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


Mastering Multi-Unit Expansion

It obviously makes sense to grow your brand via franchise partners you already have, but how do you know which of your franchisees are up for the challenge?

This session will help you evaluate the skills and knowledge of existing partners to see which ones have what it takes to help you expand the brand.

But that’s only half the equation; you must also do your part. Our experts will also help you discover what your company needs in order to support multi-unit ownership.


Nicole Di Pietro | Vice President | Jeremiah’s Italian Ice

Nicole Di Pietro joined Jeremiah’s Italian Ice in 2016 as Vice President, to assist in positioning the company for growth. She has been instrumental in developing the company’s Core Values, Mission and Vision, along with the current infrastructure. She has successfully added elements of culture, accountability, and process to the brand, delivering excellent financial results. Her experience has brought new insight to the Jeremiah’s Executive Team, leading to the successful opening of 5 additional company owned locations in 2018, while maintaining positive sales growth and increased profitability across the company. In 2019, Nicole aided in further expanding the Jeremiah’s brand with the launch of the Franchising program.

Rafik Farouk | Senior Director of Global Business Development | PF Changs

Rafik Farouk is the senior director of Global Business Development for P.F. Chang’s. In his role with the international Asian culinary brand, he helps guide international growth strategy and oversees expansion of a company that has more than 300 restaurants in 23 countries and U.S. airport locations. Prior to P.F. Chang’s Rafik served as the Senior Director of Development and Operations at Bloomin’ Brands Inc., where he managed the international franchisees’ development and supported of the global operations as part of the Global Development Team. During his tenure with Bloomin’ Brands, he worked to launch the Aussie Grill by Outback, the first fast-casual concept in company history.

Mahesh Sadarangani | COO | Wingstop

Mahesh G. Sadarangani has served as Wingstop’s Chief Operating Officer since January 2020. Mahesh joined Wingstop in July 2019 as SVP of Channels and has more than 20 years of operational leadership experience. Mahesh previously held executive roles at CEC Entertainment, the parent company for Chuck E. Cheese and Peter Piper Pizza; where he most recently served as Chief Administrative Officer of CEC Entertainment and President of the Peter Piper Pizza brand leading strategy, revenue management, supply chain, and operations. Previous executive roles include the leadership of financial planning and analysis, sales, and various strategic functions across a range of industries and companies.

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.

Jim Perkins | VP of International Development & Support | Dickey’s Barbecue Pit

Jim Perkins serves as Vice President of International Development & Support for Dickey’s Barbecue Restaurants, Inc. Jim has vast experience in restaurant and convenience store management and has worked specifically in operations, development, training and financial roles for brands all over the world including Papa Murphy’s, Exxon Mobil and MAM Food Co. Jim graduated from Purdue University and earned his Bachelor of Science in Mathematics and Bachelor of Arts in Spanish. He later went on to further develop his Spanish speaking skills in Sevilla, Spain at the Windsor Institute of Languages. In addition, Jim is the author of the book titled Beyond Bodegas.

Jim Stevens | President | Golden Chick

In 2019, Jim Stevens was appointed as president of Golden Chick, a fast casual chicken restaurant chain with over 185 locations across Texas, Oklahoma, Florida and South Carolina. Jim, a current shareholder of Golden Chick, also currently owns and operates five locations as the president of Prosperity Brands, LLC. Prior to joining the Golden Chick family, he spent time as the chief operating officer of Yoshinoya America, the executive VP of Checkers Drive-In Restaurants, Inc., and the chief operating officer of Captain D’s, LLC (Captain D’s and Grandy’s). From 1999 to 2010, Steven served in various positions for Arby’s Restaurant Group.


Michael Manlapas | VP of Partnerships | Revel Systems

Michael Manlapas is the VP of Partnerships at Revel Systems. Michael brings more than 20 years of experience in the retail technology industry to Revel. Prior to joining Revel Michael served as the US General Manger for Metapack, an eCommerce shipping solution which was acquired by and as the VP of Business Development for Retailnext, where he launched their international business units. Michael started his career in retail technology with nearly 15 years at Radiant Systems and BlueCube Software serving the retail, QSR and entertainment industries.

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