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SPEAKERS

KEYNOTE SPEAKERS

Eduardo Luz

Chief Brand & Concept Officer | Panera Bread

Speaker bio coming soon!

Rob Sopkin

SVP, Chief Development Officer | Panera Bread

Speaker bio coming soon!

PANELISTS & MODERATORS

Geoff Alexander

CEO | Wow Bao

After two decades of working with multiple Lettuce Entertain You concepts, Geoff Alexander took over as President of Wow Bao in 2009. Under Geoff’s leadership, Wow Bao has revolutionized the way diners interact with restaurants by being a leader in technology. He implemented mobile & desktop ordering, installed self-ordering kiosks, pioneered a mobile gift card & loyalty program, added bicycle delivery, as well as domestic shipping, launched a food truck, and turned Wow Bao into a well-respected social media influencer. Geoff has overseen Wow Bao’s inclusion into airports, NFL stadiums, MLB ballparks, university campuses, and more than 50 grocers sell Wow Bao’s frozen retail line.

Zaid Ayoub

Founder & CEO | SAJJ Mediterranean

Zaid Ayoub is the founder and CEO of the Bay Area-headquartered, rapidly expanding fast-casual concept SAJJ Mediterranean. As SAJJ has grown in the last 9 years, Zaid never took his eyes off the product: high-quality, fresh food that is also approachable and transparent. He realized that people want convenience and speed without sacrificing a culinary experience, which is why SAJJ uses a customize-your-own service model. Under Zaid’s strategic leadership, SAJJ Mediterranean has grown from that single brick-and-mortar location into a growing network of 12 restaurants and three food trucks offering catering and event services.

Jim Balis

Managing Director | Strategic Operations Group

Jim Balis leads CapitalSpring’s Strategic Operations Group, supporting due diligence, portfolio management and industry knowledge building initiatives. Jim has several decades of management and turnaround experience in the restaurant industry. Prior to joining CapitalSpring, Jim was Founder and President of RMG, a boutique advisory and turnaround firm serving the restaurant sector. Jim has directed numerous turnarounds and has acted as interim CEO or Chief Restructuring Officer for 15 restaurant companies. He began his foodservice career in high school, during which he held multiple management positions for local restaurants in New York. Jim holds a BA from Duke University.

Justin Bartek

Marketing Director | bushi by JINYA

Recently voted Brand Innovator in the FSR readers choice awards, Justin Bartek the marketing director of JINYA Holdings, Inc., joined the team during the industry’s most challenging times. After joining JINYA, Justin immediately immersed himself in JINYA Holdings’ Japanese culture, navigating his way through each individual brand. Though new to him, Justin has focused on leading JINYA Holdings to success, and he consistently shows his dedication to the company and industry. He was an early adopter of the Clubhouse platform and has utilized it to be a thought leader in the restaurant industry. On Clubhouse, Justin discusses topics like brand marketing, restaurant development and digital marketing with other industry leaders.

Adenah Bayoh

Founder | Cornbread

Speaker bio coming soon!

Peter Boylan III

President | Ballard Brands & IdEATion Hospitality

Peter J. Boylan III is President and CEO for Ballard Brands and idEATion Hospitality. He joined Ballard Brands in 2009 on their Board of Advisors. Prior to being President and CEO he was Chief Development Officer and expanded the company’s footprint across the U.S. as well as several international markets. Peter has over 20 years of professional and executive leadership experience in a wide variety of companies including public, private, venture capital and private equity. He earned an MBA from Wake Forest University’s Babcock Graduate School of Management and a Bachelor of Science degree with a concentration in Aerospace Engineering from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.

Jim Butler

President | Jon Smith Subs

Jim Butler has worked in the franchising industry for almost 30 years. His career in the industry started as the Marketing Representative for Signarama in Farmingdale, NY. He was promoted to Regional Vice President developing over 150 Signarama locations in Arizona and California. Most recently serving as Director of Sales for five years, overseeing the sales for the United Franchise Group brands in the U.S. and Australia. Jim is currently the President of Jon Smith Subs along with Division Leader and Director of Sales for the Food Division.

Cherryh Cansler

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.

Tom Carr

CMO | Chicken Salad Chick

Tom Carr is the Chief Marketing Officer for Chicken Salad Chick. He has brought to the Chick Family nearly 30 years of experience as a strategic, creative, and innovative marketing executive across a diverse range of industries. This includes entertainment, apparel, restaurants, consumer products, and media. He was twice named “marketer of the year” within the cable television industry. Tom hails from New Orleans, a city whose culture he credits for his unique take on brand storytelling.

Chad Coulter

Founder & CEO | Biscuit Belly

Chad Coulter dove into the restaurant industry after a short and successful career as a clinical pharmacist. His first concept, LouVino, was a Southern inspired small plates restaurant and wine bar with over 40 wines by the glass. After the fifth LouVino opened, focus shifted towards diving into the idea of opening a biscuit focused concept. In 2019, the first Biscuit Belly was born after months of meticulous menu, branding and concept development. Biscuit Belly now has 4 corporate locations and over 20 franchised units in development in Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia and Alabama.

Tony Darden

President & COO | MOOYAH Burgers, Fries & Shakes

Tony Darden has been the President and Chief Operating Officer of MOOYAH Burgers, Fries & Shakes since April 2019. From May 2017 to April 2019, Tony served as Chief Operating Officer of Sun Holdings, inc. and Taco Bueno, LP in Dallas, Texas. From September 2009 to May 2017, he served as Senior Vice President of Operations for Panera Bread Company in St. Louis, Missouri.

Landon & Kat Eckles

Co-Founders, CEO & Chief Branding Officer | Clean Juice

Clean Juice started in 2014 as the brainchild of Landon & Kat Eckles. Landon, after spending years traveling internationally, was ready for a career change and more time at home with his growing family. Kat had spent the better part of a decade making smoothies and juices at home and shot off the idea of opening a juice bar in the Charlotte area. Landon and Kat quickly jumped into the idea with 100% motivation and heart. They moved to Lake Norman and opened their first location, Birkdale Village, on their 8th wedding anniversary – June 5th, 2015. Since then, Clean Juice has over 100 locations open and 55 in development in 28 states! THEY LOVE WHAT THEY DO, WHO THEY DO IT WITH, & WHY THEY DO IT.

Kat Eckles

Co-Founder & Chief Branding Officer | Clean Juice

Kat Eckles is a woman of faith, dedication, commitment and true vision. After graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Psychology degree from Wilmington University and starting a family with the love of her life and future business partner, Landon Eckles, Kat would become an avid health advocate and changed the diet for herself and her family. Through this process, she and Landon conceived the idea of Clean Juice, built on the biblical verse 3 John 1:2 “Healthy in Body, Strong in Spirit.” Today, Kat is the Chief Visionary and Branding Officer for Clean Juice, the nation’s first USDA-certified organic juice bar and franchise QSR eatery with more than 100 stores.

Landon Eckles

Co-Founder & CEO | Clean Juice

Landon Eckles is a well-respected, entrepreneurial business leader who has earned an esteemed reputation through innovation, integrity, creativity, philanthropy, and wisdom. Even in his 30s, Landon is wise beyond his years. He is a devoted father of five children, a loving husband, and the fearless founder and Chief Executive Officer of Clean Juice, the first and original USDA-certified organic juice bar franchise. Based in the Eckles’ hometown of Charlotte, NC, Clean Juice has exploded onto the QSR/Fast Casual scene in 2015, growing to more than one-hundred stores in four years, fifty-plus more in continuous development, and surpassing $35M in revenues.

Steve Felson

VP of Operations | Bonchon

Steve Felson is the Vice President of Operations for Bonchon International with oversight for the brand’s Operations, Training, Food Safety and Restaurant Opening teams. Steve has more than 20 years’ experience across multiple restaurant industry segments spanning a number of roles. Prior to joining Bonchon, Steve worked with the fast-casual chain BurgerFi leading Operations, Training and Marketing and, prior to that, as the Director of Field Training and Restaurant Openings for Denny’s restaurants. Steve received a B.A. degree in English from Stetson University.

Tom Ferguson Jr.

Founder & CEO | Rise Southern Biscuits & Righteous Chicken

Tom Ferguson is founder and CEO of Rise Southern Biscuits & Righteous Chicken, a fast growing franchise known for innovative, chef-inspired twists on favorite breakfast and lunch items, tight operating procedures and a corporate culture that promotes love and respect at all levels. The concept has grown from a single restaurant to 16 Rise locations now open in North Carolina, Maryland, Virginia, Georgia and Tennessee with over 100 units in development. Rise was named a Fast Casual Top 100 Mover & Shaker in 2016. Before starting Rise Biscuits Donuts, Tom was a pioneer in the NC Triangle’s food truck scene with Only Burger.

Mark Gabrovic

VP / Executive Chef | Jamba

With over 20 years’ experience in the Food Industry, Mark Gabrovic brings both science and art to strategic innovation development for Jamba. As VP/Executive Chef, Mark is responsible for the brand’s menu strategy and food policy, while developing innovative products that support personalized wellness for Jamba’s guests. Mark obtained his Food Science degree from the University of Florida and went on to earn his Culinary Arts degree from Johnson and Wales University. He previously spent time in the United States Peace Corps as a Community Nutritionist and has held positions with several notable restaurants and food companies, including Cargill, Outback, Ventura Foods, and Panera Bread.

Jim Holthouser

CEO | FOCUS Brands

Jim Holthouser is the Chief Executive Officer for Focus Brands, parent company of Auntie Anne’s, Carvel®, Cinnabon, Jamba, Moe’s Southwest Grill, McAlister’s Deli, Schlotzsky’s, and Seattle’s Best Coffee (in certain military bases and in certain international markets). Jim is leading Focus Brands into its next phase of growth for its seven market-leading brands while driving results and profitability for franchisees, with a focus on delivering an exceptional customer experience. He was also named as one of the top 25 Executives on Fast Casual’s Movers & Shakers 2021 list. Jim brings more than 30 years of experience in worldwide brand development, concept innovation, franchise management and digital marketing.

Andy Hooper

President | &pizza

Andy Hooper is a restaurant industry veteran with over 15 years of people, operations, brand and technology leadership experience. He has led diverse multi-unit teams for both domestic and international brands, responsible for shaping culture, product and culinary innovation, talent development and guest satisfaction and engagement. Andy currently serves as President for &pizza, having previously served as Chief People Officer and Chief Operating Officer, since joining the brand in 2018. Prior to &pizza, Andy served as the Chief Innovation Officer and Chief People Officer for Cafe Rio Mexican Grill. In his early career, Andy held a variety of leadership roles in human resources for Burger King Corporation, both domestically and internationally.

Scott Johnson

VP Head of Marketing | Smashburger

Scott Johnson is a seasoned marketing and management executive with over 30 years of experience with a variety of Fortune 500 and growth companies focused on consumer marketing and technology. He has a proven track record of driving results through innovation and creative-driven brand marketing. Through his initiatives and brand leadership, Scott has generated over $1B in incremental revenue, and led major turnarounds at Arby’s and Outback Steakhouse. Since 2016, he has led brand marketing efforts for two of the fastest growing brands in the fast-casual segment, previously at BurgerFi International, and now as lead of domestic and international marketing for Smashburger.

Richard Jones

Chief Marketing Officer | Cheetah Digital

Richard Jones is the CMO at Cheetah Digital, where he oversees a global team that is responsible for all aspects of the brand, demand generation, digital marketing, corporate communications, and sales development. With more than 20 years of marketing, sales and strategy experience, Richard was previously the CEO of Wayin, a global leader in zero-party data collection and activation. There, he helped many of the world’s leading brands such as Daily Mail Group, NHL, Bauer Media, Vodafone, Priceline.com, Reckitt Benckiser, Air New Zealand, and Manchester City FC create zero-party data strategies. In July 2019, Wayin was acquired by Cheetah Digital and rebranded as Cheetah Experiences.

Sean Kennedy

President & CEO | Cowboy Chicken

As president and CEO, Sean Kennedy has been instrumental in establishing Cowboy Chicken as the premium fast casual restaurant brand that pioneered wood-fired rotisserie chicken. Sean has worked to refine the menu, build operational systems, grow system-wide sales and strengthen store financial performance. He launched Cowboy Chicken’s franchise program that helped to pave the way for today’s national expansion and has built a strong corporate team to support franchise development, real estate, construction, training, marketing and franchise support efforts. During his leadership, the brand has been included in Fast Casual’s Top 100 Movers & Shakers list every year since 2011 and in 2017 won the Emerging Chain of the Year award from Restaurant Business.

Kevin King

Chief Development Officer | Smoothie King

Speaker bio coming soon!

Tom Krouse

President & CEO | Donatos

Tom Krouse, President and CEO of Donatos since 2010, has over three decades of restaurant industry experience, countless civic contributions and an award-winning career in marketing and management. Tom came to Donatos in 2000 after serving as the Vice President of Marketing at Wendy’s. Prior to that, he was a partner at the marketing communications firm Daly Lewis Krouse. Tom is a graduate of The Ohio State University.

Matt Lukosavich

Director, Industry Strategy – Restaurant | Vericast

Matt Lukosavich has nearly two decades of experience helping to connect brands with consumers. In his current role as director, Matt is responsible for developing data-driven, client-focused, multi-channel solutions with strategic go-to-market media planning for the restaurant industry vertical. Today, he supports the consumer marketing and planning needs for Valassis accounts totaling more than $100 million. Matt earned his BS in Business Administration from the University of Michigan-Dearborn and is the recipient of multiple career Innovation and Client Focus award nominations. He loves spending time with his family – wife Alie, son Camden, plus three dogs – and is an avid golfer.

Kristin Lynch

Director Data Insights, Restaurants | Paytronix

Speaker bio coming soon!

Todd Madlener

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.

Dina Mitchell

Founder | PowerSoul Cafe

Dina Mitchell is a passionate entrepreneur, restaurant veteran, community advocate and philanthropist. Her passion led her to build the Tropical Smoothie Café brand in Las Vegas and Southern California when the company was in its infancy with only 23 locations. Twenty years later the brand has over 900 units. Dina is a passionate leader, team builder, and unrelenting manager. Her experience includes franchisee selection, site selection, lease negotiation, store and kitchen design, employee and owner training, ongoing mentoring and support, marketing, ad placement, brand spokesperson, developing and managing all platforms of social media, menu development, COS control, she wears several hats effortlessly and well.

Aaron Noveshen

Founder & CEO | The Culinary Edge and Starbird

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.

Otto Othman

CEO & Co-Founder | PINCHO

Speaker bio coming soon!

Scotty Perkins, CAMS

SVP & Head of LedgerPay, CCO | LedgerPay

Scotty Perkins brings 25 years of executive leadership in technology, product, and compliance, primarily in retail, payments, and financial services. He has played key roles in driving innovation in Fortune 50 companies and in Silicon Valley, with retailers such as 7-Eleven and CVS, and with global clients such as Grant Thornton.

Nour Rabai

Founder & CEO | PITA Mediterranean Street Food

Pita Mediterranean Street Food was founded in 2012 by Nour Rabai. Menu features include traditional and chicken gyros, street pitas, mezza spreads, rice bowls, salads and desserts. As founder and CEO, Nour oversees the operations of Pita’s corporate locations and is involved in development and design of new locations. Negotiating with vendors, collaborating with the R&D team, engaging with marketing, overseeing the distribution team, along with being involved with every aspect of the franchising process, has helped Pita grow to 38 locations. Serving authentic food and culture with a goal of moving into every major city in the U.S., he lives in Peachtree City with his wife Carol and their three children.

C.J. Ramirez

SVP of Marketing | Dog Haus

As SVP of Marketing at Dog Haus, C.J. Ramirez plays a vital role in driving brand innovation and marketing strategy. Since joining the team in 2013, he implemented marketing and branding campaigns that have directly impacted Dog Haus becoming one of the hottest emerging brands in the restaurant industry. As an industry veteran, C.J. brings extensive experience in designing branding strategies that build strong corporate identities. Before joining the Dog Haus family, he led teams for prominent brands such as The Kennedy/Marshall Company, Sun Microsystems, Oracle, The Walt Disney Company, Eastman Kodak, Johnson & Johnson Company, and Mattel. He is a graduate of the Art Center College of Design.

Julio Ramirez

CEO | BurgerFi

Speaker bio coming soon!

Sanjiv Razdan

President, Americas & India | The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf

Sanjiv Razdan is the President, Americas and India of The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf. Sanjiv has held executive positions in the food service industry for close to three decades, leading globally recognized brands through hyper growth of retail locations and digital channels, restructuring and turnaround situations, including Sweetgreen, Applebee’s and Dine Brands. In addition to his professional career, Sanjiv is the Founder, Chair and CEO of GLEAM Network, a volunteer based non-profit whose mission is to provide mentorship and leadership development to the underserved community within the restaurant and foodservice industry.

Tom Sacco

CEO & President | Happy Joe’s Pizza & Ice Cream Parlors & Tony Sacco’s Coal Oven Kitchen

Tom Sacco currently serves as the CEO, Chief Happiness Officer and President of Happy Joe’s Pizza & Ice Cream Parlors and Tony Sacco’s Coal Oven Kitchen. Since joining Dynamic Restaurant Holdings, LLC. in October of 2020, Tom is guiding the nostalgic brands down a path of resurgence using his 30+ years of restaurant experience. He has brought a renewed focus to improve revenue and profit margins, and to grow the brands combined store count from 54 units to an estimated 100 locations by the end of the year 2022. He has held C-level leadership positions at a wide variety of other concepts including BJ’s Restaurant & Brewhouse and Red Robin Gourmet Burgers & Brews.

Tinku Saini

CEO & Co-Founder | Tarka Indian Kitchen

Speaker bio coming soon!

Desi Saran

Founder & CEO | Sweetberry Bowls

Sweetberry Bowls was founded in 2017 by restaurant veteran, Desi Saran. He is a serial entrepreneur with an MBA in Finance & BA in Economics from Rutgers University. Desi has extensive experience in developing fast-casual chains and tech start-ups. He created Sweetberry Bowls to provide quality and affordable healthy food options to consumers. The healthy, fast-casual concept specializes in Acai bowls, Poke Bowls, Smoothies, Wraps, & Salads with a focus on product, atmosphere and extraordinary customer service. Under Desi’s leadership, the company opened 20 units across 7 states in 2 years.

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.

Mike Sebazco

VP of Operations | MOOYAH Burgers, Fries & Shakes

Speaker bio coming soon!

Mandy Shaw

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.

Dan Simpson

CEO | Taziki’s Mediterranean Cafe

Dan Simpson was named CEO of Taziki’s Mediterranean Cafe in February 2018 after serving as the Chief Innovation Officer starting in May 2016. Previously, he was a Taziki’s franchisee and managing partner at Fresh Hospitality from January 2015 until May 2016. Dan was the founder and CEO of ToGo Technologies from May 2012 until January 2015. He was the Chief Development Officer of Dispensary of Hope, Nashville, Tennessee from May 2008 until May 2012. He earned his BS in Science from Clearwater Christian College followed by his MBA from West Virginia University. Dan serves on the boards of the Shalom Foundation/Moore Pediatric Surgery Center and Dovehouse Ministries and is a member of TedXNashville Society of Fellows.

Bettina Stern

Co-Founder | Chaia Tacos

Bettina Stern is on a mission to get people to eat more vegetables. Bettina co-founded Chaia – an unconventional plant-powered taco restaurant based in Washington, DC – with close friend Suzanne Simon in 2013 as a way to inspire long-term shifts in how people eat for the benefit of not only their health, but also the health of the environment. By letting their product and team take center stage, Bettina and Suzanne have organically grown their business from a farmers’ market stand in 2013 into two brick-and-mortar locations, with the third set to open this fall.

Susan Taylor

President & CEO | Juice It Up!

A highly successful restaurant industry veteran with over 30 years of experience, Susan Taylor joined the Juice It Up! family in 2019 as VP of Operations and Business Development and was promoted to President and CEO of the brand in early-2020. Susan has served in various leadership roles for national franchise chains including 14 years at Jamba, where she was the Senior Director of Franchise Operations, Sharky’s Woodfired Mexican Grill, Baja Fresh and Chevy’s Fresh Mex. Under her leadership, Juice It Up! has built upon its diverse offerings by putting a heavier focus on product innovation and ingredient functionality. Since coming on board, Susan has spearheaded initiatives that have dramatically improved both the guest-and franchisee-facing experience.

Benson Tsai

CEO & Co-Founder | Serve Automation

Speaker bio coming soon!

Jason Valentine

President & COO | Zoup! Eatery

Having worked in the industry for more than 25 years, Jason Valentine has experienced every aspect of what it takes to operate a restaurant franchise. Jason is the President & Chief Operating Officer for Zoup! Eatery, which has restaurants across the U.S. and in Ontario, Canada. Before joining Zoup!, Jason was the Vice President of Operations for Cousins Subs, joining the company’s Leadership Team after operating his family’s multi-unit Cousins Subs franchise. Jason has a deep understanding of the restaurant industry from the perspective of both franchisee and franchisor, and his experiences are of tremendous value to Zoup! as he leads the company’s rebranding transition from Zoup! Fresh Soup Company to Zoup! Eatery.

Mike Vichich

Co-Founder & CEO | Wisely

Mike Vichich is co-founder and CEO of Wisely (www.getwisely.com), the leading Customer Intelligence platform for restaurants—empowering brands to say goodbye to transactions and hello to customers. Wisely brings everything you know about each customer to every interaction—from how guests are greeted to how they’re personally invited back across marketing channels. Thousands of innovative restaurants leverage Wisely to improve guest experience, increase Customer Lifetime Value, and use customer data to inform every business decision. Mike has 15 years of experience in digital transformation and quantitative marketing. Under Mike’s leadership, Wisely has tripled in size each year for the last three years.

Charles Watson

CEO | Tropical Smoothie Cafe

Charles Watson is the CEO at Tropical Smoothie Cafe and focuses on the strategic vision and sustainable growth of the franchise system. Prior to being named CEO in December 2018, Charles served as the Chief Development Officer for Tropical Smoothie Cafe. Under his leadership, the Tropical Smoothie Cafe system grew from 265 units to 725 units. Tropical Smoothie Cafe currently has more than 975 locations nationwide and will open its 1,000th location in 2021. A veteran franchise professional, Charles has worked for several hospitality-related companies. Charles is a graduate of The Hotel School at Cornell University and holds an MBA from The Terry School of Business at The University of Georgia.

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.

Andy Wiederhorn

President & CEO | FAT Brands

Andrew A. Wiederhorn has served as a director and President and Chief Executive Officer of FAT Brands Inc. since its formation. Andy has served as the Chairman of the board of directors and Chief Executive Officer of Fatburger North America, Inc. since 2006 and Buffalo’s Franchise Concepts, Inc. since 2011. He also served as the Chairman of the board of directors and Chief Executive Officer of Fog Cutter Capital Group Inc. since its formation in 1997. Andy previously founded and served as the Chairman of the board of directors and Chief Executive Officer of Wilshire Financial Services Group Inc. and Wilshire Credit Corporation.

Tabassum Zalotrawala

Chief Development Officer | Chipotle Mexican Grill

Tabassum Zalotrawala joined Chipotle as Chief Development Officer in December 2018. In this role, Tabassum oversees the restaurant development department which has been a driving force behind the expansion of innovative formats including the Chipotlane, which was named one of ‘The Most Innovative Architecture Projects of 2020’ by Fast Company. Prior to joining Chipotle, she spent over seven years at Panda Restaurant Group as Chief Development Officer and Vice President of Development overseeing Real Estate, Design, Construction, Facilities and Strategic Sourcing. Prior to joining Panda Restaurant Group, Ms. Zalotrawala spent over 10 years with Arby’s and Wendy’s Arbys Group in various leadership positions in Development.

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