CNN Commentator & Best-Selling Author
Mel Robbins is best known for delivering one of the most popular TEDxTalk’s in the world: “How To Stop Screwing Yourself Over”. Mel’s provocative and compelling views on leadership, courage and human potential have earned her international attention and invitations to train executive teams at some of the world’s leading brands such as The PGA Tour, PwC, CISCO Systems, Johnson & Johnson, and Chase Business.
Mel is an award-winning on-air analyst for CNN and drives millions of page views for CNN.com as one of their most prolific opinion writers. She’s been named “America’s Outstanding Talk Show Host” by The Gracie Awards and has hosted original shows for A&E, Fox and Cox Media. She’s appeared as an expert on a wide range of talk shows, from Oprah to Dr. Phil, Fox News to Good Morning America. Mel is a contributing editor for SUCCESS Magazine and is continually featured in publications like The New York Times and Inc. Magazine.
Co-Founder & CEO | ShiftPixy
Scott Absher, Co-Founder and CEO of ShiftPixy, brings over 25 years of expertise in Human Capital Management strategy and support for small business. Scott has had significant exposure to the unique challenges and pressures restaurant and hospitality operators face and offers a unique insight as to the origins of and new approaches to meeting these new challenges. Scott will address the strategy that drives ShiftPixy’s leverage of leading edge technology to help its operator clients navigate today’s human capital realities.
President | Culinary Tides
Suzy Badaracco is a toxicologist, chef, and registered dietitian. She holds a Bachelors of Science degree in Criminalistics, an Associates degree in Culinary Arts, and a Masters of Science degree in Human Nutrition. Suzy has worked as a trends forecaster for food industry clients since 1992. Suzy has been trained in military intelligence, chaos theory, and predictive analysis techniques used by both corporate and government bodies and has been practicing trends intelligence and predictive forecasting for more than 15 years. Using these techniques she has been able to successfully predict and profile government, technology, adversary and ally, food, flavor, consumer, industry, and health trends.
COO | Firenza
Dave Baer started as a driver for Domino’s Pizza while in college 1991. He managed a Domino’s Pizza store in 1994 and was Rookie manager of the year. From 1994-1998, 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 VP of Operations of a 17 store Franchise. Since 2012, he has been the Director of Operations at the Zinga Franchise group and multi unit franchisee. From 2014 to present, he has been President and COO/ Co Founder of Firenza Pizza. He has since opened locations across the country and has over 100 in development.
VP of Franchising and Development | Donatos Pizza
Jeff Baldwin is Vice President of Franchising and Development for Donatos Pizza, recently voted one of the 9 best franchises by QSR Magazine for its great products and strong metrics. He has leveraged his 23 years in real estate development and franchising to help redesign and transform a new Donatos image to enhance guest experience and begin a new path of company growth beyond the 155 restaurants open today. The company philosophy, “Every Piece is Important”, is a great indicator of the culture of people and care for its products. Beyond serving great pizza, the company has a strong sense of family and desire to give back to the community.
President & CEO | A&W Restaurants
Kevin Bazner is a 47-year veteran of the restaurant industry and has been with A&W Restaurants for 24 years. In 1988, Kevin took over the International Division of A&W, based out of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. In 2000 he was made President and COO served in this role until 2003 when Yum! Brand’s purchased the brand. Kevin then served as President and COO of Smoothie King Corp. He returned to A&W as President and CEO in October, 2011. Kevin is committed to the long-term development of the iconic 97-year-old chain and continues to head the day-to-day operations and development of A&W’s International business.
Partner and Board Member | La Boulangerie
Since starting his career in 2001, Nicolas has traveled the world, from his home in Paris to South Africa, eventually moving to California in 2004 to attend Stanford Business School. Combining his love of food with his head for business, Nicolas brought a subsidiary of Frial to the United States in 2006, and was able to grow the business from zero to $25mm when he sold the business 5 years later. Upon meeting Pascal Rigo in 2011, the two partnered and negotiated the sale of Rigo’s retail and wholesale operation (La Boulangerie) to Starbucks for $100mm.
Owner | Street Shak Caribbean Kitchen
Tony Bradshaw is the hands-on owner of Street Shak Caribbean Kitchen in Toronto Canada. With over twenty years of experience leading destination style restaurants with over $5 million in annual sales, Tony has been consistently commended for his leadership skills, industry knowledge, dynamic people strategies and a relentless focus on guest service. Born on the island of Barbados, Tony developed his craft in hospitality after moving to Canada in the late 90’s. Tony’s dream of owning his own restaurant continued to grow, despite many successes in corporate restaurants. Street Shak opened its doors April 2016 and celebrates Caribbean cuisine in a modern, accessible and appealing environment.
VP, Operations, Training & Human Resources | Uncle Maddio’s Pizza
Jenelle Brown has a wealth of operations, development and training expertise after a long career working for a variety of restaurant groups. In her current position as vice president of operations, training and human resources at Uncle Maddio’s Pizza, Jenelle has helped improve operations with redesigned menu boards, streamlined prep lines for faster guest service, driven new menu development to highlight culinary trends, and updated POS systems. Prior to joining Uncle Maddio’s she has served in various operations and training roles for Outback Steak House, Salsarita’s Fresh Cantina and Joe’s Crab Shack.
Managing Editor | FastCasual.com
Before joining Networld Media Group as Director of Editorial, where she oversees NetWorld Media Group’s nine B2B publications, Cherryh Cansler served as Content Specialist at Barkley ad agency in Kansas City. Throughout her 17-year career as a journalist, she’s written about a variety of topics, ranging from the restaurant industry and technology to health and fitness news. Her byline has appeared in a plethora of newspapers, magazines and websites, including Forbes, The Kansas City Star and American Fitness magazine. She also serves as the managing editor for FastCasual.com.
VP, Professional Services | Fishbowl
Paula is a veteran data driven, marketing professional with more than 20 years of experience developing compelling, guest-centric marketing strategies that drive brand awareness and sales. As Fishbowl’s Vice President of Client Success, Paula helps clients leverage data to profile guests, understand behavior, and drive profitability. She is passionate about helping clients achieve success through their relationship with Fishbowl. Prior to joining Fishbowl, Paula managed the digital efforts for several large brands in the supplement industry.
Managing Director | Market Force Information
Brad Christian has served as Managing Director at Market Force Information for the last ten years. He is responsible for consulting and customer experience program design for numerous restaurant organizations in North America. With a focus on driving location performance improvement, he provides guidance on customer experience measurement tools and analysis to help client organizations drive increases in guest satisfaction, loyalty and financial performance. Brad is based out of Norcross, Georgia.
Principal | King-Casey
Tom began his career working at Dancer Fitzgerald Sample and Benton & Bowles, both top tier Madison Avenue advertising agencies. It was here in account management Tom developed strong and disciplined packaged goods marketing and brand strategy skills working with Procter & Gamble, Kraft General Foods, Gillette and Richardson Vicks. Tom has worked in consultant and account management roles in the restaurant industry for over 30 years with clients that include McDonald’s, Taco Bell, KFC, Starbucks, Subway, PepsiCo. and many others. Tom’s restaurant consulting work has focused on brand positioning, brand strategy, menu strategy and menuboard and path to purchase optimization.
President | CoreLife Eatery
Scott Davis is an Executive and Innovator in the Fast Casual Restaurant industry. Scott served at the Chief Concept Officer of Panera Bread from the brands inception until December 2015. In his role of Chief Concept Office Davis oversaw all food and bakery product development, category and menu management, restaurant design and sustainability. In addition Davis was a member of the executive strategy team for Panera and confidant to CEO, Ron Shaich, for over twenty years. During his tenure at Panera, Scott led many key initiatives that drove the long-term success of Panera Bread as it became a leader in the Fast Casual segment of the restaurant industry.
CEO | FOCUS Brands
Steve DeSutter is the FOCUS Brands Chief Executive Officer. Joining FOCUS Brands in March of 2014, he has a wide breadth of leadership experience in retail, food service and multi-unit operations as a public company executive. Prior to joining FOCUS Brands, Mr. DeSutter served for six years as President and CEO of Stripes LLC and Executive Vice President of Susser Holdings, the parent company at the time, a Fortune 500 company. He also served as Executive Vice President of Burger King Corp in the capacity of President for Europe, Middle East and Asia.
Laura Rea Dickey
CEO | Dickey’s Barbecue Restaurants
Laura Rea Dickey currently serves as Chief Executive Officer of Dickey’s Barbecue Restaurants, Inc. Laura served as the Chief Information Officer for eight years, and made the transition to CEO after excelling in her previous role. Laura has worked in the marketing and information technology field for over 15 years, and has led the marketing, IT and training departments at Dickey’s Barbecue Restaurants, Inc. during her time there. Laura’s specialty is the intersection of technology and marketing, turning data insights into brand and business solutions. In her time as CIO, Laura implemented countless new initiatives to improve the Dickey’s brand.
VP, Agency Strategy | LevelUp
Theresa Dold is the VP of Agency Strategy at LevelUp, the leading provider of mobile engagement solutions for the restaurant industry. She is responsible for guiding the development of LevelUp’s Agency solutions and driving adoption of LevelUp’s platform, features, and tools among its restaurant partners. Prior to LevelUp, she was the Director of Product at healthy fast-casual brand sweetgreen, where she was responsible for the launch and evolution of the sweetgreen mobile payments, ordering and rewards app.
Director, Restaurant & Bar Branded Concepts | InterContinental Hotels Group
Jason Dowd is currently the Director, Restaurant and Bar Branded Concepts for InterContinental Hotels Group overseeing the strategy, development, implementation and on-going improvement of signature Restaurant and Bar Branded concepts. Prior to IHG, Jason was with Focus Brands where he served as Vice President of Research and Development/Executive Chef – Moe’s Southwest Grill. His vast range of expertise spans over 20+ years from Fine Dining Culinary Experience to Fast Casual Operations. Before joining Focus Brands, Jason served as the Corporate Executive Chef and Director of Culinary for Consumer Capital Partners (Tom’s Urban, Live Basil Pizza and Smashburger) and gained experience as Research and Development Managing Chef at Darden Restaurants.
Consumer Foodservice Analyst | Euromonitor International
Stephen Dutton is a Consumer Foodservice Analyst at Euromonitor International, analyzing the global foodservice industry. In this role, Stephen provides insight into the consumer trends, key markets, competitive landscape and growth opportunities in the global foodservice space to help companies make informed business decisions. Stephen has a master’s degree in international affairs from The George Washington University and has spent years working and traveling abroad.
President | PDQ Restaurants
Stephen Erickson serves as Principal, Executive Vice President of Sales & Franchise Relations for the award-winning PDQ restaurant brand, which currently operates 62 locations in 11 states. Erickson has overseen all aspects of the operation, including launching the first restaurant in Tampa, Florida in October of 2011. He has played a major role in creating an environment for team members and guests that embodies PDQ’s creed: People Dedicated to Quality. Erickson managed virtually every other aspect of the day-to-day operations of the brand, including marketing, operations, public relations, purchasing, and research and development.
Corporate Executive Chef | McAlister’s Deli
William Eudy brings more than 20 years of culinary experience to his current role as Corporate Executive Chef for McAlister’s Deli, where he oversees the menu concepts and kitchen operations for the company’s 380+ restaurants. Since joining McAlister’s in April 2015, Will has been responsible for bringing a wholesome, clean approach to crafting McAlister’s menu items from recipe development and sourcing, to the building of each dish. Along with a focus on handcrafted food and beverage offerings, Chef Will assists purchasing in the selection of quality products and strategic partners, while finding ways to improve current vendor relations and efficiency.
President | Goodcents Franchise Systems
Scott Ford has more than 30 years experience building and leading top brands in the restaurant industry. As the president of Goodcents Franchise Systems, Ford oversees the strategic vision of the business, including franchise growth and overall customer experience. Ford lead the charge on a successful new digital consumer interaction and ordering strategy for the business, as well as new up-to-the-minute reporting technology for franchisees and e-learning platform for training new employees. Prior to joining Goodcents in 2010, Ford held various leadership positions at Applebee’s and Boston Market.
CEO | Wing Zone
Back in 1991, finding Amazing Flavor was not so easy – especially at the University of Florida in Gainesville, FL where Matt Friedman and Adam Scott were away at school. Matt and Adam spent many a night in their fraternity house kitchen perfecting the recipes that one day would become Wing Zone’s trademark flavors. Starting with a single storefront, Matt and Adam built the Wing Zone brand, satisfying the cravings of Flavorholics in other towns, states and now, worldwide. Today, Matt and Adam are among the few ever to be inducted in the Buffalo Wing Hall of Flame. Wing Zone now has nearly 100 locations.
National Account Manager | SCA / Tork
Tracey Fullington is National Account Manager for SCA / Tork. She is an accomplished sales management professional with over 20 years of experience, who is dedicated to serving restaurants in a sustainable way. Tracey promotes SCA / Tork products and hygiene initiatives to national account foodservice concepts with corporate headquarters based in the Southeastern United States. Since 2007 she has been responsible for maintaining and growing a portfolio of high profile national foodservice concepts with locations that cross regional boundaries.
Founder & CEO | Gala Holdings International
Anand is the founder, president and CEO of Gala Holdings International, a diversified holding company with operations in consulting, restaurant development and management, and real estate development and investment. He has spent the past 30 years in various executive capacities within the Restaurant Industry. The Restaurant Division focuses on the development and management of nationally recognized chain restaurants, both franchised and proprietary, throughout the western United States. Current portfolio brands under ownership and operation include Fresh Griller and Famous Dave’s BBQ locations. Prior brands have included: Del Taco, Applebee’s, Jack in the Box and Seattle’s Best Coffee.
VP Marketing | Freshii
Melissa Gallagher joined Freshii as the Vice President of Marketing in October 2016. Prior to joining Freshii, Melissa was a Partner and Vice President at Karo Group, where she oversaw the Subway restaurants marketing strategy and execution from May 2014 to October 2016. Previously, Melissa held a number of positions at Torsub & Centron Services (Subway Development), including Business Consultant and Local Store Marketing Director from January 2007 to September 2009, before leaving to lead the advertising for the Ontario Subway Franchise group at Cundari from Sept 2009 through January 2014. Melissa was awarded the Marketing Magazine’s Top 30 Under 30 award in 2014.
Partner & EVP, Chief Development Officer | Consumer Investment Partners AG
Jerry Gamez is a Partner & EVP, Chief Development Officer at Consumer Investment Partners AG. He is a co-founder and member of the executive board of CIP AG. He is responsible for the expansion of their portfolio group of restaurants and beverage companies around the globe. Prior to this role, Jerry was Chief Expansion & Franchising Officer, Chief Operations Officer, and President of Stripped Brand Pizza at CIP AG. From 2011 to 2014, Jerry was a Partner at Burger King after the 3G acquisition.
Founder & CEO | Thanx
Zach Goldstein is a die-hard Sacramento Kings fan; it was through many losing seasons where he first learned the value of loyalty. He founded Thanx in 2011 with the goal of helping merchants identify, reward and retain their best customers / die-hard fans. Previously, Zach worked with retail and tech giants at Bain and Company, where he focused on customer satisfaction and retention. He received his MBA from Stanford and shivered his way to a BA at Dartmouth.
President & CEO | Captain D’s
Phil Greifeld, President & CEO of Captain D’s, is a proven industry leader with a highly successful track record of growing sales and profits in fast-paced, multi-unit restaurant chains. Since taking the helm in 2010, Phil has led an exciting brand transformation of Captain D’s. In 2013 the Nashville Post named Phil its CEO of the Year. Prior to Captain D’s, he served as President & CEO of Huddle House, Inc. which evolved into a sophisticated restaurant operating company under Phil’s leadership. Prior to Huddle House, Phil co-founded a retail start-up company based in Stamford, Connecticut.
VP of Global Pre-Sales | Oracle Hospitality
Jeff Grossman brings over 20 years of experience working in enterprise technology, with a heavy emphasis on the development and implementation of point-of-sale systems. Currently, Jeff serves as the Vice President of Global Pre-Sales for Oracle Hospitality’s Food & Beverage business unit which focuses on the point-of-sale platform technology within a variety of industries, including food & beverage operations. Prior to leading the pre-sales division for Oracle Hospitality, Jeff spent nearly a decade with Oracle Retail as the Director of Solution Consulting where he managed a team of solution consultants responsible for driving Oracle Retail sales and growth in the retail industry.
Founder | Capitol Melts
Robert Haggerty is the founder of Capitol Melts….Grilled Cheese Café in Albany, NY. He started Capitol Melts in 2014 after a 40-year career in government and politics. With no formal training in the culinary arts, Mr. Haggerty considers himself a food entrepreneur. He turned his passion for food, developed at a young age from working with his father at the local Grand Union supermarket, into the most-unique gourmet grilled cheese concept in America today. Family and friends would always say…”You Should Open a Restaurant”. It took a few years, but Capitol Melts is now a reality and ready to grow.
Chief Growth Officer | Hopdoddy Burger Bar
Chief Growth Officer, Terry Haley, has had a knack for growing industry leading brands in beer and restaurants over the course of his 17-year (and counting) marketing career. After 7 years in beer, the Minnesota native worked in the restaurant industry for 10 years prior to his current role with Hopdoddy. After earning an MBA and bachelor’s degrees in public relations and political science from Marquette University, he led marketing for brands in SAB Miller Brewing Company’s craft, import, and domestic portfolios, was Vice President of Marketing of Pei Wei Asian Diner and P.F. Chang’s at P.F. Chang’s, Inc. and served as CMO at World of Beer Franchising, Inc.
National Accounts Manager & Regional Sales Manager | Beverage-Air
Valerie Hanson joined Ali Group North America in November 2016 as National Accounts Manager where she bridged many relationships both inside and outside of the company. Currently, Valerie holds the role as National Accounts Manager & Regional Sales Manager for Beverage-Air, an Ali Group Company. In this dual role, Valerie works with manufacturers’ representatives, dealers, distributors, and foodservice consultants, while also developing and cultivating relationships within the national accounts community and reports directly to Erica Motes, Vice President of Sales. Valerie Hanson holds a B.S. Degree from The Art Institute of California and recently earned her Certified Foodservice Professional (CFSP) certification.
Don Hawkins, Jr.
Group VP Emerging Chains, Government & Retail | Middleby Corporation
Don is the Group VP for Emerging Chains, Government and Retail at Middleby Corporation. His teams interface directly with Emerging and Re-Emerging Foodservice companies to increase product quality, increase operational efficiencies as well as speed of service, and to reduce labor and utility costs via foodservice equipment designed and built around their specific needs. Don has over 30 years in the industry as both an executive in foodservice equipment manufacturing and as a provider of equipment and services to restaurant chains. He’s known for providing new and creative solutions to issues and problems for customers both globally and domestically and for being on the leading edge of trends and technology within our industry.
Director of Insights & Innovation | Simmons Foods
Jason Herron is the Director of Insights + Innovation for Simmons Foods. Over the last decade, Jason has developed various observational-based research programs for clients that have gained Simmons many coveted thought leader roles and first developer advantages. Jason holds a B.A. in Marketing, Advertising, and an M.A. in Consumer Behavior. He recently accepted a fellowship with the iDNA Innovators program based on the NY-Times bestselling book Innovator’s DNA. At Simmons, he conducts custom primary research for the restaurant industry and frequently speaks and consults on a variety of topics surrounding the consumer experience. His mission at work is to drive more valuable engagement across his clients’ broad range of brands and market environments.
Co-Founder | I Love Bacon
Keith Hill’s first job 22 years ago, was in fast casual dining as a teenager. As he came of age, he soon moved into the challenging bar and nightclub business. He cut his teeth there, opening and helping build several very successful companies. I Love Bacon Food Truck burst onto the scene in the 1st quarter of 2014 and immediately gained notoriety with 4 “Best Food Truck In The City” awards from different organizations. ILB is currently moving into the brick & mortar business as well as adding more trucks to the fleet.
Mid Market Account Executive | Toast
Daniel Iannucci is an account executive on the enterprise/mid market sales team at Toast, a restaurant technology platform that enables customers to simplify and streamline all elements of their operation and deliver a better guest experience. Dan is a Boston University School of Hospitality Administration graduate. He has previously worked at Micros and iRiS Software Systems where he worked on both Hotel and Restaurant technology.
Founder/CEO | Vale Food Co.
Sunny Ilyas is Founder & CEO for Vale Food Co, a rapidly growing healthy fast casual restaurant in Florida that offers build your own bowls; açaí bowls, and also provides meal plan delivery services. A true entrepreneur, he set out in 2014 to create a meal plan delivery company to provide people with healthy food that is delicious, convenient, affordable and has variety. In 2016, he was able to grow from a meal plan delivery business to opening up as a restaurant as well. As a dual revenue stream company, Vale Food Co in a year has been able to grow into 3 locations in prime real estate and thrive.
SVP & CMO | Corner Bakery Cafe
Donna Josephson is the Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer at Corner Bakery Cafe. She has more than 20 years of restaurant marketing experience in developing and implementing innovative brand strategies and marketing programs to drive results. She most recently served as CMO at Fazoli’s where she launched a new restaurant interior design, catering program, online ordering, and the brand’s loyalty app. Prior to Fazoli’s, Josephson served as the VP of Marketing for McAlister’s Deli where she led the executive team in redefining the brand positioning. Josephson holds both a Bachelor of Science degree and an MBA in Business Management from Ball State University.
Co-Founder & CEO | Balance Grille
Prakash Karamchandani is one of two co-founders of Balance Pan-Asian Grille: a fast casual chain of Asian-fusion restaurants located in Northwest Ohio. Balance is somewhere between a restaurant and a tech Company. iPad-based employee management software, future-forecasted inventory for daily prep lists, cloud-based employee communication, and replacing managers with data analysts are just some of the ways Balance is on the cutting edge. Recently ranked on FastCasual.com’s Top 100 Movers and Shakers list, Prakash is looking to position his brand for nationwide growth. Prakash also serves on the board for Food for Thought, a non-profit focused on eliminating food insecurity.
President | Cowboy Chicken
Sean Kennedy is President of Cowboy Chicken, a system named by Forbes as one of 5 Little Restaurant Chains to buy Into in 2012. Sean and his team take their customers’ trust and security very seriously and have come up with some ways to attack the problem of identity theft and credit card security head on. They are also breaking just about every norm when it comes to serving southern chicken.
Executive Chef | Blaze Pizza
Brad Kent has always focused on the taste and science behind food. He quickly learned that food was more than just ingredients put together. His natural talent evolved from dorm room creations as a marketing major at the University of Southern California to his first business as a tapas and small plate catering company. Kent studied at the Culinary Institute of America in New York and later earned a food science degree at Cal State Long Beach. After honing his craft on a private yacht, he opened Olio Pizzeria in Los Angeles. Kent is responsible for creating Blaze Pizza’s recipes and manufacturing partnerships.
Founder | Chi’Lantro
Jae Kim is the Founder of Chi’Lantro, an award-winning Korean BBQ-inspired restaurant, mobile food truck and full-service catering company. Born in Seoul, Korea, Jae moved to the United States when he was 12 years old and grew up in California. As an immigrant raised by a single mother, Jae overcame challenges throughout his life to achieve his dream of owning a successful business. Using everything he had, Jae maxed out his credit cards and used his entire savings to create the successful multi-location business that is now Chi’Lantro. Jae is a proud member of Entrepreneurs’ Organization.
Founder & CEO | Asian Box
Frank Klein is Founder and CEO of Asian Box, a lifestyle fast casual restaurant group. Asian Box focuses on a more healthful yet massively flavorful and authentic Vietnamese food experience. Founded with his fine dining partners “The Box” as it is known tries to nail that $10 price point by exceeding expectations. Based in California Klein plans to take Asian Box national in the coming years. Prior to founding Asian Box Frank started FK Restaurants & Hospitality. There he consulted with some of the biggest names in the restaurant industry and takes special pride in his work also for The District of Colombia Public Schools as well as for minority concession owners in The National Parks.
Co-Founder, CEO and Creative Director | &pizza
Michael Lastoria is CEO & Co-Founder of &pizza, the first Washington D.C. based fast-casual pizza concept rapidly expanding in the Mid-Atlantic region. He set out to create a different kind of pizza shop – one where experience is the focal point. Every shop reflects the culture and people of its neighborhood and quality ingredients are combined in inventive ways. An entrepreneur at heart, Michael began his career in 2002, founding Innovation Ads, a leading marketing and media services company. Michael has also founded several other notable performance-based advertising and hospitality companies. His ventures have received national recognition including features in Entrepreneur Magazine and a variety of entertainment publications.
CEO | Anthony’s Pizza & Pasta
From politics to pizza, John Lebel, has always taken his New York roots very seriously. Lebel started his career in Washington D.C with a passion for community and helping others. He combined that passion with his love of authentic New York style pizza and help found Anthony’s Pizza & Pasta. Lebel and his team have expanded Anthony’s from a single downtown Denver storefront to more than 25 restaurants. He has also continued to grow his commitment to community. Anthony’s supports several organizations, from feeding volunteers and catering fundraisers to supporting youth organizations and struggling families.
CEO | Sushiyaa Franchising
Kevin Lee has over a decade of experience conceptualizing mere ideas into business models and launching new brands and expanding concepts. He is a lifestyle brand and small business development leader and currently leading Sushiyaa Franchising to re-identify the value of the concept. As part of this initiative, the company implemented a third-party customer loyalty program and signed up more than 10,000 members within a five-month period. He also helped build the delivery platform with nearly no investment by leveraging ‘passing tipping point’ technologies. After seven months of its launch, it has reached over 3.5% of the total sales
Linda Appel Lipsius
Co-Founder and CEO | Teatulia
Linda Appel Lipsius is the Co-Founder & CEO of Teatulia Organic Teas. Since 2006, she’s been working with her partners in Bangladesh to bring premium-quality, sustainably-sourced teas from a previously-unknown growing region to the United States and the United Kingdom. The sustainably packaged teas are sold through natural, specialty, conventional and mass grocery as well as foodservice channels ranging from fine dining to college & university to fast casual. Teatulia also runs an innovative Tea Bar in its home town of Denver that serves as a lab for the branded lineup as well as a community gathering spot. Prior to Teatulia, Linda was the VP of International, for Orange Glo International (makers of OxiClean, Orange Glo and Kaboom).
Director of Hospitality & Training | Billy Sims BBQ
As the newly appointed Director of Hospitality & Training, David Littlefield trains Billy Sims BBQ franchisee and company-owned management and crew on his proprietary formula for creating powerful and productive hospitality environments. David is the founder and creator of the Hospitality Personality Training Program and Hospitality Feedback, which he has begun implementing at Billy Sims BBQ. His Hospitality Personality Training Program is intended to motivate customer service professionals to think positively, work creatively and respond to guest’s needs with enthusiasm and passion. David’s reputation as a motivator and trainer has provided him the opportunity to earn his exemplary reputation as a turn-around specialist.
Natalie Anderson Liu
VP of Marketing | MOOYAH Burgers, Fries & Shakes
Natalie Anderson Liu is Vice President of Marketing at MOOYAH Burgers, Fries & Shakes. She leads all marketing and communication efforts for the MOOYAH brand, including strategic planning, branding, and consumer insights, while supporting franchisees in their local efforts as well. A proven thought-leader, Natalie is recognized for providing innovative and effective strategies to drive the business forward. She is respected by peers and reports alike for her collaborative style and ability to bring together diverse perspectives. Natalie worked for The Richards Group as Brand Planner and then spent five years with TracyLocke as Senior Strategic Planner working with such brands as Pizza Hut, Nokia, Zales and Fruit of the Loom.
President & CEO | Back Yard Burgers
David McDougall is President and Chief Executive Officer of Back Yard Burgers, Inc., a better burger restaurant company based in Nashville, TN. After joining the company in 2013, David has led the successful turnaround of the brand through three years of revenue growth, improved unit-level economics, better franchise relations and a return to Back Yard Burgers’ roots of delivering great tasting food. David’s background includes more than 35 years of food service and franchise experience in both quick and full service, specializing in operations, development and international business. He is also a recipient of the prestigious Certified Franchise Executive designation (CFE).
CMO | Saladworks
Steve McMahon is CMO for Saladworks, franchisor of America’s first salad-centric, fast-casual concept and leading entrée salad destination. He leads all aspects of branding, marketing and new product development for the chain. Steve’s reintegration into corporate America follows a twelve-year hiatus, during which he led his own management consulting practice, Insight Out. He provided clients with direction in research, analysis, strategy and branding, with a focus on clients in food, beverage, retail and foodservice, especially chains with multi-unit operations. Before that, Steve was Vice President of Strategic Planning & Marketing for Aspen Dental and CMO at Cinnabon, where he created a licensing business unit, which later led to the brand’s acquisition by Focus Brands.
VP of Business Development | GFX International
Melissa Marquis is the Vice President of Business Development for GFX International. GFX International is a retail execution company with decades of experience in retail, fast casual, QSR, family dining, hospitality, grocery, etc. Melissa joined GFX in 2013, with the focus and responsibility to provide solutions to retailers and restaurant chains in both décor and POP execution. Her team is focused on reducing costs and timelines for restaurant chains and retailers using technology to drive smart marketing and décor distributions based on store specific profiles. As an executive, Melissa ensures that GFX International continues to invest in technology to streamline processes and exposing additional cost savings for clients.
SVP of Franchise Brands | Scorpion
Justin Mink is Senior Vice President of Franchise Brands at Scorpion, where he focuses on expanding the company’s national business across various industries. Before coming to Scorpion he served in founder and executive roles for a variety of technology and marketing companies. Justin was the Chief Marketing Officer at New Frontier Data, a provider of real-time data and analytics for legal cannabis operators and investors. He also served as co-founder and VP of Strategy at Music Audience Exchange, National Director at ReachLocal, and Brand Marketing Lead at Gannett. Justin has a B.A. in political science from the University of Mary Washington.
CEO & President | Blaze Pizza
Jim Mizes is President and CEO of Pasadena-based Blaze Pizza, LLC. Jim has spent more than two decades building restaurant brands, including Taco Bell, Noah’s Bagels, Jamba Juice and, most recently, as President of Freebirds World Burrito, LLC. Jim joined Blaze Pizza founders Rick and Elise Wetzel in June of 2013 to help build the fast casual artisanal pizza brand. At the time, Blaze Pizza had two restaurants. Today it has more than 200 locations across 32 states and Canada and will end 2017 with about 250 restaurants. Jim earned a B.A. in Economics from Dartmouth, and an MBA from what is now UCLA’s Anderson School of Management.
Corporate Executive Chef | Schlotzsky’s
As Corporate Executive Chef of Schlotzsky’s, owned by FOCUS Brands, Maira leads the Research and Development (R&D) Department where creation of new menu items, limited time offers (LTO’s) and directing the department are all part of her everyday tasks. In this new role under Maira’s leadership, the team will continue developing recipes and menu offerings which will be seen in over 350 locations worldwide. Prior to her current role, Chef Maira Isabel was the Executive Chef at Disney World Golf Courses and has also been featured in numerous television shows in the United States, Puerto Rico and throughout Latin America.
Operating Partner | Melt Shop
Josh Morgan discovered a passion for the restaurant industry while working for Hillstone Restaurant Group. In January 2010, Josh opened his own restaurant in NYC called Choptank. In June 2013, Josh joined Aurify Brands as an operating partner of Melt Shop, an American sandwich concept. By 2015, Josh became Operating Partner of Aurify Brands in which he oversaw operations of 35 restaurants across 6 different brands–Five Guys, Melt Shop, The Little Beet, Little Beet Table, Fields Good Chicken & Make Sandwich. Currently Josh is overseeing the licensing and franchising efforts to grow the Melt Shop brand both domestically and internationally.
Chief Development Officer | FOCUS Brands
Tim Muir joined FOCUS Brands in January, 2017, bringing more than 25 years of successful franchise sales and development experience to the organization as its first-ever Chief Development Officer. Known throughout the industry as an effective, hands-on leader, before joining FOCUS Brands, Tim successfully managed signature brands as Vice President, Franchise Sales and Development for Choice Hotels. Prior to Choice Hotels, Tim served as the Senior Vice President of Franchise Sales and Development for Wyndham Hotel Group, where he effectively directed new construction brands in North America and led an aggressive, strategic approach to create new growth opportunities.
Culinary Director | Asian Box
Seasoned Chef Chad Newton started Asian Box with Partner Frank Klein in 2012 to bring Palo Alto authentic, healthy Asian street food in a fine-casual environment. Since opening, Newton has helped grow the brand from a single unit to seven with plans to grow to 12 by the end of 2017. Responsible for oversight of the menu with wife and Executive Chef Grace Nguyen, Newton also oversees quality and consistency at all five locations and is responsible for opening and training staff. Newton has also played a large role in expanding the catering arm of the Asian Box business.
Founder & CEO | The Culinary Edge
Aaron Noveshen is an award-winning chef, restaurant entrepreneur, and leading authority in food product development. He is the founder of The Culinary Edge (TCE), America’s leading food innovation agency that creates and launches holistic, profitable and distinctive food and beverage experiences for both local and national brands. TCE Clients include a who’s who of the top food and restaurant companies in America such as Starbucks, Jack in the Box, AMC Theatres, Marriott, First Watch, McAlister’s Deli and Eat Smart Produce. In addition to founding TCE, Aaron is also co-founder of Pacific Catch Restaurants and more recently, South Bay restaurant chain Starbird Chicken.
CEO | Garbanzo Mediterranean Fresh
James Park is CEO of Garbanzo Mediterranean Fresh, the leader in fast casual authentic Mediterranean cuisine. James is a savvy marketing and operations executive who champions and activates all things brand. He excels at transformational leadership by humanizing the intangibles and developing programs that are purposeful and lasting. For the past 10 years, James has served in executive leadership roles for some of the most well-established and fastest-growing concepts in the fast casual, QSR and retail environments: Which Wich, 7-Eleven and Charley’s. In addition, James’ international experience includes substantive contributions in Dubai, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, China, Venezuela and Brazil.
Regional VP of Operations | La Madeleine French Bakery & Cafe
Speaker bio coming soon!
Sr. Director of Marketing | Custom Culinary
Rob Pellicano joined Custom Culinary in 2007 and is currently serving as the organization’s Senior Director of Marketing where he leads the development and execution of their brand, product, and channel Marketing strategies. Rob has a passion for enabling customer innovation with an insight-driven orientation. This passion is best exemplified through the conception, launch, and leveraging of the Custom Culinary FLAVORIQ platform, designed to provide customers with a collaborative, immersive, and experiential approach to food, flavor, and insight delivery. Prior to joining Custom Culinary Rob held a number of roles within the Unilever Foodsolutions Marketing department. Rob has over 20 years of Foodservice Marketing experience with culinary flavor systems.
Executive Chef, Beefsteak | Think Food Group
Pat Peterson is the executive chef of Beefsteak, José Andrés’ vegetable-centric fast casual, where he is responsible for menu development and back of house operations for all current and future locations. Pat joins Beefsteak with more than 27 years of experience in the restaurant industry and has developed menus and kitchen systems for large national brands. He comes to Beefsteak from Focus Brands where he led culinary research and development as VP/ Executive Chef for Moe’s Southwest Grill. Prior to that, he spent 19 years at Ruby Tuesday where he served in various operations and R&D roles, ending his tenure as VP of Culinary for Emerging Brands.
Senior Vice President | Buxton
As senior vice president, Stephen holds a leadership position within Buxton’s retail consulting division. For more than nine years Stephen has built relationships with retail, restaurant, and franchise clients to help them identify ways to solve business challenges using customer analytics. Stephen’s clients include Wingstop, Regis Salons, ALFA Insurance, Checkers and Rally’s, and Huddle House. He has spoken at industry conferences such as the Restaurant Franchising & Innovation Summit, Restaurant Leadership Conference, and Restaurant Finance & Development Conference. Before joining Buxton, Stephen was as a professional golfer. He received his bachelor’s degree in business management from Texas Christian University.
Chief Financial Officer | Wahlburgers
Patrick is the CFO of Wahlburgers, a Boston based burger restaurant founded by Executive Chef Paul Wahlberg, and celebrity brothers Mark and Donnie Walhberg. Patrick was most recently CEO at Boloco, a fast casual globally inspired burrito chain, where he also served as CFO for four years. Prior to that Patrick was CFO at Sebastian’s Café and Catering, where he spent four years overseeing all financial and administrative policies and procedures for the company; this included leadership during the company’s most profitable growth period. Previously, he held CFO positions at Fresh Concepts, which operates fast casual restaurants under the name Fresh City and Souper Salad.
CMO | Street Shak Caribbean Kitchen
Speaker bio coming soon!
Chief Strategy Officer | PAR
Paul Rubin is Chief Strategy Officer for ParTech, Inc. Paul has more than 23 years of development experience and has dedicated over 18 years within the hospitality POS market. As a software professional, Paul architected and created new solutions for several large retail and food service companies such as Kinko’s, Jenny Craig, Starbucks, and Jack-in-the-Box. He later went on to work as the Director, Software Engineering at Ameranth, Inc., a provider of wireless and internet-based software solutions for hospitality, healthcare, and financial services companies. Paul founded Brink Software, a state of the art, cloud-based Point of Sale (POS) software solution that has been dominating in the fast casual and QSR space.
SVP of Marketing | Quiznos
Chris has led advertising and marketing initiatives at Quiznos since 2007. He oversees the brand’s positioning while maximizing strategies for all consumer-facing efforts including television advertising, in-store experience, local store marketing and digital/social communications. Chris started his advertising career in Chicago at McCann Erikson while also spending time at Frankel, Barnhart/CMI and McClain Finlon Advertising agencies. He has nearly twenty years of experience working on national brands including Frito Lay, United States Post Office, Visa, Qwest, Winter Park Resort and Breckenridge Resort prior to joining the Quiznos team.
Founder & CEO | Apex Supply Chain Technologies
Kent is a serial entrepreneur, inventor and investor. Widely recognized as an international expert in the field of supply chain and factory automation technologies and advanced point-of-use technologies, he has spent more than 30 years providing innovative leadership and managing the growth of organizations devoted to the development, marketing and financing of dispensing, control and information technologies. Having been awarded numerous domestic and international patents, he oversees the company’s strategic direction.
Co-Founder & CEO | Nékter Juice Bar
Steve Schulze is co-founder and CEO of Nékter Juice Bar. Leveraging personal savings and an SBA loan, Steve and his wife Alexis have built the company in seven years into a predominant restaurant and lifestyle brand, offering fresh, clean, nutritious juices, smoothies and acai bowls made without processed ingredients, artificial flavors, added sugars, or unnecessary fillers. With more than 80 locations in six states, over 900 employees and nearly $50 million in annual revenue, Nékter is expanding nationally through corporate and franchise growth with plans to grow to 425 restaurants by 2020. Prior to launching Nékter, Steve worked for consumer-based companies in various sales, marketing and management capacities.
Co-Founder & CEO | Salata
At the age of 19, Berge moved from Lebanon to the US, landing at the Dallas-Fort Worth airport with almost nothing. In 1979, Berge relocated to Houston to help his parents manage their struggling deli. He eventually opened his own cafeteria-style restaurant in downtown Houston in 1989. After noticing the growing popularity of the restaurant’s salad bar, he dedicated the next few years researching and developing the concept that would become Salata. Berge’s leadership as the visionary co-founder and CEO over the past twelve years, has expanded the brand to more than 60 locations in 8 major markets.
Co-Founder and Principal | Studio 11 Design
Kellie Sirna, co-founder of Studio 11 Design, has spent over a decade molding her client-first design philosophy a set of principles that is reflective in each of the firm’s projects. From concept to budget and design execution, Kellie focuses on keeping the client involved and informed, a philosophy that gives the firm and her service a boutique feel. Kellie and partner, Stacy Elliston created a boutique firm around a curated group of creative, diverse designers that all bring something different and unique to each space. Kellie got her first peek into the design world when she accepted a position as a buyer for interior art & accessories.
CMO | Newk’s Eatery
Stewart Slocum, CMO Newk’s Eatery, has received the “Excellence in Innovation” award from the National Restaurant Association and “Innovator of the Year” award from Nightclub & Bar magazine. His hospitality career launched with Jack Daniel’s Grill at T.G.I. Friday’s, where he spent 9 years on the U.S. and International teams. His career has included leadership roles at marquee companies including Starwood Hotels & Resorts, Denihan Hotels, Patina Restaurant Group and LeDuff America, along with partnerships with James Beard and Michelin-awareded chefs including Joachim Splichal, Stephan Pyles and Jonathan Beno.
Founder & CEO | Smoke’s Poutinerie Inc.
Ryan Smolkin’s first display of entrepreneurial spirit began at Wilfred Laurier University where he studied business and built up $4 million in rental assets before selling them in 2004. Moving forward, he began the development of Smoke’s Poutinerie as the first poutine-centred QSR in the world. Smoke’s Poutinerie has been growing at an astoundingly fast pace and has been recognized within the industry by receiving a number of accolades, such as the Pinnacle Award for Company of the Year, the Hospitality Award for Fastest Growing Company in Canada, and most recently Strategy Magazine’s 2015 Brand of the Year. Currently, Smoke’s Poutinerie has over 200 stores across North America.
Director of Franchise Development | HuHot Mongolian Grill
Laura Sporrer currently serves as the Director of Franchise Development at HuHot Mongolian Grills. Laura’s career in franchise development started over 10 years ago at Quiznos corporate, where she paved the path for their first ever online disclosure of the FDD. Her work experience includes franchise marketing, campus and airport development, FDD management, local store marketing strategy and management, as well as market development and planning. In her current role she is responsible for all aspects of franchise recruitment from lead to sale (with a limited budget). Her efforts have resulted in achieving HuHot’s largest number of leads in 2016 and several new signings.
SVP of Enterprise Partnerships | LoyaltyPlant
Jim Sternberg leverages his vast experience in pairing leading brands with winning mobile and digital initiatives to head the Enterprise Partnerships team at LoyaltyPlant. He comes from a solid marketing and business development background which focuses on e-commerce, search marketing, user experience and conversion and campaign optimization. Jim is passionate about transforming the face of mobile marketing for restaurant chains using the disruptive force of the LoyaltyPlant platform. Prior to joining LoyaltyPlant, Jim was the Director of Sales for AppFlyer and the VP Digital Specialist at Equifax. He holds an MBA from the Leonard N. Stern School of Business, NYU.
Partner, CFO | SuViche
Andrei Stern is an entrepreneur and businessman with a focus on financial and strategic decision-making. Stern is Partner and CFO at SuViche Group, a multi-brand Hospitality company that owns and operates restaurants in South Florida. Andrei focuses on evaluating funding opportunities and securing capital for the business while developing long-term relationships with investors. Stern has been able to increase the profitability of the Group to levels well above industry standards thanks to the processes he has established since co-founding the company in 2010.
VP, Franchise Development | McAlister’s Deli
Jeff Sturgis has nearly 20 years of experience in the areas of franchise sales, franchise development and franchise strategy. In his current role with McAlister’s Deli, Jeff is responsible for the strategic planning and execution of all franchise development activities. Prior to joining McAlister’s, Jeff was the Founder and President of Franchise System Advisors, a consulting and strategic planning firm focused on the franchise industry. At Franchise System Advisors he worked with franchisors to help them evaluate, develop and implement successful franchise sales & development strategies. Prior to founding FSA, Jeff spent 3 ½ years as the Vice President of Franchise Development for Fantastic Sams Hair Salons.
President & CEO | Saladworks
Patrick Sugrue brings more than 20 years of experience in the food industry and extensive executive expertise to his role as President and CEO of Saladworks. Patrick began his career at The Gallo Winery and The Coca Cola Company before working for well-known brands including Honey Baked Ham, Fearman’s Pork, Inc. and Sofina Foods. Since joining Saladworks, Patrick has led the company in a brand positioning study, creating and implementing an innovative strategic plan, and driven the launch of new menu items, a systemwide remodeling project and a technology bundle, all with 2017 comp sales up 8 percent.
President | Steritech
As president of Steritech, Doug Sutton uses his unique combination of skills, experience and insight to help industry partners rethink delivering a strong and consistent customer experience. Ever the marketer at heart, Doug also brings broad experience in sales, operations and general management. Since joining Steritech in 2014, Doug has championed shifting the status quo of the industry’s expectations on the audit experience through a consultative and programmatic philosophy. His ardent belief in the importance of a stellar customer experience continually drives his approach with industry partners.
Co-owner | Rockfire Grill
Neil, along with his Father Raj Syal Co-Founded Rockfire Grill in 2014. Using their different experiences in different genres of food, from different parts of the world they were able to create a unique concept. Growing up in Southern California, he was able to combine the great flavors of the local burger chains and incorporate it with his father’s 30 years of culinary expertise. Neil is involved in the development, operations and growth of the business and is an active CPA in the State of California.
CEO | Koti Pizza Group
Tommi Tervanen is the CEO of Kotipizza Group. He is also the chairman of The Finnish Franchising Association. His career started at the leading Finnish retail company Kesko where he worked as product manager. In the early 2000s, he founded the sourcing and logistics operator Helsinki Foodstock which has since grown into an over 50 MEu business. He started as CEO of Kotipizza Group in 2011. The Kotipizza Group consists of Kotipizza, the largest pizza chain in the Northern Europe, Chalupa, a Mexican style fast casual restaurant chain, and Helsinki Foodstock. The Kotipizza chain has significantly revamped its concept in the past few years and changed its marketing strategy completely.
Owner/Founder | Biju’s Little Curry Shop
Biju Thomas is a professional chef and creator of Biju’s Little Curry Shop — a fast casual restaurant serving made-from-scratch food inspired by his youth in Kerala, South India. Biju’s Little Curry Shop is the first fast-casual concept to explore the heart and soul of Southern Indian cuisine in an easy-to-grasp and guest-friendly format. Thomas, a former competitive cyclist and author of the Feedzone cookbooks, has cooked for many top athletes in the world. Biju’s Little Curry Shop currently has four Colorado locations and was the first in-store, chef-driven concept to open in a Whole Foods Market.
VP of Operations | Chicken Salad Chick
Jim Thompson, VP of Operations at Chicken Salad Chick, has over 25 years of leading operations teams that also includes Wendy’s, Kings Family Restaurants, Papa Gino’s and D’Angelo. At Chicken Salad Chick, Jim has built operations, training and management systems from the ground up that have been integral to Chicken Salad Chick’s growth from six locations to over 65 in just three and half years. Chicken Salad Chick has earned recognition for its successful growth including being named one of Nation’s Restaurant News “Hot Concepts”, Fast Casual Magazines Top 100 in 2015 and #37 among Inc. Magazines Top 500 fastest growing US companies in 2016.
Former SVP Strategy & Chief Development Officer | Papa Murphy’s International
Jayson Tipp is a nationally-recognized and sought-after expert in consumer analytics, market strategy and execution with a reputation for converting insights into strategies that deliver results. Most recently he was Chief Development Officer for Papa Murphy’s International developing and executing growth strategies across franchise sales, real estate, and technology. Jayson also served as SVP, Marketing for PMI while the organization posted 14 consecutive quarters of sales growth. Prior to PMI, Jayson served in analytics and strategy roles for redbox, Potbelly Sandwich Works, and Starbucks. Jayson also has a 25 year career as a semi-professional jazz composer, performer and recording artist with his band Under The Lake.
VP of Sales | Heartland Commerce
Mike has served the Food and Beverage and General Retail Industry for over 30 years, currently serving as VP of Sales for Heartland Commerce’s Enterprise team. Having helped transition multiple technology companies sales teams from traditional perpetual license sales to subscription based Software as a Service, Mike believes that how software is acquired and deployed will be rapidly evolving over the next few years. As the technology evolves, the need for equally disruptive ways to provide solutions to businesses should evolve as well.
VP of Sales & Operations | Welbilt
Steve Willoughby is the Vice President of Sales Operations at Welbilt. Steve has had many roles at Welbilt, starting in Product Management at Delfield, Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Frymaster, and now Vice President of Sales Operations for Welbilt. Welbilt was former known as Manitowoc Foodservice and is now an independent publicly traded company on the New York Stock Exchange. Welbilt has a portfolio of commercial foodservice equipment that will help your kitchen reach its full potential by bringing “innovation to the table.”
Former CMO | Newk’s Eatery
Alan Wright is a lifelong “Marketing Foodie” having worked for some of the biggest brands in foodservice. His stops have included Marketing leadership positions with legacy and disruptive franchised brands. These include Regional McDonalds Agency, Hardee’s Food Systems, The Krystal Company and most recently launched the Newk’s Eatery brand position in 2013. As a strategic and creative brand innovator, he has led management teams through the social, mobile, digital, media and brand journeys. He believes “It’s better to be different not just better” which leads to leverageable brand personality. Alan has also served on the Technomics Operational Advisory Board and Greater Chattanooga Hospitality Association Board.
Mario C. Bauer
Mary Kay Hyde
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