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March 16-18, 2020 | Atlanta — Early Bird registration ends December 13. Sign up today!


MONDAY / MARCH 16, 2020

3:00 pm | Registration opens

Pizza Showdown on the Hot Rocks Plaza

Sample NY style and deep-dish pizza and vote for your favorite!


4:00 pm | Welcome

Opening Remarks

• Cherryh Cansler | VP of Editorial | Networld Media Group

4:10 pm | Keynote Session

Session Topic – Coming Soon!

  • Sponsored by Hot Rocks Pizza Ovens

4:10 pm | Opening Keynote Session

Strategic Brand Building through Entertainment

Canadian entrepreneur Ryan Smolkin’s master goal for his franchise is GLOBAL DOMINATION! As the mastermind behind Smoke’s Poutinerie, Smolkin has always viewed the QSR as an Entertainment brand first, and restaurant second. Ryan will walk guests through a day in the life of Smoke’s Poutinerie and what it takes to build a global brand. He’ll also talk about the journey into franchising as well as the challenges faced and outcomes.

Ryan Smolkin | Founder & CEO | Smoke’s Poutinerie

  • Sponsored by Welbilt


Ryan Smolkin
Founder & CEO
Smoke’s Poutinerie

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.


TUESDAY / MARCH 17, 2020

7:00 am | Registration & Breakfast

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.


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

  • Sponsored by ADM Marketing

9:00 am | Refreshment Break

9:30 am | Breakout Session

Defending Your Turf: How to Beat all the Non-Restaurant Competition Stealing Your Customers

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.

While these nontraditional restaurant experiences are a threat, especially by catering to those trying to maintain a certain type of diet, brands can learn a lot from them.

Executives in this session will share how they are offering innovative products and customer experiences to beat these trespassers at their own games.

Chad Bailey | CMO | Pieology
Jacob Brewer | Sr. Director, Restaurant Excellence | CKE Restaurants Holdings
Mike Kupstas | President & CEO | Lion’s Choice

9:30 am | Breakout 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.

Dennie Laney | VP of Training & Development | MOOYAH Burgers Fries and Shakes

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

  • 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.

Zaid Ayoub | Founder & CEO | SAJJ Mediterranean
Tanvir Bhangoo | VP of Technology | Freshii

  • Sponsored by GetUpside

12:00 pm | General Session

Lunch & Learn

  • Sponsored by Middleby Corporation

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.

Nicole Bushnell | CMO | Garden Fresh Restaurants
Alex Canter | CEO | Ordermark
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.

Michael Mohammed | CEO | Chronic Tacos
Jamie Powell | VP Menu Design & Development | Burgerville

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.

  • 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.

Frank Belatti | Managing Partner | Equicorp Partners, LLC
Steven Chan | Founder & CEO | Tin Drum Asian Kitchen
Erik Hess | President | Moe’s Southwest Grill

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.

Ken Lineberger | Founder & President | Waters Edge Wineries

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
Jim Thompson | VP of Operations | Chicken Salad Chick

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.

  • Sponsored by Hot Rocks Pizza Ovens

6:00 – 9:00 pm | Dinner Party

Kentucky Derby Museum

Experience the ‘Fastest Two Minutes in sports’ at the Kentucky Derby Museum—Where Every Day is Derby Day!

After a full day of informative and inspiring sessions, get ready for an evening of great food and great conversation at one of the premiere attractions in the Louisville region. The Kentucky Derby Museum celebrates the tradition, history, hospitality and pride of the world-renown event that is the Kentucky Derby.

Located on the grounds of Churchill Downs where the legendary race is held annually, the museum consists of two floors of interactive exhibits, including a 360-degree theater that shows the HD video “The Greatest Race.” Through the film and exhibits, you can can learn what goes into the breeding and training of a young foal and the path it takes to the Kentucky Derby’s winner circle.

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

  • Sponsored by Welbilt


8:00 am | General Session

Breakfast Briefing


8:00 am | Breakfast Briefing

Everywhere Commerce: Delivering the Franchise Promise

• Brandon Overstreet | Brand Loyalty Innovator |  Touchpoint Restaurant Innovations

  • Sponsored by Touchpoint Restaurant Innovations


Brandon Overstreet
Brand Loyalty Innovator
Touchpoint Restaurant Innovationss

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.


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:
 CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE | Does yours measure up? Sponsored by: LSI Industries
• DATA ANALYTICS | Do you understand your KPIs? Sponsored by: Acrelec America
• DELIVERY | Integrating operations and technology Sponsored by: Checkmate
• FRANCHISING |  What is the most intelligent path to growth and what are the most common obstacles you will face to get there? Sponsored by: Winmark Franchise Partners
• KITCHEN OPS | Benefits of decreasing your restaurant building footprint Sponsored by: Polar King
• MARKETING | Are you spending too little or too much? Sponsored by: Oracle Food and Beverage
• MENU TRENDS & FOOD SAFETY | What will your customers demand in 2020 and beyond? Sponsored by: Controlant
• MOBILE | Are you providing the right platforms for your customers? Sponsored by: Forter


10:30 am | Refreshment Break

11:00 am | Breakout Session

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

James Walker | SVP, Restaurants | Nathan’s Famous

Courtney Cotrupe | CEO | 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

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.

Nicolas Boudet | President – International | Wingstop Restaurants
Joe Guith | President | McAlister’s Deli
Ricky Richardson | CEO | Eggs Up Grill
Charles Watson | CEO | Tropical Smoothie Café

  • 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: 2/24/20
* 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.