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Breakout Session / Tuesday / October 10, 2023 / 10:30 AM

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
Steve Lieber is a respected figure in the restaurant industry, celebrated for his expertise in restaurant concept design and successful operations. A certified pizzaiolo from Italy, he earned the title of Best Pizza in the USA in 2009. Currently, as Vice President of Franchise Development at BURGERFI International, he represents both the BURGERFI and Anthony's Coal Fired Pizza & Wings brands. Steve has led his team to sell over 150 franchises to 50+ groups, spanning 20+ states and international markets like Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. His commitment extends to mentoring franchisees and boosting local store marketing strategies for profitability.
Ray Sears | Director of Local Marketing | PJ Restaurants (Papa Johns)
Ray Sears earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in 1988 from the College of Business Management at the University of Maryland- College Park. Now with PJ Restaurants, Ray continues his success in building local relationships and driving positive sales results in the markets where we operate. He specializes in creating and maintaining local area relationships and has been recognized for his excellence in local area marketing. Ray has 33 years of pizza experience, 11 years as an independent pizza owner & 18 years as operating partner with Papa John’s. Ray grew Papa John’s franchise from 3 stores to 14 in less than 10 years with annual sales of $12M. He also won the 2012 National Papa John’s Humanitarian of the Year Award, Two-time Franchisee of the Year nominee, and the 2016 Excellence in Local Marketing Award.
Ryan Wilkinson | Vice President, Marketing | Primanti Bros. Restaurant & Bar
As a digital-first marketer with a penchant for boundary-busting ideas, Ryan Wilkinson has worked to bring the personality of some of the country’s most fun brands to life. From Nestle’s iconic Drumstick, to Wonka confections, frozen pizza brands and now to leading marketing for Pittsburgh’s own 90 year old icon - the French-fry and slaw-topped Primanti Bros., Ryan’s goal is always to drive positive ROI through creative storytelling, strategic media and new technology.
MJ Worsham | Director of Restaurant Technology | Five Guys
MJ Worsham is a career hospitality technologist with a proven history of working across both the brand and vendor sides of the industry. In his current role as the Director of Restaurant Technology for Five Guys – 1,830+ restaurants spanning 24 countries across the world – MJ is responsible for all Point-of-Sale systems (POS), above-store integrations, and store-level ERP system relationships globally in addition to the merchant processing relationship and various pilot projects in North America. MJ also consults internally on domestic and global strategic technology projects across multiple verticals of the business.

Ryan Gaylor | VP of the Restaurant Vertical | Upside
Ryan Gaylor is the VP of the Restaurant Vertical at Upside. Ryan has over 20 years of experience bringing innovative solutions to the market, as well as finance and capital markets. Ryan’s experience spans across product management, financial analysis, business development, sales and leadership roles at several early and late stage technology companies. Ryan graduated from the University of Michigan and also obtained his MBA from Northwestern.
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