CNN Commentator & Best-Selling Author
Mel Robbins is best known for delivering one of the most popular TEDxTalk’s in the world: “How To Stop Screwing Yourself Over”. Mel’s provocative and compelling views on leadership, courage and human potential have earned her international attention and invitations to train executive teams at some of the world’s leading brands such as The PGA Tour, PwC, CISCO Systems, Johnson & Johnson, and Chase Business.
Mel is an award-winning on-air analyst for CNN and drives millions of page views for CNN.com as one of their most prolific opinion writers. She’s been named “America’s Outstanding Talk Show Host” by The Gracie Awards and has hosted original shows for A&E, Fox and Cox Media. She’s appeared as an expert on a wide range of talk shows, from Oprah to Dr. Phil, Fox News to Good Morning America. Mel is a contributing editor for SUCCESS Magazine and is continually featured in publications like The New York Times and Inc. Magazine.
President & CEO | A&W Restaurants
Kevin Bazner is a 47-year veteran of the restaurant industry and has been with A&W Restaurants for 24 years. In 1988, Kevin took over the International Division of A&W, based out of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. In 2000 he was made President and COO served in this role until 2003 when Yum! Brand’s purchased the brand. Kevin then served as President and COO of Smoothie King Corp. He returned to A&W as President and CEO in October, 2011. Kevin is committed to the long-term development of the iconic 97-year-old chain and continues to head the day-to-day operations and development of A&W’s International business.
Director of Editorial | Networld Media Group
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.
CEO | Rave Restaurant Group
As CEO, Crane is the big cheese at Rave Restaurant Group, Inc. He joined Rave in January 2017, charged with driving culture, growth and success at both Pie Five Pizza Co. and Pizza Inn. An entrepreneur at an early age, Crane honed his food chops leading some of the most well-known brands in the industry. He most recently served as President and Chief Executive Officer of Smashburger, where he led its development from a two-unit start up concept in 2007 to a global company with more than 330 locations. Previously, Crane was Executive Vice President at Fugate Enterprises, Inc., one of the largest Pizza Hut franchisees in the country, where he was responsible for the operation of 210 Pizza Hut units, in addition to Taco Bell, Wing Street, Sonic and Blockbuster Video locations.
VP of Culinary | Moe’s Southwest Grill
Jason Dowd is a seasoned Vice President of Culinary and Research & Development Corporate Executive Chef with the unique combination background of Fine Dining Culinary experience and Fast Casual Operations knowledge, with the ability to draw these skill sets to add value for the customer, culinary & beverage team, company, and community. As Corporate Executive Chef, Vice President of Moe’s Southwest Grill Jason is bringing his passion of Southwest flavors to life for the 650+ current Moe’s restaurant locations. This opportunity allows Jason to work with the Focus Brand’s cross functional leadership teams and draw on his Fine Dining culinary background for flavor development and creative thinking, as well as his Operations experience to create highly satisfying and sales driving dishes for Moe’s Southwest Grill guests.
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.
Corporate Executive Chef | McAlister’s Deli
William Eudy brings more than 20 years of culinary experience to his current role as Corporate Executive Chef for McAlister’s Deli, where he oversees the menu concepts and kitchen operations for the company’s 380+ 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. Chef Will’s commitment to providing fresh ingredients and consistently high-quality food and service to McAlister’s guests has been integral as the brand continues to expand its footprint across the country.
Chief Operating Officer | Uncle Maddio’s Pizza
Scott Goodrich is Chief Operating Officer for Uncle Maddio’s Pizza, an almost 50 unit in 15 states, fast casual style pizza brand with hand-crafted pizzas, salads and Foldwiches. His responsibilities include franchise field support, operational processes and procedures, training, and new store development. Scott joined the company in Feb. 2014 and is part of the Integrity Brands executive team. Scott was recruited by the Murrell Family, founders of Five Guys Burgers in Fries, in March of 2005. During his career at Five Guys, Scott developed operational procedures and policies that sustained the massive growth of the Five Guys franchise system over an 8-year career. This growth included over 200 new stores in back to back years, and brought the system store count from 25 to over 1200. Scott developed the Franchise Business Consulting program and was recognized for his ability to build true “business partner” relationships with the Five Guys’ franchisees.
President & CEO | Captain D’s
Phil Greifeld, President & CEO of Captain D’s, is a proven industry leader with a highly successful track record of growing sales and profits in fast-paced, multi-unit restaurant chains. Since taking the helm in 2010, Phil has led an exciting brand transformation of Captain D’s. In 2013 the Nashville Post named Phil its CEO of the Year. Prior to Captain D’s, he served as President & CEO of Huddle House, Inc. which evolved into a sophisticated restaurant operating company under Phil’s leadership. Prior to Huddle House, Phil co-founded a retail start-up company based in Stamford, Connecticut.
Co-Founder | I Love Bacon
Keith Hill’s first job 22 years ago, was in fast casual dining as a teenager. As he came of age, he soon moved into the challenging bar and nightclub business. He cut his teeth there, opening and helping build several very successful companies. I Love Bacon Food Truck burst onto the scene in the 1st quarter of 2014 and immediately gained notoriety with 4 “Best Food Truck In The City” awards from different organizations. ILB is currently moving into the brick & mortar business as well as adding more trucks to the fleet.
Director of Hospitality & Training | Billy Sims BBQ
As the newly appointed Director of Hospitality & Training, David Littlefield trains Billy Sims BBQ franchisee and company-owned management and crew on his proprietary formula for creating powerful and productive hospitality environments. David is the founder and creator of the Hospitality Personality Training Program and Hospitality Feedback, which he has begun implementing at Billy Sims BBQ. His Hospitality Personality Training Program is intended to motivate customer service professionals to think positively, work creatively and respond to guest’s needs with enthusiasm and passion. David’s reputation as a motivator and trainer has provided him the opportunity to earn his exemplary reputation as a turn-around specialist.
Corporate Executive Chef | Schlotzsky’s
As Corporate Executive Chef of Schlotzsky’s, owned by FOCUS Brands, Maira leads the Research and Development (R&D) Department where creation of new menu items, limited time offers (LTO’s) and directing the department are all part of her everyday tasks. In this new role under Maira’s leadership, the team will continue developing recipes and menu offerings which will be seen in over 350 locations worldwide. Prior to her current role, Chef Maira Isabel was the Executive Chef at Disney World Golf Courses and has also been featured in numerous television shows in the United Stated, Puerto Rico and throughout Latin America.
President & CEO | Back Yard Burgers
David McDougall is President and Chief Executive Officer of Back Yard Burgers, Inc., a better burger restaurant company based in Nashville, TN. After joining the company in 2013, David has led the successful turnaround of the brand through three years of revenue growth, improved unit-level economics, better franchise relations and a return to Back Yard Burgers’ roots of delivering great tasting food. David’s background includes more than 35 years of food service and franchise experience in both quick and full service, specializing in operations, development and international business. He is also a recipient of the prestigious Certified Franchise Executive designation (CFE).
Culinary Director | Asian Box
Seasoned Chef Chad Newton started Asian Box with Partner Frank Klein in 2012 to bring Palo Alto authentic, healthy Asian street food in a fine-casual environment. Since opening, Newton has helped grow the brand from a single unit to seven with plans to grow to 12 by the end of 2017. Responsible for oversight of the menu with wife and Executive Chef Grace Nguyen, Newton also oversees quality and consistency at all five locations and is responsible for opening and training staff. Newton has also played a large role in expanding the catering arm of the Asian Box business.
Founder & CEO | The Culinary Edge
A graduate of UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, Aaron Noveshen is an award-winning chef, restaurant entrepreneur, and leading authority in food product development. He is the founder of The Culinary Edge (TCE), America’s leading food innovation agency that creates and launches holistic, profitable and distinctive food and beverage experiences for both local and national brands. TCE Clients include a who’s who of the top food and restaurant companies in America such as Starbucks, Jack in the Box, AMC Theatres, Marriott, First Watch, McAlister’s Deli and Eat Smart Produce. Detailed case studies showing the direct impact of The Culinary Edge’s work can be found here. In addition to founding TCE, Aaron is also co-founder of Pacific Catch Restaurants and more recently, South Bay restaurant chain Starbird Chicken. Aaron is a Director Emeritus of the California Restaurant Association and is a former Director of the Golden Gate Restaurant Association.
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.
Co-owner | SuViche
Since 2012, Andrei has served as Chief Financial Officer for SuViche Group. During this time, Stern has been able to secure multiple investments that have aided in the rapid growth of the brand. In addition, the processes he established have led SuViche restaurants to profitability well above the restaurant industry’s average. Prior to his role as CFO Andrei managed SuViche’s first location in Brickell as Front of the House Manager. He spent time familiarizing himself with the businesses’ intricacies for each position. The experiences he gained were vital to the construction of the financial processes and models that helped SuViche become a true company. The metrics he established to track schedules, labor, expenditures, and food costs has helped the brand’s viable and sustainable development.
Chief Development Officer | McAlister’s Deli
Jeff Sturgis has nearly 20 years of experience in the areas of franchise sales, franchise development and franchise strategy. In his current role with McAlister’s Deli, Jeff is responsible for the strategic planning and execution of all franchise development activities. Prior to joining McAlister’s, Jeff was the Founder and President of Franchise System Advisors, a consulting and strategic planning firm focused on the franchise industry. At Franchise System Advisors he worked with franchisors to help them evaluate, develop and implement successful franchise sales & development strategies. Prior to founding FSA, Jeff spent 3 ½ years as the Vice President of Franchise Development for Fantastic Sams Hair Salons. Prior to Fantastic Sams, Jeff spent 4 ½ years as the Regional Vice President of Franchise Sales for FOCUS Brands. In this role, Jeff was responsible for all US franchise sales activities for Carvel Ice Cream and Cinnabon.
Owner/Founder | Biju’s Little Curry Shop
Biju Thomas is a professional chef and creator of Biju’s Little Curry Shop — a fast casual restaurant serving made-from-scratch food inspired by his youth in Kerala, South India. Biju’s Little Curry Shop is the first fast-casual concept to explore the heart and soul of Southern Indian cuisine in an easy-to-grasp and guest-friendly format. Thomas, a former competitive cyclist and author of the Feedzone cookbooks, has cooked for many top athletes in the world. Biju’s Little Curry Shop currently has four Colorado locations and was the first in-store, chef-driven concept to open in a Whole Foods Market.
VP of Operations | Chicken Salad Chick
Jim Thompson, VP of Operations at Chicken Salad Chick, has over 25 years of leading operations teams that also includes Wendy’s, Kings Family Restaurants, Papa Gino’s and D’Angelo. At Chicken Salad Chick, Jim has built operations, training and management systems from the ground up that have been integral to Chicken Salad Chick’s growth from six locations to over 65 in just three and half years. Chicken Salad Chick has earned recognition for its successful growth including being named one of Nation’s Restaurant News “Hot Concepts”, Fast Casual Magazines Top 100 in 2015 and #37 among Inc. Magazines Top 500 fastest growing US companies in 2016.
Former SVP Strategy & Chief Development Officer | Papa Murphy’s International
Jayson Tipp is a nationally-recognized and sought-after expert in consumer analytics, market strategy and execution with a reputation for converting insights into strategies that deliver results. Most recently he was Chief Development Officer for Papa Murphy’s International developing and executing growth strategies across franchise sales, real estate, and technology. Jayson also served as SVP, Marketing for PMI while the organization posted 14 consecutive quarters of sales growth. Prior to PMI, Jayson served in analytics and strategy roles for redbox, Potbelly Sandwich Works, and Starbucks. Jayson also has a 25 year career as a semi-professional jazz composer, performer and recording artist with his band Under The Lake.
Digital Marketing Manager | Pie Five Pizza Co.
As the original member of the Circle of Crust, Kimberly Turman brings over a decade of restaurant experience to her role as Digital Marketing Manager at Pie Five Pizza Co. The most crustworthy of the bunch, Turman directs the digital content strategy for the leading fast casual pizza brand including email and digital campaigns, web content and manages all social media channels. In addition, she is a geo-targeting ninja and specializes in creating a hyperlocal presence for franchise and corporate locations. Under Turman’s direction, Pie Five utilizes its 300,000 members of the Circle of Crust program to survey members on promotions, flavor profiles and consumer data that allows Pie Five to consistently WOW customers.