General Session / Monday / October 9, 2023 / 9:00 AM

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
Dave Baer started as a driver for Domino’s Pizza while in college 1991. He managed a Domino’s Pizza restaurant in 1994 and was immediately named Rookie manager of the year. From 1994-1998 he quickly ascended the ranks at Dominos where he held positions of Supervisor, Senior Supervisor and Training Director of Corporate operations at Domino’s Pizza in the Northeast. From 1998-2012, he was the VP of Operations for a 17 unit Franchise Domino franchise. Since 2012, he has been creating and scaling multiple emerging brands including Zinga and Firenza Pizza. Most recently he has been honing HCK Hot Chicken as well as acting as the Chief Operating Officer for Mahana Fresh.
Darshan Patel | VP of Franchise Development | Pizzawala
The food business literally runs in Darshan Patel’s blood. From a young age, he saw his parents own and operate multiple Dunkin Donut’s locations, while his grandma was known throughout the town for her magic in the kitchen. After graduating from NJIT, Darshan joined Pizzawala’s and has since served as the VP of Franchise Development. Along with Franchise Development, he’s also heavily involved in Operations, Research and Development, and Marketing. Darshan also serves in a similar capacity for Pizzawala’s’ affiliate, Neehee’s, an Indian Vegetarian Street Food concept.
Vrijesh Patel | Chief Operations Officer | Pizzawala
25 years ago, Vrijesh Patel came to the US with his family and a dream – to make a difference in as many lives as he could. Since then, he’s learned every aspect of the restaurant industry and provided countless smiles to thousands of customers. Vrijesh serves as the Chief Operations Officer of Pizzawala’s, and was instrumental in developing the standardized procedures the brand utilizes to provide consistent, quality food and service. Vrijesh also serves in a similar capacity for Pizzawala’s’ affiliate, Neehee’s, an Indian Vegetarian Street Food concept.
Jason Sobocinski | Co-Founder & President | Haven Hot Chicken
A noted serial entrepreneur with many successful businesses across the hospitality and F&B space, Jason Sobocinski brings over 25 years of entrepreneurial experience to the team. Born and raised in New Haven, he also carries a Master’s degree in Gastronomy from BU. At Haven Hot Chicken, Jason is a thought leader in hospitality and guest experience, which impacts all facets of the business, from training, operations, branding, and culture. Jason also leads real estate expansion efforts for the team.
Etkin Tekin | Co-Founder & CEO | Haven Hot Chicken
A Yale alum and emigrant to the US, Etkin Tekin brings 15 years of entrepreneurial and corporate experience to the HHC team. Cutting his teeth in the hospitality space with two startups in his early twenties, he then moved to ZX Ventures, the corporate innovation and venture capital arm of AB-InBev, where he gained the management and leadership experience he has today. As HHC's CEO, Etkin’s primary responsibilities for Haven include business planning & strategy, leadership development, marketing & branding, and fundraising & investor relations.
Dave Wood | Chief Strategic Officer, CEO & Founder | Hot Chikn Kitchn, Mahana Fresh
Dave Wood started his restaurant career as a freshman at the University of North Carolina when he got a job delivering pizzas for Domino’s Pizza in Chapel Hill NC. Over the next year, Dave decided that his future was in the pizza business. Dave managed the Domino’s in Chapel Hill and then ran the nearly 30 store franchise for Dan Shefte- an early Domino’s franchisee. In 1985 Dave and his wife Nancy moved to Manassas VA to open their own franchised Domino’s restaurant. For the next nearly 30 years they built and operated one of the most successful franchise companies in Domino’s. Dave served on countless advisory boards and was awarded the coveted Gold Franny- given to the top 1% of franchisees each year- over 15 times. After selling his restaurants to retire, Dave discovered he was not ready to retire. He has been involved in the launching and growth of four franchised restaurant chains. He is currently the CEO and Founder of Mahana Fresh and the Chief Strategy Officer for HCK Hot Chicken.

Kathy Doyle | CEO | Networld Media Group
As the former group publisher of Purchasing, Semiconductor International, and Industrial Distribution magazines and websites at Reed Business Information, Kathy Doyle brings 20-plus years of print and online media experience to this position. Her background spans marketing, sales, communications and content distribution for a wide range of diverse audiences, connecting buyers and sellers in more than 10 vertical markets on a global spectrum.
Matt Friedman | CEO | Franchise Founders
As the CEO of Franchise Founders, Matt Friedman leads the franchise incubator that builds and invests in start-up brands and emerging franchisors. With a talented team with over 70+ years of combined franchise experience, Matt oversees Franchise Founders’ proven franchise process including branding, marketing, real estate development, training, and location opening. Matt is currently bringing four innovative franchise brands to market: Bobby Chez Gourmet To Go, Patriot Broadband, Frankie Salons, and Sparklean. Previously, Matt was the founder and CEO of Wing Zone. Matt and his partner successfully opened six Wing Zone restaurants in major college markets from 1995-2000. As the visionary of Wing Zone and building a global brand, Matt launched the Wing Zone Franchise System in 2000. As CEO of Wing Zone, Matt led a talented team to successfully open over 150 restaurants throughout the US and six countries. In late 2020, Matt sold a majority interest in Wing Zone. He currently serves on the Board of Directors at Wing Zone.
Zack Oates | Founder & CEO | Ovation
Zack Oates is an author, husband, father, entrepreneur, and hot tub aficionado (but not in that order, necessarily). He grew up in restaurants before getting into startups. He was voted Top 100 Entrepreneurs, rang the NASDAQ bell, won the world’s biggest business competition, has been to 50 countries, and started 3 companies. He went on over 1,000 dates before he got married and wrote a book, “Dating Never Works…Until it Does.” He currently is Founder and CEO of Ovation, the no. 1 restaurant feedback platform in America, voted Top 50 Most Influential Supplier by Nation’s Restaurant News, and host of “Give an Ovation: A Podcast for Restaurants.”
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