March 20-22, 2023 | Coral Gables, FL — Early Bird registration ends Dec. 16. Register Now


Bringing Your Kitchen out of the Dark Ages

As retail space becomes more expensive, restaurants are trying to operate in smaller footprints. This means there is a constant need to reassess and evaluate new ideas surrounding cooking solutions. There are more open kitchen designs, for example, sparking the demands for flexible cooking equipment as well as more efficient equipment that can deliver against an ever-changing menu.

In this session, you’ll hear from restaurant operators who are on a mission to bring their kitchens into the future. They’ll discuss the equipment issues they’re facing, the benefits of scaling down prep areas by using commissaries and finding ways to automate back-of-the-house processes as well as what is happening with Sous Vide efforts.

Lastly, they’ll pull back the curtain on their own kitchens, giving attendees a look into what has worked best for them and what they wished they could do differently.


Alonso Castañeda | VP of Brand Development & Strategy | Savory Restaurant Fund

Alonso Castañeda is VP of Brand Development & Strategy at Savory Restaurant Fund, an arm of Mercato Partners that focuses on delivering outsized returns through strategic growth and replication strategies. He leads the strategic oversight of brand initiatives, brand campaigns, and implementation of customer-facing systems that enhance the experience for their fast-growing consumer-facing brands. During his career, he has specialized in taking fast casual and polished casual food and beverage concepts and scaling them into 50-unit+ powerhouse brands.

Matt Friedman | Co-Founder & CEO | Wing Zone

Back in 1991, finding Amazing Flavor was not so easy – especially at the University of Florida in Gainesville, FL where Matt Friedman and Adam Scott were away at school. Matt and Adam spent many a night in their fraternity house kitchen perfecting the recipes that one day would become Wing Zone’s trademark flavors. Starting with a single storefront, Matt and Adam built the Wing Zone brand, satisfying the cravings of Flavorholics in other towns, states and now, worldwide. Today, Matt and Adam are among the few ever to be inducted in the Buffalo Wing Hall of Flame. Wing Zone now has nearly 100 locations.

Josh Halpern | CEO | Big Chicken

Josh Halpern is the Chief Executive Officer for Big Chicken. Josh is a dynamic, partnership-focused, thought leader with a robust career in streamlining efficiency, driving innovation, building diverse engaged teams, and growing economic results across the CPG, retail, and restaurant verticals. Most recently, Josh served as the Chief Sales Officer for FIFCO USA, the 8th largest US brewing company, where he was responsible for commercial operations and building top and bottom-line results for Off-Premise, On-Premise, and company-owned brewpubs. Prior, Josh led the Anheuser-Busch InBev, On-Premise and Small Format channels in the US, and Shopper Marketing globally.

Kevin Kilgore | VP, Design & Construction | Focus Brands

Kevin Kilgore has a 30-year Design and Construction background with various restaurants and retailers, architects and developers. As Vice President of Design and Construction for Focus Brands, Kevin leads all design initiatives for the portfolio’s restaurant brands and has oversight on all East coast development. Prior to joining Focus Brands, he was Director of Construction for Jim N Nicks BAR-B-Q, with oversight on all design, entitlement, due diligence and construction activities for the brand. His prior experience includes Director of Construction for Steak N Shake, Senior Program Manager for Chick-fil-A, Director of Construction for CVS/pharmacy, and various other project management positions with developers and architects.

Eric Marcoux | VP, Quality Management | Smashburger

Eric Marcoux is the Vice President of Quality Management for Smashburger, where he is responsible for the oversight of Quality Assurance, R&D, Operations platform design, Guest experience, Restaurant safety & sanitation and Crisis management. He has been a member of the Smashburger team since 2012 taking on various rolls within the organization. Eric has been in the food business for the past 20+ years with experience ranging from regulatory compliance, consulting and restaurant operations. He has a Bachelor of Science degree in Environmental Health with an emphasis on microbiology from Cal State Northridge.

Nels Storm | Senior Director – Culinary | AMC Theatres

Nels Storm is the Sr. Director of Culinary for the world’s largest film exhibition company, AMC Entertainment, where he leads product development and equipment identification efforts across AMC’s portfolio of brands including AMC, AMC Classic, and AMC DINE-IN. Nels combines strong cross-industry knowledge backed by years of culinary, operations, and development experience with brands like ARAMARK, Caribou Coffee, and the Minnesota Vikings Football Club, with the uniquely innovative mindset he brings to the world of theatre dining, this has yielded concepts like AMC Red Kitchen, AMC’s first Fast Casual concept, and AMC Feature Fare, the largest concession stand innovation in the history of the industry.


Scott Heim | President | Middleby Ventless Solutions & Evo America

Scott Heim is President of Middleby Ventless Solutions and Evo America. In this position he leads the efforts of all the Middleby commercial brands with ventless cooking solutions. He is concentrating on educating designers, architects and customers on a variety of ventless concepts, especially focusing on ways to create pockets of F&B revenue in non-traditional locations and even in historical buildings. Scott joined Evo, Inc. in 2012, sparking the product development work in the griddle, plancha and cooktop segments. He directed the launch of the EVent ventless griddle in 2015. Prior to joining Evo, he created a consumer packaged goods firm which was successful in a competitive retail market.

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