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BREAKOUT SESSION / THURSDAY / AUGUST 12, 2021 / 11:00 AM

Thinking Like a Retailer for Post-Pandemic Growth

As customer demand plummeted during the pandemic, restaurants weathered severe declines in growth and profitability. Now it’s time to build back better. Just as the retail industry quickly innovated to survive consumers’ widespread adoption of e-commerce, this expert panel will examine key strategies restaurants can use to thrive in an age of unprecedented industry disruption.

PANELISTS

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.

Rishi Nigam | Co-Founder & CEO | Franklin Junction

Rishi Nigam is a Georgia native with over 20 years of hospitality and retail experience. He is the CEO and co-founder of Franklin Junction, an e-commerce platform that allows kitchens to optimize excess infrastructure capacity by serving as a Host Kitchen for other proven restaurant brands. Prior to the launch of Franklin Junction in 2020, Rishi helmed the turnaround efforts for an award-winning airport concessions firm as they achieved record profitability and completed a successful management-led buyout of the founders. The foundation of Rishi’s career comes from non-traditional hospitality operations. Rishi led the rebuilding of the concessions, hospitality, and retail lines of business as a Vice President with NASCAR.

James Walker | SVP, Restaurants | Nathan’s Famous

James Walker, CFE, is a top restaurant industry expert with a specialty in rebranding and repositioning iconic American comfort food brands. James is an industry-leading authority in restaurant trends, including, Delivery and off-premises, Ghost Kitchens, Virtual Brands and leading through macro events like COVID-19. He specializes in mergers & acquisitions, domestic and international development, operations, franchising, and new product development. With more than 30 years of broad based, senior level, management experience in the hospitality and retail industries, James has served as President, Chief Development Officer, as well as in Senior Operations and New Product Development positions, for brands such as Baja Fresh, Cinnabon, Johnny Rockets and Subway.

Alex Williams | Chief Brand Officer | Moe’s Southwest Grill

Alex Williams joined Moe’s Southwest Grill with nearly 30 years of leadership experience in both food and beverage and oil and gas industries. Across several national brands, Alex has expertise in franchising, operations, and innovation – all while driving business results in competitive environments. Most recently, while Alex was at Bloomin’ Brands, he was the Regional Vice President of the Outback Steakhouse brand in the Midwest region supporting more than 100 restaurants and also served as Vice President of Operations for Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse nationally. Prior to joining Bloomin’ Brands, Alex spent 11 years at McDonald’s Corporation leading future innovation across 10,000 restaurants in the U.S.

MODERATOR

Sharon Napier | Chair & Founder | Partners + Napier

Named one of Ad Age’s 100 Most Influential Women in Advertising, Sharon Napier oversees all executive leadership at Partners + Napier, an integrated creative company best known for amplifying food and beverage brands. Partners + Napier’s clientele includes established and fast-growing franchises like Smashburger, CoreLife Eatery, and BurgerFi, plus leading consumer and foodservice brands like Instant Pot, Pyrex, Saputo Dairy Foods, and 50+ wine, beer, and spirits in the Constellation Brands portfolio. Sharon is a frequent speaker at industry events and has appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and numerous others. She is Vice Chair of the American Association of Advertising Agencies.

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