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Top Questions to Ask Before you Grow

Building a new unit or adding a new franchisee is an exciting way to increase your profits, but it’s also a huge risk. This session will help ease those sleepless nights by giving you a variety of questions to ask yourself before taking the plunge. Framing the discussion around your soon-to-be next location, our experts will discuss how to know which part of town suits your concept, how to attract new customers, which dayparts to focus on and how to avoid cannibalization.


Jeff Baldwin | VP of Franchising and Development | Donatos Pizza

Jeff Baldwin is Vice President of Franchising and Development for Donatos Pizza, recently voted one of the 9 best franchises by QSR Magazine for its great products and strong metrics. He has leveraged his 23 years in real estate development and franchising to help redesign and transform a new Donatos image to enhance guest experience and begin a new path of company growth beyond the 155 restaurants open today. The company philosophy, “Every Piece is Important”, is a great indicator of the culture of people and care for its products. Beyond serving great pizza, the company has a strong sense of family and desire to give back to the community.

Tim Muir | Chief Development Officer | FOCUS Brands

Tim Muir joined FOCUS Brands in January, 2017, bringing more than 25 years of successful franchise sales and development experience to the organization as its first-ever Chief Development Officer. Known throughout the industry as an effective, hands-on leader, before joining FOCUS Brands, Tim successfully managed signature brands as Vice President, Franchise Sales and Development for Choice Hotels. Prior to Choice Hotels, Tim served as the Senior Vice President of Franchise Sales and Development for Wyndham Hotel Group, where he effectively directed new construction brands in North America and led an aggressive, strategic approach to create new growth opportunities.

Berge Simonian | Co-Founder & CEO | Salata

At the age of 19, Berge moved from Lebanon to the US, landing at the Dallas-Fort Worth airport with almost nothing. In 1979, Berge relocated to Houston to help his parents manage their struggling deli. He eventually opened his own cafeteria-style restaurant in downtown Houston in 1989. After noticing the growing popularity of the restaurant’s salad bar, he dedicated the next few years researching and developing the concept that would become Salata. Berge’s leadership as the visionary co-founder and CEO over the past twelve years, has expanded the brand to more than 60 locations in 8 major markets.

Jim Thompson | 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.


Stephen Polanski | Senior Vice President | Buxton

As senior vice president, Stephen holds a leadership position within Buxton’s retail consulting division. For more than nine years Stephen has built relationships with retail, restaurant, and franchise clients to help them identify ways to solve business challenges using customer analytics. Stephen’s clients include Wingstop, Regis Salons, ALFA Insurance, Checkers and Rally’s, and Huddle House. He has spoken at industry conferences such as the Restaurant Franchising & Innovation Summit, Restaurant Leadership Conference, and Restaurant Finance & Development Conference. Before joining Buxton, Stephen was as a professional golfer. He received his bachelor’s degree in business management from Texas Christian University.

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