SVP, Chief Restaurant Operations Officer | Panera Bread
Karen Kelley joined Panera in December 2018 as Senior Vice President, Chief Restaurant Operations Officer, bringing her experience of building great teams and culture, infrastructure and operating processes to the company. As a proven leader in the restaurant business, Karen believes leadership is an honor and carries with it the responsibility of investing in building exceptional talent and teams to drive successful business and brand growth. Karen comes to Panera with more than 30 years of management and operational experience, having served as President and COO of Tatte Bakery & Café, sweetgreen and Drybar, where she was responsible for driving strategic growth, building the infrastructure and teams, and overseeing key internal leaders.
PANELISTS & MODERATORS
Founder & CEO | Square Roots Kitchen
Derin Alemli is the Founder & CEO of Square Roots Kitchen, a technology-enabled fast casual healthy restaurant located at 120 S Halsted in Chicago. SRK automates customer interactions and kitchen operations, and has been revolutionary in creating a humanized approach to automation that makes for happy customers and an efficient operation. SRK is expanding, and developing its tech as a SaaS product for other restaurants. Prior to becoming an entrepreneur Derin worked in hedge fund portfolio management for Grosvenor Capital Management. Derin has an MBA from the University of Chicago in addition to holding the Chartered Financial Analyst designation.
CEO | Wow Bao
After two decades of working with multiple Lettuce Entertain You concepts, Geoff Alexander took over as President of Wow Bao in 2009. Under Geoff’s leadership, Wow Bao has revolutionized the way diners interact with restaurants by being a leader in technology. He implemented mobile & desktop ordering, installed self-ordering kiosks, pioneered a mobile gift card & loyalty program, added bicycle delivery, as well as domestic shipping, launched a food truck, and turned Wow Bao into a well-respected social media influencer. Geoff has overseen Wow Bao’s inclusion into airports, NFL stadiums, MLB ballparks, university campuses, and more than 50 grocers sell Wow Bao’s frozen retail line.
Director of Technology | Modern Restaurant Concepts
With the creation of Modern Restaurant Concepts in 2019 and the merger with Lemonade, Brian Anderson has been busy working with the new brand. Current projects have included upgrading payment technology and improving the guest experience with 3rd party platforms. Other behind the scenes initiatives include an upcoming desktop, mobile and app experience release, a new phone ordering and call center solution and continued enhancements to infrastructure to support these projects. Brian is a third-generation restaurateur, with his roots in operations. His first job was sorting silverware in his family’s restaurant. He has worked every role in both FOH and BOH before his passion for technology won out.
Founder & CEO | SAJJ Mediterranean
Zaid Ayoub is the founder and CEO of the Bay Area-headquartered fast casual restaurant chain SAJJ Mediterranean. Under Zaid’s strategic leadership, SAJJ Mediterranean has grown from being a single storefront in 2012 to a growing network of nine stores and two food trucks offering catering and event services. The brand has two corporate stores in development in Northern California, and aims to have 15 stores opened or in the works by year’s end.
President & CEO | East Coast Wings + Grill
Sam G. Ballas serves as Chief Executive Officer of East Coast Wings + Grill, a casual dining concept. Founder of ZorAbility, Inc., an advisoery and investment firm for emerging franchise models, and majority shareholder of GetFried, a fast casual concept. As founder of East Coast Wings + Grill, he has lead the brand by instilling Unit Level of Economics (ULE) as the brands absolute DNA since the chain started franchising. With over 29 years of experience in the financial markets, retail real estate/ development industries and 39 years of restaurant experience, he has implemented traditional growth strategies and pioneered proprietary strategies earning accolades in the Top 50 Restaurant Franchise with Franchise Business Review (FBR) 2012-18.
CEO | True Food Kitchen
Christine Barone joined True Food Kitchen as CEO in 2016. Since then she’s accelerated the company’s development – growing the business from 12 restaurants in 2016 to 28 restaurants in 13 states today. True Food Kitchen’s mission “to bring people together to eat better, feel better, and celebrate a passion for better living” is what drives Christine and her commitment to the brand’s ongoing growth. Prior to her current role, Christine served as senior vice president of food, evenings and licensed stores at Starbucks. Christine graduated from Harvard University with a BA in applied mathematics and earned an MBA from Harvard Business School.
Director of Global Marketing | The Halal Guys
Justin Bartek is an accomplished brand marketer who has worked with the likes of The Halal Guys, Veggie Grill, Qdoba, Baja Fresh and Warner Brothers Records in various roles throughout his career. He currently heads up the marketing department at The Halal Guys, a brand that was recently voted #3 on the Top 100 Movers and Shakers for 2019 by Fast Casual. With over 450 locations currently in development, The Halal Guys is poised to be THE restaurant brand that brings American Halal Food to the masses. Justin’s motto is “Be Open, Do The Work and Live Limitless”.
Chairman & CEO | Mobivity
With more than a decade of experience building, financing, and acquiring enterprises redefining the way technology and business interact, Dennis Becker leads Mobivity’s vision of bringing businesses more customers, more often through disruptive technologies. An inventor of several patents, Dennis’ background also includes awards as founder of Frontieric Corporation and CEO of Bexel Technologies. Prior to Mobivity, Dennis studied Computer Science at the University of Oregon and served in the USAF.
Founder & CEO | 7shifts
Jordan Boesch is the founder and CEO of 7Shifts, a scheduling and labor management app that helps restaurants and QSRs schedule, evaluate, and communicate with their workforces, founded in 2014. While the product began as a simple tool to help his dad manage the work schedule at his Quiznos franchises, it has since evolved into a leading global restaurant management platform. Jordan has led 7shifts into the doors of over 10,000 restaurants with the mission to improve happiness and efficiency in the workplace.
Head of Product Management | PlayerLync
Paul Bradley heads Product Management and New Product Development for PlayerLync, a leading operational learning and performance support solution for industries with deskless workers. Throughout Paul’s twenty years as a technology innovator, he has led product ideation and development efforts for organizations ranging from early stage to the Fortune 500, including AT&T Wireless, Charter Communications, Visa, Level 3 Communications, and more. His current obsession is leveraging mobile technology to revolutionize modern learning and to break down traditional barriers between learning and operational performance.
CEO | Juice It Up!
In 2017, Chris Braun brought his enthusiasm and passion for healthy living to the Juice It Up! family as he took the reins as President and Chief Executive Officer of the brand. In his role, he oversees corporate programs and franchisee relations while implementing new tools and strategies designed to improve revenues and achieve brand growth. He is dedicated to ensuring every Juice It Up! franchise partner is provided with the support needed to thrive in the booming smoothie, raw juice and bowl category where Juice It Up! has been an industry leader for more than 24 years. Chris has over two decades of corporate management and executive experience in the food industry.
President | Salata
As the first president of Salata, Michelle Bythewood is responsible for management of operations and logistics, creating, communicating and implementing the organization’s vision, mission, and overall direction, and working with Salata’s franchise sales team to determine opportunities for expansion into new and existing markets. Michelle previously served as Salata’s CMO from August 2017 to January 2019, when she led brand management and strategy, national and field marketing, media, digital strategy, marketing technology and product innovation. Among other achievements, Michelle led an extensive restaurant redesign process and has been spearheading Salata’s rebranding efforts. Before serving as CMO, Michelle was a consultant for Salata in 2016 and 2017.
VP of Editorial | Networld Media Group
Before joining Networld Media Group as Vice President 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 of Culinary Innovation & Guest Experience | Zoup! Eatery
Dan Carberry is the Vice President of Culinary Innovation & Guest Experience for Zoup! Eatery, a leading fast-casual soup restaurant concept that is defining the category with its award-winning soups and made-to-order sandwiches, salads and bowls. In his role, he oversees the brands menu innovation strategy and guest experience initiatives. Prior to Zoup!, he spent 15 years at Panera Bread in a variety of product development, design and concept leadership roles. Dan currently resides in Bloomfield Hills, MI with his wife and two sons.
COO | Mongolian Concepts
Paul Carolan joined Mongolian Concepts as COO in March 2018 and has partnered with the new executive team lead by Jim Vinz in revitalizing Genghis Grill, Bd’s Mongolian Grill and Flat Top Grill. Leading the company’s Operations, Development, Franchising and Supply Chain the team has been focused on brand reimaging, improved customer service, food quality and an operational excellence culture. Paul joined Bruegger’s Bagels, a Le Duff America company, as President in January of 2015 and led the company on its transformational strategy: co-branding partnerships, coffee and catering initiatives, brand reimaging, technology transformations, as well as driving a culture of operational excellence.
VP of Marketing | Chicken Salad Chick
Tom Carr serves as the Vice President of Marketing for Chicken Salad Chick leading all aspects of marketing and communications for the fast growing brand. He has nearly 30 years of experience as a strategic, creative, and innovative marketing executive across a diverse range of industries. This includes entertainment, apparel, restaurants, consumer products, and media. Tom’s experience includes marketing leadership roles with Discovery Communications, Spanx, Nike and Turner Broadcasting. He established his professional reputation in multi-unit restaurant and beverage advertising in senior roles at top agencies, where he managed Coca-Cola Fountain, Outback Steakhouse and helped take Little Caesars Pizza from a regional to a national chain.
VP of Brand Development & Strategy | Four Foods Group
Alonso Castañeda’s professional career began as a General Manager for Qdoba Mexica Grill in Colorado and he excelled in the business quickly and passionately. Since then he has worked as a Director of Franchise Operations, Regional Manager, Director of F&B, Director of Sales and Store compliance and currently Vice President of Brand Development and Strategy for the Four Foods Group Brands. He received the RevGen award from Mercato Partners in 2017 for top revenue generator in the FFG Brands. He has worked with great companies such as Qdoba, Paradise Bakery, Panera Bread, Café Rio, Kneaders Bakery & Café, R & R BBQ and Mo’Bettahs Hawaiian Style Food.
COO | Kerbey Lane Cafe
Speaker bio coming soon!
CEO | Kairos Mediterranean
Speaker bio coming soon!
President | MOOYAH Burgers, Fries & Shakes
Speaker bio coming soon!
Massimo De Marco
Chief Culinary Officer | Kitchen United
Massimo Noja De Marco serves as Kitchen United’s Chief Culinary Officer. Prior to joining the company, Massimo owned and operated PH+E, a boutique consulting firm focusing on opening restaurants, hotels and bars across the US, Mexico and Europe. He served as Vice President of Operations for SBE Entertainment, controlling all operational aspects for the Restaurants and Nightlife division. Previously he covered the same role at Wolfgang Puck Catering and Events, overseeing operations for all venues in S. California, including major events and awards shows, such as the Academy Awards. Formerly, Massimo owned and operated restaurants in NYC and Los Angeles.
COO | Ballard Brands
With 24 years of restaurant experience and knowledge of executive leadership inside and out, Bill DiPaola is a thought-leader among restaurant and franchise executives. Bill is the current Chief Operating Officer of Ballard Brands, LLC, a company of almost 175 units, both nationally and internationally. Among the many brands that Ballard represents is PJ’s Coffee which just opened it’s 100th location and the restaurant group of Iron Chef Jose Garces. He formerly led the charge as president and COO of Dat Dog Enterprises, overseeing the corporate office, as well as franchise and corporate operations. Under his leadership, Dat Dog was voted #1 Hot Dog Restaurant by USA Today.
Co-Founder & CEO | Chowly
Sterling Douglass is the Co-founder and CEO of Chowly, a first-of-its-kind service that helps restaurants integrate orders from Third-party Online Ordering Systems (UberEats, DoorDash, etc.) into their POS system. His work has been focused on building things; Teams, relationships, products, and companies. Winner of the Chicago Innovation Up & Comer award, Chowly has grown due to a fierce focus on lean start-up and an out-of-box thinking leadership team. Sterling also enjoys entrepreneurship, specifically the first stages a company goes through in the early days. For more information on Chowly, visit www.chowlyinc.com
VP of Off Premise | Potbelly Sandwich Works
Wendy Ewers created and launched the Catering Business Model for On The Border in 1993 and worked with multiple brands during her time with Brinker International supporting up to 8 brands with consulting and at one point directed a newly created branch coined Brinker Catering offering 6 brands in a centralized fashion. Wendy continued to work with On The Border through April of 2017 leading Off Premise Marketing, Sales and Operations for this channel. Since her departure in 2017 she has consulted several brands in developing their Off Premise Strategy and most recently joined Potbelly late January of 2019.
Former EVP, Business Operations | BurgerFi
Steve Felson is the Former Executive Vice President, Business Operations for BurgerFi International with oversight for the brand’s Operations, Marketing, Culinary, Training, Food Safety and Restaurant Opening teams. Steve has more than 20 years’ experience in the fast casual, QSR and Family Dining segments spanning a number of roles. Prior to joining BurgerFi almost 4 years ago, Steve served as the Director of Field Training and Restaurant Openings for Denny’s restaurants. Steve received a B.A. degree in English from Stetson University.
Founder & CEO | Everbowl
Since earning his J.D. from Thomas Jefferson School of Law, Jeff Fenster has proven himself as an entrepreneurial innovator. As a serial entrepreneur, Jeff’s been recognized nationally for his business creations ranging from a Payroll & HR company, Digital Marketing Agency, Construction company among others. In addition, Jeff was named a top 100 entrepreneurs under the age of 35 by Empact. Combining his two biggest passions – entrepreneurship and healthy living – Jeff created the foundation everbowl has been built on and his personal philosophy of making friends and having fun have not only translated into a fun, vibrant culture at everbowl but also became the company’s true heartbeat.
President | Gloria Jean’s Gourmet Coffees and It’s A Grind Coffee House
Sam Ferreira is a senior level executive who works with franchise owners to grow their business by focusing on new and existing revenue streams that are on brand, support overall business objectives and deliver memorable guest experiences that encourage and inspire repeat visits. As a proven leader, Sam believes product and service are the two key factors that drive any retail business. Product innovation and world-class service grounded on improving brand vibrancy and profitability are the hallmarks of his approach to business growth. As the President of RFG-USA, Sam has a passion for Process, People and Innovation paired with his 25 years of experience driving results across multiple retail disciplines.
Co-Founder & 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.
CEO | B.GOOD
Chris Fuqua is Chief Executive Officer of B.GOOD, a 75-unit, farm-to-table, fast casual restaurant chain that serves all-natural burgers, green and grain bowls, salads, and smoothies. A seasoned industry veteran, Chris brings a strong strategic vision and operational background to the company. He has been on the Board at B.GOOD since 2017 and previously held roles in Marketing, Operations, Finance, Strategy, and Supply Chain as a senior executive at Dunkin’ Brands, a consultant at McKinsey and Company, and an officer in the United States Navy.
Lead, Enterprise Services | Square
Charlie Fuhrmann joined Square in May 2017 as an early member of the Enterprise Services team, bringing his partnerships and fintech experience to Jack Dorsey’s Square. Charlie works with Square’s largest hospitality clients (i.e. Shake Shack, Tzatzikis, Juice Press) to realize their strategic vision for unified data and modern customer experiences. Square’s full-stack Enterprise Services team guide restaurant operators through sales, solutions engineering, implementation, training, and account management.
VP of Sales | Oracle Food and Beverage
Bob Gibson is Vice President of North America Sales for Oracle Food and Beverage, and has been representing the MICROS brand for nearly 20 years. Bob has a deep knowledge of the food and beverage industry, with many years of food service technology experience. In his role, Bob consults and works with many operators in the quick service, table service and food service management sectors on Point of Sale technology, back office applications, digital transformation and integration projects.
Partner, Culinary & Operations | Dog Haus
As befits the leader of our culinary team, Hagop Giragossian avidly explores Southern California’s vibrant food scene and cooks up leg3endary meals at home. Hagop’s successful business endeavors include founding Kings Row Gastropub and Neo Meze with Quasim. Additionally, Hagop partners with Quasim and André in Pyramid Powder. Hagop and Quasim are former owners of Boar’s Java, a coffee truck with a loyal following in Los Angeles County. Hagop has a degree in Psychology from California State University, Long Beach. In addition, to his culinary exploits, Hagop is an avid basketball fan who roots for his hometown team, the Lakers.
Founder & Managing Partner | Alliance Consumer Growth
Josh Goldin is Founder and Managing Partner of Alliance Consumer Growth, a growth equity fund which provides capital and growth-oriented resources to the most promising emerging consumer product, retail and restaurant brands. In the restaurant sector, ACG has been an early investor in rising-star brands Shake Shack, Tender Greens, PDQ, Snooze AM Eatery and Blaze Pizza. In other consumer categories, ACG’s track record includes early-stage investments in Suja Juice (later acquired by Coca-Cola), barkTHINS and Krave Jerky (both later acquired by Hershey’s), Evol Foods (later acquired by Boulder Brands), Clio Snacks, Tata Harper Skincare, Harry’s Inc., OUAI Haircare, Milk Makeup, Babyganics (later acquired by SC Johnson) and The Honest Kitchen.
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.
COO | Greek from Greece
As an industry leader, Scott Goodrich’s role as COO of Greek from Greece comprises driving the business through operations, marketing, purchasing and a passion for people. Scott entered the restaurant industry after developing his leadership skills with United Airlines. Scott was recruited by the Murrell Family, founders of Five Guys Burgers and Fries, in March of 2005. During his career at Five Guys, Scott developed operational and training procedures, and was a key architect behind the massive growth of the Five Guys franchise system. With a calling for brand development, Scott made an impactful contribution in the growth of both Uncle Maddio’s Pizza and Stacked Pickle as COO.
VP, Sales | Kitchen United
Anthony Green is a sales & operations executive with over 18 years experience in roles that have spanned the globe. Throughout his career he’s helped technology startups & early-stage companies to win new business, grow revenue, develop strategic partnerships and become leaders in their field. At Kitchen United Anthony leads the team responsible for restaurant sales: working with the best restaurant brands to support them as they move their business increasingly off-premise. Anthony grew up in Australia and now calls Venice Beach home.
President | Schlotzsky’s
Beto Guajardo began his term as President of Schlotzsky’s in September 2019. Beto brings extensive global experience in corporate and brand strategy, new business development, mergers and acquisitions and organizational structure. Over the past three decades, his career has spanned a broad spectrum of industries, from management consulting, global retail, automotive, energy, consumer packaged goods, and media and entertainment. Beto joins FOCUS Brands from Starbucks Coffee, where he served as Senior Vice President, Global Strategy. Beto built the Global Strategy team that was responsible for developing the company’s five-year strategic plan and operated as a coordinating body, developing and implementing strategies to succeed corporate goals. His teams worked extensively on executing Starbucks Delivery.
CEO | Qdoba
Keith Guilbault was named QDOBA’s Chief Executive Officer in May 2018. He leads the QDOBA Restaurant Corporation and oversees more than 750 restaurants located across the U.S. and in Canada. Previously, Keith was QDOBA’s Brand President and played an instrumental role in guiding the brand through its corporate headquarters’ relocation, along with its sale from its former parent company, Jack in the Box, Inc., to its current owner, Apollo Global Management Group. Keith also spent 12 years with Jack in the Box, Inc., where he held several executive positions. He completed his tenure with the corporation as its Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer.
President | McAlister’s Deli
With 20 years of experience in food service, consumer products and retail, Joe Guith has a passion for growing iconic brands that deliver superior experiences and value for guests and franchisees. In April 2018, he became the President of McAlister’s Deli, where he has been instrumental in positioning the brand for success. Under Joes’s leadership, McAlister’s Deli unveiled a complete brand evolution and restaurant redesign, which has propelled its ongoing growth in 27 states, with more than 450 units currently open and operating. Previously, he served as President of Cinnabon, Inc. and worked in general management and strategy with The Coca-Cola Company and Yum! Brands.
Digital Brand Manager | Fazoli’s
Will Hanrahan is the Digital Marketing Manager at Fazoli’s. He oversees growth of the Fazoli’s Rewards Program since launching the App in 2017. He leads the digital strategy for America’s largest Italian elevated QSR chain focusing on CRM, social and digital advertising.
VP of Marketing | Garbanzo Mediterranean Fresh
Devin Handler is the Vice President of Marketing for Garbanzo Mediterranean Fresh—The leading fast casual Mediterranean cuisine brand renowned for its focus on preservative-free delicious and nutritious meals including fresh-baked pitas, crispy falafels and scratch-made sauces. Devin is a 20-year branding veteran with experience at top ad agencies and leading internal teams. He uses transaction-level data and macrotrends to ensure that the brand is hitting the right levers to produce sustainable sales and build brand affinity. Before leading the GARBANZO “Feel Brighter Movement” Devin was the Director of Franchise and Regional Marketing for QDOBA Mexican Eats. Devin was instrumental in growing the brand from 200 units to over 700.
Partner | Messner Reeves
Michelle Harden is a Partner with Messner Reeves LLP, a full-service national business law firm. Michelle leads several Messner Reeves’ Practice Groups including Litigation, Crisis Management, Employment Law, and Hospitality Law. Her active hospitality law practice and has been recognized locally and nationally for her efforts defending restaurants and other businesses. This practice includes proactive crisis management planning as well as partnering with her clients in the midst of crisis. She has been involved in the formation of advisory boards to assist clients in various topics including management practices, food safety, data security, and other issues. Her litigation and trial practice spans commercial matters, claims arising from foodborne and environmental illness and contamination.
Don Hawkins, Jr.
Executive Vice President – Middleby Combi | Middleby Corporation
Don Hawkins is the Executive Vice President – Middleby Combi 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.
CEO | Pei Wei
John “J.” Hedrick has served as CEO of Pei Wei Asian Kitchen since January 2017. He brings a strong background in multi-unit hospitality and food service, specializing in retail operations and enhancing the guest experience, to his current leadership role. From Sept. 2015 to Jan. 2017, J. served as chief operating officer of NPC Restaurant Holdings, LLC, and NPC International, Inc., the nation’s seventh-largest restaurant operator with more than 1,300 Pizza Hut and 180 Wendy’s locations and annual revenues exceeding $1.2 billion. At NPC, he accelerated growth and drove strong financial performance while creating a customer-focused, employee-first mindset to drive long-term success.
Divisional President | Evo, Inc.
Scott Heim is a divisional president with Middleby Corporation. He joined Evo, Inc. in 2012, sparking the product development work in the griddle, plancha and cooktop segments. Evo became one of Oregon’s 100 fastest-growing private companies for three consecutive years. He directed the launch of the EVent® ventless griddle in 2015. This patented innovation became the catalyst that resulted in the Evo & Middleby merger at the end of 2018. Prior to Evo, he was responsible for creating a consumer packaged goods start-up firm, battling against (and outlasting) cleaning brands launched by Clorox, Dial and Procter & Gamble in a competitive retail market.
Director of Product Evangelism | PAR
Darrin Heisey is PAR’s Director of Product Evangelism. He typically spends his days leading the product awareness team and helps brands establish solid technology foundations to compete in the ever-evolving restaurant industry. Prior to joining the PAR team in 2016, Darrin spent 17 years leading the IT departments at a variety of restaurant brands, including Sonny’s BBQ, Tijuana Flats and MOOYAH. When he isn’t helping concepts improve their restaurant operations or convincing his co-workers to get PAR Brink themed tattoos (the ultimate form of product evangelizing), Darrin can be found running along the streets of Chicago. His goal is to compete in all six World Marathon Majors.
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.
Executive Chef/VP of Operations | Hot Indian Foods
Janene Holig is the founding chef of Hot Indian. What started as a food truck has grown into a popular and expanding fast casual. The menu boasts “Indian food, Simplified” and that is what it delivers. Her knowledge of global cuisine stems from traveling and cooking in restaurants around the world as well as a Bachelor degree in Culinary Management. Her goal is to learn, teach, and inspire Indian cooking. Janene and her dishes have gotten some notoriety including a 2013 Charlie Award for “Best Food Truck”; 2014 “Iron Fork” champion duo; 2015 “Best Food Truck” City Pages; 2015 Top Chef by Foodservice News and 2018 Featured “Chopped” Chef.
President & CEO | Fazoli’s
Carl T. Howard was recruited by Sun Capital Partners to be President and CEO of Fazoli’s Restaurants, Inc. in June 2008. Carl has diligently worked to rebrand and revitalize the Fazoli’s “Fast Fresh Italian” concept. After successfully repositioning Fazoli’s, the brand was sold to Sentinel Capital Partners in 2015. Since joining Fazoli’s every sales and EBITDA record has been posted. The franchise system has been same sales positive for 67 of the last 70 months and the brand is once again growing new units. In 2016 Fazoli’s will open 12-15 new units and is expected to sign 10-15 new franchisee development agreements.
COO | Lemonade Restaurant Group
Ame Hull is a team builder and true operator with 27 years in the industry starting with BJs Restaurants at six locations and helping them grow to 176 before moving on to her next adventure. She has held virtually every position from bookkeeper to GM to Area Director to SVP of Operation Services and Talent to COO. After BJ’s, Ame took on the fast casual space crisscrossing the U.S. with Pei Wei as a RVP building teams and refining processes then decided to see if you can truly make Lemonade from lemons as the COO of Lemonade running 27 restaurants throughout California.
Founder/CEO | Vale Food Co.
Sunny ilyas is Founder & CEO for Vale Food Co, a rapidly growing Healthy Fast Casual Restaurant chain in Florida that offers build your own bowls, açaí bowls, avocado toast and tons of other healthy offerings. He set out in 2016 to create the concept that the market was missing, to provide people with healthy food that is delicious, convenient, affordable, and has variety. At 28 years old, Sunny has won State of FL Entrepreneur of the year award and received Top 5 Fastest growing companies by Florida State University Alumni. From 2016 – 2019, Vale Food Co has grown to 7 units all throughout Florida.
VP, Marketing Communications | Jack in the Box
Adrienne Intoldt is the Vice President of Marketing Communications for one of fast food’s favorite, most iconic brands, Jack in the Box. She leverages the brand’s inherent spirit and iconic CEO alongside data and digital content strategy to connect with today’s young consumers in an authentic and 1:1 personalized manner. Adrienne’s experience ranges from the quick service restaurant category to sports, fashion, and automotive. Prior to joining Jack in the Box, Adrienne spent 13 years in creative agencies on brands such as Infiniti, Ray-Ban, LensCrafters, Adidas and Asics.
Director of Enterprise Solutions | Toast
Sarah Kabakoff is the Director of Enterprise Solutions at Toast Inc. A 24 year industry veteran, Sarah has worked in every role in the restaurant industry from dishwasher to district manager, eventually owning and operating a successful 10,000 square foot Cincinnati nightclub. Sarah made the transition into tech 10 years ago starting as a field implementer. Her experience ranges from roles in Project Management, Account Management, Sales, Product Ownership, Data Analytics, and Marketing. At Toast she assists customers in designing tech-driven solutions to support the restaurant enterprise. Sarah has established herself as an expert in the restaurant tech industry and has consulted with some of the largest enterprise brands in the country.
Head of Marketing & Customer Magnetism – US | Leon Restaurants
Stacey Kane has over 20 years of experience building multi-unit restaurant brands. She joined U.K. based LEON in May of 2019 as the Head of Marketing and Customer Magnetism to help bring naturally fast food home to the United States. As the Chief Marketing Officer of Firenza Pizza she facilitated the high-speed growth of the fast-casual pizza brand. In late 2016 Stacey joined Chef Jose Andres’ Think Food Group to work on the marketing of vegetable forward – Beefsteak. Prior to that she served as the Chief Marketing Officer of the 35-unit comfort casual chain, East Coast Wings + Grill. In 2007, Stacey started at California Tortilla as the VP of marketing.
Founder & CEO | Curry Up Now
Curry Up Now founder Akash Kapoor has been a self-employed entrepreneur and businessman since childhood. His first business dates back to grade school movie nights, where he set up a food stand, and has successfully grown a variety of businesses, from credit card marketing to mortgage banking to debt and tax mediation. In 2009, he left the traditional business world to start Curry Up Now with his wife, Rana. Curry Up Now was the first Indian street food truck in the Bay Area, and has since grown to include three food trucks, two craft cocktail bar concepts called Mortar & Pestle within Curry Up Now, and seven brick-and-mortar locations. Curry Up Now has franchise locations in Atlanta, Sacramento, Southern California, Salt Lake City & Hoboken with dozens more planned nationwide.
Director of Off Premise Business Development | Corner Bakery
Ed Keller has extensive experience in the restaurant industry and specializes in off premise sales. He has not only led the catering and off premise functions for Which Wich and Boston Market, but he has also led the training, learning and development, ops services departments, and he is well versed in negotiating 3rd party agreements. A lifelong restaurant operator, Keller has created management and employee training programs; a monthly QSC inspection program; as well as developed and implemented a food truck program. His Off-Premise experiences includes heading up an established program at Boston Market, which catapulted him into leading a brand-new program at Which Wich.
Head of Strategic Partnerships | Ritual
Steve Kelly leads strategic partnerships and business development globally, including relationships with Ritual’s largest restaurant and technology partners. Ritual is a continuation of Steve’s start-up career, having previously co-founded a software company that was acquired and continues to have success today. Prior to his early stage technology pursuits, Steve worked in telecommunications, serving in marketing and product management roles at Virgin Mobile and Bell Canada.
Senior Partnerships Manager | Ritual
Speaker bio coming soon!
Owner & 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.
SVP of Supply Chain & Quality Assurance | Tropical Smoothie Cafe
Kristi Kingery is the Vice President of Supply Chain at Tropical Smoothie Café where she oversees supply chain and quality assurance for more than 750 cafes. She is responsible for building the strategy and infrastructure that will ensure safe, quality products get delivered to their cafes. She is also responsible for the strategy development and execution that will improve profitability for Tropical Smoothie Café franchisees. Kristi started her supply chain career at ARCOP, Inc., the supply chain cooperative for Arby’s Restaurant Group, which supports over 3,200 restaurants. She was responsible for increasing franchise and corporate cash flow by managing supply chain activities that drive profitability and save costs for their restaurant system.
VP of Strategic Marketing & Product Content | Heritage Parts
Creative brand storyteller and strategist, Erik Koenig joined Heritage Foodservice in 2014. He continues to lead the evolution of the Heritage Parts story in both the US and Canada. Through unique customer focused content, Heritage is working to expand the meaning of parts distribution. Before joining Heritage, Erik spent fifteen years as a strategic brand marketer working with such brands as Colgate-Palmolive, Butterball, Pall Mall, KOOL, Oster and Zicam.
VP of Marketing + Growth | Taziki’s Mediterranean Cafe
Rachel Layton is the Vice President of Marketing + Growth for Taziki’s Mediterranean Cafe, building sustainable growth strategies that drive sales for the company’s 90+ locations nationwide. Layton oversees the management of the Taziki’s brand, including digital and local store marketing and was a critical force behind the launch of the company’s email marketing program, in addition to their loyalty program, TAZ Rewards. These initiatives drove an 11% increase in system same store sales. Layton built initiatives that increased online ordering by 80% and led a 15% increase in same store catering sales by coaching local markets in growth techniques. Additionally, Layton manages the Taziki’s off-premise dining program which includes catering and delivery.
Chief Sustainability Officer | Just Salad
Janani Lee is Chief Sustainability Officer at Just Salad, home of the World’s Largest Restaurant Reusable program. A 2013 graduate of New York University’s MA program in Food Studies, Lee has developed an extensive background in food systems, food technology, and sustainable agriculture in the health and wellness space. Since joining the Just Salad team in 2018, Lee has expanded on Just Salad’s existing sustainability efforts and continuously prospects new sustainability opportunities across all aspects of business. Lee lives in Brooklyn and enjoys weekend shopping at the farmers market.
Bryan & Caleb Lewis
Founders | Press Waffle Co.
When Founder & President Bryan Lewis was traveling across Europe with his fiance in the summer of 2013, they encountered the Liege waffle for the first time. Upon returning to Dallas, they could not find them anywhere, so Bryan set out to do it on his own. With no culinary background, he tinkered in the kitchen for over a year before he had perfected the recipe. With a desire to share his waffles with everyone he knew (and more!), Press Waffle Co. was born. When Bryan’s brother, Caleb, moved home from college, they began dreaming and planning their business and after a successful Kickstarter Campaign, finally founded Press Waffle Co. as a food truck in 2016. Press Waffle Co. opened its first permanent storefront in late 2017 and now operates 3 company owned stores, with plans for more this year.
Director of Off Premise Marketing | Moe’s Southwest Grill
Tad Low has been with Moe’s Southwest Grill for more than five years. Prior to his time at Moe’s, Tad spent 15 years as a leading sales professional and top revenue generator in both media advertising and financial lending industries. During his tenure at Moe’s, Tad spent much of his time in field marketing, working day to day with franchise owners and operators helping them deliver local marketing solutions. In 2015, he was named Director of Field Marketing where he oversaw $10M in regional media spend, consulted and aligned local market strategy with national initiatives, and managed over 21 regional-based agency relationships.
COO | Coolgreens
Todd Madlener is an industry veteran with over 25 years of leadership experience building passionate teams and brand culture that drives quality and growth. At Coolgreens, Todd is leading the brand in to its next phase of growth with culture-first programs like “coolstories” and an enhanced training program. He’s also leading key initiatives for the brand including a new prototype, catering program, and updated technologies all aimed at enabling restaurant teams to elevate the guest experience. Todd previously served as Vice President of Operations at MAD Greens and Senior Director of Operations for Red Robin where he spent over 20 years.
VP, Quality Management | Smashburger
Eric Marcoux is the Vice President of Quality Management for Smashburger, where he is responsible for the oversight of Quality Assurance, R&D, Operations platform design, Guest experience, Restaurant safety & sanitation and Crisis management. He has been a member of the Smashburger team since 2012 taking on various rolls within the organization. Eric has been in the food business for the past 20+ years with experience ranging from regulatory compliance, consulting and restaurant operations. He has a Bachelor of Science degree in Environmental Health with an emphasis on microbiology from Cal State Northridge.
CMO | Papa Gino’s Pizzeria & D’Angelo Grilled Sandwiches
Deena McKinley is the Chief Marketing Officer for New England Authentic Eats LLC, parent company to Papa Gino’s Pizzeria and D’Angelo Grilled Sandwiches, two of New England’s most iconic restaurant brands. With nearly 20 years’ experience in marketing and advertising for national, regional and local multi-unit restaurant businesses, Deena was recruited to produce aggressive turnaround results in 2019 for nearly 150 locations in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Connecticut and Maine; already delivering double digit lifts in sales and transactions in the first part of the year by harnessing consumers’ passion for these local brands, leveraging transaction level data, increasing digital presence, and developing integrated marketing programs focused on building loyalty databases.
VP of Marketing | Chopt Creative Salad Co.
David Menis serves as the VP, Marketing for Chopt Creative Salad Co., the fast-casual salad pioneer with 60 restaurants up and down the East Coast. In this capacity, David is responsible for brand positioning, communications, menu strategy, digital, and design for the growing brand. Under David’s leadership, the brand has more than doubled in size over the past four years, opening up multiple new markets along the way. Prior to Chopt, David led Brand Communications at KFC and is responsible for the return of Colonel Sanders to the forefront with the award-winning Finger Lickin’ Good campaign.
CEO | Chronic Tacos
Michael Mohammed is the Chief Executive Officer and President at Chronic Tacos Enterprises Inc. where he oversees the strategic vision of the fast-casual Mexican restaurant brand. Michael is extremely passionate about the Chronic Tacos brand, purpose and commitment to living the #tacolife. Encompassing authentic, 3rd generation recipes and the individuality of each customer, Chronic Tacos has established itself as a bold force in the restaurant industry. Michael has since led the development of Chronic Tacos into over 60 locations across the United States, Canada and Japan. Combining his business experience and entrepreneurial spirit, Michael continues to pilot the brand to success and rapid growth.
Senior Brand Manager | Henny Penny
Jason Moles serves as Senior Brand Manager for Henny Penny, a manufacturer of premium foodservice equipment. He is a 22-year veteran of the foodservice industry and is responsible for managing and growing the Henny Penny brand globally. Over the last 60 years, Henny Penny has partnered with the world’s largest and emerging restaurant chains to provide pressure frying, open frying, holding and combi oven solutions known for ease of use and low operating costs. Henny Penny delivers proven technology saving restaurants in QSR, Fast Casual and Casual Dining thousands of dollars each year in frying oil, labor and energy costs.
Founder & CEO | Fajita Pete’s
Pedro “Pete” Mora is always ahead of the trend. After opening and running a successful full-service restaurant for six years, Pete realized that consumers craved convenience, long before delivery was the hot topic in the industry. In 2008, Pete launched Fajita Pete’s, a fast-casual concept with a streamlined menu featuring fresh fajitas catered and delivered. The rapidly growing Houston-based brand celebrated 10 years and has grown to 14 locations with several more in development. Pete is an alumni of the University of Houston.
CEO | Original ChopShop and bellagreen
Jason Morgan built his career developing and leading successful growth companies across various industries. He is the CEO of two fast casual emerging brands: Original ChopShop and Bellagreen – and also is a managing partner in Hargett Hunter Capital Partners. Jason served as Chief Financial Officer of Zoes Kitchen from 2008 to 2015, and was instrumental in the growth of the company from 20 to 150 stores in which time revenues increased from $18 million to $223 million. In April 2014, Morgan led Zoes Kitchen’s IPO — one of the most successful IPOs in the restaurant sector in the past decade.
COO | 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.
COO | Kolache Factory
Dawn Nielsen has worked her way from the ground up at Kolache Factory – literally. She was scrubbing restaurant floors at the age nine as the daughter of Kolache Factory founders, Jerri and John Banks. Today, Dawn leads teams in research and development, manages employee relationships and human resources, as well as supervises strategic communications efforts, including public relations, marketing and advertising. Her commitment to the community has earned her the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Chairman’s Special Recognition Award. When she isn’t building the Kolache Factory brand, she enjoys spending time with her family at their Texas ranch in Fulshear.
Owner & Founder | Mutts Canine Cantina
Kyle Noonan is an American entrepreneur, speaker, television personality, sommelier, and creative tastemaker. Pioneering fresh ideas in the restaurant industry like Bowl & Barrel, Mutts Canine Cantina, The Rustic and The General Public, Kyle and his company, FreeRange Concepts, continue to awe fans both old and young by providing restaurant experiences that up the ante on the traditional. Kyle has been recognized as an engaging media personality appearing in national outlets such as Bravo, ESPN, Food Network, Travel Channel, Food & Wine Magazine, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and many more. In addition, Kyle has been recognized as a 40 Under 40 entrepreneurs and National Restaurant News Restaurateur of the Year.
Chief Sustainability Officer | Just Salad
Sandra Noonan is the Chief Sustainability Officer at Just Salad, home of the World’s Largest Restaurant Reusable program. Sandra founded ZeroWasteNYC and is a strong advocate for zero-waste living. Since joining the Just Salad team in 2019, she has expanded on Just Salad’s award-winning sustainability efforts and continuously prospects new sustainability opportunities across all aspects of business. A 2007 graduate of Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs, Sandra’s professional experience spans marketing and communications, technology, and corporate sustainability. She lives in New York City with her husband and orange tabby cat, Chilly.
Founder & President | Starbird & Culinary Edge Ventures
A graduate of UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, Aaron Noveshen is an award-winning chef and restaurant entrepreneur. He is the Founder and President of The Culinary Edge, an innovation agency that provides global companies with strategic food, brand and operations solutions. Aaron is also the Founder and President of Starbird, a modern chicken concept that is revolutionizing food and convenience in the QSR/Fast Casual marketplace. As Co-founder of Pacific Catch Restaurants, Aaron served as president for 10 years and currently serves on the board of directors. Most recently Aaron co-founded The Culinary Edge Ventures with the mission to create, incubate, operate and grow restaurant brands.
Head of Catering Partner Business | ezCater
Mike O’Hanlon has over 20 years of experience in business development, partnerships and investment banking. Mike joined ezCater as the Head of Catering Partner Business in 2018 and is responsible for managing and growing relationships with over 65,000 restaurants and caterers. Previously at Wayfair, Mike spent 12 years as VP Corporate and Business Development where he developed key strategic partnerships with online marketplaces such as Amazon, Walmart, Staples and Tesco, media companies such as Hearst, Time and Conde Nast and leading consumer brands such as Sherwin-Williams and Mastercard.
Principal Consultant | Kitchen Equipment Solutions
Speaker bio coming soon!
CEO | Corner Bakery
Frank Paci is an accomplished executive with over 25 years of experience leading retail and foodservice brands. He most recently served as President and CEO at Einstein Noah Restaurant Group, Inc. He previously was President and CEO of McAlister’s Deli, a 300-plus unit fast casual brand, and was Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer at the Pantry, a publicly traded convenience store chain with over 1,500 locations. Prior to that, he held senior leadership finance and franchise development positions at Blockbuster, Pizza Hut and Burger King.
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.
VP of Human Resources | Noodles & Company
Sue Petersen started with Noodles in February of 2015 as Director of Talent, was promoted to Vice President of HR Talent in January 2016 and assumed responsibility as Vice President of Human Resources in January 2018. Sue’s passion is around creating a great experience for all team members through a caring and inclusive environment where the team can grow and develop and be their best. Prior to joining Noodles, Sue was Regional Field HR Director at Walgreens where she supported the Western region including 2500 stores and over 50,000 team members. Sue has spent her career working in various Operations, Training and HR leadership roles at companies including Chipotle, Rock Bottom, and Quiznos.
CEO | Sweet Carrot & Two Caterers
Angela Petro is CEO and founder of Together & Company, Columbus, Ohio’s most creative and service-focused hospitality business, and Sweet Carrot, a fast-casual restaurant that inventively serves flavorful made-from-scratch comfort foods in three Columbus neighborhoods. Together & Company, in addition to catering over 3,000 events yearly, has recently added an additional venue in partnership with White Castle’s new $65 million headquarters project, while Sweet Carrot was recently featured in an episode of the popular Food Network Guy Fieri show Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives. Angela is passionate about giving back to the community, especially in the areas of food access and gender-equity.
Owner | UP Inspired Kitchen
Former CMO of Zoës Kitchen and Jamba Juice aren’t the only titles familiar to Rachel (Rae) Phillips-Luther. She is also known as a brand strategist, entrepreneur, visionary and mom. As a seasoned CMO and the founder of UP Inspired Kitchen, R Circle and RAEdiate, Rae lives each day with a desire to make the biggest impact possible in the lives of others. During her tenure as a CMO, she led Jamba Juice through a comprehensive brand reposition. She also repositioned Zoës Kitchen as a fast-casual Mediterranean lifestyle brand before leading the brand through a record-setting IPO in 2014. She began her career at the global PR agency Fleishman-Hillard.
Senior Vice President | Buxton
In his role as senior vice president, Stephen Polanski leads Buxton’s retail and restaurant consulting teams. For more than a decade Stephen has worked to build relationships with his clients to help them to get the maximum benefit from Buxton’s customer analytics solutions. He works with executives to define and execute site selection, franchise expansion and market entry strategies. Stephen’s clients include Wingstop, Red Wing Shoes, Bar Louie, Which Wich and Bareburger. Before joining Buxton, Stephen was a professional golfer. He received his bachelor’s degree in business management from Texas Christian University.
President | Wahlburgers
Patrick Renna is the President of Wahlburgers, a Boston based burger restaurant founded by Executive Chef Paul Wahlberg, and celebrity brothers Mark and Donnie Walhberg. Patrick was previously 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.
COO | Modern Market
Robin Robison brings more than 16 years of restaurant experience to her role as chief operations officer at Modern Market Eatery based in Denver, Colo. With past leadership roles at Red Robin, Bob Evans and Chili’s, Robin’s extensive experience has uniquely prepared her for creating and executing winning operations strategies across Modern Market Eatery’s 30+ units. During her time with Brinker, Robin served as the project leader for the Leadership Principles for Women Task Force, which she formed to help create “best in class” women’s leadership and mentorship programs. This collaborative effort earned Robin the Women’s Foodservice Forum Leadership Award, which is given each year to a woman executive in the foodservice industry.
CEO | Saladworks
Kelly Roddy took his position as the CEO of Saladworks in August of 2019 with more than 30 years of industry experience. With a strong brand foundation and management team, Kelly is focused on rapid growth and franchisee profitability. Kelly most recently served as President of Schlotzsky’s where he repositioned the brand from a sandwich deli chain to a high quality eatery with more than twice the average unit volumes in sales. Prior to Schlotzsky’s, Kelly was Director of Retail Operations and Director of Sales and Marketing at HEB. He was also the Executive Director at Scholastic and worked for over 10 years in various positions at Walmart.
Sales, West Coast | Paytronix
Karl Ruter is an energetic leader who listens keenly, tends to details, and solves problems daily in the fast-paced industry of providing technology and services to restaurant brands across the nation. He has been on the Paytronix team for 1.5 years and working in the restaurant industry the past 10 years. When he is not flying around the West Coast, you can try to find him out in the wilderness… biking, hiking, and climbing.
Founder & CEO | Sweetberry Bowls
Sweetberry Bowls was founded in 2017 by restaurant veteran, Desi Saran. He is a serial entrepreneur with an MBA in Finance & BA in Economics from Rutgers University. Saran has extensive experience in developing fast-casual chains and tech start-ups. Saran created Sweetberry Bowls to provide quality and affordable food options to consumers. The healthy, fast-casual concept specializes in Acai bowls, shakes and other snacks, with a focus on product, atmosphere and extraordinary customer service. Under Saran’s leadership, the company opened 12 corporate stores during its first year, with multiple locations in development across New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Florida, North and South Carolina in 2019.
Co-Founder & CEO | Nékter Juice Bar
Now with more than 140 locations across 15 U.S. states, another 175 in development and more than $100 million in systemwide sales, Steve Schulze, as co-founder and CEO, has grown Nékter Juice Bar into the clear leader and pioneering champion of the elevated juice bar experience in the $2 billion juice bar industry. Founded in 2010 upon a promise to reinvent a restaurant category that had lost its way, Nékter Juice Bar has been a catalyst for change, vowing ingredient integrity, menu transparency and authenticity across its menu of freshly made, clean and nutritious juices, Superfood smoothies, acai bowls and other healthy snacks.
President | ZenMango
Arjun Sen is a former Fortune 500 executive and a highly rated international keynote speaker in the Brand and Customer Experience category who has impacted brands to Win Big. At Papa John’s, he led the 3,000-restaurant chain to 4-years of record growth. As Brand Advisor to Paytronix and CEO of ZenMango, he has made big impacts on major Restaurant, Service, Retail, Non-Profit and Sports brands, worldwide. Arjun is an acclaimed author of the book Customer Karma, must read for anyone in the customer service.
CEO | ToGo Technologies
Shaun Shankel is the CEO of ToGo Technologies with over 20 years of experience in the hospitality, technology, and entertainment industries. He has expertise in vision focused executive leadership, employee and culture growth, agile software development, systems integration and bottom-line revenue growth. Under his guidance, as the CEO of Fresh Technology, the company has built a suite of vertically integrated software and hardware hospitality products that optimize operations, production and customer engagement. Shaun also serves as CTO for Fresh Hospitality brands including Taziki’s Mediterranean Café, Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint, I Love Juice Bar and Taco Mac.
Founder | Ike’s Love & Sandwiches
Ike Shehadeh, biased philosopher, pop culture icon and sandwich wizard has been transcending the sandwich genre since 2007. As founder of Ike’s Love & Sandwiches, Ike has grown a massive cult following with over 60 stores across 5 different states and counting. Celebrity fans, unique sandwiches found nowhere else and Ike’s infamous “dirty sauce” fuel this audacious brand – with sales increasing by 50% year-over-year. With over 500 creations, sandwich lovers will find an awesome sandwich for meat lovers, gluten-free diets, vegans, vegetarians and beyond. This sandwich guru is committed to inspiring the world. One sandwich at a time.
CFO | SuViche Hospitality Group
Andrei Stern began honing his knack for business at an early age. While attending the American University of Paris for a semester as a visiting student, Andrei founded and operated the universities’ first Investment Club. A degree from the University of Miami in Finance and Business administration gave him a strong technical background to aid in the expansion of SuViche. Since 2012, Andrei has served as Chief Financial Officer for SuViche Hospitality Group. During this time, Andrei has been able to secure multiple investments that have aided in the rapid growth of the brand. In addition, the processes he established have led SuViche restaurants to profitability well above the industry’s average.
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.
Founder & CEO | Porch Swing
A veteran restauranteur, Antonio Swad is the founder and CEO of Porch Swing Restaurants. He opened its doors on February 18, 2019. He is also well-known for having founded and sold two chains, when each was around the 100 unit mark, Wingstop Restaurants, now publicly-held, and the Pizza Patrón chain. Antonio created Porch Swing to fill a void in the market. It is a full service concept that delivers a whole new category to the food service industry – “Polished Comfort Food”. The restaurant has refined the most revered southern classics that are slow-cooked, of the highest quality ingredients and labor intensive and serves them up quickly.
CMO | Rangoon Ruby
Liz Vanzura is an award-winning leader in hospitality and lifestyle marketing. Currently Liz is helping develop a Burmese restaurant chain and catering operation to grow its presence within and beyond the California Bay area. Her specialties include advertising, content marketing, public relations & new product development. From Super Bowl spots to social media, Liz has worked on iconic brands including Wahlburgers, Truly Spiked & Sparkling, KEEL Vodka, Carrabba’s Italian Grill, among others. As the former CMO at VW, HUMMER & Cadillac, Liz earned a Cannes Grand Prix, Ad Age’s Marketer of the Year and was inducted into the AAF’s Hall of Achievement.
Co-Founder & CEO | Rakuten Ready
Jaron Waldman is the co-Founder and CEO of Curbside, whose platform connects bricks and mortar stores and restaurants for frictionless mobile commerce. Curbside was acquired by Rakuten in 2018 and now operates as a Rakuten company. Jaron previously led Apple’s Geo team which built location-based services that are deployed on hundreds of millions of Apple devices globally. Apple acquired Jaron’s previous company Placebase in 2009. Jaron holds degrees from the University of Toronto and UCLA.
Senior Director | Datassential
Maeve Webster, senior director at Datassential, is a leading consultant for foodservice manufacturers and operators having spearheaded hundreds of major industry studies during her nearly 20 years as a foodservice specialist. Maeve’s expertise is in the areas of trend analysis, market assessment, consumer behavior, product testing, and brand optimization. At Datassential, Maeve helped develop several of Datassential’s new products and programs. In addition to consulting, Maeve has owned and operated a café in Bennington, VT for four years. She is a regular speaker at top industry events and contributes to several industry and popular publications.
Chief Strategy & Marketing Officer | Omnivore
Shane Wheatland is the Chief Strategy & Marketing Officer for Omnivore, the technology leader empowering restaurants to digitize their guest and operational experiences. He leads the company’s product and go-to-market strategy for restaurants and technology partners based on consumer and restaurant operator needs. His approach at leveraging consumer behavior serves as the center point for how Omnivore continues to collaborate and build value for its clients. Previously, Shane spent over 20 years at The Coca-Cola Company in senior leadership roles where he collaborated with restaurant and hospitality clients building strategic growth plans, both domestically and internationally.
Marketing Director | Your Pie
Ashley Wilson is the Marketing Director for fast-casual pizza franchise Your Pie. As Marketing Director, she develops multifaceted marketing strategies to support goals related to store traffic, digital presence, franchise development, internal communications, operational objectives and more, ensuring the brand’s AdFund resources are effectively utilized to support both brand and store level goals. Ashley manages team members in social media, graphic design and marketing, as well as creative partners in SEO, PR and multimedia. In her three years with Your Pie, Ashley has helped to establish the brand’s digital presence, develop a national marketing calendar, overhaul the brand’s loyalty program and support grand opening marketing for more than 30 store launches.
Founder & CEO | Kathleen Wood Partners | Suzy’s Swirl
Kathleen Wood is the founder of Kathleen Wood Partners, an innovative growth strategy firm, specializing in transforming visions into reality through strategy brand optimization and leadership development. Her firm focuses on small business who want to grow into great businesses. Kathleen is a nationally recognized growth strategist, motivational speaker and author. Her book is The BEST Shift of Your Life – The Restaurant Manager’s Guide for Success Outside the Restaurant. Kathleen is also an owner/operator of her family business Suzy’s Swirl/Frozen Happiness since 2012. She consults, lives and knows all about the small business struggle bus!
Director of Business Development | Visualogistix
With a passion for helping clients find innovative ways to distinguish themselves from the competition, Kathi has spent the last 25+ years in the marketing communications industry with a primary focus on marketing supply chain management, advertising production services, integrated and cross-channel marketing program development and learning technologies. Kathi is fascinated with the convergence of the ever-expanding mediums and passionate about ways to utilize them to improve targeted marketing efforts which deliver results. Her wide network of customers has led to key partnerships with Fortune 1000 Manufacturers, Retailers and Corporate Advertisers.
Head of Industry, Food Service | Yext
Lee Zucker joined Yext as Head of Industry for Food Service with deep knowledge, passion and years of experience in the food service technology space. In his role, Lee leads global Food Service strategy, product and partnership development. Before Yext, Lee was Vice President of Sales & Restaurant Partnerships at the venture backed startup Slice–the premier digital ordering and marketing platform for independent pizzerias that focuses on bringing mobile commerce to the $45 billion U.S. pizza market. While at Slice, he grew the restaurant network to over 6,500 independent restaurants in more than 2,000 cities and towns nationwide.
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