Chief Brand & Concept Officer | Panera Bread
Eduardo Luz joined Panera in May 2020, bringing more than 25 years of senior leadership experience in brand, concept, marketing, and management. Previously, Eduardo held various leadership roles with The Kraft Heinz Company – Global Brand Officer, Chief Marketing Officer for the U.S., and President of Grocery, the company’s largest division – leading teams focused on brand strategy, media, design, innovation, and brand renovation. Prior to Kraft-Heinz, Eduardo led teams at Unilever Brazil and AB InBev Central Europe. Eduardo holds an MBA, Marketing and Systems/Information/Decisions from The Wharton School, and a BcS Industrial Engineering from the Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro.
SVP, Chief Development Officer | Panera Bread
Rob Sopkin brings more than 30 years of real estate development experience to his role as Senior Vice President, Chief Development Officer. Prior to joining Panera, Rob served as Chief Development Officer for Planet Fitness and previously as Chief Real Estate Officer at Dean & Deluca, leading strategic development. Rob also spent 18 years with Starbucks, driving growth and building highly effective teams for real estate, construction, design, and facilities functions. Rob was recognized as one of the “Most Influential People in Food” by New York Magazine in 2006. Rob is a graduate of the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.
PANELISTS & MODERATORS
CEO | Leasecake
After starting as a Big Four CPA, Taj managed more than $2 billion in commercial real estate and new business launches over a decade at Disney Development Company and as an Imagineer launching Disney Cruise Line, and Disney Vacation Club. Transitioning into technology, Taj became an early hire at Channel Intelligence eventually leading business development to launch Channel Intelligence as a SaaS data platform which later was sold to Google for $125 million. Recognizing the opportunity to transform the market where everyone in business owns or leases real estate, Leasecake was born. Tenants, brokers, and landlords desperately needed a way to collaborate, share data, and keep track of business-critical events.
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.
Founder & CEO | SAJJ Mediterranean
Zaid Ayoub is the founder and CEO of the Bay Area-headquartered, rapidly expanding fast-casual concept SAJJ Mediterranean. As SAJJ has grown in the last 9 years, Zaid never took his eyes off the product: high-quality, fresh food that is also approachable and transparent. He realized that people want convenience and speed without sacrificing a culinary experience, which is why SAJJ uses a customize-your-own service model. Under Zaid’s strategic leadership, SAJJ Mediterranean has grown from that single brick-and-mortar location into a growing network of 12 restaurants and three food trucks offering catering and event services.
Managing Director | Strategic Operations Group
Jim Balis leads CapitalSpring’s Strategic Operations Group, supporting due diligence, portfolio management and industry knowledge building initiatives. Jim has several decades of management and turnaround experience in the restaurant industry. Prior to joining CapitalSpring, Jim was Founder and President of RMG, a boutique advisory and turnaround firm serving the restaurant sector. Jim has directed numerous turnarounds and has acted as interim CEO or Chief Restructuring Officer for 15 restaurant companies. He began his foodservice career in high school, during which he held multiple management positions for local restaurants in New York. Jim holds a BA from Duke University.
Co-Founder & Owner | Ballard Brands & Ideation Hospitality
Paul Ballard is an owner of Ballard Brands, LLC, a leader in the food and beverage industry, including PJ’s Coffee of New Orleans, WOW Café American Grill & Wingery, The Original City Diner, New Orleans Roast, Ole Saint Kitchen & Tap, and Boardhouse Sandwiches. Paul is the founder of WOW Café American Grill & Wingery and has been a franchisee of PJ’s Coffee for over 25 years. A lifelong New Orleanian and graduate of Tulane University, Paul has served as a Board of Directors member for The Youth Service Bureau, Alumni Board for Rockmont Christian Camp For Boys, and former US Lacrosse President for Louisiana.
Director of Company Operations | I Love Juice Bar
With a fierce passion for hospitality, Olivia Bane brings extensive experience in curating best in class customer experiences by building high performing teams for growing fast casual brands. She spent the past year with I Love Juice Bar. During her time at Juice Bar, she successfully led five refreshes for the corporate locations, launched a new menu and optimized the operations. One of Olivia’s greatest accomplishments was launching all third party platforms to increase off premise dining for the brand by 15%. Olivia’s accomplishments are attributed to her untouched energy, zeal for ideation, and ability to manage a project to completion. Olivia is a graduate of Williamson Inc.’s Leadership Young Professional.
Marketing Director | bushi by JINYA
Recently voted Brand Innovator in the FSR readers choice awards, Justin Bartek the marketing director of JINYA Holdings, Inc., joined the team during the industry’s most challenging times. After joining JINYA, Justin immediately immersed himself in JINYA Holdings’ Japanese culture, navigating his way through each individual brand. Though new to him, Justin has focused on leading JINYA Holdings to success, and he consistently shows his dedication to the company and industry. He was an early adopter of the Clubhouse platform and has utilized it to be a thought leader in the restaurant industry. On Clubhouse, Justin discusses topics like brand marketing, restaurant development and digital marketing with other industry leaders.
Founder | Cornbread
Adenah Bayoh embodies the American dream. She is now one of the most successful entrepreneurs in NJ. Inspired by her grandmother, she is now the owner of 7 restaurants which include 4 IHOP franchises, Cornbread her 1st independent fast casual, soul food restaurant, co-founded w/ fellow entrepreneur, Zadie B. Smith. She currently has two locations in NJ and one opening soon in NY. Adenah’s mission is bringing high quality food & services to urban communities, in July she launched her latest restaurant concept, Urban Vegan, downtown Newark. Adenah is also a very successful real estate developer with a portfolio of several major residential and mixed-use urban redevelopment projects across northern NJ.
Strategic Account Executive, Food & Beverage | Attentive
Brock Bergman is the Strategic Enterprise Account Lead at Attentive Mobile, focusing on the Food & Beverage vertical. At Attentive he specializes in helping enterprises create highly-personalized SMS experiences that increase revenue, loyalty enrollment, app downloads, 2-way conversations and more. Prior to Attentive, Brock spent time at SessionM, a Mastercard Company, where he focused on helping world-class clients maximize customer lifetime value by delivering personalized, omnichannel, behaviorally-targeted engagement at enterprise scale. He joined SessionM following their acquisition of LoyalTree, a point-of-sale connected mobile loyalty and transaction analytics platform, where he was the company’s Founder & CEO.
COO | Dave’s Hot Chicken
Jim Bitticks is the Chief Operations Operator at Dave’s Hot Chicken, a Los Angeles-based Nashville hot chicken concept, a role he has held since July 2020. In this role, he is responsible for opening new locations and enhancing restaurant operations, as well as being an additional resource for franchise partners and playing a key role in systemwide strategies, policies and programs. He has more than 25 years of operational and training experience with franchise restaurant brands, including CKE Restaurants and Blaze Pizza, where he helped build the pizza chain from two restaurants to 375 locations across the country.
Peter Boylan III
President | Ballard Brands & IdEATion Hospitality
Peter J. Boylan III is President and CEO for Ballard Brands and idEATion Hospitality. He joined Ballard Brands in 2009 on their Board of Advisors. Prior to being President and CEO he was Chief Development Officer and expanded the company’s footprint across the U.S. as well as several international markets. Peter has over 20 years of professional and executive leadership experience in a wide variety of companies including public, private, venture capital and private equity. He earned an MBA from Wake Forest University’s Babcock Graduate School of Management and a Bachelor of Science degree with a concentration in Aerospace Engineering from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.
Director, Architecture & Innovation | Denny’s
Jason Breazeale spent the first 17 years of his career in various technology positions at large food retailers across the eastern US. He provided thought leadership for the early adoptions of virtualization, mobile devices, and enterprise data science. At one large global retailer, he built from the ground up an innovation practice for the incubation of emerging and mobile technologies that changed the way customers shop with augmented reality, mobile applications, and a patented frictionless checkout solution. Since moving to the restaurant and hospitality industry, he is driving an innovation culture with key initiatives towards Cloud based POS, progressive mobile evolution and frictionless curbside, and next generation service platform offerings for Denny’s and its franchisees.
Director Menu Innovation | Tropical Smoothie
Kristi Bullock recently joined Tropical Smoothie Cafe as the Director of Menu Innovation and is responsible for delivering impactful LTO innovation across TSC’s vast menu of smoothies and food and AUV driving core menu evolution and expansion. A restaurant industry veteran, Kristi previously worked for Arby’s Restaurant Group for over 20 years holding various roles in Marketing and Product Development, including Menu Strategy & Innovation, Brand Marketing, Product Marketing and Product Development. Her passion is product development and shepherding the entire process to ensure every detail goes toward delighting and inspiring guests in addition to having a positive impact on the business. Kristi holds a B.A. in Nutrition and Food Science from Auburn University.
President | Jon Smith Subs
Jim Butler has worked in the franchising industry for almost 30 years. His career in the industry started as the Marketing Representative for Signarama in Farmingdale, NY. He was promoted to Regional Vice President developing over 150 Signarama locations in Arizona and California. Most recently serving as Director of Sales for five years, overseeing the sales for the United Franchise Group brands in the U.S. and Australia. Jim is currently the President of Jon Smith Subs along with Division Leader and Director of Sales for the Food Division.
VP of Events | Networld Media Group
Before joining Networld Media Group as Vice President of Events, Cherryh Cansler spent several years as VP of Editorial managing the company’s nine B2B publications. Throughout her 20-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 Client Services | Curion
Valerie Cansler earned a chemical engineering degree at University of Florida and started her career as a product developer. She then owned and operated PVR Research, an Atlanta-based research facility specializing in food testing. Her team’s culinary expertise and commercial test kitchens made them a perfect fit with Curion Insights. In 2020, Valerie and her team joined the Curion family, where she is now VP of Curion’s south region. Outside of work Valerie loves a good true crime podcast and can be found cheering at her two kids’ soccer and volleyball tournaments.
CMO | Chicken Salad Chick
Tom Carr is the Chief Marketing Officer for Chicken Salad Chick. He has brought to the Chick Family 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. He was twice named “marketer of the year” within the cable television industry. Tom hails from New Orleans, a city whose culture he credits for his unique take on brand storytelling.
Director of Product Marketing | Toast
Frank Chen has been leading the development of internal Toast projects in the areas of ‘Off-Premise Dining’ and Digital Ordering since joining the company in 2016. Having worked on both product development and product adoption teams, Frank has a unique perspective on how to bring innovative technology to market while minimizing any disruption to Restaurant Operations. Frank currently works closely with multi-unit and Enterprise operators to understand how consumer expectations have changed during COVID-19 and how restaurant brands are adapting. Prior to Toast, Frank was involved in several early-stage tech startups in the Boston area.
Principal, Strategic Operations Group | CapitalSpring
Chad Cohen is a Principal in the Strategic Operations Group at CapitalSpring, a private investment firm focused exclusively on the branded restaurant and food service industries. He is responsible for investment diligence and portfolio management. Currently, he is CEO for Buddy’s Pizza, an iconic pizza chain and the creators of Detroit Style Pizza. Chad has decades of experience in the restaurant industry as a franchisee, operator and executive at several national and regional brands. Since its founding, CapitalSpring has invested approximately $1.8 billion and supported management teams across more than 200 investments in over 60 restaurant brands.
VP of Sales | CMX
For over 25 years, Keith Cole has helped some of the world’s largest brands achieve operational excellence in restaurant operations while mitigating risk and improving quality in those same stores by providing efficient technology solutions to their supply chain. Keith is VP of sales for CMX who provides technology solutions designed to protect brands and drive sustainable performance, through intelligent automation that combines compliance, quality, and operational activities into a single operating platform. Keith is a Certified Food Safety Professional and sits on the advisory board of the IFSL program at the University of Minnesota. A few of the brands where Keith has implemented enterprise-wide software include McDonald’s, Inspire Brands and The Cheesecake Factory.
Chief Development Officer | C3
Speaker bio coming soon!
Founder & CEO | Biscuit Belly
Chad Coulter dove into the restaurant industry after a short and successful career as a clinical pharmacist. His first concept, LouVino, was a Southern inspired small plates restaurant and wine bar with over 40 wines by the glass. After the fifth LouVino opened, focus shifted towards diving into the idea of opening a biscuit focused concept. In 2019, the first Biscuit Belly was born after months of meticulous menu, branding and concept development. Biscuit Belly now has 4 corporate locations and over 20 franchised units in development in Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia and Alabama.
President & COO | MOOYAH Burgers, Fries & Shakes
Tony Darden has been the President and Chief Operating Officer of MOOYAH Burgers, Fries & Shakes since April 2019. From May 2017 to April 2019, Tony served as Chief Operating Officer of Sun Holdings, inc. and Taco Bueno, LP in Dallas, Texas. From September 2009 to May 2017, he served as Senior Vice President of Operations for Panera Bread Company in St. Louis, Missouri.
Laura Rea Dickey
CEO | Dickey’s Barbecue Restaurants
Laura Rea Dickey currently serves as Chief Executive Officer of Dickey’s Barbecue Restaurants, Inc. Laura has been with the brand since 2009 and most recently served as Chief Information Officer before transitioning to CEO in 2017. As CIO, she implemented a new technology infrastructure for the brand bringing parity and integration to data reporting, information security and all digital sales channels. In her time as CEO, Laura has continued the brands expansion by overseeing the development of the first international locations with restaurants in the UAE and the brand’s first major menu addition in four years debuting six new signature sauces and adding pit-smoked chicken wings to the core menu in 2019.
On-Premises National Accounts Manager LSR/QSR segment | Red Bull
Charles Dixon began his career at Florida’s Natural where he worked in various roles in Florida and California. After 10 years with Florida’s Natural he accepted a position with Sara Lee Foodservice as Sr. National Account Manager selling value added protein, bakery and coffee/tea. From there his journey continued to Diamond Crystal Brands as Director of National Accounts and then Schwan’s Food Company. Finally landing him at Red Bull North America as National Account Manager focusing on Business Development in Limited Service Restaurants. Over the course of his career, he has encountered some exceptional people in this industry that have mentored him to achieve what he considers the most important goal: Building lasting relationships.
Landon & Kat Eckles
Co-Founders, CEO & Chief Branding Officer | Clean Juice
Clean Juice started in 2014 as the brainchild of Landon & Kat Eckles. Landon, after spending years traveling internationally, was ready for a career change and more time at home with his growing family. Kat had spent the better part of a decade making smoothies and juices at home and shot off the idea of opening a juice bar in the Charlotte area. Landon and Kat quickly jumped into the idea with 100% motivation and heart. They moved to Lake Norman and opened their first location, Birkdale Village, on their 8th wedding anniversary – June 5th, 2015. Since then, Clean Juice has over 100 locations open and 55 in development in 28 states! THEY LOVE WHAT THEY DO, WHO THEY DO IT WITH, & WHY THEY DO IT.
Co-Founder & Chief Branding Officer | Clean Juice
Kat Eckles is a woman of faith, dedication, commitment and true vision. After graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Psychology degree from Wilmington University and starting a family with the love of her life and future business partner, Landon Eckles, Kat would become an avid health advocate and changed the diet for herself and her family. Through this process, she and Landon conceived the idea of Clean Juice, built on the biblical verse 3 John 1:2 “Healthy in Body, Strong in Spirit.” Today, Kat is the Chief Visionary and Branding Officer for Clean Juice, the nation’s first USDA-certified organic juice bar and franchise QSR eatery with more than 100 stores.
Co-Founder & CEO | Clean Juice
Landon Eckles is a well-respected, entrepreneurial business leader who has earned an esteemed reputation through innovation, integrity, creativity, philanthropy, and wisdom. Even in his 30s, Landon is wise beyond his years. He is a devoted father of five children, a loving husband, and the fearless founder and Chief Executive Officer of Clean Juice, the first and original USDA-certified organic juice bar franchise. Based in the Eckles’ hometown of Charlotte, NC, Clean Juice has exploded onto the QSR/Fast Casual scene in 2015, growing to more than one-hundred stores in four years, fifty-plus more in continuous development, and surpassing $35M in revenues.
Founder & CEO | Zoup! Eatery
Eric Ersher is Founder and CEO of Zoup!, a Michigan-based, fast casual soup concept, formed in 1998. Eric is responsible for strategic planning, concept evolution, quality and franchise support. He also leads the company’s staff in building and protecting the Zoup! brand and in shaping the company’s culture. Eric serves on the board of directors of the Michigan Restaurant Association and the advisory board of Forgotten Harvest, a leading food rescue organization. He is also an active member of the Detroit Entrepreneur’s Organization and a business mentor through HFL – Danto. He holds a Bachelor of Business Administration from the University of Michigan School of Business.
VP of Operations | Bonchon
Steve Felson is the Vice President of Operations for Bonchon International with oversight for the brand’s Operations, Training, Food Safety and Restaurant Opening teams. Steve has more than 25 years of experience across multiple restaurant industry segments spanning a number of roles. Prior to joining Bonchon, Steve worked with the fast-casual chain BurgerFi as Executive Vice President leading Operations, Training and Marketing and, prior to that, as the Director of Field Training and Restaurant Openings for Denny’s restaurants. Steve received a B.A. degree in English from Stetson University.
Tom Ferguson Jr.
Founder & CEO | Rise Southern Biscuits & Righteous Chicken
Tom Ferguson is founder and CEO of Rise Southern Biscuits & Righteous Chicken, a fast growing franchise known for innovative, chef-inspired twists on favorite breakfast and lunch items, tight operating procedures and a corporate culture that promotes love and respect at all levels. The concept has grown from a single restaurant to 16 Rise locations now open in North Carolina, Maryland, Virginia, Georgia and Tennessee with over 100 units in development. Rise was named a Fast Casual Top 100 Mover & Shaker in 2016. Before starting Rise Biscuits Donuts, Tom was a pioneer in the NC Triangle’s food truck scene with Only Burger.
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.
National Account Manager | Essity North America
Tracey Fullington is National Account Manager for Essity North America. 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 Tork, an Essity brand products and hygiene solutions 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.
VP / Executive Chef | Jamba
With over 20 years’ experience in the Food Industry, Mark Gabrovic brings both science and art to strategic innovation development for Jamba. As VP/Executive Chef, Mark is responsible for the brand’s menu strategy and food policy, while developing innovative products that support personalized wellness for Jamba’s guests. Mark obtained his Food Science degree from the University of Florida and went on to earn his Culinary Arts degree from Johnson and Wales University. He previously spent time in the United States Peace Corps as a Community Nutritionist and has held positions with several notable restaurants and food companies, including Cargill, Outback, Ventura Foods, and Panera Bread.
Brand President | Au Bon Pain
Speaker bio coming soon!
CEO | FB Society
As the CEO of FB Society, Jack Gibbons has been an integral leader of a dynamic group of industry professionals that create, incubate and grow innovative restaurant brands across the country. Jack brings his unmatched creative energy and operational expertise to build cutting-edge developmental strategies and inspire a like-minded team to push the boundaries of food and hospitality. FB Society is a Dallas-based restaurant group that includes nine-unit Whiskey Cake; four-unit wine-forward restaurant Sixty Vines; two-unit Mexican Sugar; three-unit Southern restaurant Ida Claire; Texan cuisine-focused Haywire and The Ranch at Las Colinas; and a fast-casual slider concept called Son of a Butcher.
CEO & Founder | Thanx
Zach Goldstein is the CEO and Founder of Thanx. Founded in 2011, Thanx is a leading guest engagement and retention platform helping restaurants and retailers become more digitally agile to maximize customer lifetime value. Prior to earning his MBA from Stanford, Zach honed his experience in the customer loyalty space at Bain & Company, helping companies perfect their retention and reward strategies as early as 2005. He was recognized by Nation’s Restaurant News on it’s 2020 Restaurant Power List and has earned a reputation as a vocal thought leader in the restaurant-tech space through his Food Fighters podcast and authorship such as the widely-revered Four Horsemen of the Restaurant Apocalypse?.
VP of Brand Marketing | Naf Naf Grill
With over two decades of experience, Devin Handler is an award-winning branding and growth veteran. Prior to Naf Naf, he led marketing for GARBANZO Mediterranean Fresh as VP Brand & Menu. Before that Devin was the Director of Franchise & Field Marketing for QDOBA Mexican Eats growing the brand from 200 units to over 650+.
Chief Operating Officer | Zunzi’s
Speaker bio coming soon!
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.
CEO | FOCUS Brands
Jim Holthouser is the Chief Executive Officer for Focus Brands, parent company of Auntie Anne’s, Carvel®, Cinnabon, Jamba, Moe’s Southwest Grill, McAlister’s Deli, Schlotzsky’s, and Seattle’s Best Coffee (in certain military bases and in certain international markets). Jim is leading Focus Brands into its next phase of growth for its seven market-leading brands while driving results and profitability for franchisees, with a focus on delivering an exceptional customer experience. He was also named as one of the top 25 Executives on Fast Casual’s Movers & Shakers 2021 list. Jim brings more than 30 years of experience in worldwide brand development, concept innovation, franchise management and digital marketing.
President | &pizza
Andy Hooper is a restaurant industry veteran with over 15 years of people, operations, brand and technology leadership experience. He has led diverse multi-unit teams for both domestic and international brands, responsible for shaping culture, product and culinary innovation, talent development and guest satisfaction and engagement. Andy currently serves as President for &pizza, having previously served as Chief People Officer and Chief Operating Officer, since joining the brand in 2018. Prior to &pizza, Andy served as the Chief Innovation Officer and Chief People Officer for Cafe Rio Mexican Grill. In his early career, Andy held a variety of leadership roles in human resources for Burger King Corporation, both domestically and internationally.
VP Head of Marketing | Smashburger
Scott Johnson is a seasoned marketing and management executive with over 30 years of experience with a variety of Fortune 500 and growth companies focused on consumer marketing and technology. He has a proven track record of driving results through innovation and creative-driven brand marketing. Through his initiatives and brand leadership, Scott has generated over $1B in incremental revenue, and led major turnarounds at Arby’s and Outback Steakhouse. Since 2016, he has led brand marketing efforts for two of the fastest growing brands in the fast-casual segment, previously at BurgerFi International, and now as lead of domestic and international marketing for Smashburger.
Chief Marketing Officer | Cheetah Digital
Richard Jones is the CMO at Cheetah Digital, where he oversees a global team that is responsible for all aspects of the brand, demand generation, digital marketing, corporate communications, and sales development. With more than 20 years of marketing, sales and strategy experience, Richard was previously the CEO of Wayin, a global leader in zero-party data collection and activation. There, he helped many of the world’s leading brands such as Daily Mail Group, NHL, Bauer Media, Vodafone, Priceline.com, Reckitt Benckiser, Air New Zealand, and Manchester City FC create zero-party data strategies. In July 2019, Wayin was acquired by Cheetah Digital and rebranded as Cheetah Experiences.
Restaurant Marketing Consultant
Stacey Kane has more than 25 years of experience working with multi-unit restaurant chains as a Head of Marketing and Marketing Consultant. She has worked with such brands as California Tortilla, Think Food Group, Subway and East Coast Wings. Known for her incredible creativity and obsession with data she was one of the pioneers of using social media in the restaurant space and was named a Top 20 Movers and Shakers by Fast Casual Magazine three times. Currently, Stacey is a fractional CMO for several fast casual brands including and works as a marketing consultant for CORE: Children of Restaurant Employees a non-profit that serves food and beverage employees with children.
President & CEO | Cowboy Chicken
As president and CEO, Sean Kennedy has been instrumental in establishing Cowboy Chicken as the premium fast casual restaurant brand that pioneered wood-fired rotisserie chicken. Sean has worked to refine the menu, build operational systems, grow system-wide sales and strengthen store financial performance. He launched Cowboy Chicken’s franchise program that helped to pave the way for today’s national expansion and has built a strong corporate team to support franchise development, real estate, construction, training, marketing and franchise support efforts. During his leadership, the brand has been included in Fast Casual’s Top 100 Movers & Shakers list every year since 2011 and in 2017 won the Emerging Chain of the Year award from Restaurant Business.
Director of Marketing | Saladworks
Lori Kern has over 20 years of marketing in the franchise industry. Her career started in the treat category with TCBY and Carvel Ice Cream where she spent over 14 years creating successful partnerships and promotions with franchsiees and vendors. She then moved into the Fast Casual category with Schlotzsky’s and is currently with Saladworks which is a brand under WOWorks. Saladworks is seeing growth in the hospital and university sector and recently inked a deal with Walmart, where it runs ghost kitchens in Walmart stores which will offer seating, carry-out and third-party delivery. Saladworks also has restaurants inside GIANT Food stores, Kroger and ShopRite locations as non-traditional units.
Chief Development Officer | Smoothie King
Speaker bio coming soon!
President & CEO | Donatos
Tom Krouse has been part of the Donatos Family since 2000, serving in various leadership roles. In October 2010, Krouse was named President and CEO, to become only the fourth CEO in the company’s 55-year history. In this role, he oversees the company’s restaurant business as well as Jane’s Dough Premium Foods, the consumer products division featuring The Sonoma Flatbreads brand.
Managing Partner | I Love Juice Bar
Speaker bio coming soon!
Co-Founder & CEO | Raw Juce
Jeff Levine is the Co-Founder and CEO of Raw Juce, an organic, plant-based restaurant based in South Florida serving organic acai bowls, salads, smoothies, cold-pressed jūce and other organic food. Previously, Jeff was the Founder and CEO of Salad Creations Franchising based in Boca Raton, Florida. Jeff was also involved in other restaurant concepts including Brother Jimmy’s BBQ in NYC, New York and Lulu’s Bait Shack in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
VP Franchise Business Development | BurgerFi
Steve Lieber is an expert in designing restaurant concepts, the art of pizza making and is a certified pizzaiolo from Italy. As Vice President of Franchise Development, Steve leads the team who sold over 150 franchises to over 50 franchise groups. His team has sold franchises in 20+ states and international deals in Kuwait and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Our teams built systemwide restaurant sales of $100+ million USD in under 5 years. Steve was on opening restaurant teams for 10+ states in the United States. He taught franchisees recruiting techniques, training and operating systems, professionalism, food ordering and preparation, inventory controls, labor controls, local store marketing to increase sales and profitability of all locations.
Director, Industry Strategy – Restaurant | Vericast
Matt Lukosavich has nearly two decades of experience helping to connect brands with consumers. In his current role as director, Matt is responsible for developing data-driven, client-focused, multi-channel solutions with strategic go-to-market media planning for the restaurant industry vertical. Today, he supports the consumer marketing and planning needs for Valassis accounts totaling more than $100 million. Matt earned his BS in Business Administration from the University of Michigan-Dearborn and is the recipient of multiple career Innovation and Client Focus award nominations. He loves spending time with his family – wife Alie, son Camden, plus three dogs – and is an avid golfer.
Co-Founder & Proprietor | JJ’s Red Hots
Jonathan Luther is the creator and co-founder of JJ’s Red Hots, a fast casual restaurant brand based in Charlotte, North Carolina. JJ’s serves premium hot dogs, house made sausage, chicken and sides in various different iterations including a flagship brick and mortar retail location, a robust food truck operation, and licensed operations at the Charlotte Hornets arena and the Wells Fargo Golf Tournament. Jonathan also serves as Executive Chef. Jonathan has over 30 years of experience in building restaurant brands and creating multi-media in-store customer experiences for Fortune 500 retail brands. Prior to JJ’s, Jonathan led the Media Architecture group for Mood Media, the world’s leading provider of in-store media.
Director of Restaurant Data Insights | Paytronix
Kristin Lynch is Director of Restaurant Data Insights for Paytronix Systems. She has more than 20 years experience as a leader for large CPG and retail brands in marketing, and brand strategy. Kristin was previously Vice President with Round Table Pizza and Director of Marketing for well known brands such as Thorntons, Pyrex, and Craftsman Tools.
President & 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 into 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.
Director of Sales Support | Xenial
Dale McKee has over thirty years of experience in developing, implementing and measuring sales, marketing, and branding initiatives for Fortune 500 clients. In his role with Xenial, Dale works to extend the reach and impact of the Enterprise Sales Team.
David Mesa Jr., CFE
EVP/Chief Development Officer | Ballard Brands
David Mesa, Jr is the Chief Development Officer for Ballard Brands and is head of their Franchise Division. Prior to joining Ballard Brands, David had been with a Health and Wellness Franchise for 14 years serving as their President of Franchise Operations where he was instrumental in their growth from 60 to over 350 locations. Prior to that, he served eight years as Director of Business Operations for Allegis Group, the largest privately held staffing company in the United States. David also served eight years in the United States Marine Corp. as an Air Traffic Controller.
Founder | PowerSoul Cafe
Dina Mitchell is a passionate entrepreneur, restaurant veteran, community advocate and philanthropist. Her passion led her to build the Tropical Smoothie Café brand in Las Vegas and Southern California when the company was in its infancy with only 23 locations. Twenty years later the brand has over 900 units. Dina is a passionate leader, team builder, and unrelenting manager. Her experience includes franchisee selection, site selection, lease negotiation, store and kitchen design, employee and owner training, ongoing mentoring and support, marketing, ad placement, brand spokesperson, developing and managing all platforms of social media, menu development, COS control, she wears several hats effortlessly and well.
CEO, Starbird / Founder & Chairman, The Culinary Edge
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.
Founder & CEO | Ovation
Zack Oates is an author, husband, father, entrepreneur, and hot tub aficionado (but not in that order, necessarily). He grew up in restaurants before getting into startups. He was voted Top 100 Entrepreneurs, rang the NASDAQ bell, won the world’s biggest business competition, been to 50 countries, and started 3 companies. He went on over 1,000 dates before he got married and wrote a book, Dating Never Works…Until it Does. He currently is Founder and CEO of Ovation, the #1 restaurant feedback platform in America.
CEO | Smokey Bones
James O’Reilly is the President and CEO of Smokey Bones, a Sun Capital portfolio company. Since joining Smokey Bones, James has built a new executive leadership team and embarked on an aggressive growth plan, investing in people and being named a Great Place to Work, achieving sales and unit growth during the pandemic, transforming Smokey Bones technology infrastructure and gaining ROI in six months, creating two virtual brands – The Wing Experience and Burger Experience, opening two ghost kitchens and creating the restaurant of the future prototype with dedicated Off Premise space. James joined Smokey Bones in May 2019 after four years as the President and CEO of Long John Silver’s.
CEO & Co-Founder | PINCHO
Otto Othman is an Interactive Creative Director, Serial Entrepreneur, Co-Founder and CEO of PINCHO. With 15 years of interactive design experience and fluent in 4 languages, Otto has led multi-disciplinary interactive teams on award winning campaigns for clients such as FIAT, Coca Cola, and Chrysler. Otto is currently the Co-founder of the award-winning burger and kebab chain PINCHO. Leveraging its culture, social media and technology, PINCHO has won the hearts of many guests in South Florida. The brand has 10 locations and has been successful at creating a very loyal following in Miami.
Founder | Boloco
John Pepper is co-founder and Chief Worker Advocate of Boloco, a New England-based restaurant chain founded in 1997 focused on serving delicious modern Mexican inspired food as a tool for improving the lives and futures of its workforce. Recognizing Boloco’s work in advancing the interests of workers in the typically low wage restaurant industry, John won the 2012 Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year award in New England. Boloco also became a Certified B Corporation in 2016 for its long-time commitment and achievements in social and environmental initiatives. Beyond Boloco, he is a co-founder of Worthee, an earlier than early-stage software platform focused on helping hourly workers to rise and thrive.
Sr. Director of Omnichannel | Bojangles
Sergio Perez is the Sr. Director of Omnichannel at Bojangles, where he leads the digital transformation of the beloved Chicken, Biscuits, and Tea brand. He is known as skillful marketer with a unique and deep expertise in digital and eCommerce in the restaurant industry. From creating digital roadmaps to launching best-in-class omnichannel platforms, he is focused transforming the way guests experience, engage, and purchase from restaurant brands, while driving sales, relevance, and engagement. He believes that every touchpoint along a guest’s hunger journey is an opportunity to add value, spark emotion or inspire action. Previously, he has worked with Church’s Chicken, Johnny Rockets, Huddle House, Perkins Restaurant & Bakery, and Garden Fresh Restaurants.
Scotty Perkins, CAMS
SVP & Head of LedgerPay, CCO | LedgerPay
Scotty Perkins brings 25 years of executive leadership in technology, product, and compliance, primarily in retail, payments, and financial services. He has played key roles in driving innovation in Fortune 50 companies and in Silicon Valley, with retailers such as 7-Eleven and CVS, and with global clients such as Grant Thornton.
Chef Grant Petersen
Sales Director | Meatless Farm
A dynamic and energetic Executive Chef with a proven track record working in private and corporate concepts, Chef Grant is passionate about plant-based proteins, dairy and cheese and changing the global food system. Throughout his career, Chef Grant has worked in casual and fine dining restaurants, with foodservice providers including Kraft and Sodexo and brands including Impossible Foods.
CMO | Dickey’s Barbecue Pit
Kristin Peterson currently serves as the Chief Marketing Officer at Dickey’s Barbecue Pit, the world’s largest barbecue chain. Previously, Kristin was a Director/Team Lead at The Richards Group, the nation’s largest privately held full-service advertising and branding agency where she accrued almost two decades of experience developing and executing full funnel, multi-channel marketing campaigns for national and global brands ranging from Corona beer and Ram Trucks to MD Anderson Cancer Center. Within the restaurant industry, she has depth of experience including refreshing branding for Red Lobster, introducing Wawa in new markets, and moving Ruth’s Chris Steak House’s marketing strategy from traditional to digital.
CEO | Caffeinated Ventures
Paul Peterson is CEO of Caffeinated Ventures, the parent company of Wake Oasis Coffee. Paul’s background in Urban Planning and Design & Construction has helped him see how the physical building can impact the customer experience. Applying these lessons to his current drive-thru coffee shop franchises, as well as the newly created “Coffee shop in a box” concept using cargo shipping containers, elevates the drive-thru customer experience. “One of my first coffee memories is sitting around a campfire with family and friends waiting on the percolator to finish brewing. That simple coffee memory is about more than a brewed beverage. It’s how coffee and people are connected.”
President | Consolidated Concepts
As President of Consolidated Concepts, Vince Purves focuses the organization on building solid relationships with clients and focuses engagement on client product and distribution strategies, while driving foundational results to help clients with supply chain savings and efficiencies. Vince is a former 28-year SYSCO Corporation leader in the National Accounts Restaurant segment with broad-based experienced in sales, business development and operations, and executive management. Vince believes in the power of a results-oriented approach to leading and implementing changes required to transform business strategy and culture to achieve revenue growth and customer loyalty.
Founder & CEO | PITA Mediterranean Street Food
Pita Mediterranean Street Food was founded in 2012 by Nour Rabai. Menu features include traditional and chicken gyros, street pitas, mezza spreads, rice bowls, salads and desserts. As founder and CEO, Nour oversees the operations of Pita’s corporate locations and is involved in development and design of new locations. Negotiating with vendors, collaborating with the R&D team, engaging with marketing, overseeing the distribution team, along with being involved with every aspect of the franchising process, has helped Pita grow to 38 locations. Serving authentic food and culture with a goal of moving into every major city in the U.S., he lives in Peachtree City with his wife Carol and their three children.
SVP of Marketing | Dog Haus
As SVP of Marketing at Dog Haus, C.J. Ramirez plays a vital role in driving brand innovation and marketing strategy. Since joining the team in 2013, he implemented marketing and branding campaigns that have directly impacted Dog Haus becoming one of the hottest emerging brands in the restaurant industry. Since opening, the brand now boasts more than 50 locations across the country. As an industry veteran, C.J. brings extensive experience in designing branding strategies that build strong corporate identities. Before joining the Dog Haus family, he led teams for prominent brands such as The Kennedy/Marshall Company, Sun Microsystems, Oracle, The Walt Disney Company, Eastman Kodak, Johnson & Johnson Company, and Mattel.
CEO | BurgerFi
Julio Ramirez has over 40 years of experience in the multi-unit restaurant industry. He currently serves as the Chief Executive Officer for BurgerFi International. Julio previously founded JEM Global, Inc., (“JEM”) a company specializing in assisting QSR and fast casual brands’ with franchising and development efforts domestically and internationally. Among several projects, he consulted Dunkin Brands on its Brazil entry strategy and Buffalo Wings and Rings on its Mexico development strategy. He was also co-owner of Giardino Gourmet Salads, South Florida’s premier fast-casual concept, helping to grow the brand in Miami, Fort Lauderdale and Naples, Florida. Prior to JEM, Julio was with Burger King Corporation for over 25 years.
CEO & Co-Founder | Punchh
Shyam Rao is the Co-Founder and CEO of Punchh, the world leader in delivering dynamic, one-to-one customer engagement through artificial intelligence, mobile-first expertise, and omnichannel communications for restaurants and retailers. Punchh’s solutions are designed to guide consumers through their lifecycle from customer to loyalist, delighting them along the way, and dramatically increasing lifetime customer value. Nearly 200 global enterprise brands rely on Punchh to grow revenue by building customer relationships. Previously, Shyam held various senior positions at Motorola in its CDMA and WiMAX divisions. His experience at Motorola led him to co-found LoCognition, a mobile location-based services (LBS) startup focused on aggregating and standardizing access to subscribers through a proprietary platform across different cellular networks.
President, Americas & India | The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf
Sanjiv Razdan is the President, Americas and India of The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf. Sanjiv has held executive positions in the food service industry for close to three decades, leading globally recognized brands through hyper growth of retail locations and digital channels, restructuring and turnaround situations, including Sweetgreen, Applebee’s and Dine Brands. In addition to his professional career, Sanjiv is the Founder, Chair and CEO of GLEAM Network, a volunteer based non-profit whose mission is to provide mentorship and leadership development to the underserved community within the restaurant and foodservice industry.
Founder & CEO | Rachel’s Kitchen
Debbie Roxarzade has been a leader in the restaurant industry for more than 20 years, during which time she has proven herself to be a driven and innovative businesswoman with a superior talent for strategy and an innate business sense, honed at San Diego State University. Over the years, Debbie has developed a strong knowledge of the hospitality and restaurant industries and established a proven track record of successful business development. Her organic and guest-driven approach combined with her commitment to providing career growth opportunities for her team members is a large part of her success. In 2016, Debbie was named one of the Women to Watch by Nevada Business Magazine.
President | Russo’s New York Pizzeria
President and CEO of Russo’s New York Pizzeria & Italian Kitchen, Anthony Russo began franchising his stores over 20 years ago. The son of first-generation Italian immigrants, growing up in New Jersey, there was always cooking and baking at home. Using the family recipe for hand-tossed dough, sauce made from fresh-crushed California vine-ripened tomatoes, and imported Italian cheese blends, Anthony became the sole owner and chef of his first restaurant Russo’s Pizza in the early 80’s. A few years later, he created Anthony’s Pizzeria. For almost a decade, Anthony refined his menu using classic Italian family recipes and honed in on the perfect New York-style pizza.
CEO & President | Happy Joe’s Pizza & Ice Cream Parlors & Tony Sacco’s Coal Oven Kitchen
Tom Sacco currently serves as the CEO, Chief Happiness Officer and President of Happy Joe’s Pizza & Ice Cream Parlors and Tony Sacco’s Coal Oven Kitchen. Since joining Dynamic Restaurant Holdings, LLC. in October of 2020, Tom is guiding the nostalgic brands down a path of resurgence using his 30+ years of restaurant experience. He has brought a renewed focus to improve revenue and profit margins, and to grow the brands combined store count from 54 units to an estimated 100 locations by the end of the year 2022. He has held C-level leadership positions at a wide variety of other concepts including BJ’s Restaurant & Brewhouse and Red Robin Gourmet Burgers & Brews.
CEO & Co-Founder | Tarka Indian Kitchen
Tinku Saini is CEO/CTO/CMO/CDO & Co-founder of Tarka Indian Kitchen. He is currently focused on growing Tarka in a national brand by spreading and introducing as many people as possible to the amazingness of Indian Cuisine. Tinku has been running restaurants for over 20 years and has opened 10 of his own including Tarka and it’s full-service predecessor, Clay Pit, Contemporary Indian Cuisine. Prior to the restaurant business, Tinku was Environmental Editor for the Seattle Daily Journal of Commerce, and went to school to get a degree in English Literature. Outside of work, Tinku is a devoted husband and father, and is an avid Trekker and dog lover.
Industry Solutions Director, Restaurants | Cheetah Digital
Kevin Sanders is the Industry Solutions Director for Cheetah Digital focused on leading Cheetah’s growth in the restaurant industry. A former restaurant executive, Kevin previously led marketing and digital technology for a fast-casual chain, served as CMO for two restaurant digital ordering brands, and held multiple marketing leadership roles for global CPG and consumer products companies. He also teaches marketing courses as an adjunct professor at Gonzaga University. Kevin resides in the resort town of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho with his wife and young son.
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. Desi has extensive experience in developing fast-casual chains and tech start-ups. He created Sweetberry Bowls to provide quality and affordable healthy food options to consumers. The healthy, fast-casual concept specializes in Acai bowls, Poke Bowls, Smoothies, Wraps, & Salads with a focus on product, atmosphere and extraordinary customer service. Under Desi’s leadership, the company opened 20 units across 7 states in 2 years.
Director of National Accounts | Alto-Shaam
For nearly 10 years, Jonathan Schroeder has developed relationships with many of the foodservice industry’s most well-known brands, providing solutions that address their challenges and add value to their business. Jonathan is currently a Director of National Accounts for Alto-Shaam, Inc. a leading foodservice equipment manufacturer based out of Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin. In this role, Jonathan is responsible for supporting regional and national chain customers.
Director of Loyalty | Dutch Bros. Coffee
Anne Schultheis drives strategic customer transformations in the loyalty marketing realm. Currently, Anne heads up Dutch Rewards, the loyalty program for Dutch Bros, a rapidly-growing coffee chain with nearly 500 locations. Racking up over a decade in restaurant digital marketing, Anne has a strong passion for loyalty and customer journey building, customer insights, building meaningful connections, and establishing new ideas that engage, entertain, and boost the bottom line.
Co-Founder & CEO | Nékter Juice Bar
Now with more than 170 locations, another 200 in development and $100 million in systemwide sales, Steve Schulze, as CEO, has grown Nékter Juice Bar into the clear leader and pioneer of 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 and authenticity across its menu of 100% freshly made, nutrient-rich and entirely clean juices, Superfood smoothies, acai bowls, cleanses, and a variety of healthy snacks.
VP of Operations | MOOYAH Burgers, Fries & Shakes
Speaker bio coming soon!
CEO | Blaze Pizza
Mandy Shaw joined Blaze Pizza in January 2018 as the CFO and was named interim CEO in August 2019 and then President and CEO in November 2019. Mandy previously served nearly 13 years in various roles at Bloomin’ Brands, Inc. including as Chief Financial Officer for the international division, Chief Information Officer, and as Chief Accounting Officer during Bloomin’s transition to a private company and through its subsequent IPO. In March 2020, she was named one of the 50 most influential women in foodservice by Nation’s Restaurant News.
CEO & Founder | Sticky’s Finger Joint
Jon Sherman is the CEO and Founder of Sticky’s Finger Joint, a fast casual chicken brand founded in 2012 serving premium boneless chicken with a wide array of homemade dipping sauces. Sticky’s now has 13 locations across New York and New Jersey, with more in development. Over the past decade he has led all aspects of the business including operations, finance, real estate and technology. With the support of an incredible team, Jon is leading Sticky’s towards its next phase of growth. In 2020, Jon was named to Crain’s New York Business 40 Under 40. Prior to Sticky’s, he worked at the global macro hedge fund Bridgewater Associates.
Chef Daryl Shular, CMC
Founder & CEO | Daryl Shular Hospitality Group
The first African-American and minority to successfully pass the Master Chef exam, Chef Daryl Shular has been recognized and featured in many media publications, including the prestigious American historical archives “The History Makers”. As a member of the American Culinary Federation, he has received over twelve gold medals and eight “Best in Shows” in local and national competitions. Additionally, Chef Daryl was a member of the internationally recognized ACF United States Culinary Olympic Team, the official culinary regional team representing the United States in international culinary competitions.
CEO | Taziki’s Mediterranean Cafe
Dan Simpson was named CEO of Taziki’s Mediterranean Cafe in February 2018 after serving as the Chief Innovation Officer starting in May 2016. Previously, he was a Taziki’s franchisee and managing partner at Fresh Hospitality from January 2015 until May 2016. Dan was the founder and CEO of ToGo Technologies from May 2012 until January 2015. He was the Chief Development Officer of Dispensary of Hope, Nashville, Tennessee from May 2008 until May 2012. He earned his BS in Science from Clearwater Christian College followed by his MBA from West Virginia University. Dan serves on the boards of the Shalom Foundation/Moore Pediatric Surgery Center and Dovehouse Ministries and is a member of TedXNashville Society of Fellows.
Co-Founder & CEO | Zunzi’s
Speaker bio coming soon!
Senior Marketing Manager | Teriyaki Madness
Laura Sporrer began her intern-to-innovator career path in the restaurant industry 15 years ago. Currently Sr. Marketing Manager at Teriyaki Madness, Laura has driven success with brands like Quizno’s and HuHot Mongolian Grill. Past responsibilities have run the gamut: franchise marketing; campus, airport, and other non-trad development; FDD management; market development and planning; public relations; local shop marketing strategy and management. Always bringing a keen, creative eye, Laura focuses on employing nimble strategies to adapt to the current climate for Teriyaki Madness, which was recently named the nation’s fastest-growing restaurant chain by Restaurant Business.
Senior VP of Franchise Leadership | Big Chicken
Samuel Stanovich is part of the leadership team of Big Chicken. Prior to joining Big Chicken, Samuel worked with Firehouse Subs brand as an Area Representative and Franchisee. Samuel’s past experiences include: Director Partner Product Development & Industry Relations, National Restaurant Association, President & CEO of the Heritage Corridor Convention and Visitors Bureau, in addition, he is a 12-year veteran of Marriott International. In 2020 Samuel co-authored the top catering book “Catering Domination” and is co-host of the Takeout, Delivery and Catering podcast. Samuel is an alum Johnson and Wales University and adjunct faculty at the College of DuPage.
Co-Founder | Chaia Tacos
Bettina Stern is on a mission to get people to eat more vegetables. Bettina co-founded Chaia – an unconventional plant-powered taco restaurant based in Washington, DC – with close friend Suzanne Simon in 2013 as a way to inspire long-term shifts in how people eat for the benefit of not only their health, but also the health of the environment. By letting their product and team take center stage, Bettina and Suzanne have organically grown their business from a farmers’ market stand in 2013 into two brick-and-mortar locations, with the third set to open this fall.
VP of Marketing | Punchh
Lori Stout joined Punchh as the VP of Marketing, bringing nearly 20 years of experience in Customer, Content, and Product/Solutions Marketing. She has spent most of her career focused on customer engagement and creating better customer experiences for end-users of loyalty, marketing, and communications technology. A lifelong writer and storyteller, Lori loves the challenge of taking a sophisticated solution and explaining it in a way that helps customers identify immediate solutions to their everyday challenges.
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.
CMO | Blaze Pizza
Vince Szwajkowski is the Chief Marketing Officer of Blaze Pizza. A seasoned veteran in marketing and brand development for consumer products, food & beverage, hospitality and lifestyle businesses, Vince has over 13 years of experience in the industry. At Blaze Pizza he oversees the development, planning and execution of all marketing including digital, consumer and brand strategy. During his tenure at Blaze, he has been an integral part of the team – driving growth across all channels and the loyalty program, and managing all aspects of the brand – deepening Blaze’s lifestyle image and positioning it at the forefront of fast casual dining through strategic innovation and partnerships.
President & CEO | Juice It Up!
A highly successful restaurant industry veteran with over 30 years of experience, Susan Taylor joined the Juice It Up! family in 2019 as VP of Operations and Business Development and was promoted to President and CEO of the brand in early-2020. Susan has served in various leadership roles for national franchise chains including 14 years at Jamba, where she was the Senior Director of Franchise Operations, Sharky’s Woodfired Mexican Grill, Baja Fresh and Chevy’s Fresh Mex. Under her leadership, Juice It Up! has built upon its diverse offerings by putting a heavier focus on product innovation and ingredient functionality. Since coming on board, Susan has spearheaded initiatives that have dramatically improved both the guest-and franchisee-facing experience.
CEO | Meatless Farm, North America
Experienced Dutch food retail executive within both Europe and the U.S., Boudewijn led the commercial activity for German grocer Lidl for over a decade as Chief Commercial Officer in Belgium and Luxembourg -while overseeing the retailer’s first overseas expansion into the U.S. As CEO of Meatless Farm North America, Boudewijn focuses on the expansion of the brand within the retail and foodservice industries.
CEO & Co-Founder | Serve Automation
Speaker bio coming soon!
President & COO | Zoup! Eatery
Having worked in the industry for more than 25 years, Jason Valentine has experienced every aspect of what it takes to operate a restaurant franchise. Jason is the President & Chief Operating Officer for Zoup! Eatery, which has restaurants across the U.S. and in Ontario, Canada. Before joining Zoup!, Jason was the Vice President of Operations for Cousins Subs, joining the company’s Leadership Team after operating his family’s multi-unit Cousins Subs franchise. Jason has a deep understanding of the restaurant industry from the perspective of both franchisee and franchisor, and his experiences are of tremendous value to Zoup! as he leads the company’s rebranding transition from Zoup! Fresh Soup Company to Zoup! Eatery.
Founder/Chief Visionary | The Point of Sale Cloud
Bob Vergidis’ passion for envisioning the future is matched by his ability to communicate it and bring it to life. Bob taught technology and lead change for a diverse list of clients including private companies, universities, the United States military, and Fortune 500 organizations around the globe. He launched one of the first knowledge-based incubators and founded an award-winning school for software development, e-media and design, as well as helped launch several companies and startups. Bob developed one of the first food mobile ordering solutions in 2000 and one of the first cloud-based point of sale systems.
Co-Founder & CEO | Wisely
Mike Vichich is co-founder and CEO of Wisely (www.getwisely.com), the leading Customer Intelligence platform for restaurants—empowering brands to say goodbye to transactions and hello to customers. Wisely brings everything you know about each customer to every interaction—from how guests are greeted to how they’re personally invited back across marketing channels. Thousands of innovative restaurants leverage Wisely to improve guest experience, increase Customer Lifetime Value, and use customer data to inform every business decision. Mike has 15 years of experience in digital transformation and quantitative marketing. Under Mike’s leadership, Wisely has tripled in size each year for the last three years.
CEO | Tropical Smoothie Cafe
Charles Watson is the CEO at Tropical Smoothie Cafe and focuses on the strategic vision and sustainable growth of the franchise system. Prior to being named CEO in December 2018, Charles served as the Chief Development Officer for Tropical Smoothie Cafe. Under his leadership, the Tropical Smoothie Cafe system grew from 265 units to 725 units. Tropical Smoothie Cafe currently has more than 975 locations nationwide and will open its 1,000th location in 2021. A veteran franchise professional, Charles has worked for several hospitality-related companies. Charles is a graduate of The Hotel School at Cornell University and holds an MBA from The Terry School of Business at The University of Georgia.
COO | Layne’s Chicken Fingers
Samir Wattar is a veteran of the restaurant industry with 30+ years experience in restaurant operations and management with established high growth and start up companies. Samir is progressive, decisive, innovative and is highly valued for expertise in interpreting corporate vision and strategy, translating objectives into actionable plans, and providing leadership to multi-functional, cross cultural teams. His past roles include Senior Director of Operations at Pollo Campero, Vice President of Franchise Development & Supply Chain at MOOYAH Burgers, Fries & Shakes, Vice President of Supply Chain at Fuzzy’s Taco Shop and currently the Chief Operating Officer at Layne’s Chicken Fingers.
President & CEO | FAT Brands
Andrew A. Wiederhorn has served as a director and President and Chief Executive Officer of FAT Brands Inc. since its formation. Andy has served as the Chairman of the board of directors and Chief Executive Officer of Fatburger North America, Inc. since 2006 and Buffalo’s Franchise Concepts, Inc. since 2011. He also served as the Chairman of the board of directors and Chief Executive Officer of Fog Cutter Capital Group Inc. since its formation in 1997. Andy previously founded and served as the Chairman of the board of directors and Chief Executive Officer of Wilshire Financial Services Group Inc. and Wilshire Credit Corporation.
Ops Services Manager | Checkers & Rally’s Drive-In
Danielle Williams joined Checkers and Rally’s Drive-In Restaurants just over 7 years ago. Transitioning from previous roles in QSR such as Human Resources Manager and Payroll Manager for the largest Taco Bell Franchisee in Florida at the time, she was excited for her next challenge. She was hired into the Checkers and Rally’s Operations Services Department to head up the new Food Safety and Protect the Brand initiative the company was rolling to its Franchise and Corporate locations. That role has now evolved into her new position of Operations Services Manager where she is the Checkers and Rally’s CMX (ComplianceMetrix) expert.
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!
Chief Development Officer | Chipotle Mexican Grill
Tabassum Zalotrawala joined Chipotle as Chief Development Officer in December 2018. In this role, Tabassum oversees the restaurant development department which has been a driving force behind the expansion of innovative formats including the Chipotlane, which was named one of ‘The Most Innovative Architecture Projects of 2020’ by Fast Company. Prior to joining Chipotle, she spent over seven years at Panda Restaurant Group as Chief Development Officer and Vice President of Development overseeing Real Estate, Design, Construction, Facilities and Strategic Sourcing. Prior to joining Panda Restaurant Group, Ms. Zalotrawala spent over 10 years with Arby’s and Wendy’s Arbys Group in various leadership positions in Development.
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