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October 13-15, 2024 | Denver, CO — Registration will open soon! View News

SPEAKERS

KEYNOTE SPEAKERS


Daniel Shlossman
Chief Marketing Officer | sweetgreen
Daniel Shlossman is Chief Marketing Officer at sweetgreen, where he leads marketing, product and digital channels. His teams are responsible for creating the best possible experience through every digital customer touchpoint, from customer acquisition and retention to online ordering and off-premise logistics. Daniel joined sweetgreen in 2018, serving in a variety of roles focused on enabling customer growth through channel innovation and data-driven marketing, including the launch of Delivery and Outpost. Prior to sweetgreen, Daniel spent three years in multiple roles at Uber, including Head of West Coast Operations/Marketing and Head of Product & Marketplace Experience. He previously worked at the National Football League, launching and leading the NFL’s Fantasy Football and Mobile Games business.


PANELISTS & MODERATORS


Taj Adhav
CEO | Leasecake
After starting as a Big Four CPA, Taj Adhav 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.
Geoff Alexander
President & CEO | Wow Bao
Geoff Alexander joined Chicago-based Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises (LEYE) in 1993 and following his work on multiple concepts within LEYE’s portfolio, he took over LEYE’s Asian concept, Wow Bao in 2009. A pioneer in both technology and social media, Geoff redefined the fast casual space by implementing mobile ordering, self-ordering kiosks, bicycle delivery and nationwide shipping. Geoff has overseen Wow Bao’s inclusion into airports, major sports stadiums, university campuses, music venues, grocers around the country sell Wow Bao’s frozen retail line. Shortly after being named to both Nation’s Restaurant News’ Power List and Most Influential Restaurant CEOs in the country, Geoff changed the game in the restaurant industry once again by creating Wow Bao Now; launching more than 500 Wow Bao Dark / Virtual Kitchens in more than 400 cities in less than 18 months.
Chris Baggott
CEO | ClusterTruck
Chris Baggott has been an entrepreneur, leader and futurist in data driven software and data innovation for more than 20 years and has created a lasting and significant impact on the technology ecosystem. In the early 2000’s, Baggott co-founded ExactTarget, a provider of digital marketing automation and analytics software and services. In 2012, the company successfully executed an IPO and was later acquired by tech giant Salesforce for $2.7 billion. In 2006 Chris co-founded Compendium Software, a pioneer in data driven content marketing that was later acquired by the world’s largest software company, ORACLE. In addition to a successful career disrupting the marketing software space, Chris entered the agriculture industry in 2011 to combine his passion for technology and food. In 2015, Baggott brought his tech background to the on-demand food delivery market as co-founder and CEO of ClusterTruck, a software platform that powers profitable, vertically integrated delivery-only kitchens.
Jim Balis
Managing Director, Strategic Operations Group | CapitalSpring
Jim Balis joined CapitalSpring in 2014 where he serves as Managing Director and Head of the Strategic Operations Group. He has over 40 years of restaurant experience and has served as CEO for more than 19 restaurant companies. Jim is currently CEO of Sizzling Platter which is a 660 unit multi-branded franchisee business operating restaurants in the US and Internationally. Previously he served as CEO of Buddy’s Pizza (the originator of Detroit Style Pizza), Norms Restaurants (an iconic family dining brand), and many other restaurant companies. Jim also serves on the board of directors of more than 10 different restaurant and restaurant service companies, and as an advisor to other boards. Prior to joining CapitalSpring, Jim was Founder and President of the Restaurant Management Group, a boutique advisory firm specializing in the restaurant industry.
Justin Bartek
Vice President of Marketing | Dog Haus Worldwide
Justin Bartek recently joined Dog Haus Worldwide as the Vice President of Marketing where he will specialize in building brand identities through data-driven decisions and highly valued partnerships and collaboration within organizations. Justin will handle strategic brand management, conduct market research, and help take Dog Haus and The Absolute Brands to the next level. Prior to joining the Dog Haus team Bartek has spent nearly 20 years in marketing for various restaurant concepts such as JINYA Holdings, The Halal Guys, Veggie Grill, Qdoba Mexican Grill and Baja Fresh. Bartek has played a key role in helping grow them from regional sensations into national and international brands. Justin currently lives in Los Angeles, California with his wife Rebecca and daughter Olivia.
Louis Basile
Founder & President | Wildflower
Louis Basile is a passionate leader in the restaurant industry. He grew up in a family-owned restaurant in New Jersey. Previously, Mr. Basile worked at the Chart House and Au Bon Pain. He founded Wildflower in 1995. Wildflower operates multiple restaurants and a fresh dough manufacturing facility in Arizona. Wildflower is an award-winning brand that serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Mr. Basile is an emeriti National Restaurant Association board member, past chair of the Arizona Restaurant Association and ARAEF. As well, Louis has served on numerous boards for both charitable and for-profit organizations.
Alp Basol
Senior Principal Architect, Global Enterprise Solutions - Retail & Restaurant | AT&T
Based in Denver Colorado, Alp Basol is an experienced executive partner and consulting CTO helping equip CxO's and technology executives with tools and insights to deliver business results. As a transformative CTO in innovation, strategy and architecture, Alp leads the design of complex digital solutions for transformational change. Alp provides industry leadership across the Enterprise Customer space primarily in Retail, Restaurant, Grocery & Hospitality vertical. Prior to joining AT&T, Alp served as Chief Technology Officer for the Enterprise Products Group at Telstra. Alp graduated from Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne Australia, with a Master of Science in (Network Systems), Graduate Diploma of Information Technology (Systems Development) and a Graduate Diploma of Science in (Network Systems).
Adenah Bayoh
Founder, Franchisee | Cornbread, IHOP
Adenah Bayoh embodies the American dream. At age 13, she escaped the civil war in her native country of Liberia, immigrated to the United States and is now one of the most successful entrepreneurs in the state of New Jersey. Inspired by her grandmother, who owned a restaurant in Liberia, Adenah is now the owner of 8 restaurants including 4 IHOP franchises in northern New Jersey. She opened her first IHOP in Irvington Township, New Jersey at the age of 27, making her one of the youngest franchisees in the country at that time. In late 2017, Adenah launched Cornbread, her first independent fast casual, farm-to-table, soul food restaurant, which she co-founded with fellow entrepreneur, Zadie B. Smith. They recently opened their second location in downtown Newark, and a third in Brooklyn, NY. Additionally, in keeping with Adenah’s mission of bringing high quality food and services to urban communities, in the summer of 2021 she launched her latest restaurant concept, Urban Vegan, in downtown Newark.
Jake Berkowitz
VP of Enterprise Sales | Revel Systems
Jake Berkowitz is the VP of Enterprise Sales at Revel Systems and currently oversees enterprise sales, as well as the sales engineering group. During his 9-year tenure at Revel, he’s been responsible for winning some of Revel’s key accounts, and has built Revel’s enterprise division from the ground up. Prior to joining Revel, Jake oversaw new market launches for Cake (formerly Leapset), and played a role in the company’s successful acquisition by Sysco Foods. He brings with him a deep understanding of restaurant and retail industries, cultivated from over 13 years of experience.
Jim Bitticks
President & COO | Dave's Hot Chicken
Jim Bitticks was promoted from COO to president and chief operating officer of Dave’s Hot Chicken in 2021. A 30-year restaurant operations veteran, Bitticks started in the restaurant industry as a teenager and climbed the ranks at CKE Restaurants to become vice president of operations in the San Diego market. He joined Blaze Pizza in 2013 to lead operations and training and later became chief restaurant officer to help that concept grow from two to more than 350 locations.
Scott Boatwright
Chief Restaurant Officer | Chipotle Mexican Grill
Scott Boatwright is the Chief Restaurant Officer at Chipotle, responsible for overseeing operations for over 3,000 company-owned restaurants with more than 100,000 employees. Joining the organization in May 2017, Mr. Boatwright drove the integration of new technology into restaurants, yielding impressive results and improvements across throughput and the overall guest experience. Recognized for his industry contributions, Mr. Boatwright was named Nation’s Restaurant News ‘Operations CREATOR of the Year’ in 2021 as well as to Fast Casual’s ‘2020 Top 25 Executive’ list. Prior to Chipotle, Mr. Boatwright spent 18 years with Arby’s Restaurant Group in various leadership positions. Most recently serving as the Senior Vice President of Operations, where he was responsible for the performance of over 1,700 Arby’s restaurants in numerous states. Mr. Boatwright is a member of the National Restaurant Association’s Fast Casual Industry Council providing insight and expertise to the collaborative forum.
Ron Bolden
COO | Paradise Smoothie Juice Bar
After 20 years in the Marines, it’s safe to say that Ronald Bolden learned about fitness. “I left Gary, Indiana, to join the Marines and after running 20 miles a week for 20 years, a fitness regime grows on you. You learn to run, stay in shape and eat correctly. It’s a lifelong mission.” Bolden was reared by his grandmother who “loved to cook and she cooked a lot of vegetables, so I learned to eat them at an early age.” Ron, who serves as COO of Paradise Smoothie Juice bar, say that the Marines not only taught him to stay and eat healthy, but the intangible skills to run a successful business. “I learned people skills, discipline, and how to be of service — all of which prepared me to run a business. Owning a smoothie bar is the natural transition for me. I’ve lived my whole life waiting for this. This is preparation meeting opportunity.” Bolden says their customers range from their 30s on up to those who are eligible for Medicare.
Jami Bond
VP of Franchise Development | Goodcents
Jami Bond, CFE, is vice president of franchise development for Goodcents. With an extensive background in restaurant marketing and franchise development, she loves helping entrepreneurs launch their own businesses, and she is very proud to work for a company that provides the support franchisees need to thrive. A graduate of Washburn University, Bond holds a degree in marketing and finance. She is a member of Chief, a private network built to drive more women into positions of power and keep them there.
Doug Bostick
President | Fazoli’s
Doug Bostick is the President of Fazoli’s and oversees all corporate departments for the brand’s franchise system with the goal of continuing to build on Fazoli’s recent record-breaking growth from both a same-store sales and franchise development perspective. Having been with the brand for nearly two decades, Bostick adds extensive experience in multi-unit franchise operations and development. Prior to joining Fazoli’s, he served as Chief Operations Officer and Partner for an 81-unit Rally’s Hamburger franchise, operating in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida. He also held leadership positions with Wendy’s International and Jerry’s Restaurants and owned a Dairy Queen franchise.
Francesco Brachetti
President & Co-Founder | Avocaderia
Francesco Brachetti is the President/co-founder at Avocaderia and directs their culinary department and serves as CFO. Francesco Brachetti earned an Undergraduate in Economics from Bocconi Business School and a Double Degree in Finance and International Management from ESADE and RSM. Prior to founding Avocaderia, Francesco was leading the Business intelligence unit of Mexico’s largest fashion e-commerce.
Cherryh Cansler
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.
Valerie Cansler
VP, Client Services – South | 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.
Alonso Castañeda
VP of Brand Development & Strategy | Savory Restaurant Fund
Alonso Castañeda is VP of Brand Development & Strategy at Savory Restaurant Fund, an arm of Mercato Partners that focuses on delivering outsized returns through strategic growth and replication strategies. He leads the strategic oversight of brand initiatives, brand campaigns, and implementation of customer-facing systems that enhance the experience for their fast-growing consumer-facing brands. During his career, he has specialized in taking fast casual and polished casual food and beverage concepts and scaling them into 50-unit+ powerhouse brands.
Jeff Chandler
CEO / President | Hopdoddy Burger Bar & HiBar Hospitality Group
A proven leader with more than 30 years in the restaurant industry, Hopdoddy CEO Jeff Chandler joined award-winning Hopdoddy Burger Bar in 2016. During his tenure, he has led brand expansion doubling unit growth while building strong teams and achieving category-leading financial results. In 2021, Chandler was also named CEO of HiBar Hospitality, a growth-focused umbrella company owned by L Catterton that in 2022 completed its first acquisition, Grub Burger Bar. In this role, he’ll continue leading both brands while seeking additional growth opportunities through mergers and acquisitions. Prior to Hopdoddy, Jeff served as CEO for Opper-Melang Restaurants, where he was responsible for successfully increasing unit count 70% in two years. Previous restaurant industry leadership positions include president and managing partner at RAM International.
Mark Cimino
SVP of Account Management | Buyers Edge Platform
Mark Cimino is the Senior Vice President of Account Management for Buyers Edge Platform, the leading Software and Analytics company providing data-driven insights and technology to the foodservice industry. Mark leads the Account Management Group for national and regional clients. With over 25 years’ experience, Mark has worked in all areas of the industry including operations, support center, and franchise management so he understands the business from both the operator and owner perspective. Mark loves helping clients save money and grow their business.
Seth Cohen
President & Co-Founder | Sweetfin
Seth Cohen is the President/co-founder at Sweetfin and directs their marketing and strategic partnership/business development initiatives and serves as Sweetfin’s director of real estate. Seth received a Bachelor's degree in business from the USC Marshall School of Business and a concentration in International Business through the Copenhagen Business School in Denmark. While at USC, he worked in business development at Live Nation Entertainment alongside the President of Global Venues to help develop new revenue streams at the Live Nation owned properties. Prior to conceptualizing Sweetfin, Seth worked in commercial and residential real estate financing where he was heavily involved in real estate credit and underwriting analysis.
Rob Crews
New Business & Account Management, Restaurant Brands | Vericast
Rob Crews is the Director of Insights and Strategy for the Restaurant Industry at Vericast. In this role he analyzes industry data and identifies opportunities, helping clients drive profitable sales using Vericast’s proprietary tech stack. Prior to joining Vericast, Rob spent most of his career in restaurant marketing, working for brands such as Wendy’s, Arby’s, Church’s Chicken, LongHorn Steakhouse/The Capital Grille, Ryan’s/Old Country Buffet, and Applebee’s. Rob holds an MBA and a bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of Iowa.
Charles Dixon
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.
Jordan Doepke
CEO | Green District
Jordan Doepke left the insurance business to co-found Green District Salads in Louisville, Kentucky with childhood friend Chris Furlow, inspired to improve lives and help people live healthier. Doepke is chief executive officer for the rapidly growing chopped salad concept, overseeing the brand’s strategic direction, restaurant operations, and corporate partnerships. His passion is to put people first, ensuring Green District not only serves fresh, high-quality food, but also provides a positive impact for its customers, employees and communities. With nine locations currently operating in Kentucky, Indiana and Ohio, Green District has plans to expand to 30 units nationally by the end of 2022, as part of a major expansion plan partially funded through an investment from Louisville-based The Castellan Group, with a goal of reaching $100 million in revenue in 2026.
Andrew Dougherty
Vice President of Sales | Crunchtime
Andrew Dougherty has worked in software and high-tech for 20 years, including 10 years as a co-founder in an energy start-up. Before joining CrunchTime, Andrew served as VP of Sales for SmartSense by Digi and SVP of Sales for TempAlert. Andrew has a BA in Political Science from Colorado College and holds an MBA from MIT Sloan School of Management.
Trey Eanes
National Account Executive | Steritech
Trey Eanes is a National Account Executive responsible for helping organizations capitalize on insights from 3rd party assessment to create safer and more consistent brand experiences. Trey’s career path gives him an unmatched level of understanding and appreciation for the restaurant industry. Prior to joining Steritech as a Quality Management Specialist in 2008, he worked from the ground up as a line cook and then front of house manager for Outback Steakhouse. Over the past 14 years, he has continued advancing through a variety of roles as a knowledgeable leader and decision-maker. In addition to serving as a trainer, operations manager, and district manager, he has managed accounts for KFC, Five Guys, El Pollo Loco, Bojangles, First Watch, and other restaurant giants.
Eric Easton
Chief Financial Officer | Ampex Brands
Eric Easton is chief financial officer for Ampex Brands, a Top 20 Franchisee and owner of approximately 400 franchise locations across YUM! Brands, Long John Silvers, and 7-Eleven. Ampex is also the franchisor for Au Bon Pain the Bakery Café. Eric’s responsibilities include Ampex corporate planning and execution, along with overseeing accounting, finance, human resources and supply chain. Eric has been in the restaurant industry for more than 20 years. He has held progressive roles in finance and operations across privately held, private equity backed and public companies. In these roles, Eric was a key driver for several recapitalization and liquidity events and M&A transactions. This includes participating in the public offering of Ignite Restaurant Group in 2012. While his expertise is in finance, Eric prides himself with the ability to leverage his operations experience to bring a unique perspective to the strategic planning and analysis function.
Jordan Ekers
Co-founder & COO | Nudge, an Axonify company
Jordan Ekers is co-founder and COO of Nudge, the top-rated frontline enablement solution that empowers workers with the knowledge, tools and resources they need to execute consistently and confidently every day. He’s worked with many of North America’s leading retail, foodservice and hospitality brands to design transformative approaches for executing the brand promise and empowering frontline teams. Jordan is a Forbes Council Member as well as a guest on BNN Bloomberg.
SG Ellison
President & Franchisee | Diversified Restaurant Group
SG Ellison holds pivotal roles at three Sonoma, California based companies as the President of A&C Ventures, Inc., a real estate and restaurant investment firm (ACV), Franchisee of Diversified Restaurant Group, LLC, an innovative restaurant management company (DRG), and Founder of First Street Development, LLC, the real estate development company that serves as the development arm of ACV and DRG. In his roles for ACV and DRG, SG oversees the management and operations of DRG’s portfolio of 325 Taco Bell & Arby’s locations, with $600 million in annual revenues, and ACV’s $1 billion real estate portfolio comprised primarily of triple net retail and multifamily assets. SG obtained a BSE in Civil Engineering from Arizona State University. He planted roots in Phoenix for 20 years prior to moving to wine country to lead acquisitions, investments, and franchise operations for the three companies. SG currently sits on the Board of Arby’s Franchise Association and the Food Service Insurance Group.
Nick Falco
VP of Operations | Starbird
Nick Falco is the Vice President of Operations at Starbird, one of the nation’s first super-premium fast food concepts. Starbird was founded in 2016 by restaurant innovators The Culinary Edge (TCE). At Starbird, Nick pioneers the development of Starbird’s operations, restaurant design, technology, and concept evolution for all streetside, ghost kitchen, stadium, and airport locations. Prior to Starbird, Falco led the hospitality operations at several leading restaurant and gaming companies throughout California. Falco received his bachelor’s degree from The Culinary Institute of America in Culinary Arts and Management, and he serves as the Alumni Champion for his alma mater.
George Frangos
Co-Founder | Farm Burger
George Frangos co-founded the innovative grassfed burger chain, Farm Burger, in 2010. A seasoned veteran of the hospitality industry, George aligned with restaurateur and grassfed cattle rancher Jason Mann to make farm-to-table both accessible and scalable through a fast-casual business model. The menu is simple but thoughtful, featuring ingredients from local, sustainable farms. Over the past 11 years, George has overseen Farm Burger’s growth from one Atlanta store to 12 locations across the Southeast—but growth is not Farm Burger’s priority, nor will it be its legacy. Farm Burger’s legacy will be in creating a lifeline for small to midsize local farms—a sector of agriculture that continues to struggle, despite the countless brands in today’s market who tout “sustainable” and “locally sourced” ingredients. A passion for George is connecting consumers with the local farms who nourish them.
Mike Freeman
Chief Brand Officer | McAlister’s Deli
Mike Freeman was named chief brand officer of McAlister's Deli in September 2021. He has been working with the brand for 13 years and most recently served as vice president of operations. Mike started as an assistant general manager at the McAlister's Deli in Bossier City, La. He has worked in various operations and training leadership roles. Mike has 25 years of experience in the food service industry ensuring dynamic brand development and consistent growth. He is known for advancing his team members and leveraging company restaurants to create strong community relationships. He has also held leadership positions in casual and fine dining concepts.
Tracey Fullington
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.
Sam Gerace
CEO | Lineup.ai
Sam Gerace leads the Lineup.ai team as they launch innovative data science products that drastically increase revenue forecasting accuracy and optimize labor scheduling for the restaurant industry. Sam is a five-time tech entrepreneur – the founding Chief Executive Officer of Convey, a licensor of patents and mobile+cloud CRM libraries for sales and account management teams; Veritix (Flash Seats), a sports and live-entertainment SaaS platform company processing over $1 billion in ticketing transactions annually; Be Free, a digital marketing platform company processing over $2 billion in commerce transactions annually; PCXIS, Inc. a public utility marketing software company; and PCX Consulting, Inc., a systems development firm serving heavy industry. Sam and his wife are committed to organizations helping children facing significant challenges. Sam has chaired the board of Minds Matter of Cleveland for eight years, is the President of the board of the Cleveland Jazz Orchestra.
Dale Goss
SVP Real Estate | Raising Cane's Chicken Fingers
Dale Goss serves as the Vice President Of Real Estate of Raising Cane's. With over 30 years of experience in restaurant development, Dale thrives on the challenge of developing and executing sustainable growth strategies to deliver value for all stakeholders by developing teams aligned behind the strategy, measuring critical metrics and delivering results. He has expertise in market planning, real estate, construction, architecture, business development and refranchising. Dale has focused on corporate and franchise development programs, working across the QSR, Fast Casual and Casual restaurant segments. He has been responsible for adding over 800 corporate restaurants and over 400 franchise restaurants with four companies.
Adam Griffith
VP of IT | Original ChopShop
With a passion for high-growth restaurant companies, Adam Griffith joined the team that purchased Original ChopShop in 2016. As Vice President of IT, he implemented enterprise technology solutions that enabled ChopShop to grow from 3 shops in Phoenix to 19 shops in 3 states. Before joining Original ChopShop, Adam led technology transformation at Smoothie King, where as the Director of Store Systems he helped lay the groundwork for the technology transformation for their 900+ franchise locations. He also spent five years at Cafe Rio Mexican Grill, growing the brand from a regional to a nationwide presence by 2014. Adam began his career as a Consultant with Radiant Systems (now NCR), spending years working with top hospitality brands to find solutions to run more efficient and profitable restaurants. Adam holds an MBA from the University of Utah and a bachelor's from the University of North Texas.
Michelle Harden
Managing Partner | Messner Reeves
Michelle Harden, attorney and managing partner at Messner Reeves LLP, provides a comprehensive legal assessment of the restaurant industry. Her law practice is recognized nationally for successfully defending restaurants and similar food industry businesses. Michelle and her team assist restaurants with: Foodborne and environmental illness and contamination defense, Proactive crisis management planning, Active crisis management, Management practices and Countless other issues facing today’s food and restaurant businesses. Her client-focused, solution-oriented approach has garnered the trust of some of the most successful food industry businesses across the country – from individual proprietors to Fortune 500 companies. Michelle earned a JD from the University of Colorado in 2005. She also received a Bachelor of Science degree in 2001 from Colorado Christian University, where she graduated magna cum laude.
Ryan Harrison
Chief Operating Officer | Zunzi’s + Zunzibar
Ryan Harrison was promoted to the position of chief operating officer for Zunzi’s and its beach-bar sister concept, Zunzibar in 2021. In this role, Ryan is charged with developing programs to grow the Zunzi’s and Zunzibar brands, establishing operational systems to maximize efficiency, forging strategic partnerships and nurturing existing relationships with investors, vendors and other stakeholders, and providing the tools for the company to meet and exceed its sales and financial goals. He most recently served as Zunzi’s director of operations and catering. Before joining Zunzi’s, Ryan helped launch Gusto!’s catering program, eventually serving as that concept’s director of B2B and community development.
Scott Heim
President of Middleby Ventless Solutions & Evo America | The Middleby Corporation
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.
Jeff Hemschoot
Vice President Marketing | Jersey Mike's Franchise Systems
Jeff Hemschoot is Vice President Marketing at Jersey Mike’s Franchise Systems, Inc., a sub sandwich franchise with more than 2,000 locations nationwide. Started at the Jersey Shore in 1956, Jersey Mike’s serves authentic fresh sliced/fresh grilled subs on fresh baked bread – the same recipe it started with 66 years ago. Jeff joined Jersey Mike’s in 2008 when the company had fewer than 400 locations. Today, it is ranked #4 on Entrepreneur’s 2022 Franchise 500.
Amy Hom
Chief Operating Officer & Chief People Officer | Bluestone Lane
Amy Hom is the Chief Operating Officer and Chief People Officer at Bluestone Lane. She is leading and driving the culture within the organization, the human resources team as well as other departments such as training and development. In addition to serving as a Chief People Officer, she has led operations in large organizations as well as food safety, training, and culinary teams. Amy has more than 25 years of experience in the restaurant industry and has served in operations leadership roles for fine dining, casual dining and fast casual brands. Before joining Bluestone Lane, Amy led the North America retail and restaurant operations leadership team for REEF Technology Global, served as the Vice President of Operations with Sweetgreen, Red Robin and was the Senior Operations Director of Wolfgang Puck Catering. She has served in operations leadership roles for California Pizza Kitchen where she built a strong management foundation from where to continue to learn, grow and develop others.
R.J. Hottovy
Head of Analytical Research | Placer.ai
R.J. Hottovy, CFA is Head of Analytical Research for Placer.ai. He has covered the restaurant, retail, and e-commerce sectors for nearly 20 years, most recently serving as a Fund Manager for Aaron Allen Capital Partners. He has held several analyst positions in the past, including Global Consumer Equity Strategist at Morningstar and equity analyst roles at William Blair & Co. and Deutsche Bank. Hottovy also brings a wealth of experience with early-stage investments as an investor and member of the investment committee for the IrishAngels/Vitalize venture capital group. Over the past three years, he has worked with more than 50 consumer and technology companies, advising on more than $200 million in early-stage capital raises and other buy- and sell-side M&A transactions. Hottovy is also a member of the Chicago Seed Co. network, a group of Chicago-area investors focused on early-stage food & beverage companies.
Logan Hull
Director of Digital Restaurant Experience & Managing Director of Robotics | Chipotle Mexican Grill
Logan Hull is the Director of Digital Restaurant Experience and Managing Director of Robotics for Chipotle Mexican Grill. As a proven leader with nearly 10 years of technology industry experience, Logan's team of digital product professionals are responsible for elevating customer and crew experiences with technology inside the restaurant. Logan helps drive Chipotle's digital strategy through thoughtful restaurant innovation, ensuring customers and crew members are at the center of every technology solution and digital experience. Logan believes that personalization, frictionless engagement, access, and convenience are key to any tech that aims to enhance the human experience. Prior to her current role, Logan led the Chipotle digital product team responsible for launching CRM and the Chipotle Rewards Program. Logan earned her Bachelor’s degree in English and Secondary Education at Clemson University, where she also played Division I women’s soccer.
Chris Ives
Chief Financial Officer | Bubbakoo’s Burritos
Christopher Ives was recently promoted to chief financial officer at Bubbakoo’s Burritos. Ives previously served as VP of finance and development at the 62-unit fast-casual chain. He has extensive franchising experience, helping launch the Frutta Bowls chain in 2017. At New Jersey-based Bubbakoo’s, Ives has worked with franchisees and has overseen many aspects of finance, technology and development.
Bill Johnson
CEO | Paradise Smoothie Juice Bar
Bill Johnson, CEO of Paradise Smoothie Juice Bar, has been into health and fitness since the 1970s. Even though he is a graduate of Southern College of Technology and an electrical engineer by trade, he is a serial entrepreneur and owned several franchise restaurants as well as a vending machine and residential real-estate business with his brother. He came into the smoothie juice bar business as a result of taking care of his father. For 10 years of his life, his father lived with him and his wife and they looked for ways to control his health issues, such as high cholesterol, diabetes and high blood pressure. With healthy eating, they eventually weaned him away from all but one of his medications. As a result, they became more conscious of what they ate. Johnson’s wife is a vegetarian, and he is “primarily a vegetarian who will occasionally eat fish or chicken.” Adding, “We truly believe in the power of healthy living and eating. Paradise really does power performance.”
Stacey Kane
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.
Akash Kapoor
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.
Caroline Keros
Senior Account Executive | SOCi
Caroline Keros is a Senior Account Executive at SOCi and is responsible for partnering with SOCi’s restaurant clients to help empower them to scale their marketing efforts across all digital channels. Caroline's background includes 20 years of digital marketing experience working across restaurants, retail, financial services and healthcare industries. She was most recently the CMO and President Social Media Management for IntelliShop, an industry leader in customer experience and survey management, working with brands such as Jack in the Box and Bojangles . As a marketing leader, Caroline fully understands the demands and pressures brands face to drive profitable sales and ensure that messaging is communicated effectively on both the national and local levels. She is dedicated to helping brands find new and inventive ways to improve their short and long-term objectives.
Todd Kirby
Franchise Development Partner | Hot Chikn Kitchn
Todd Kirby was recently named Franchise Development Partner for Hot Chikn Kitchn, a fast casual restaurant brand that serves up Nashville-style food that’s kicked up with their signature premium sauces. In this role, Kirby is focused on finding great franchise partners to meet the company’s stated goal of 200 new locations in the next three years. Prior to joining Hot Chikn Kitchn, he served as Vice President of Sales for Xponential Fitness. The group features more than 2,000 fitness studios including Club Pilates, Purre Barre, and CycleBar Indoor Cycling. Kirby is an entrepreneur and launched two companies. In 2014, he founded and served as Director of Sales for CycleBar Indoor Cycling. The company is the largest indoor cycling franchise with more than 200 studios worldwide. Earlier in his career, Kirby founded and served as Director of Sales for St. Gregory Development Group. Under his leadership, the company developed thousands of health and wellness franchise locations.
Shawn Lalehzarian
Co-Founder & CEO | The Red Chickz
After immigrating to the United States from Iran, Shawn Lalehzarian found his first job working at a local restaurant in San Diego washing dishes. As he progressed through his career, he was promoted to higher-up positions and eventually landed a senior management role. In his senior management position, Shawn oversaw multi-unit F&B operations with more than $30 Million dollars in revenue and 400 employees. He also played a key role in opening over 40 different restaurants around the nation and Canada. In 2018, Shawn founded The Red Chickz. In 2021, Lalehzarian launched the franchise program for the Nashville hot chicken brand.
Seth Larsen
Chief Relationship Officer | Cheba Hut Toasted Subs
Seth Larsen is the Chief Relationship Officer at Cheba Hut, the first marijuana-themed sandwich “joint” in the United States. Originally from Chicago, Larsen became familiar with the Colorado-based Cheba Hut brand while studying business marketing at Colorado State University. Larsen has been a franchise owner with Cheba Hut for 14-plus years and has seen year-over-year double digit same store sales growth at the modern-day fast casual restaurant. During the pandemic, Cheba Hut, with more than 35 locations in Arizona, Colorado, California, Oregon, New Mexico and Wisconsin, introduced a state-of-the-art loyalty program to keep customers engaged with the brand.
Hal Lawlor
COO | Smokey Bones
Hal Lawlor is the Chief Operating Officer for Smokey Bones, a full-service restaurant that delivers on great barbeque, award-winning ribs, and good times. Lawlor is a seasoned and high-performing restaurant executive with more than 25 years in the industry. He joined Smokey Bones in 2019 to spearhead a revitalization of the brand. Since taking on the role as COO, he has been part of the leadership that launched two virtual brands for the company, The Wing Experience and Burger Experience. He has been integral in building a successful off-premise dining program for the brand to further its sales and reach. Smokey Bones operates 62 locations across 16 states.
Hanson Li
Co-Founder & CEO | Lazy Susan
Hanson Li is the co-founder and CEO of Lazy Susan, a Chinese take-out concept. Lazy Susan highlights the long history of Chinese food in America while adopting it for today’s taste and consumers. In 2014, Hanson Li founded Salt Partners Group, a food, beverage, and restaurant group. Salt Partners is currently the managing partner of Humphry Slocombe Ice Cream, High-Proof (beverage group that owns the bars Horesfeather and Last Rites), and B-Side. Salt’s legacy portfolio includes Crenn Dining Group (Atelier Crenn 3-Michelin Star, Petit Crenn, Bar Crenn 1-Michelin Star, Boutique Crenn) and LocoL (fast food concept that was named best restaurant by LA Times in 2017). He’s an active advisor and investor of companies at the intersection of food and technology: Bikky, Workstream, Entrée, Ritual, Expo, Territory Foods, PlateIQ and Servy (sold to Resy/AMEX). He’s also an investor in several food and beverage companies: Sufferfest Beer, Sunday Group, Sanzo, and Bacon Bacon.
Kristin Lynch
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.
Kelly McCutcheon
Vice President of People | Hopdoddy Burger Bar
Kelly McCutcheon joined Hopdoddy as director of training, and her passion and success in leading and developing great people has elevated her to her current position as vice president of people. In her hospitality career spanning 20 years, McCutcheon has honed her training skills to align team culture with guest experience to create great business performance. She says her training mission is “to help people grow into the best version of themselves.” Prior to Hopdoddy, she served as a regional training manager at P.F. Chang’s for almost a decade. There she helped the brand double in size to 200 locations. In addition to her duties at Hopdoddy, McCutcheon is also the Austin Regional Director for the Council of Hotel and Restaurant Trainers (CHART).
Deena McKinley
Chief Experience Officer | Papa Gino’s Pizzeria & D’Angelo Grilled Sandwiches
Deena McKinley is Chief Experience Officer of New England Authentic Eats, LLC, parent company of Papa Gino’s Pizzeria and D’Angelo Grilled Sandwiches. With 20 years restaurant industry experience, Deena oversees digital, brand, strategic marketing, technology, innovation, catering, and guest experience for both brands. Prior to NEAE, Deena was Chief Experience Officer at Mobivity, providing national, multi-unit restaurants like Subway, Sonic, and Dairy Queen a platform allowing them to engage with guests to increase retention, engagement, frequency and spend. Previously, Deena was Chief Client Officer at Zimmerman Advertising, working with clients such as Papa John’s Pizza, Boston Market, and Firehouse Subs.
Jane McPherson
SVP of Marketing | Capriotti's and Wing Zone
Jane McPherson is Capriotti’s Senior Vice President responsible for marketing and technology. She brings more than 20 years of marketing experience and deep knowledge of the franchise restaurant category.
Sherif Mityas
President | Brix Holdings
Sherif Mityas has more than 25 years’ experience in the retail and hospitality sectors in both senior consulting and executive industry roles. He currently serves as the President of BRIX Holdings – a multi-brand restaurant portfolio company and as the Operating Partner for JAMCO Interests, a leading restaurant investment group with over 350 locations across multiple brands including Friendly’s, Red Mango, Orange Leaf, Smoothie Factory and SouperSalad. Prior to his current role, Sherif served as the Chief Experience Officer for TGI FRIDAYS with oversight for the Brand’s global Strategy, Marketing, Innovation, and Digital efforts and as the Chief Executive Officer for Hollywood Video/Movie Gallery. Mr. Mityas received a B.S. degree in aerospace engineering from Boston University, a M.S. in mechanical engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) and an M.B.A. from Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management.
Jason Morgan
CEO | Original ChopShop
Jason Morgan throughout his career has built and led successful growth companies across various industries. Currently, as Chief Executive Officer at Original ChopShop, Morgan has increased unit count from three units to 19 units in the past six years achieving sales and operating results that are leading the fast casual sector. As Chief Financial Officer of Zoës Kitchen from 2008 to 2015, Morgan was instrumental in the growth of the company, increasing store count from 20 to 150 and revenues from $18mm to $223mm. In April 2014, he led Zoës Kitchen IPO –one of the most successful IPOs in the restaurant sector in the past decade. Prior to Zoës Kitchen, he held CFO positions at a private equity-backed start-up and a gaming technology company. He also held executive positions in strategic planning, investor relations, and treasury at Gaylord Entertainment Co. and Harrah’s Entertainment.
Alex Munoz-Suarez
CEO | Fuku
Alex Munoz-Suarez is an accomplished executive with a diverse background in operations, finance, real estate development, and culinary arts with premier restaurant/hospitality brands. He is currently CEO at Fuku, a fried chicken joint from David Chang that’s on a mission to change the way people think about fast casual. Alex leads Fuku’s growth in brick-and-mortar stores, as well as concessions development in stadiums, arenas, airports, and ghost kitchen operations. Prior to joining Fuku, Alex was President at Momofuku Holdings, where he oversaw domestic and international restaurant operations from its NYC headquarters. Momofuku has gained world-wide recognition for its innovative take on cuisine, while supporting local, sustainable, and responsible farmers and food purveyors.
Jake Myers
VP of Local & Regional Advertising Sales | Atmosphere
Jake Myers is Head of Local and Regional Advertising Sales at Atmosphere. Atmosphere is the leading streaming TV platform for businesses, offering more than 60 original and partner TV channels.
Zack Oates
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, has 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 no. 1 restaurant feedback platform in America, voted Top 50 Most Influential Supplier by Nation’s Restaurant News, and host of “Give an Ovation: A Podcast for Restaurants.”
Zak Omar
CEO | Atomic Wings
Zak Omar has been a lifelong entrepreneur. He first learned about being a business owner from his father, an Afghani refugee who arrived in New York city in the 1980s. His father introduced a new food option: a mobile fried chicken truck that he would park right outside of 1 Chase Manhattan Plaza. When his father got sick, Omar and his brother, Ray, decided to pursue their own entrepreneurial goals by becoming multi-unit franchisees with Dunkin’. In 2013, Omar fell ill himself and was diagnosed with leukemia. He used this diagnosis as inspiration to expand his portfolio, ultimately investing in Atomic Wings and taking over as CEO in 2016.
John Pepper
Founder | Boloco
John Pepper is co-founder,CEO 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 Senior Advisor - Innovation & Investing at Founders Table (Chopt/Dos Toros, Sweet Chick, Fieldtrip) and co-founder of Worthee, an early-stage software platform focused on providing hourly workers feedback and data to help them rise and thrive. He also invests in and advises early stage restaurant tech companies and promising consumer brands through 211.vc, with over 20 portfolio companies since 2014.
Gracie Prasanson
VP of Sales | Jason's Deli
Gracie Prasanson is the VP of Sales for Jason's Deli where she has served for the last 23 years expanding and developing off premise channels for the brand. Gracie has over 40 years of experience in sales management, operations, and off premise. Gracie has worked for other large national chains such as Denny's, Cracker Barrel and IHOP.
Scott Redler
Co-Founder & Board Member | Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers
Scott Redler is a restaurant industry veteran with 45 years of experience as a franchisor, owner, and operator. Redler is Co-founder and Board Member of the Kansas-based fast-casual restaurant concept Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers. In 2002, Redler launched Freddy’s along with his business partners Bill and Randy Simon. After franchising in 2004, Freddy’s has grown to over 400 locations serving 35 states across the nation. Redler has been instrumental in developing over 20 different concepts throughout his distinguished career in the hospitality industry ranging from five-star to business and institutional dining. Redler’s vast knowledge of restaurant ownership and operations has made him a sought-out professional in the industry. An IFMA Silver Plate Award recipient, he currently serves as an officer on the Board of the National Restaurant Association, advocating for and representing restaurant industry interests with policymakers.
Patrick Renna
President | BurgerFi
Patrick Renna has extensive experience within the restaurant industry, and is currently the President of BurgerFi. Previously, Mr. Renna was the President and CFO of Wahlburgers, a Boston based burger restaurant founded by Executive Chef Paul Wahlberg, and celebrity brothers Mark and Donnie. Prior to that Patrick was CEO at Boloco, a fast casual globally inspired burrito chain, where he also served as CFO for four years. Previously, he held CFO positions 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, Fresh Concepts, which operates fast casual restaurants under the name Fresh City and Souper Salad, as well as FiRE+iCE, where he also served as President. Patrick began his career with New England Restaurant Company, a Chili’s franchisee and owner of Bertucci’s Brick Oven Pizzeria, a 90-unit casual dining chain.
Robin Robison
Chief Operating Officer | Modern Restaurant Concepts
Robin Robison is the Chief Operating Officer for Modern Restaurant Concepts, leading Modern Market Eatery and Lemonade Restaurant Group. Modern Market Eatery has 25 company owned restaurants and 3 licensed partnerships in 4 states, including a location in the student center at Notre Dame. Lemonade Restaurant Group has 19 company owned restaurants and 2 licensed partnerships in California. 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 strategies. She is most passionate about people and developing winning teams that deliver outstanding financial results. Robin believes that positive environments fuel positive results. During Robin’s time with Brinker, she served as the project leader for the Leadership Principles for Women Task Force, which she formed to create “best in class” women leader mentorship programs.
Emily Rugaber
VP of Marketing | Thanx
Emily Rugaber has spent her entire career in the tech industry working across a variety of industries, consulting with large companies including Target, Nestle, Virgin America and SAP on business intelligence projects aimed and mining data for actionable insights. As the VP of marketing at Thanx, Emily leads with a deep knowledge and understanding of loyalty trends, innovations, and best practices for enterprise restaurant brands. Emily is the author of Thanx’s Loyalty Disrupt newsletter.
Tinku Saini
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 the fast-casual restaurant into a national brand. Tinku has been running restaurants for over 25 years and has opened 12 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.
Elliot Schiffer
Partner & CEO | Mici Handcrafted Italian
Elliot Schiffer holds an MBA in Entrepreneurship, Marketing and Finance at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, has committed his career and education to the singular goal of growing a fast-casual restaurant chain. He was previously Senior Vice President of Non-Traditional Business Development for Denver-based Smashburger, which owns and operates more than 370 corporate and franchise outlets operating in 37 states and 9 countries. From 2014 to 2017, Schiffer created a $37M revenue business, developing 21 high revenue Smashburger locations in Airports, Casinos, and Campuses. He also ran Smashburger’s Real Estate Analytics, playing a major role in location selection for 25 corporate and 30 franchise restaurants per year.
Greg Schmitzer
President & Co-Founder | Mad Mobile
Greg Schmitzer is the President and Co-Founder of Mad Mobile. The Mad Mobile platform currently powers point-of-sale, mobile ordering, and mobile payments for more than 7,000 restaurants in the U.S. and 14,000 major retail locations, globally. The unique platform modernizes legacy POS systems for mobile journeys and upgrades customers to a single platform for in-store and online commerce. Mad Mobile processes more than $3B in mobile payments annually. Top customers include Aramark, Texas Roadhouse, P.F. Chang’s, STK, Pappas, Ike’s Love and Sandwiches, Tractor Supply, Pandora, Meijer, Estee Lauder, West Marine, Signet Jewelers, and Ralph Lauren. Greg works closely with Apple, Samsung, and Salesforce as their primary go-to-market partner for restaurant and retail mobility.
Steve Schulze
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.
Max Sheets
Founder & CEO | Chick N Max
Max Sheet’s love of restaurants began back in his teenage days, scraping cheese off the pans in a Pizza Hut kitchen. With a career in restaurant development that now spans almost three decades, he conceptualized Chick N Max and assembled a team of culinary professionals to perfect the menu. As founder and CEO, Max is grateful to put his past to work in a restaurant that prioritizes people and high-quality food as the foundation of every guest experience. Prior to the development of Chick N Max, Max served as an executive in development for Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers, Smashburger, Ted’s Montana Grill, Fox & Hound, and Lone Star Steakhouse.
Stacey Sikorski
Franchise Team Lead (Mid Market Sales) | 7shifts
Stacey Sikorski lives in Saskatoon, Canada where she's built a career focused on B2B relationship management, including sales and partnerships in hospitality and consumer packaged goods. A constant in her career has been a passion for the restaurant industry and working with the people in it. Nearly 7 years ago, Stacey made the jump from corporate life and joined a small restaurant-tech startup as the 11th employee. Today, 7shifts has 350 employees and services 30,000 restaurants across North America. Stacey currently leads the 7shifts Franchise Sales team to partner with heavily franchised restaurant brands with the goal of increasing efficiency and frontline engagement.
Jennifer Silveira
SVP of Supply Chain Optimization | Consolidated Concepts
Jennifer Silveira is Vice President of Supply Chain Optimization for Consolidated Concepts. Jen helps support restaurant clients as they continue to battle through the ongoing volatility of the current supply chain environment. With 25 years of experience in the food service industry, Jen helped build and lead several restaurant and manufacturing supply chain teams, most recently spending the past 6 years as Vice President of Supply Chain for 99 Restaurant & Pub. She specializes in inventory management, sourcing, and contract negotiations that drive efficiency and savings to the bottom line. Jen also enjoys mentoring young women new to the foodservice industry, helping them to develop and foster their leadership skills.
Chris Smith
Owner | Zunzi’s and Zunzibar
Chris Smith, owner of Zunzi’s and Zunzibar, has never been one to put off until tomorrow what can be done today. It’s that drive that led him to become a Five Guys franchisee while still in college, going on to open seven locations within eight years. And it’s that same spirit that, upon his first visit to the Savannah sandwich shop Zunzi’s in 2008, drove him to declare that he would one day own the restaurant—a goal he eventually realized in 2014. Smith quickly refined the Zunzi’s concept, narrowing its wide-reaching menu to home in on its South African influences. And as he set about planning an Atlanta location to showcase a new focus on fast casual dining in a fun and energetic atmosphere, he also set his sights on what he sees as a key part of Zunzi’s future success—a company culture founded on the principles of positivity, inspiration and community outreach. In 2021, Zunzi’s relocated its original Savannah location and added Zunzibar, its sister beach-bar concept, creating a model for where Smith aims to take the company next.
Todd Smith
Co-Founder | Flake Pie Co.
Todd Smith, is the Co-Founder of Flake Pie Co. He has been in the restaurant industry for over 16 years with companies like Yum! Brands, Wendy's, and Sonic Drive-in. Prior to starting Flake Pie Co. he was the President & CMO at Sonic Drive-in. He has a passion for building brands with great food and great customer experience, which is what he and his partners have built at Flake Pie Co. Todd is an avid sports fan and a car nut. He and his family currently live in Utah.
Brett Spiegel
Co-Founder & COO | Koala, Inc.
Brett Spiegel is Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer at Koala. Founded in 2019, Koala is an industry-leading platform that creates premium, customizable apps for restaurants to offer digital ordering. Koala’s key features, such as premium online ordering with built-in analytics and real-time optimization, have made a measurable difference for major restaurant brands, including MOD Pizza, Pei Wei, and TGI Fridays to name a few.
Roslyn Stone
CEO | Zero Hour Health
Roslyn Stone, MPH, is Chief Executive Officer of Zero Hour Health, the industry leader in employee patron and community health for many of the nation’s largest restaurant and food service chains. And founder of Zedic, a solution for emerging chains, independents and smaller groups. Stone’s experience includes more than thirty years in the field of workplace health. At Zero Hour Health, Stone oversees clinical support services for more than 50,000 locations in the restaurant and foodservice industries, and for major events like the Super Bowl. An industry thought leader in risk management and matters of employee and public health, Stone is a sought-after speaker and panelist, She has been the voice of the industry throughout COVID and frequently quoted in national publications including on the emerging mental health crisis impacting the workforce.
Lori Stout
VP of Marketing | PAR Technology
Lori Stout is the Vice President of Marketing at PAR Technology. A lifelong writer and storyteller, Lori loves the challenge of applying modern solutions to age-old industry challenges to help brands create a better experience for their customers.
Ryan Thorman
CEO | Bango Bowls
Ryan Thorman left a career in advertising sales at LinkedIn in 2019 to take over as CEO of Bango Bowls. Bango Bowls, a quick serve concept that was founded in 2017 by four long life friends, has started to see their constant menu innovation start to pay dividends. Since 2019, the focus of the menu has shifted from just acai bowls to a larger offering that includes salads, warm grain bowls, poke bowls and now avocado toast and flanini’s (its name for a flatbread panini).
Rick Timmons
Co-Founder | Flake Pie Co.
Previously, Rick Timmons was a marketing executive in the cellular phone business for 15 years with Motorola, British Telecom and Voda. Then, Rick relocated to the Salt Lake City area and he and his brothers decided to become Sonic Drive-in franchisees. Rick oversaw the Sonic franchise organization and expanded the business along with his brothers to 21 locations. They were recognized as the Sonic National Turnaround Operator of the Year in 2012. Rick and his brothers sold their Sonic business in late 2021 after navigating the pandemic and managing through significant sales growth and challenging staffing. In mid 2020, Rick and his business partners developed the concept for Flake Pie Company and opened their first location in South Jordan, Utah in November of 2020 followed by a second location in St. George, Utah in early 2022. This was truly a group effort with partners, spouses and children involved in branding, recipe development, menu design, social media, etc.
Jason Valentine
Chief Strategy Officer | Botrista Technology
Having worked in the industry for more than 25 years, Jason Valentine has experienced every aspect of the restaurant industry. In the summer of 2022, Jason joined Botrista Technology as Chief Strategy Officer. Most recently, he was the President of Zoup! Eatery and exited after completing a successful acquisition plan. Jason has a deep understanding of the restaurant industry from the perspective of both franchisee and franchisor, and his experiences are now being applied to help brands implement DrinkBots, which enables brands to add craft beverages to their menu without operational complexities. Botrista DrinkBots automate the portioning, dispensing and mixing process using algorithmic dispensing to deliver a fresh and consistently blended drink in under 20 seconds.
André Vener
Partner | Dog Haus
Along with his two business partners, André Vener co-founded Dog Haus in April 2010, with the mission of elevating stadium food classics into culinary masterworks. Over the last decade, Dog Haus has expanded from its Pasadena, CA, base to nearly 50 locations from coast-to-coast. André and his partners have spearheaded the craft-casual brand’s rapid expansion by forming alliances with leading ghost kitchen networks, an innovative partnership with Live Nation and the 2020 introduction of The Absolute Brands – a suite of virtual restaurant concepts spun off from several of Dog Haus’ signature menu items, such as the Bad Mutha Clucka. André has been interviewed as a restaurant industry expert on multiple national platforms, including CNN, FOX News Channel and MSNBC. He and his Dog Haus partners were featured on the cover of QSR Magazine’s April 2020 edition, and they have been profiled in Entrepreneur magazine, Food & Wine and more.
Harold Walters
Co-Founder & CEO | Shootz Hawaiian
Harold Walters Co-Founded an emerging Hawaiian fast casual concept called Shootz in 2019. Completely bootstrapped, Shootz opened the doors of a 600 square foot location in Southern California in September of 2020 during the height of the pandemic. After serving over 90,000 meals out of that location, Harold has overseen Shootz expansion into 3 locations within 18 months. Harold has a gift for technology and internet marketing. He has pioneered change in the fast casual space by implementing high-level front end and back end marketing strategies he developed while he ran several bootstrapped ecommerce businesses. In addition to Shootz, Harold Co-Founded a fast-casual restaurant, Buenos Migos in fall of 2021 and a cookie shop, Sweet G’s in spring of 2022.
Chase Wardrop
President | Swig
Chase Wardrop was named president of Swig, the highly popular and fast-growing specialty drink shop, in 2021. In this position, Wardrop oversees all company operations and the management team of Swig. He is responsible for expanding the brand's footprint into new geographies while maintaining the unmatched customer service, speed and innovative products the brand is known for. Wardrop is a graduate of Brigham Young University. After graduating in 2015, with longtime friend and co-founder Dylan Roeder, he co-founded The Soda Shop in his hometown of Gilbert, Arizona. The Soda Shop became a widely popular brand locally and grew to two stores in less than a year. Wardrop and Roeder then sold a majority stake of The Soda Shop to Savory in early 2017, after which it merged with the original soda brand, Swig. During this transaction, Wardrop became the vice-president of operations for Swig, under the direction of Savory, a Mercato Partners food and beverage focused fund.
Samir Wattar
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.
Doug Willmarth
President | MOOYAH Burgers, Fries & Shakes
Doug Willmarth, a strategic brand leader in the restaurant industry, joined MOOYAH Burgers, Fries & Shakes as president in 2021. Willmarth previously served as chief brand officer for Genghis Grill-parent Mongolian Concepts for four years. A former Navy pilot, he spent time in the packaged-food world of Kraft Foods and PepsiCo before moving into the restaurant industry. His background includes stints at Chili’s, Yum Brand’s Pizza Hut division and Wingstop.
Dave Wood
Chief Strategic Officer | Hot Chikn Kitchn
Dave Wood was recently named chief strategic officer for Hot Chikn Kitchn, a fast casual restaurant brand that serves Nashville-style food paired with signature premium sauces. Wood joined Hot Chikn Kitchn in late 2021 and hit the ground running to expand the company’s presence. He currently also serves as Founder and CEO for Mahana Fresh LLC.


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