Chief Restaurant Officer | Chipotle Mexican Grill
Scott Boatwright is the Chief Restaurant Officer at Chipotle, responsible for overseeing operations for 2,600 company-owned restaurants with more than 85,000 employees. Joining the organization in May 2017, Scott 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, Scott was named to Fast Casual’s ‘2020 Top 25 Executive’ list. Prior to Chipotle, he 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. Scott is a member of the National Restaurant Association’s Fast Casual Industry Council providing insight and expertise to the collaborative forum. He holds a Master of Business Administration from the J. Mack Robinson College of Business at Georgia State University.
PANELISTS & MODERATORS
Stacy Peterson Androes
Chief Technology Officer | Wingstop
Speaker bio coming soon
Founder & CEO | SAJJ Mediterranean
Zaid Ayoub is the founder and CEO of the Bay Area-headquartered, rapidly expanding fast-casual concept SAJJ Mediterranean. As SAJJ has grown in the last 8 years, Zaid never took his eyes off the product: high-quality, fresh food that was also approachable and transparent. He realized that people want convenience and speed without sacrificing a culinary experience, which is why SAJJ uses a customize-your-own service model. Zaid knew that “Mediterranean food” covers a wide variety of geographic regions, and the cuisine is often adjusted to meet the local palate. In Paris’ Latin Quarter, for example, falafel and shawarma sandwiches are paired with french fries, which SAJJ offers.
Managing Director, Strategic Operations Group | CapitalSpring
Jim Balis leads CapitalSpring’s Strategic Operations Group, supporting due diligence, portfolio management and industry knowledge building initiatives. Jim has several decades of management and turnaround experience in the restaurant industry. Prior to joining CapitalSpring, Jim was Founder and President of RMG, a boutique advisory and turnaround firm serving the restaurant sector. Jim has directed numerous turnarounds and has acted as interim CEO or Chief Restructuring Officer for 15 restaurant companies. He began his foodservice career in high school, during which he held multiple management positions for local restaurants in New York. Jim holds a BA from Duke University.
Founder & CEO | Ichor Restaurant Group
Brian Bailey is the CEO and culinary leader behind Ichor Restaurant Group’s many restaurant concepts. His flagship Old Carolina Barbecue Company brand has won more than 150 awards for smoked meats and sauces while Smoke the Burger Joint was awarded five straight 1st place awards at the National Hamburger Festival from 2013-2107. His menus pay homage to regional taste profiles across the USA, from southern California taco stands (Baja Pizzafish) to Nashville Hot Chicken (PJs Legendary Hot Chicken) and roadside barbecue shacks in the Carolinas (Old Carolina). He keeps his creative culinary juices flowing with LTO’s and Ghost Kitchen concepts.
Director of Operations | Memphis Seoul
Richard Blue handles daily operations for Memphis Seoul, with a focus on supply-chain management, vendor relations and labor management. Richard came to Memphis Seoul from New York City fast-casual startup Mr. Bing, where he was a team member in general operations and in the catering unit, as well as helping to create the company’s marketing unit. He attended DePaul, where he also worked for Lettuce Entertain You as a host. While at DePaul, he was a member of Alpha Epsilon Pi and served on the fraternity’s pledge committee as well as director of social programming. He has a deep passion for people and food, so hospitality comes naturally for him.
COO | Marugame Udon
Pete Botonis is the Chief Operating officer at Marugame Udon. He is responsible for overseeing the overall business operations in conjunction with company strategic and performance standards. Pete has been in the restaurant business for over 25 years. He is an inspirational leader who builds great teams with a proven ability to establish visionary company culture and standards. He’s opened more than 75 restaurants in his career, the majority of those were with Pei Wei Asian Diner where he spent 17 years. He was the first Operating Partner in the company and instrumental in bringing the brand to Texas and the central states. He developed all of the operating systems, and led the fastest growing and most profitable territory.
VP of Editorial | Networld Media Group
Before joining Networld Media Group as Vice President of Editorial, where she oversees Networld Media Group’s nine B2B publications, Cherryh Cansler served as Content Specialist at Barkley ad agency in Kansas City. Throughout her 17-year career as a journalist, she’s written about a variety of topics, ranging from the restaurant industry and technology to health and fitness news. Her byline has appeared in a plethora of newspapers, magazines and websites, including Forbes, The Kansas City Star and American Fitness magazine. She also serves as the managing editor for FastCasual.com.
VP of Brand Development & Strategy | Four Foods Group & Savory
Alonso Castaneda’s professional career began as a General Manager for Qdoba Mexica Grill where he excelled in the business quickly and passionately. Since then he has worked as a Director of Franchise Operations, Regional Manager, Director of F&B and Director of Sales and Store compliance. Currently he is the Vice President of Brand Development and Strategy for the Savory Restaurant Fund. During his time, Alonso has been part of the growth team with Qdoba that lead to the sale to Jack in the Box, the growth team in Paradise Bakery that lead to the sale to Panera Bread and the growth team at Café Rio that lead to the sale to Freeman Spogli.
VP of Sales | VIPinsiders
With 15 plus years of restaurant experience and an extensive knowledge of business growth strategies and marketing, Chris Chomenko has positioned himself as an iconoclast of modern marketing solutions on an international level. Chris Chomenko is currently the Vice President of Sales for multiple companies including VIPinsiders and RepeatMD, both of which comprise over 1400+ clients across the globe. Among the companies that Chomenko represents VIPinsiders has grown over 400% in the last two quarters of 2020 alone. Under his leadership, VIPinsiders is poised to be a force for positive change in guest relations and bottom lines for years to come.
COO | Alder-Tek Manufacturing
As Chief Operating Officer of Alder-Tek Manufacturing, Adam combines extensive experience in operations and revenue growth with his passion for the environment. In previous roles, he has designed and implemented direct marketing and sales campaigns and led cross-functional teams to deliver complex solutions for diverse markets. His commitment to customer service, meeting challenges and sustainability is central to his role at Alder-Tek Manufacturing.
Founder & CEO | Biscuit Belly
Chad Coulter dove into the restaurant industry after a short and successful career as a clinical pharmacist. His first concept, LouVino, is a Southern inspired small plates restaurant and wine bar with over 40 wines by the glass. LouVino has grown into 5 locations in Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio. Chad and his Culinary Director, Tavis Rockwell, played around with the idea of opening a biscuit concept since opening the first LouVino location in 2014. After the last LouVino opened, focus shifted towards diving into the idea of opening a biscuit focused concept. In 2019, the first Biscuit Belly was born after months of meticulous menu, branding and concept development.
President & COO | MOOYAH Burgers, Fries & Shakes
Tony Darden is the President of better burger concept MOOYAH Burgers, Fries and Shakes. Tony joined Plano, Texas based MOOYAH in April of 2019 and was tasked with stabilizing the brand and preparing it for growth. Prior to joining MOOYAH, Tony spent significant time in leadership roles at Panera Bread as well as Taco Bueno and Sun Holdings. With 87 domestic and international locations and a strong pipeline of development, Tony and the MOOYAH team continue to leverage the food quality and casual environment that differentiates MOOYAH form its competitors.
COO | Ballard Brands
With 24 years of restaurant experience and knowledge of executive leadership inside and out, Bill DiPaola is a thought-leader among restaurant and franchise executives. Bill is the current Chief Operating Officer of Ballard Brands, LLC, a company of almost 175 units, both nationally and internationally. Among the many brands that Ballard represents is PJ’s Coffee which just opened it’s 100th location and the restaurant group of Iron Chef Jose Garces. He formerly led the charge as president and COO of Dat Dog Enterprises, overseeing the corporate office, as well as franchise and corporate operations. Under his leadership, Dat Dog was voted #1 Hot Dog Restaurant by USA Today.
Co-Founder & CEO | Clean Juice
Landon Eckles is a well-respected, entrepreneurial-minded business leader who leads by accountability, integrity, and wisdom. At 35, he is a devoted father of five children, a loving husband, and the fearless founder and Chief Executive Officer of Clean Juice, the first and most prolific USDA-certified organic juice bar franchise. Based in Charlotte, NC, Clean Juice has exploded onto the QSR/Fast Casual scene in 2016, growing to more than 100 stores operating in four years of franchising, with fifty-plus more in development, and exceeding more than $35M in system-wide revenues as of 2019. Their mission is as pure as the organic ingredients it serves, offering communities across the nation with a truly healthy and delicious organic product.
Corporate Executive Chef | McAlister’s Deli
William Eudy brings more than 25 years of culinary experience to his current role as Corporate Executive Chef for McAlister’s Deli, where he oversees culinary development for the company’s 460+ restaurants. Since joining McAlister’s in April 2015, Will has been responsible for bringing a wholesome, clean approach to crafting McAlister’s menu items from recipe development and sourcing, to the building of each dish. Along with a focus on handcrafted food and beverage offerings, Chef Will assists purchasing in the selection of quality products and strategic partners, while finding ways to improve current vendor relations and efficiency.
Vice President of Operations | Bonchon
Steve Felson is a C-level servant leader with proven success in growth and profitability in the restaurant hospitality industry. Steve spent a significant portion of his career with Denny’s where he raised to Director of Field Training and Operations Support during an 11 year span with the company, holding various roles such as Franchise Business Leader and Director of NRO. He then went on to join Huddle House as a Franchise Area Director before joining BurgerFi where he was promoted from VP of Franchise Operations to Executive Vice President. During his EVP tenure he led the Franchise Operations, Company Operations, Marketing, Food Safety and Learning and Development departments.
Founder & CEO | Everbowl
Since earning his J.D. from Thomas Jefferson School of Law, Jeff has proven himself as an entrepreneurial innovator. As a serial entrepreneur, Jeff’s been recognized nationally for his business creations ranging from a quick-serve restaurant chain, payroll & HR company, digital marketing agency, and construction company, among others. In addition, Jeff is a Forbes Professor at their school of Business and Technology, named a top 100 Entrepreneur in America under the age of 35 in 2013 by Empact, named a Top 40 Executive under 40 by the Business Journal in 2019, and was recently a finalist for CEO of the year.
Senior Vice President, Digital | Wingstop
As Senior Vice President, Digital for Wingstop, Kevin Fish is responsible for the strategy, design, development and operation of guest-facing digital and award-winning ecommerce solutions including Wingstop.com and the mobile ordering apps. Kevin joined Wingstop in 2014 and has served in Sr. Director and Vice President roles, overseeing Wingstop’s digital business as well as restaurant point of sale systems, back office and network infrastructure. Prior to Wingstop, he served as Sr. Manager of Ecommerce for Pizza Hut from 2009 to 2014. Prior to that, he served as Sr. Manager of Retail Systems for FedEx Office.
CEO | Firehouse Subs
Don Fox is Chief Executive Officer of Firehouse of America, LLC, in which he leads the strategic growth of Firehouse Subs, one of America’s leading fast casual restaurant brands. Under his leadership, the brand has grown to more than 1,180 restaurants in 46 states, Puerto Rico, Canada, and non-traditional locations. Don sits on various boards of influence in the business and non-profit communities, and is a respected speaker, commentator and published author. He was recognized by Nation’s Restaurant News as 2011’s Operator of the Year. In 2013, he received the prestigious Silver Plate Award from the International Food Manufacturers Association (IFMA).
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.
Founder & CEO | Thanx
Zach Goldstein is Founder and CEO of Thanx, a leading CRM, loyalty, and digital customer engagement solution for restaurants and retailers. Zach was recently honored on NRN’s 2020 Power List, hosts the popular Food Fighters podcast, and is frequently asked to speak on restaurant thought-leadership topics including off-premise and digital sales, customer lifetime value, and customer retention. He previously worked as a Consultant at Bain & Company where he partnered with national restaurant/retail chains and leading technology companies. Zach received a BA from Dartmouth and an MBA from Stanford.
Vice President of Operations Services | Firehouse Subs
Rich Goodman is an experienced restaurant professional with over 40 years in the restaurant industry, including 9 years with Firehouse Subs. Serving the past 7 years as Vice President of Operations Services. He has a proven track record of success and recognition at every level of management beginning with Restaurant and Multi-Unit Operations as well as building cross functional skills in Training & Development, Project Management, and Company & Franchise Operations. He has held roles in Field and Corporate Headquarter Director & VP level positions. He currently leads a team of individuals responsible for strategic operational matters.
Co-Founder & CEO | Slim Chickens
Tom Gordon is co-founder and CEO of Slim Chickens Restaurants, the Fayetteville, Arkansas based leader in the better chicken segment specializing in hand cooked chicken tenders, buffalo wings, sandwiches, salads, and wraps, Slim Chickens operates 111 restaurants, has 37 committed franchise partners, over 365 franchise unit commitments, operating in 17 states and an international presence in Kuwait and the United Kingdom. Providing personal and tailored support for franchisees in a rapidly-growing system, investing in cutting edge retail technology, and pioneering domestic and international expansion, Tom is the driving leader behind the brand’s goal to have a 600 unit footprint in the next ten years.
Sr. National Account Manager | Essity North America
Dana Grueber is the Sr. National Account Manager for Essity North America. She is an accomplished sales management professional with over 25 years of experience, who is dedicated to serving restaurants in a sustainable way. Since 2001 she has been responsible for consulting with and expanding our portfolio of high-profile foodservice concepts that extend globally, nationally and regionally.
President | BurgerFi
Charlie Guzzetta is part of the strategic leadership of BurgerFi, a fast growing international better burger concept headquartered in North Palm Beach, FL. Over the past 7 years, Charlie has been instrumental in growing the company from a 20-restaurant regional chain to a 125-restaurant international brand in roles spanning from marketing, operations, sales, and now as the company’s Chief Brand Development Officer. In this role, Charlie brings his innate talents of building partnerships and bridges, with small business owners and major corporations alike, to advance the company’s purpose of redefining the way the world eats burgers.
Partner | Messner Reeves
Michelle Harden is a Partner with Messner Reeves LLP, a full-service national business law firm. Michelle leads several Messner Reeves’ Practice Groups including Litigation, Crisis Management, Employment Law, and Hospitality Law. Her active hospitality law practice and has been recognized locally and nationally for her efforts defending restaurants and other businesses. This practice includes proactive crisis management planning as well as partnering with her clients in the midst of crisis. She has been involved in the formation of advisory boards to assist clients in various topics including management practices, food safety, data security, and other issues. Her litigation and trial practice spans commercial matters, claims arising from foodborne and environmental illness and contamination.
CEO | Torchy’s Tacos
G.J. Hart is CEO at Torchy’s Tacos, a craft-casual restaurant concept that serves Damn Good Tacos to guests in a fun, unique atmosphere at more than 75 locations in Texas, Oklahoma, Colorado, Arkansas, Missouri and Louisiana. A highly respected industry leader with 36 years of foodservice operations and management experience, G.J. has a proven track record of growing casual and fast-casual dining concepts. Preceding Torchy’s, G.J. served as Executive Chairman and CEO of California Pizza Kitchen. Prior to CPK, he served as President and CEO of Texas Roadhouse, where he expanded the brand to more than 450 restaurants in 49 states and two international markets.
Gina Rae Hendrix
Founder & Owner | Hot Mamma’s Kitchen
Gina Rae Hendrix started her career in the restaurant business as a server, making her way through college and learning about food and beverage from the ground level. She relocated to Nashville, Tennessee in her early early 20’s and quickly moved up through the ranks to restaurant manager and then began to focus on wine and spirits. On New Year’s Eve 2017 she woke up after having a vivid dream of opening a Nashville-style hot chicken shack in Mexico. Six months later she and her partner, Alan Skinner created a test unit in a small modern food market. After 1 year they sought partnership to create another Hot Mammas with a slightly larger space and it’s own store front.
VP of Beverage Menu Development | Botrista Technology
Emily Hirsch serves as the VP of Beverage Menu Development for Botrista Technology. She has extensive background in the food & beverage industry and specializes in customer menu offerings and driving tailor made customer solutions. Emily has over a decade of experience building successful beverage programs for hundreds of local and National accounts, with a proven track record of building win-win customer relationships for both Aramark Refreshments and the Coca-Cola Company. Emily is an evangelist of menu trends and is passionate about driving innovation within the industry. Botrista Technology is a robotics company providing automated beverage solutions to enhance beverage programs and automate drink menus for restaurant chains.
VP of Operations | sweetgreen
Amy Hom leads and supports sweetgreen operations. Amy has more than 20 years of experience in the restaurant industry and has served in operations leadership roles for major casual dining and fine dining brands. Before joining sweetgreen Amy served as Vice President of Red Robin leading over 250 locations in the US and Canada, Senior Operations Director of Wolfgang Puck Catering and multiple leadership roles for California Pizza Kitchen. Amy serves on the California Restaurant Association Board and is a volunteer for Calicinto Ranch. She helps lead the board for the Women’s Excellence committee in her current role. She is currently creating a program for upcoming individuals in the industry called LEAD.
President & CEO | Fazoli’s
Carl T. Howard was recruited by Sun Capital Partners to be President and CEO of Fazoli’s Restaurants, Inc. in June 2008. Carl has diligently worked to rebrand and revitalize the Fazoli’s “Fast Fresh Italian” concept. After successfully repositioning Fazoli’s, the brand was sold to Sentinel Capital Partners in 2015. Since joining Fazoli’s every sales and EBITDA record has been posted. The franchise system has been same sales positive for 67 of the last 70 months and the brand is once again growing new units. In 2016 Fazoli’s will open 12-15 new units and is expected to sign 10-15 new franchisee development agreements.
Owner | Memphis Seoul
Memphis Seoul founder and owner Bart Hubbuch has taken an extremely unorthodox path to this point — to say the least. A prominent sportswriter for nearly 30 years for the New York Post and several other major newspapers, Bart had always dreamed of creating his own food concept and finally acted on it in the spring of 2018. Memphis Seoul began as a food tent in New York City’s vibrant street-festival scene before becoming a full-fledged restaurant in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn in January 2019. He created all the recipes and sauces for Memphis Seoul in the tiny kitchen of his family’s 600-square foot Brooklyn apartment.
President & General Manager | NCR Hospitality
Dirk Izzo serves as President and General Manager of NCR Hospitality. He is a seasoned leader with experience in building and marketing innovative cloud-based solutions to help clients optimize their business performance. In his current role, Dirk is responsible for developing simple and innovative solutions that run the restaurant from end to end. NCR is the technology provider of choice for restaurants around the world and Dirk is focused on delivering the next-generation software, hardware and services that delivers on what customers want, when they want it. Prior to joining NCR, Dirk spent 19 years with Nielsen in a number of global assignments.
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 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 twice. Currently, Stacey is a fractional CMO for several fast casual brands and works as a marketing consultant for CORE: Children of Restaurant Employees a non-profit that serves food and beverage employees with children.
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.
Co-Founder & CEO | &pizza
Michael Lastoria is an American serial entrepreneur and co-founder of &pizza, a creatively led, mission-driven, culture carrying, pizza chain voted one of Fast Company’s Most Innovative companies in 2018 and 2019 for Social Good. Referred to by Bloomberg as “what Jesus might look like if he walked in a Yohji Yamamoto show,” Michael grounds &pizza in a commitment to better flavor, quality ingredients, livable wages, and real actions. He has appeared on Fox Business, CNBC, MSNBC, and Yahoo, and has been featured in Forbes, AdWeek, the New York Times, and Washington Post as a distinguished entrepreneur and thought leader in the industry.
President & CEO | Anthony’s Pizza & Pasta
From politics to pizza, John Lebel, has always taken his New York roots very seriously. John 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. John and his team have expanded Anthony’s from a single downtown Denver storefront to more than 25 restaurants.
VP, Supply Chain | CAVA
Jason Lee is the Vice President of Supply Chain for Cava, the Nation’s fastest growing Mediterranean concept. His vision is to optimize and expand current programs to support an aggressive growth strategy. Previously, Jason was the Sr. Director of International Supply Chain for Five Guys Enterprises, where he set up and supported operations spanning across 19 countries. Jason has been a Supply Chain professional for 15+ years where he’s also held various roles across other industries including CPG, industrial, security, automotive and healthcare. He is an experienced leader who brings a demonstrated history of building teams and competitive programs across multiple companies.
VP of Marketing Technology | Del Taco Restaurants
Erin Levzow is Vice President of Marketing Technology for Del Taco Restaurants. Prior to her current role Erin was the CMO for Marcus Hotels & Resorts. She has served as vice president of customer relationship marketing (CRM), loyalty and marketing for Hathway in Austin, Texas, a customer service experience company specializing in helping billion-dollar brands develop mobile-first strategies. Erin’s extensive marketing and digital experience also includes serving as senior director of digital, social, CRM and e-commerce for Wingstop Restaurants in Dallas, Texas, and serving as vice president of marketing and technology for Freebirds World Burrito, where she oversaw the marketing initiatives for nearly 100 restaurant chains.
President & COO | Coolgreens
Todd Madlener is an industry veteran with over 25 years of leadership experience building passionate teams and brand culture that drives quality and growth. At Coolgreens, Todd is leading the brand into its next phase of growth with culture-first programs like “coolstories” and an enhanced training program. He’s also leading key initiatives for the brand including a new prototype, catering program, and updated technologies all aimed at enabling restaurant teams to elevate the guest experience. Todd previously served as Vice President of Operations at MAD Greens and Senior Director of Operations for Red Robin where he spent over 20 years.
Editor | Kiosk Marketplace & Vending Times
Elliot Maras brings a background covering the retail, foodservice and payments industries, having served as the editor of Automatic Merchandiser Magazine for 20 years and as the founding editor of VendingMarketWatch.com. He is a graduate of the National Automatic Merchandising Association/Michigan State University Executive Development Program, a former board member of the International Foodservice Editors Council, and a winner of the Journalism Award of the Office Refreshment Development Foundation.
President, SVP Customer Success | UPshow
Bob Michelson is a serially successful business leader and entrepreneur who has operated six companies over the last thirty years. He currently serves as President and SVP Customer Success at UPShow, an in-venue digital engagement platform, where he is responsible for scaling the customer success, implementation and fulfillment teams and overseeing new product launches, such as UPshow’s Back of House platform. Prior to joining UPshow, Bob was the CEO of RMG Networks. Under his leadership, the company realized significant improvement in its financial performance through a total refresh in corporate strategy and the technology platform. Bob was recognized as 2017 EY Entrepreneur of the Year in Technology.
CEO | Chronic Tacos
Michael Mohammed is the Chief Executive Officer and President at Chronic Tacos Enterprises Inc. where he oversees the strategic vision of the fast-casual Mexican restaurant brand. Michael is extremely passionate about the Chronic Tacos brand, purpose and commitment to living the #tacolife. Encompassing authentic, 3rd generation recipes and the individuality of each customer, Chronic Tacos has established itself as a bold force in the restaurant industry. Michael has since led the development of Chronic Tacos into over 60 locations across the United States, Canada and Japan. Combining his business experience and entrepreneurial spirit, Michael continues to pilot the brand to success and rapid growth.
Director of Marketing | Henny Penny
Jason Moles serves as Director of Marketing for Henny Penny, a manufacturer of premium foodservice equipment. He is a 22-year veteran of the foodservice industry and is responsible for managing and growing the Henny Penny brand globally. Over the last 60 years, Henny Penny has partnered with the world’s largest and emerging restaurant chains to provide pressure frying, open frying, holding and combi oven solutions known for ease of use and low operating costs. Henny Penny delivers proven technology saving restaurants in QSR, Fast Casual and Casual Dining thousands of dollars each year in frying oil, labor and energy costs.
Owner & CEO | Free Range Concepts
Kyle Noonan is an American entrepreneur, speaker, television personality, and creative tastemaker. First known as an entrepreneur who grew his hospitality and entertainment company to a $50mm company in five short years and is on pace to eclipse $100mm in revenue by his eighth year. Not only has Kyle quickly emerged as an innovative entrepreneur and respected speaker, but he has been recognized as an engaging media personality appearing in national outlets such as CBS, NBC, ABC, Fox, Bravo, ESPN, FoodNetwork, Travel Channel, Food & Wine Magazine, New York Times, WallStreet Journal, and many more. Kyle has been described “as innovative as he is engaging” by the New York Times.
Chief Sustainability Officer | Just Salad
Sandra Noonan is the Chief Sustainability Officer at Just Salad, the fast-casual concept serving healthy food at an affordable price and home of the World’s Largest Restaurant Reusable program. Sandra founded ZeroWasteNYC and is a strong advocate for zero-waste living. Since joining the Just Salad team in 2019, she has expanded Just Salad’s award-winning sustainability efforts and continuously prospects new sustainability opportunities across all aspects of business. Her professional experience spans marketing and communications, technology and corporate sustainability. She holds a Masters degree from Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs and a Bachelor’s degree from Duke University.
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.
VP of Purchasing and Retail | Dickey’s Barbecue Restaurants
Shayla Partusch serves as the Vice President of Purchasing and Retail at Dickey’s Barbecue Restaurants, Inc. She oversees all supply chain distribution for every Dickey’s location nationwide and handles all of Dickey’s retail products in more than 3,000 grocery stores across the nation. Shayla joined the Dickey’s family in 2014 as a purchasing auditor and has since been promoted to her current role. In 2020, Shayla was named to QSR’s Top 15 Young Restaurant Leaders On The Rise and prior to her time at Dickey’s, she worked at Knox Oil Field Supply in the accounting department.
Vice President, IT | Fazoli’s Restaurant Group
Wayne Pederson is a 35 year veteran of the restaurant industry. He was recruited in 2016 to join Fazoli’s Restaurants, Inc. as Vice President, IT to lead the replacement of every IT system within the brand. In less than three years, every corporate and franchise restaurant has replaced their aging in-store systems with modern POS & BOH systems, and installed new training systems, team member onboarding & teaching systems, as well as all above store reporting systems. In addition to these replacements, catering, mobile ordering, loyalty, kiosk and curbside ordering technologies have been added to help Fazoli’s achieve one of the best sales performances in brand history.
Founder & COO | Tarka Indian Kitchen
Rajina Pradhan is Founder & COO of Tarka Indian Kitchen, an Austin-based fast casual concept serving flavorful fresh-to-order Indian food. Rajina has more than 20 years of experience in the restaurant business, and currently oversees all aspects of front of house operations and the guest experience, while also directing the brand’s HR policies & procedures. Her mission is creating an inclusive and welcoming culture at Tarka that encourages employee development and advancement. Rajina also serves on the board of Asian Family Support Services of Austin (AFSSA), a nonprofit organization that supports survivors of domestic violence & sexual assault.
COO & Co-Founder | Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers
Growing up in St. Louis, Scott Redler got his start in the restaurant business at age 15 catering events for groups of two to 6,000. Paying his way through college by managing a steakhouse, he attended the University of Missouri and earned a degree in restaurant and hotel management. Scott has managed and overseen everything from 5-star restaurants to corporate cafeterias in Wichita, St. Louis, Minneapolis and Washington, D.C. In 2002, Scott partnered with Bill Simon and his brother Randy to launch Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers. After franchising in 2004, Freddy’s has grown to more than 350 domestic locations that serve 32 states across the country.
Founder, CEO & COO | CRAVE Franchising
Samantha Rincione is currently the Co-founder, CEO and Chief Operations Officer of Crave Hot Dogs and BBQ. Samantha was also co-founder of Emerging Franchises, a franchise development firm, which developed, improved and built franchise companies from the ground up. Emerging Franchises was responsible for creating franchise operations systems and growing brands from one and in some cases hundreds of units. Samantha was also Multi-Unit Franchisee with Red Mango, Smoothie Factory and Café, owning and operating 10 stores on Long Island NY. Samantha has also served as Vice President for UFood Grill, a healthy fast casual concept.
CEO | Saladworks
Kelly Roddy took his position as the CEO of Saladworks in August of 2019 with more than 30 years of industry experience. With a strong brand foundation and management team, Kelly is focused on rapid growth and franchisee profitability. Kelly most recently served as President of Schlotzsky’s where he repositioned the brand from a sandwich deli chain to a high quality eatery with more than twice the average unit volumes in sales. Prior to Schlotzsky’s, Kelly was Director of Retail Operations and Director of Sales and Marketing at HEB. He was also the Executive Director at Scholastic and worked for over 10 years in various positions at Walmart.
Founder & President | Eternal Optimist Hospitality
R. Ryan Rogers is a 2015 Eater Young Gun, the Founder of Eternal Optimist Hospitality, a chef, restaurateur, Southern nomad, and Americana enthusiast. In 2012, at the age of 26, he opened Feast BBQ, a barbecue restaurant framed within the scope of his childhood memories of Southern barbecue. In 2014, Ryan opened a second Feast BBQ location in downtown Louisville’s walkable NuLu neighborhood, and quickly followed that restaurant with his third restaurant, Royals Hot Chicken, his ode to Nashville Hot Chicken featuring scratch made sides. 2017 brought Ryan and executive chef and partner Andrew McCabe together to open bar Vetti, a neighborhood Italian spot featuring fresh housemade pasta, brick oven pizza, and shared plates.
Founder & CEO | Fruitive
Gregg Rozeboom is the founder and CEO of Fruitive, a 100% plant-based, fast-casual restaurant concept with locations in Washington, D.C., and Virginia. Coming from the renewable energy sector, Gregg dreamed of opening a restaurant where the menu was entirely made from scratch with organic, healthy ingredients. Fruitive began franchising this year, in hopes of spreading their nutritious food across the nation. Gregg enjoys traveling with his family and blogging on sustainability and food related issues at plantbased.com.
Chief Corporate Affairs & Food Safety Officer | Chipotle Mexican Grill
Laurie Schalow is a 20+ year Public Affairs veteran, starting her career with Yum! Brands in 1994 when she joined Taco Bell and served as the national spokesperson. In 2005, Laurie joined KFC, where she created publicity plans, managed community relations initiatives, all internal and external communications and crisis management. In 2011, Laurie became Vice President of Public Affairs for Yum! Brands overseeing Global Corporate Social Responsibility, PR and Crisis Management. In 2017, Laurie joined Chipotle Mexican Grill as the first Chief Communications Officer. Currently, Laurie is the Chief Corporate Affairs and Food Safety Officer and oversees all internal and external communications, stakeholder engagement, sustainability, customer service, social listening, food safety and quality assurance.
Co-Founder & CEO | Nékter Juice Bar
Now with more than 140 locations across 15 U.S. states, another 175 in development and more than $100 million in systemwide sales, Steve Schulze, as co-founder and CEO, has grown Nékter Juice Bar into the clear leader and pioneering champion of the elevated juice bar experience in the $2 billion juice bar industry. Founded in 2010 upon a promise to reinvent a restaurant category that had lost its way, Nékter Juice Bar has been a catalyst for change, vowing ingredient integrity, menu transparency and authenticity across its menu of freshly made, clean and nutritious juices, Superfood smoothies, acai bowls and other healthy snacks.
CEO | Blaze Pizza
Mandy Shaw joined Blaze Pizza in January 2018 as the CFO and was named interim CEO in August 2019 and then President and CEO in November 2019. Mandy previously served nearly 13 years in various roles at Bloomin’ Brands, Inc. including as Chief Financial Officer for the international division, Chief Information Officer, and as Chief Accounting Officer during Bloomin’s transition to a private company and through its subsequent IPO. In March 2020, she was named one of the 50 most influential women in foodservice by Nation’s Restaurant News.
Founder | Ike’s Love & Sandwiches
Ike Shehadeh, biased philosopher, pop culture icon and sandwich wizard has been transcending the sandwich genre since 2007. As founder of Ike’s Love & Sandwiches, Ike has grown a massive cult following with over 60 stores across 5 different states and counting. Celebrity fans, unique sandwiches found nowhere else and Ike’s infamous “dirty sauce” fuel this audacious brand – with sales increasing by 50% year-over-year. With over 500 creations, sandwich lovers will find an awesome sandwich for meat lovers, gluten-free diets, vegans, vegetarians and beyond. This sandwich guru is committed to inspiring the world. One sandwich at a time.
Director of Franchising Development | The Hummus & Pita Co.
Prior to his current position as Director of Franchising Development, Matthew Sheppard most recently served as the Chief Operating Officer of The Hummus and Pita Co, one of the country’s fastest-growing Mediterranean fast-casual concepts. Matthew is also a General Partner of 080808 Capital a New York City-based private equity company focused on small businesses around the globe in need of growth capital and financial management support as well a managing partner of Keanest Ventures, a Barcelona based Venture Company developing and advising emerging concepts across southern Europe. Matthew began his career as an associate for McAlister’s Corporation. Matthew progressed quickly through McAlister’s management system transitioning into the executive ranks.
CEO | VIPinsiders
Philipp Sitter is a fifth-generation restaurateur born in Vienna, Austria and Founder/CEO of VIPinsiders. He owns multiple restaurant concepts in Houston, Tx and has been featured contributor on Bloomberg, Travel Channel, Franchise Times, and many more.
CEO | Cousins Subs
Christine Specht grew up with Cousins Subs — the sub sandwich chain her dad, Bill Specht, founded with his cousin two years before she was born. Before taking on the role of Cousins’ human resources manager in 2001, Christine worked as a staff member of the Wisconsin Legislative Audit Bureau in Madison, Wisconsin. In 2008, she became the President and Chief Operating Officer of Cousins Subs and in 2015 assumed the role of Chief Executive Officer following her father’s retirement. Christine earned a bachelor’s degree in criminology and law studies from Marquette University.
CEO | Native Foods
Carin Stutz is the CEO and President of Native Foods, the original 100% plant-based fast casual eatery. Prior experience includes the EVP/COO at Red Robin, President of McAlister’s Deli, CEO and President of Cosi, President of Global Business for Brinker, EVP of Operations for Applebee’s and Pacific DVP for Wendy’s International. She is Past Chair of Women’s Foodservice Forum; recognized in Chicago’s 100 Women to Watch; Texas Women Worth Watching; and the distinguished alumni award from WIU. She serves on the board of trustees for Western Illinois University, the Fast-Casual Industry Council, and the board of directors for Checkers and Rally’s restaurants.
Executive Vice President & Chief Operating Officer | HMSHost
Joe Thornton is the Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of HMSHost, a global restaurateur and leader in travel dining in airports and motorways. In this role, he oversees HMSHost operations of more than 1,700 food and beverage locations in North America, as well as Culinary, Supply Chain, and Marketing & Communications. Joe is an experienced operations leader who brings a demonstrated record of achieving results. Most recently, Joe was Chief Operating Officer at Jamba Juice where he led all field and headquarter functions related to operations, operations services, and training, as well as supporting franchise owners across the country.
CFO | Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers
Bill Valentas is Chief Financial Officer for the fast-casual restaurant franchise Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers. He oversees day-to-day proceedings of the finance, accounting and IT departments and is credited with implementing a business-intelligence software that collects and streamlines data for convenient interpretation. Prior to Freddy’s, Bill worked nearly 20 years in the financial realm, most recently as CFO and COO for MoJack Distributors, LLC, a product and sales distribution company. Bill’s restaurant-industry experience includes SVP and COO of Shared Services with a company called LS Management, a restaurant business that oversees 325 concepts, including Lone Star Steakhouse & Saloon, Texas Land & Cattle Steak House and Sullivan’s Steakhouse.
President | Little Greek Franchise Development
Nick Vojnovic started working at age 12 as a dishwasher in his neighborhood’s Italian restaurant in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He has devoted his whole career to the restaurant industry including giving back to the community and various charities as much as possible. Nick currently is the President and majority partner of Little Greek Franchise Development, LLC, since April of 2011. In 2015, he became the owner the USF/Fowler Avenue location in Tampa and rebranded the company to Little Greek Fresh Grill. When Nick first became President, there were 4 locations. Today, there are 43 locations. Prior to Little Greek, he had a 12-year stint as President of Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Family Sports Pubs.
Director of Industry Relations | PathSpot Technologies
John Walsh, Director of Industry Relations at PathSpot, has worked for over a decade with some of the largest food brands in the world and with various verticals across the food supply chain. John’s specialty has been bringing new and Innovative Technologies to companies of all sizes in the food industry. and his unique background includes working with upwards of a dozen different types of technologies, that are purpose-built for the food industry. John has an uncommon knowledge base that can be matched by very few in the industry as his expertise coupled together with a broad range of SaaS-based technologies provides him the ability to deliver a unique, relevant and differentiated perspective.
VP, Restaurants | Appetize
Brian Whitney leads Appetize’s sales efforts in the Professional and Enterprise space. He brings over 20 years of POS experience to Appetize and has worked with Radiant Systems, NCR and Allure over that term. Brian has worked globally in over 20 countries on 5 continents in industries throughout hospitality, airports, cinemas, stadiums and retail. An avid college sports fan he lives in Atlanta with his wife Monica and daughter Annabeth.
Strategic Advisor | TiffinLabs
Tim Wildin is a seasoned brand marketing, culinary, and product development executive. Tim is currently an advisor to several food tech startups and CPG companies, with a particular specialization in cloud kitchens and plant-based foods. At Chipotle Mexican Grill, over the course of a decade Tim served in a variety of roles, including Brand Director and Director of Menu Development, driving the concept development cycle from ideation through a rigorous testing process to global rollout.
Chief Revenue Officer | Nudge Rewards
Brennan Wilkie, the CRO at Nudge Rewards, brings 15 years of expertise in the space of employee engagement and customer experience intelligence. One of the industry’s most thoughtful CX practitioners, Brennan shares Nudge’s passion for the inextricable link between customer and employee experience and plays a pivotal role in helping forward-thinking brands unlock the potential of their associates.
Founder & CEO | Dosh
Ryan Wuerch is the founder and CEO of Dosh, the fastest growing cash back platform that automatically puts cash into the wallets of consumers whenever they shop, dine or travel. A two-time Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year, Ryan is a seasoned and proven leader as CEO, chairman, philanthropist, investor, and visionary, with a history of leading companies from inception to the public market. Before founding Dosh, Ryan launched Solavei, a social commerce network which was acquired in late 2015. He was the founder and CEO of Motricity which went public on Nasdaq in 2010, obtaining a market value that exceeded $1 billion.
VP, Design & Development | Junzi Kitchen
Xuhui Zhang is a hospitality entrepreneur and designer based in New York. Xuhui became Junzi Kitchen’s founding team member in 2014 and is currently leading the Real Estate Development and Architecture Design of the restaurant group. Prior to joining Junzi, Xuhui worked as an architect at architecture design office Pei Cobb Freed & Partners. Xuhui also cofounded the non-profit forum Architectural Practice Talks which curates programs to foster the environment design communities in NYC, Chicago and Shanghai.
Co-Founder & CEO | Junzi Kitchen
Yong Zhao was born and raised in Liaoning, northeast of China. He attended the Yuanpei School at Peking University and earned his MESc at Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. In 2014, Yong co-founded junzi and has been leading the team as CEO ever since. Being the mastermind and visionary of junzi, Yong Zhao is harnessing the tide of quick-service Chinese food with his quickly expanding restaurant concept and leading the omnichannel shift in eating with innovative solutions such as ghost kitchen. With locations in New Haven and Manhattan, the team most recently opened their fourth store near Bryant Park, New York, and the first delivery-only location at SoHo.
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