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February 22-24, 2021 | Atlanta – Registration is open. Sign up today!



3:00 pm | Registration opens

4:00 pm | Welcome

Opening Remarks

• Cherryh Cansler | VP of Editorial | Networld Media Group

4:10 pm | Keynote Session

Driving Innovation and Growth

Kat Cole will share her personal and professional lessons in business growth, innovation and leadership. She will provide concrete takeaways on how to partner with stakeholders, prioritize what matters and stay close to your customer. Kat will also cover how to implement changes that positively impact the business in constrained operating environments and competitive marketplaces.

Kat Cole | COO & President, North America | Focus Brands


Kat Cole
COO & President, North America
Focus Brands

5:00 pm | Group Activity

Community Give-Back Party

Join us for a Community Give-Back Party, where for one hour we will make care packs (such as hand wipes, toothbrushes, hand sanitizers, water, snacks, tissues and feminine products) for the homeless. Last year our efforts benefited 2,500 families! This year, our partner is Safe House, a non-profit that serves the Atlanta-area homeless community.


6:00 – 8:00 pm | Networking

Opening Reception

Join us at the start of the Summit for a chance to network with attendees, speakers and sponsors over cocktails and hors d’oeuvres.

Brian Whitney | VP, Sales | Appetize

  • Sponsored by Appetize


7:00 am | Registration & Breakfast

7:45 am | Breakfast Briefing

Transforming the Restaurant IT Network with SD-Branch

• Chase Mullican | Regional Director of Sales |  Netsurion

  • Sponsored by Netsurion

8:00 am | General Session

Executive Perspectives: Inspiration for Today’s Restaurant Leaders

In this session, you will hear three short, thought-provoking talks that will leave you challenged and inspired.


Linking Your Hidden Data to Drive More Guest Visits
Stephen Farr-Jones | President | ADM Marketing

Changing Food Culture from the Inside Out
Mindy Armstrong | Director of Menu Strategy & Product Innovation | Buffalo Wild Wings

Brand Evolution: The intersection of innovation and legacy
Cheikh Mboup | President & COO | Edible Arrangements

How NOT to Be a Hot Concept
Mike Speck | CEO | Asian Box

  • Sponsored by ADM Marketing

9:00 am | Refreshment Break

9:30 am | General Session

Using Mobile Marketing to Defend Your Turf

Competition for customer dollars is steeper than ever as brands are not only going head to head with one another but also with grocery stores, gas stations and subscription meal services.

There’s no doubt that these nontraditional restaurant experiences are a threat, but luckily fast casuals have a weapon at their disposal, and it’s mobile marketing.

Whether it’s finding their nearest location in mobile search or seeing an offer shared by their friend, mobile influences 56% of all offline transactions.

Executives in this session will share how they’re using mobile marketing techniques to protect their piece of the fast casual turf.

Nicole Bushnell | CMO | Garden Fresh Restaurants
Steve Felson | Vice President of Operations | Bonchon
Mike Kupstas | President & CEO | Lion’s Choice

9:30 am | General Session

Are You Protecting Your Frontline?

Nothing stands between customers and your frontline employees, so staff must be equipped with the proper tools and social skills to handle an ever-increasing demanding consumer.

This session will show you how to teach your employees how to handle customer demands and complaints without feeling abused in the process.

Jeff Fenster | Founder & CEO | Everbowl
Dennie Laney | VP of Training & Development | MOOYAH Burgers Fries and Shakes
David McDougall | CEO | Your Pie Franchising, LLC

Cherryh Cansler | VP of Editorial | Networld Media Group

10:30 am | Refreshment Break

11:00 am | Breakout Session

Taming the Beast: How to Make Third-Party Delivery Your Ally

Delivery is a must-have these days, but there are still so many questions surrounding how to do it successfully. Do you hire in-house drivers or work with third-party platforms? Which are the easiest in which to partner? Which take too much off the top? How can you integrate them into your existing systems? How can you ensure that your food arrives in good shape?

Those are just a few questions that our experts will answer.

Chris Birkinshaw | CEO | Aloha Poke Co.
Sam Brewer | Project Lead, Restaurant Design | Chick-fil-A
Justin McCoy | VP of Marketing | Cousins Subs

Vishal Agarwal | Founder & CEO | ItsACheckmate

  • Sponsored by ItsaCheckmate

11:00 am | Breakout Session

Using Technology to Acquire NEW Customers

We’ve all heard the stats about how it costs more to attract new customers than to keep old ones, but that doesn’t mean you should forget about introducing your brand to newcomers.

This session will offer tech-savvy tips and tricks to help you not only entice first-timers to give your brand a chance but also how to make the most out of that first impression.

Tanvir Bhangoo | VP of Technology | Freshii
Dan Gertsacov | Global Chief Marketing Officer | Focus Brands
Desi Saran | Founder & CEO | Sweetberry Bowls
Paul Webster | VP Business Development | Livit Design & Fast Fine Restaurant Group (1889/V)

12:00 pm | Lunch  & Learn

Dispelling the Myths and Skepticism Surrounding Ventless Kitchens

Scott Heim | President | Middleby Ventless Solutions & Evo America

  • Sponsored by Middleby Corporation


Scott Heim
Middleby Ventless Solutions & Evo America

1:15 pm | Breakout Session

Appealing to Shifts in Consumer Behavior: Rethinking Your Physical Layout

Between now and 2023, restaurant delivery is projected to grow at more than three times the rate of on-premise sales. Online food delivery market will grow from $35 billion globally today to $365 billion by 2030.

Will this aggressive shift in consumer behavior make you rethink your physical store layout? Is the need for a large seating capacity shrinking? We will take a look at how kitchen and seating layouts are drastically changing to accommodate off-premise.

Alex Canter | CEO | Ordermark
Ross Franklin | Founder & CEO | Pure Green
Beto Guajardo | President | Schlotzsky’s

Ben Lawrence | Aziz Hashim Professor of Franchise Entrepreneurship | Georgia State University

  • Sponsored by Ordermark

1:15 pm | Breakout Session

Cannabis-Infused Cauliflower Crust With Vegan Cheese: Wait, Is That a Thing?

If you haven’t heard of Cannabis-Infused Cauliflower Crust with Vegan Cheese, don’t worry, it’s not a new menu trend. We made it up, but would you be surprised if it were all the rage? Customers’ obsession with trying the newest craze [think CBD] before everyone else is forcing chefs to add dramatic flares to the menu, but when is it too much?

This session will explore the latest menu trends and when or if brands should implement them.

Julie Lim | EVP of Foodservice | CAULIPOWER
Michael Mohammed | CEO | Chronic Tacos
Chef Dave Woolley | Director of Deliciousness | Buffalo Wild Wings

Mindy Armstrong | Director of Menu Strategy & Product Innovation | Buffalo Wild Wings

2:15 pm | Refreshment Break

2:30 pm | Breakout Session

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.

Downing Barber | Founder & CEO | Barberitos
Rafik Farouk | Sr. Director New Franchise Development | Bloomin’​ Brands
Kurtis Galyen | VP of New Store Openings | Dickey’s Barbecue Pit
Jim Perkins | VP of International Development & Support | Dickey’s Barbecue Pit
Jim Stevens | President | Golden Chick

Chris Lybeer | Chief Strategy Officer | Revel Systems

  • Sponsored by Revel Systems

2:30 pm | Breakout Session

How to Know When It’s Time for Your Franchise to Grow Up

Loyal customers love everything about their favorite brands from the food and atmosphere to the logo and tone of marketing materials, but how does that change as they enter different phases of their lives? And will they outgrow you if you don’t grow with them?

Branding and marketing experts will help you decide if your business is ready to move on to the next stage whether that means implementing a total rebrand, enhancing your social media presence or adding a bit of creativity to the menu.

Nicole Bushnell | CMO | Garden Fresh Restaurants
Steven Chan | Founder & CEO | Tin Drum Asian Kitchen
Ellen Hartman | CEO | Hartman Public Relations – Crisis Management & Public Relations Expert
David McDougall | CEO | Your Pie Franchising, LLC

Frank Belatti | VP of Operations | Irish Beef, an Arby’s Franchisee

3:30 pm | Refreshment Break

4:00 pm | Breakout Session

Solving Labor Woes

Managing labor is time-consuming and expensive but takes frustration to a new level when you add in the ongoing changes regarding employment rulings and laws.

From minimum wage to health care issues, this session will provide an update on labor laws facing the restaurant industry as well as offer best practices on hiring and managing workers.

Drew French | Founder & President | Your Pie
Ken Lineberger | Founder & President | Waters Edge Wineries
David Webber | Operating Partner | Taziki’s Mediterranean Cafe

Scott Absher | Co-Founder & CEO | ShiftPixy

  • Sponsored by ShiftPixy

4:00 pm | Breakout Session

Keeping Your Franchisees Healthy and Happy

So you’ve found the perfect franchise partner, but now what? Hear from franchisees and franchisors who learned (sometimes, the hard way) how to successfully onboard and train franchisees to ensure solid partnerships. After all, nobody wants an unhappy franchisee.

Roger David | President & CEO | GSR Brands
Michelle Rowan | President & COO | Franchise Business Review
Jim Thompson | VP of Operations | Chicken Salad Chick

Stacey Kane | Restaurant Marketing Consultant

6:00 – 9:00 pm | Offsite Dinner Party

The Painted Pin

After a full day of informative and inspiring sessions, get ready for an evening of great food, conversation and fun at The Painted Pin!

The Painted Pin is an upscale boutique bar, bowling and entertainment venue with 20 full-service lanes in an industrial warehouse space in the heart of Buckhead’s Miami Circle. In addition to bowling, complimentary classic interactive games including indoor bocce ball, table shuffleboard, ping pong, skeeball, southern skittles, giant Jenga, bimini ring toss and oversized basketball pop-a-shots are available.

This private dinner party is included with your Summit registration at no additional cost. Transportation will be provided.



8:00 am | Breakfast

8:45 am | Breakfast Briefing

Power Your Business From Ideal to Reality

• Mandi Wooledge | VP of Sales and Marketing | Decision Logic

  • Sponsored by Decision Logic

9:00 am | General Session

Brain Exchange

The Brain Exchange breaks attendees into small groups to discuss some of the most pressing issues facing restaurant operators today. These informal group discussions allow attendees to learn from one another’s mistakes and successes.

Brain Exchange Topics:
CONTROLLING COSTS | Sponsored by MarketMan
DELIVERY | Sponsored by Restaurant365
 DRIVING TRAFFIC | Sponsored by GroundTruth
 GUEST EXPERIENCE | Sponsored by TekEfficient


10:30 am | Refreshment Break

11:00 am | Breakout Session

Connect, Diversify, Differentiate: What Restaurants Can Learn From Retail

The collapse of retail and the resulting boom in restaurants has been well documented. Now, restaurants are facing the same steady declines in growth and profitability, with too many options and not enough customers to go around. This panel of experts will examine three key strategies restaurants can use to survive and thrive in an age of industry disruption.

Paul Damico | CEO | Naf Naf Grill
Scott Davis | President & CCO | CoreLife Eatery
James Walker | SVP, Restaurants | Nathan’s Famous

Sharon Napier | Chair & Founder | Partners + Napier

  • Sponsored by Partners + Napier

11:00 am | Breakout Session

How AI Changes the Customer Experience

Remember the days when self-order kiosks, themselves, were new and exciting? Those days are long gone as today’s models include a variety of upgrades driven by artificial intelligence. Think facial recognition, voice ordering and fingerprint and palm scanners, all of which can be used to not only enhance the customer’s ordering experience but to also manage loyalty programs.

This session will offer an overview of how feasible these technologies are today.

Robert Blackwell | VP, Major & Strategic Accounts | PDQ Signature Systems
Aaron Noveshen | Founder & President | Starbird & Culinary Edge Ventures
Todd Speicher | Chief Revenue Officer | NGDATA

Elliot Maras | Editor | Kiosk Marketplace & Vending Times

  • Sponsored by PDQ Signature Systems

12:00 pm | Lunch

12:45 pm | Breakout Session

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 | Four Foods Group
Matt Friedman | Co-Founder & CEO | Wing Zone
Eric Marcoux | VP, Quality Management | Smashburger
Nels Storm | Senior Director – Culinary | AMC Theatres

Scott Heim | President | Middleby Ventless Solutions & Evo America

  • Sponsored by Middleby Corporation

12:45 pm | Breakout Session

Local-Store Marketing: The Key to Making Your Restaurant the ‘Place to Be’

It’s no secret that getting involved in your local communities helps generate traffic and sales gains. What’s hard, however, is understanding the best way to connect with your neighbors. Funds are limited, so you have to make choices on where and how you invest. Event sponsorships, product promotion, social media and engaging with schools in your area are just a few avenues to explore. This panel of experts will discuss what’s worked for them as well as mistakes they’d avoid in the future.

Brett Campbell | Vice President, Field Marketing | Tropical Smoothie Cafe
Stacey Kane | Restaurant Marketing Consultant
Bryan Lewis | Founder | Press Waffle Co.
Kyle Noonan | Owner & CEO | Free Range Concepts

Karl Mawhinney | Chief Partnerships Officer | Huddle, Inc.

  • Sponsored by Huddle Tickets

1:45 pm | Refreshment Break

2:00 pm |  General Session

Franchising Think Tank

This panel, packed with CEOs and franchisors, will talk about the latest issues of the day and what it takes to succeed in franchising.

Joe Guith | President | McAlister’s Deli
Ricky Richardson | CEO | Eggs Up Grill
Carin Stutz | CEO | Native Foods
Charles Watson | CEO | Tropical Smoothie Café

Mark Wayne | Chief Revenue Officer | NuArx

  • Sponsored by NuArx

3:00 pm | Summit adjourns

Agenda and speakers are subject to change.


Take Your Team to the Summit!

Restaurant/Foodservice Operators who register two attendees may add a third attendee at no additional cost.

Group discount does not apply to Franchise Brokers/Consultants or Vendors.


The Westin Buckhead Atlanta

Rate: $209/night* | Deadline: 2/1/21
* Subject to availability at time of booking.

Click below to book online or call 1-800-937-8461 and mention Restaurant Franchising & Innovation Summit.


Starting at under $7,000

Sponsoring the Summit will put you in meaningful conversations with executives in your target market.

Download the Sponsor Prospectus to learn more.