Co-Founder & CEO | LEON
John Vincent is CEO of LEON, the naturally fast food chain, which he co-founded with Henry Dimbleby in 2004 to make it easier for everyone to eat well. He previously worked as a strategy consultant for Bain & Company, where his business travels made him realise that the only available food on the go was making everyone fall asleep and wake up fat. With the declared aim to create “a McDonalds in heaven”, and working with chef Allegra McEvedy, John and Henry opened the first LEON on Carnaby Street in 2004. Shortly after it was awarded ‘Best Newcomer’ at the Observer Food Monthly Awards. John took over the day to day running of Leon in 2014, leads the menu innovations and has co-authored three of the Leon cook books. LEON now has more than 45 restaurants throughout the UK and one in Amsterdam, and plans to open many more in 2017.
VP of Marketing | MOOYAH Burgers, Fries & Shakes
Natalie Anderson-Liu is Vice President of Brand at MOOYAH Burgers, Fries & Shakes. She leads all brand, marketing and communication efforts, including strategic planning, branding, and consumer insights, while supporting franchisees in their local efforts. A proven thought-leader, Natalie is recognized for providing innovative and effective strategies to drive the business forward. She is respected for her collaborative style and ability to bring together diverse perspectives. With a master’s degree in communications from The University of Texas in Austin, Natalie worked for The Richards Group as Brand Planner and then spent five years with TracyLocke as Senior Strategic Planner.
Executive Chef | The Habit Burger Grill
Speaker bio coming soon!
Founder & CEO | SYNQ3
Steve Bigari, founder and CEO of SYNQ3 Restaurant Solutions, is a leader in disruptive, restaurant innovations. He holds three significant industry patents, a top-five-percent ranking for restaurant consultants in the Gerson Lehrman Group (GLG), and features in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Fast Casual, and Rolling Stone.
Managing Editor | FastCasual.com
Before joining Networld Media Group as Director of Editorial, where she oversees NetWorld Media Group’s nine B2B publications, Cherryh Cansler served as Content Specialist at Barkley ad agency in Kansas City. Throughout her 17-year career as a journalist, she’s written about a variety of topics, ranging from the restaurant industry and technology to health and fitness news. Her byline has appeared in a plethora of newspapers, magazines and websites, including Forbes, The Kansas City Star and American Fitness magazine. She also serves as the managing editor for FastCasual.com.
COO | Holler & Dash
Mike Chissler serves as the Chief Operating Officer for Holler & Dash, leading the development of the fine-casual biscuit house since the opening of the inaugural location in 2016. With an evergreen commitment to excellence, Chissler is a champion of ushering the continued growth and ongoing stabilization of the brand with seven standing locations throughout the southeast. In 2004, Mike Chissler joined Cracker Barrel where he fostered learnings from his unique progression from restaurant management, to Director of Operations and Vice President of Restaurant and Retail Operations Administration and Support before becoming the Chief Operating Officer in June 2015.
Chief Customer Officer | Market Force
Brad Christian is the Chief Customer Officer at Market Force Information. He is responsible for consulting and customer experience program design for numerous restaurant organizations in North America. With a focus on driving location performance improvement, he provides guidance on customer experience measurement tools and analysis to help client organizations drive increases in guest satisfaction, loyalty and financial performance. Brad is based out of Norcross, Georgia.
President & CCO | CoreLife Eatery
Scott Davis joined the CoreLife Eatery team in September 2016 to head up menu development and guide strategic brand growth. Scott’s experience during the growth of both Au Bon Pain and Panera Bread make him an invaluable asset to CoreLife Eatery. Scott served as Chief Concept Officer for Panera Bread from the inception of the brand until December 2014, during which time he oversaw menu development, category management, restaurant design, and sustainability efforts. Scott led many key initiatives that drove the long-term success of Panera Bread, as it became a leader in the fast casual segment of the restaurant industry.
Consumer Foodservice Analyst | Euromonitor International
Stephen Dutton is a Consumer Foodservice Analyst at Euromonitor International, analyzing the global foodservice industry. In this role, Stephen provides insight into the consumer trends, key markets, competitive landscape and growth opportunities in the global foodservice space to help companies make informed business decisions. Stephen has a master’s degree in international affairs from The George Washington University and has spent years working and traveling abroad.
Director of Operations | SuViche Hospitality Group
Ryan Egozi has been a part of the restaurant industry since his first job as a cook. He earned his first restaurant management position while attending Florida International University and attaining his Bachelor’s Degree in Hospitality Management. Serving in management roles at a variety of restaurants such as Catina Laredo, a Fine Dining Mexican Restaurant; On the Border Mexican Grill & Cantina, A Fast-Casual Concept; and Rubio’s Fresh Mexican Grill, a Quick-Service Concept. Today, Ryan Egozi serves as the Director of Operations for SuViche Hospitality Group in Miami which owns and operates two concepts: SuViche & Novecento, both with multiple locations in South Florida.
Founder & CEO | Zoup!
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.
Co-Founder & CMO | Flatbread Grill
Gonca Esendemir is the co-founder and Chief Marketing Officer of the fast casual Mediterranean concept, Flatbread Grill. Flatbread Grill was developed by Gonca and her two sisters in 2007 as a means to support their sick parents. Without any formal marketing training or experience, Gonca helped establish the brand’s identity and social media presence. She also, along with her two sisters, oversaw day to day restaurant operations, developed the menu, and assisted with building out the concept’s brick and mortar stores. She is currently overseeing the franchise development of Flatbread Grill. Gonca is also a published writer and social media influencer.
Tom Ferguson Jr.
CEO | Rise Biscuits Donuts
Tom Ferguson is founder and CEO of Rise Biscuits Donuts, 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 15 Rise locations now open in North Carolina, Maryland, Virginia, Georgia and Florida with over 100 units in development. Rise was named a 2016 Fast Casual Top 100 Mover & Shaker in 2016. Before starting Rise Biscuits Donuts, Ferguson was a pioneer in the NC Triangle’s food truck scene with Only Burger.
President | Gloria Jean’s Coffees
Speaker bio coming soon!
Founder | F&Co.
Susie Fogelson was the driving force behind the Food Network and Cooking Channel brands for 15 years, and you may also recognize her as a judge on Next Food Network Star — so she is accustomed to the role of judging concepts and providing feedback on the fly! Now, with her company F&Co, she’s helping food and bev brands, grocery and restaurant groups develop/reinvent their brand marketing and storytelling strategy in the context of the dynamic food industry and the mindset of the food connected consumer – an audience that she was very influential in creating. She has her finger on the pulse of trends in these sectors.
Founder & President | Your Pie
Drew French is the Founder and President of Your Pie. While honeymooning on the Italian island of Ischia, Drew was inspired to bring the authentic, brick-oven taste of Italian pizza to the United States. With a passion for gourmet food and a business degree from the University of Georgia, French opened the first Your Pie location in Athens, Ga., in 2008. The brand has since grown to more than 50 locations across the U.S., and French continues to infuse creativity, inspiration and innovation through his leadership. Drew’s culinary brainchild, the fan-favorite Peach Prosciutto Pie, earned him a lifetime spot on the U.S. Pizza team.
President | FutureCast
Although not a Millennial as defined by his age, Jeff Fromm is the Millennial Marketing Guy. Jeff is President of FutureCast, a marketing consultancy that specializes in Millennial trends, and is a contributing writer at Forbes.com. Jeff is also a frequent speaker on marketing, consumer trends and brand innovation. Jeff has spent significant time researching the Millennial audience and is the co-author of “Marketing to Millennials” (2013) and “Millennials with Kids” (2015). Jeff has more than 25 years of marketing consulting experience with dozens of brands ranging from Build-a-Bear to Whole Foods Market.
Director of Social Media & PR | Toppers Pizza
Toppers Pizza Director of Social Media & PR Colleen Glendinning has been actively involved in marketing for the food and restaurant industry for nearly 15 years. Since graduating from the University of Wisconsin – Madison School of Business, she has held various marketing roles in the food and restaurant industry including positions at Qdoba Mexican Eats, Noodles & Company and Wixon, a B2B food ingredient company. Colleen has a passion for food and restaurant marketing, and in her current role she has decentralized the company’s approach to social media, focusing the strategy on driving engagement and at the local level.
CEO & Co-Founder | Curry Up Now
Speaker bio coming soon!
Chief Development Officer | Smoothie King
Restaurant industry veteran Kevin King joined Smoothie King as chief development officer in May 2016 to lead all aspects of the company’s record-setting growth. Kevin’s 30-year career has included managing operations and franchise development for pizza giants such as Domino’s, Donato’s Pizza, Project Pie and Papa Murphy’s, where he doubled its number of locations and assisted with the initial private offering in 2014. He has also served as a regional vice president of retail real estate at J.P. Morgan Chase, and has deep expertise in restaurant operations, restaurant layout and site design, commercial real estate and franchising.
Benedict Koenig IV
Founder | Heritage Eats
As Founder of Heritage Eats, Ben Koenig is committed to incorporating global inspirations and philanthropy into all aspects of business. An avid traveler, in 2014 he spent considerable time backpacking through the Middle East and Asia—an experience that helped inspire the Heritage Eats brand. Prior to his travels, Ben worked with hospitality design and concept firm AvroKO, serving as Assistant General Manager at their Napa restaurant, The Thomas, from 2013 – 2014. This was his second foray into the restaurant world: he helped AvroKO open their first restaurant in 2002. Prior to forging a career in hospitality, Koenig worked as a Financial Analyst at Goldman Sachs.
VP of Marketing & Growth | Taziki’s Mediterranean Café
Rachel Layton serves as the Vice President of Marketing + Growth for Taziki’s Mediterranean Cafe. She is responsible for building sustainable growth strategies linked to innovations that drive the strategic growth initiatives for the company’s 80+ locations nationwide. In this role, Layton oversees the management of the Taziki’s brand, including digital marketing strategies, the local store marketing program, national off-premise initiatives, creative development and agency management, and franchise recruitment strategy. Layton is responsible for managing the marketing fund provided through a contribution from all stores and is responsible for managing all members of the marketing department, including the general direction of the Taziki’s marketing program.
CEO | Anthony’s Pizza & Pasta
From politics to pizza, John Lebel, has always taken his New York roots very seriously. Lebel started his career in Washington D.C with a passion for community and helping others. He combined that passion with his love of authentic New York style pizza and help found Anthony’s Pizza & Pasta. Anthony’s Pizza & Pasta has amassed a loyal following for its dedication to using the highest quality ingredients, including pure imported oil from Italy and 100 percent whole milk mozzarella cheese. Lebel and his team have expanded Anthony’s from a single downtown Denver storefront to more than 25 restaurants.
President & COO | MOOYAH
Michael’s first venture into the restaurant industry was a catering business he developed in 1989. In 1992, he joined Brinker International as Executive Chef for Romano’s Macaroni Grill. There he was instrumental in establishing systems that remain a stable foundation of the business. While at Brinker, Michael advanced to General Manager in 1995 and to Director of Franchise in 1998. He created and implemented the global franchise strategy, process, initiatives and standards for Macaroni Grill. In late 2009 Michael joined forces with Brinker and Tin Star Alum Rich Hicks. As President and Chief Operating Officer, Michael is responsible for MOOYAH’s overall growth and day-to-day business.
VP, Business Development | GFX International
Melissa Marquis is the Vice President of Business Development for GFX International. GFX International is a retail execution company with decades of experience in retail, fast casual, QSR, family dining, hospitality, grocery, etc. Melissa joined GFX in 2013, with the focus and responsibility to provide solutions to retailers and restaurant chains in both décor and POP execution. Her team is focused on reducing costs and timelines for restaurant chains and retailers using technology to drive smart marketing and décor distributions based on store specific profiles. As an executive, Melissa ensures that GFX International continues to invest in technology to streamline processes and exposing additional cost savings for clients.
Dr. James Marsden
Executive Director of Food Safety | Chipotle
Dr. James Marsden has over forty years’ experience in the food industry with a strong background working with government officials, regulators, and for food companies, trade associations and in academia. He advised the White House on food safety and nutrition and testified on numerous occasions to the United States Congress, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the US Department of Agriculture (USDA). James joined Chipotle in 2016 as the company’s Executive Director of Food Safety. He is responsible for directing the food safety programs at Chipotle Mexican Grills, Shop House restaurants and for Pizzeria Locale.
Sr. Director, Customer Success | PlayerLync
Specializing in innovative learning technologies that enable teams to learn faster and operate more successfully, Peter McLaughlin has helped lead high-growth business for more than 20 years. At companies such as Symantec and Clearwell, he managed Education Services teams, which delivered training courses for thousands of customers. In his current role as head of Customer Success for PlayerLync, he collaborates with customers such as Chipotle, Jack in the Box, and Blaze Pizza to improve their training and performance. He has an MBA from the University of Denver, and a BA from UCLA.
Founder & President | Starbird & Culinary Edge Ventures
A graduate of UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, Aaron Noveshen is an award-winning chef and restaurant entrepreneur. He is the Founder and President of The Culinary Edge, an innovation agency that provides global companies with strategic food, brand and operations solutions. Aaron is also the Founder and President of Starbird, a modern chicken concept that is revolutionizing food and convenience in the QSR/Fast Casual marketplace. As Co-founder of Pacific Catch Restaurants, Aaron served as president for 10 years and currently serves on the board of directors. Most recently Aaron co-founded The Culinary Edge Ventures with the mission to create, incubate, operate and grow restaurant brands.
CMO & Co-Founder | Pincho Factory
With 13 years of interactive design experience, Otto Othman has led creative teams on award winning campaigns for clients such as FIAT, Coca Cola, Chrysler and Sprint. Otto is the Co-founder of the award winning burgers and kebabs restaurant called Pincho Factory in Miami. Leveraging social media and technology, Pincho Factory has created a very loyal following/cult in Miami. After winning the 2015 Food Network Burger bash, Pincho Factory has grown into 5 locations and has 10 under development with plans to reach 50 locations signed by the end of 2018.
CEO | Corner Bakery
Speaker bio coming soon!
CEO | Garbanzo Mediterranean Fresh
James Park is CEO of Garbanzo Mediterranean Fresh, the leader in fast casual authentic Mediterranean cuisine. James is a savvy marketing and operations executive who champions and activates all things brand. He excels at transformational leadership by humanizing the intangibles and developing programs that are purposeful and lasting. For the past 10 years, James has served in executive leadership roles for some of the most well-established and fastest-growing concepts in the fast casual, QSR and retail environments: Which Wich, 7-Eleven and Charley’s. In addition, James’ international experience includes substantive contributions in Dubai, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, China, Venezuela and Brazil.
Head of Business Development & Partner | Uncle Smoke Cookhouse
Chris Patheiger is an entrepreneur and host of Bell Fibe TV1’s ‘Hogtown BBQ’ food show in Canada. He and his partners founded Uncle Smoke Cookhouse in 2015. Built on the premise of “dining room extension” which uses a combination of traditional catering, events and take-out models in conjunction with third-party technology platforms and sales partnerships. Uncle Smoke’s first Toronto storefront has only nine seats but produces more than a ton of their signature smoked meats every month. Prior to turning his attention to food, Chris was a founding partner of the digital advertising firm Redux Media which was acquired by TC Transcontinental in 2012.
Co-Founder | Luna Grill
Chief Cuisine Officer and Co-Founder of Luna Grill Maria Pourteymour began her culinary journey as a child in the kitchen with her grandmother. She learned that preparing homemade meals was a powerful way to demonstrate love for friends and family. After moving to a new neighborhood in 2004, Maria found herself disheartened by the lack of quick, nutritious options to feed her then four-year-old daughter. It was out of this necessity for wholesome, well-rounded food for her family that Maria decided to co-found Luna Grill. Now, Maria’s easy, healthy recipes transcend her kitchen to the 41 kitchens of Luna Grill.
Co-Founder & CEO | Luna Grill
CEO Sean Pourteymour co-founded Luna Grill in 2004 with his wife and Luna Grill’s Chief Cuisine Officer, Maria Pourteymour. Prior to Luna Grill, Sean and Maria were in automotive fleet management, which is where Sean honed the two pillars of his business philosophy. First, making employees happy translates to customer happiness. Second, treating customers with honesty and respect keeps them coming back. In 2004, Maria wanted to combine her passion for food with Sean’s background in real estate, so they sold their automotive business and opened the first Luna Grill. Now, Luna Grill has 41 locations offering wholesome Mediterranean cuisine in a contemporary setting.
CMO | Cali Group
CaliBurger has emerged as a leader in Fast Casual innovation. Being the first company in the USA to introduce not only A.I. and robotics in the kitchen, but also “face” based loyalty through self ordering kiosks. With over 40 locations world wide, CaliBurger continues to innovate, offering a customer experience unlike any other. Aj Rochow has been CMO of CaliBurger for the last 3 years. With an educational background in Finance and Marketing, he has worked with over 15 different companies in multiple industries, he specializes in new age marketing with a strong emphasis on digital and social media.
Chief Strategy Officer | PAR
Paul Rubin is Chief Strategy Officer for ParTech, Inc. Paul has more than 23 years of development experience and has dedicated over 18 years within the hospitality POS market. As a software professional, Paul architected and created new solutions for several large retail and food service companies such as Kinko’s, Jenny Craig, Starbucks, and Jack-in-the-Box. He later went on to work as the Director, Software Engineering at Ameranth, Inc., a provider of wireless and internet-based software solutions for hospitality, healthcare, and financial services companies. Paul joined PAR in 2014 with the acquisition of Brink Software.
Co-Founder & CEO | Nékter Juice Bar
Now with more than 100 locations, another 150 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 and entirely clean juices, smoothies, bowls and other healthy snacks. Nékter plans to grow to 425 restaurants by 2020 and is well on its way as it prepares to open 75 restaurants in 2018.
Owner | SkinnyFATS
Speaker bio coming soon!
President & CEO | Saladworks
Patrick Sugrue brings more than 20 years of experience in the food industry and extensive executive expertise to his role as President and CEO of Saladworks. Patrick began his career at The Gallo Winery and The Coca Cola Company before working for well-known brands including Honey Baked Ham, Fearman’s Pork, Inc. and Sofina Foods. Since joining Saladworks, Patrick has led the company in a brand positioning study, creating and implementing an innovative strategic plan, and driven the launch of new menu items, a systemwide remodeling project and a technology bundle, all with 2017 comp sales up 8 percent. Patrick is committed to empowering franchisees and driving unit-level profitability.
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.
VP of Marketing | Fuzzy’s Taco Shop
Speaker bio coming soon!
Chief Development Officer | Tropical Smoothie Cafe
Charles Watson was named Chief Development Officer of Tropical Smoothie Cafe in 2016 after serving as VP of Franchise Development since 2010. In this role, Charles is responsible for all development of the TSC brand. A veteran hospitality professional, Charles has worked for several hospitality-related companies, including Wyndham Hotels & Resorts, Intercontinental Hotels Group, US Franchise Systems, Inc. and Hospitality Real Estate Counselors. Charles is a graduate of The Hotel School at Cornell University and also holds a Masters of Business Administration from The Terry School of Business at The University of Georgia.
Director of Digital Commerce | Chipotle
Speaker bio coming soon!
Founder & CEO | Kathleen Wood Partners | Suzy’s Swirl
Kathleen is the founder of Kathleen Wood Partners, an innovative growth strategy firm, specializing in transforming visions into reality through strategy brand optimization and leadership development. Her firm focuses on small business who want to grow into great businesses. Kathleen is a nationally recognized growth strategist, motivational speaker and author. Her book is The BEST Shift of Your Life – The Restaurant Manager’s Guide for Success Outside the Restaurant. Kathleen is also an owner/operator of her family business Suzy’s Swirl/Frozen Happiness since 2012. She consults, lives and knows all about the small business struggle bus!
Director of Business Development | Visualogistix
With a passion for helping clients find innovative ways to distinguish themselves from the competition, Kathi has spent the last 25+ years in the marketing communications industry with a primary focus on marketing supply chain management, advertising production services, integrated and cross-channel marketing program development and learning technologies. Kathi is fascinated with the convergence of the ever-expanding mediums and passionate about ways to utilize them to improve targeted marketing efforts which deliver results. Her wide network of customers has led to key partnerships with Fortune 1000 Manufacturers, Retailers and Corporate Advertisers.
Laura Rea Dickey
Don Hawkins, Jr.
Linda Appel Lipsius
Natalie Anderson Liu
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