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General Session / Tuesday / October 10, 2023 / 3:45 PM

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
Awarded Fortune Magazine “Green Chef of the Year” two years in a row, Chef William Dissen has been building a multi-restaurant farm-to-table and quick-serve food enterprise from his home in Asheville, North Carolina since 2009. An acclaimed sustainable chef and published author, William is well known for weaving foraged and local ingredients with Southern roots in every dish he creates. Today, William owns and is the culinary force behind North Carolina's fastest-growing quick-serve, farm-to-table restaurant concept, Billy D’s Fried Chicken. With locations at The North Carolina Zoo, Wake Forest University, and Elon University, Dissen is setting a precedent for bringing farm-fresh flavors to students and families. Dissen also owns The Market Place in Asheville, N.C, founded in 1979, which is among the longest-standing classic American restaurants in the country. Dissen also owns upscale Charlotte eatery, Haymaker, a staple in the banking city’s most acclaimed high-end restaurants.
Steve Heeley | CEO | Pokeworks
A purpose-driven, groundbreaking C-level Executive, Business Builder and Strategist, Steve Heeley thrives on growing, reviving and catapulting brands into industry leading, multimillion-dollar enterprises. Steve has gained a reputation as an innovator in fast casual and “better for you” food environments — continually identifying and capitalizing on emerging trends. Steve believes in creating cultures of engagement in which a shared purpose and vision drives exceptional financial results, while balancing the health of the team and business. He possesses a natural talent for fostering collaboration, setting up transformational strategies, influencing and building consensus among internal and external stakeholders within PE--backed, and publicly or privately owned organizations. Steve is currently CEO of Irvine, CA based Pokeworks, the largest and leading fast casual poke brand. Pokeworks currently operates in 20 states, as well as Mexico, Asia, and Canada.
André Vener | Founding Partner | Dog Haus Worldwide
Along with his two business partners, André Vener co-founded Dog Haus in April 2010, with the mission of elevating stadium food classics into culinary masterworks. Over the last decade, Dog Haus has expanded from its Pasadena, CA, base to nearly 50 locations from coast-to-coast. André and his partners have spearheaded the craft-casual brand’s rapid expansion by forming alliances with leading ghost kitchen networks, an innovative partnership with Live Nation and the 2020 introduction of The Absolute Brands – a suite of virtual restaurant concepts spun off from several of Dog Haus’ signature menu items, such as the Bad Mutha Clucka. Prior to co-founding Dog Haus, André served as Executive Producer of Pasadena Entertainment, where he produced hundreds of events in venues of all sizes, including The Rose Bowl, Los Angeles County Arboretum, Dorothy Chandler Pavilion and more. André founded and operated redwhite+bluezz, an award-winning restaurant and jazz club that served great food, wine and live music for eight years.
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