Andrew Gruel, a graduate of Johnson & Wales University, is CEO and Founder of Slapfish Restaurant Group, the award-winning food truck turned international brick and mortar, based out of Huntington Beach, CA. Andrew has appeared on multiple television series including his most recent role as a judge on the show “Food Truck Face Off.” He has made appearances on the TODAY show, PBS and the Cooking Channel, as well as having been featured in numerous publications including The Wall Street Journal, Men’s Health, Food & Wine Magazine, Entrepreneur and Restaurant Business. In 2013, he was named as one of the top 40 under 40 entrepreneurs in Orange County. Andrew’s love of the ocean drove him to direct a non-profit project at The Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, CA called “Seafood for the Future.” In this role, he worked with hundreds of chefs, fisherman and like-minded organizations, establishing a national culinary awareness for the sustainable seafood movement.
With over 20 years of food and beverage marketing experience, Barry Westrum joined International Dairy Queen as EVP of Marketing in February 2012. Previously he had 17 years of experience leading several concepts within Yum! Brands, most recently at KFC as Chief Marketing Officer. Prior to KFC, Barry served as CMO at A&W and Long John Silver’s brands. Additionally, he was the dean of the YUM! Know How and Innovation Center, Yum’s global center for leadership and marketing training and development. Barry also held various marketing leadership roles at Taco Bell, including field marketing, brand communications, new product development and brand marketing and strategy.
Founder and Head Chef | The Chickery
Since graduating from the Culinary Institute of America, David Adjey has worked as a celebrity personal chef and as the chef proprietor of his own fine dining restaurant in Toronto. He has also starred in two series on Food Network Canada – Restaurant Makeover and The Opener – and has made appearances on other shows, such as Iron Chef America. David was named on the Nation’s Restaurant News 2015 Power List Reader Picks, an annual list of the foodservice industry’s most influential players. He also co-founded and crafted the menu for The Chickery in 2012, with the vision of giving a facelift to traditional QSR chicken.
Director of Franchise Development | Which Wich
Connie Alires is Director of Franchise Development for Which Wich Superior Sandwiches. Connie has been on the development side of franchising in the QSR industry since 2004. She has worked with both large and small franchisors where she has been instrumental in driving value for companies through a balance of growth and productivity. Her focus on all aspects of the franchise recruitment process has led to sustainable revenue, profit and market performance in traditional and non-traditional development. She has an unmatched passion for franchising. In 2009 she obtained her Certified Franchise Executive credentials (CFE) from the International Franchise Association.
COO | Crest Foods, Inc. (franchisor of Nestlé Toll House Café by Chip)
Shawnon Bellah is Chief Operating Officer of Crest Foods, Inc., franchisor of the successful Nestlé Toll House Café by Chip concept. Shawnon began her career with Razzoo’s Cajun Café before moving to Metromedia Restaurant Group in 2001. She worked in Bennigan’s franchise operations until 2008, when she was hired as Director of Training and Menu Development for Nestlé Toll House Café. Shawnon served as VP of Operations and SVP of Global Operations before becoming COO in 2015. She also initiated the opening and growth of the concept in the Middle East and Canada. She was featured on CBS’ “Undercover Boss” in December 2015.
Founder and CEO | The Pie Hole
Sean Brennan is Founder and CEO of The Pie Hole. He lives with his wife and daughter in Los Angeles where he and his partner, Matty Heffner, operate the multi-unit pie and coffee concept. Sean has been in and out of the culinary world since his first busboy job at age 14. His upbringing in Wisconsin laid the background for his philosophies on modesty, customer service and work ethic. Sean has 20 years of service and organizational leadership experience, is a Fulbright scholar and has an undergraduate degree in education and a master’s degree in organizational development.
Director of Editorial | Networld Media Group
Before joining Networld Media Group as Director of Editorial, where she oversees NetWorld Media Group’s nine B2B publications, Cherryh Cansler served as Content Specialist at Barkley ad agency in Kansas City. Throughout her 17-year career as a journalist, she’s written about a variety of topics, ranging from the restaurant industry and technology to health and fitness news. Her byline has appeared in a plethora of newspapers, magazines and websites, including Forbes, The Kansas City Star and American Fitness magazine. She also serves as the managing editor for FastCasual.com.
Senior Vice President of Innovation | Manitowoc Foodservice
Rick Caron is Senior Vice President of Innovation for Manitowoc Foodservice. He was previously the CTO at Manitowoc, and at Enodis before it was acquired by Manitowoc in 2008. Among Rick’s many career accomplishments has been the development of Manitowoc’s renowned Education and Technology Center. The “ETC” regularly hosts ideation and innovation sessions for leading operators such as McDonald’s, Chick-Fil-A and Brinkers. Rick had previously served as CEO of the Moseley Corporation, President & CEO of TurboChef, and Managing Director at Arthur D. Little, a global consulting firm. Rick holds an MS and BS in Chemical Engineering from MIT, and a variety of patents for foodservice equipment.
Founding Partner | Cheng Cohen LLC
Ric Cohen is a seasoned business and commercial litigator and trial lawyer. He represents clients in state and federal trial and appellate courts across the country as well as in alternative dispute resolution forums such as arbitration and mediation. Ric has extensive experience in the areas of antitrust, intellectual property, valuation, technology and finance, among others. He has helped franchisors develop programs to protect and enforce their intellectual property rights like trademarks and trade secrets, and he regularly defends franchisors against fraud, breach of contract, good faith and fair dealing, tortious interference, registration and disclosure violations and similar claims.
Global Chief Digital Officer | Pizza Hut
Baron Concors is Global Chief Digital Officer for Pizza Hut, an operating company of Yum! Brands, Inc. He is responsible for driving digital innovation across marketing, technology and partnerships to ensure Pizza Hut stays front and center with its technology connected consumers. Prior to this role, he was the CIO for Yum! Restaurants International where he was responsible for KFC and Pizza Hut technology for over 30,000 restaurants in over 120 countries. Before becoming CIO for Yum!, he was Chief Information and Digital Officer for Pizza Hut US. In 2009, Forbes Magazine named the Pizza Hut iPhone application the #1 branded mobile app of the year and Baron was named by Computerworld Magazine as one of the 100 Premier Technology Leaders in the world.
VP of Store Development | Which Wich
Jeremy Cook is VP of Store Development for Which Wich Superior Sandwiches. He leads a development team, handling all new store development, real estate, design, equipment and signage for the brand. Since joining the Which Wich team in February 2013, Jeremy has been integral in growing the real estate and construction departments, contributing to the opening of 400+ stores, and the introduction of cutting-edge initiatives like drive thru kiosks and remote ordering. Prior to joining Which Wich, Jeremy served as VP of Real Estate at Kahala Brands, a restaurant franchising group with brands such as Cold Stone, Pinkberry, Blimpie and Frulatti Café.
Founder and CEO | Globig.co
Anke Corbin is Founder and CEO of Globig.co, an international marketplace that provides global on-demand knowledge, digital tools, resources, vendors and connections for product managers, marketers, technology startups, operations and HR teams to accelerate global expansion. Her background includes executive positions in sales, marketing, product management and business development for technology startups and enterprise companies including MapQuest, Time Inc., Times Mirror Magazines, Splick.it and more. Anke has a MA in Integrated Marketing and enjoys traveling, languages, skiing, hiking, biking, cooking, and enjoying good food with family and friends.
Vice President of Product | GoodData
Bill Creekbaum is Vice President of Product at GoodData Corporation. He is focused on delivering market leading analytics distribution products and services that help customers drive their overall business network performance. Bill has been in product management and product marketing for nearly 20 years and for the past 10 has been focused on successfully delivering SaaS and cloud applications to the market. Prior to joining GoodData, Bill has worked for Oracle, Microsoft, Mindjet and more.
CEO | US Beef (franchisee of 400+ Arby’s units)
John Davis is CEO of United States Beef Corporation (US Beef), the largest franchisee in the world of the Arby’s Restaurant Group, and a franchisee of Taco Bueno Restaurants, LP. Prior to his current role as CEO, John has held various positions with the company, including President, VP of Development and Director of Operations. He has served as the 2010 chairman-elect of the Oklahoma Restaurant Association Executive Committee, and is currently an active member of the association’s board of directors. He also serves on the Arby’s Foundation Board, Arby’s Restaurant Group Building Council and Arby’s Restaurant Group President’s Council.
CIO | Dickey’s Barbecue Restaurants
Laura Rea Dickey is CIO for Dickey’s Barbecue Restaurants. She has worked in marketing and information technology for over 15 years. With an area of focus in business intelligence and aligning brand development with data insights, Laura has experience with a wide variety of clients at agencies such as Murray Brown Creative Group, The Richards Group and The Point Group. Her past clients have included Brach’s Candy, W Hotels, Texas Health Resources, American Heart Association, Blue Mesa, La Madeline, Chick-fil-A, Zom Realty, UCR and Fairfield Development. Laura specializes in the intersection of data, information technology and marketing, turning data insights into brand and business solutions.
CIO | On The Border Mexican Grill & Cantina
Jeff Dinard is Chief Information Officer for On the Border, and also oversees technology for all of the portfolio brands owned by the private investment firm, Argonne Capital. In this role, Jeff is charged with defining and setting the strategic vision for the ways in which technology will drive profitability and be a true differentiator for all of the brands. Prior to On the Border, Jeff was the VP of IT for Corner Bakery Cafe, led the front-of-house Restaurant Information Systems team at Taco Bell Corporate, and oversaw all technology initiatives for a Panera Bread franchisee in New Jersey.
VP, Franchise Development and Operations | Consolidated Restaurant Operations, Inc.
Rafik Farouk has served as CRO’s Vice President of Franchise Development and Operations since February 2005. He has worked with restaurant brands that include Chili’s Grill & Bar, El Chico, Cantina Laredo, III Forks Prime Steakhouse, Silver Fox Steakhouse, Cool River, Champs Americana, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell and Seattle’s Best Coffee, specifically in the Middle East. Rafik specializes in global restaurant operations, sourcing for international and domestic clients, and positioning brands for international and domestic growth. He has successfully leveraged his knowledge of two cultures to unite business leaders to develop and grow a variety of businesses.
Director of Public Relations and Social Media | Smashburger
National Account Manager | SCA Americas – Tork
Tracey Fullington is National Account Manager for SCA Americas. She is an accomplished sales management professional with over 20 years of experience, who is dedicated to serving restaurants in a sustainable way. Tracey promotes SCA’s line of Tork products and hygiene initiatives to national account foodservice concepts with corporate headquarters based in the Southeastern United States. Since 2007 she has been responsible for maintaining and growing a portfolio of high profile national foodservice concepts with locations that cross regional boundaries.
Director of Development | Harbor Research
Alex Glaser is Director of Development for Harbor Research and an expert in smart systems thinking and design. He is responsible for leading the firm’s marketing, operations and business development strategy. Alex also helps lead Harbor’s Smart Systems Lab program – a real world laboratory where organizations can design, prototype and test new models for delivering smart systems and services value. He has deep experience developing qualitative and quantitative research studies related to the Internet of Things and smart systems. Alex brings a passion that drives his work— that IoT can help solve big world issues like water, energy and food.
COO | Uncle Maddio’s Pizza
Scott Goodrich is the Chief Operating Officer at Uncle Maddio’s Pizza and is responsible for its operations, franchise support, training and new store development. Uncle Maddio’s Pizza has 40 restaurants in 14 states and has 300 units in development. Scott spent 10 years in operations at United and was recruited by the Murrell Family, founders of Five Guys Burgers and Fries, in March of 2005. During his career at Five Guys, Scott developed operational procedures and policies that sustained the massive growth of the Five Guys franchise system over an eight year career.
Senior Vice President, Operation Services & New Concept Development | Corner Bakery Cafe
Paul Hicks has been SVP of Operation Services & New Concept Development for Corner Bakery Café since 2015. He joined Corner Bakery Café in 1998 and served in various operations roles prior to becoming Director of Catering Operations in 2006. He was named VP of Operations Services in 2008, and was promoted to VP of Training & Operations Services in 2010. With over 20 years of industry experience, including various multi-unit roles in the QSR and fast casual segments, Paul oversees the brand’s catering program including the development and support of catering systems and processes.
President and CEO | Fazoli’s
Carl T. Howard was recruited by Sun Capital Partners to be President and CEO of Fazoli’s Restaurants, Inc. in June 2008. Carl has diligently worked to rebrand and revitalize the Fazoli’s “Fast Fresh Italian” concept. After successfully repositioning Fazoli’s, the brand was sold to Sentinel Capital Partners in 2015. Since joining Fazoli’s every sales and EBITDA record has been posted. The franchise system has been same sales positive for 67 of the last 70 months and the brand is once again growing new units. In 2016 Fazoli’s will open 12-15 new units and is expected to sign 10-15 new franchisee development agreements.
Co-Founder and President | Billy Sims BBQ
Jeff Jackson is a longtime entrepreneur and is Co-Founder and President of Billy Sims BBQ, the restaurant he created with his friend and NFL star Billy Sims. As co-founder of the restaurant, Jeff is responsible for growing the business and acquiring franchisees around the country. He started his first business venture as the owner of a sports card store in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where he first met Billy Sims. The two later went on to create Billy Sims BBQ and now have close to 50 restaurants in the U.S.
Principal | Clean Plate Consulting
Jessica James is Principal of Clean Plate Consulting; a firm specializing in helping restaurant chains connect with families and kids by providing product development, recipe development and culinary support for kids’ menus. She has spent the last ten years working as an executive chef for Kansas City based Applebee’s, creating menu items and serving more than one million people each day. Her style of innovation is fresh, approachable and rooted in her Midwest upbringing. Jessica understands the challenges working families face and tailors her product development to be fun, balanced, indulgent and memorable.
Chief Marketing Officer | East Coast Wings & Grill
Stacey Kane has more than 20 years of experience working with multi-unit restaurant chains. She joined East Coast Wings & Grill, a 35 unit brand, in early 2015 as VP of Marketing. In 2007, Stacey started at California Tortilla as VP of Marketing where she was known for her incredible creativity. Stacey also spent 11 years as a top-level media buyer for Subway restaurants. She has also serves on several boards, including the National Restaurant Association’s Marketing Executives Group Board. In 2012 and 2013, Stacey was named as one of the Top 20 Movers and Shakers by FastCasual.com.
Digital Director | Cicis Pizza
Douglas Kwong is Digital Director at Cicis Pizza, where he has refreshed and launched various online customer platforms as part of the company’s revitalization initiative. In the past year in the role, he helped to build a new responsive website with an expanded digital footprint, a new email program which doubled engagement in click-through rates, and launched a branded mobile loyalty app. Prior to joining Cicis, Douglas devised and executed online initiatives to grow exposure and e-commerce revenue at global hospitality organizations Hilton Worldwide and Choice Hotels International. He is also President and Co-Founder of the Diabetic Shoes HuB, an online retailer of orthopedic footwear and accessories.
Managing Principal | Monarch Investments Group
Senior Director of Retail Solutions | EarthLink
President and CEO | Taco John’s International
Chairman and Chief Product Development Officer | Small Box Energy
VP, Brand Programs | CSCS (Applebee’s)
Chris McNutt is Vice President of Brand Program Management, representing CSCS to the Applebee’s brand. He is responsible for support of Applebee’s new product development and testing, limited time offers, promotions and new menu introductions. Before joining CSCS, Chris served as Senior Logistics Manager for DineEquity and prior to that, Applebee’s. Prior to joining the Applebee’s Supply Chain Management team in 2006, Chris held a variety of finance and marketing positions at YRC Worldwide. Chris received his Bachelor of Science in Finance and Banking as well as a Master’s in Business Administration from the University of Missouri.
CFO | MOOYAH Burgers, Fries & Shakes
Michael Morales is Chief Financial Officer of MOOYAH Burgers, Fries & Shakes where he has been instrumental in refining and improving operations while enhancing the communication between the corporate team and franchisees in the nearly 100 unit system. Michael has served in the role since February 2014. Prior to joining MOOYAH, he served as Vice President of Finance at True North Advisors. A restaurant industry veteran and graduate of Southern Methodist University, Morales began his career with Steak n Shake and also worked on the accounting staff at Brinker International.
CFO | Pie Five Pizza Co.
Tim Mullany is Chief Financial Officer of RAVE Restaurant Group, which owns, franchises and supplies more than 275 Pie Five and Pizza Inn restaurants. Tim brings financial and strategic leadership to the company as well as a wealth of food industry experience. Prior to joining RAVE, Tim served as CFO of Restaurants Unlimited, Inc., a company that owns and operates over 20 brands across 11 states including Palomino, Henry’s Tavern, and Kincaid’s, among others. Tim was also CFO of Smashburger and Consumer Capital Partners as well as an international retail brokerage and was CEO of Mystic Entertainment Company, operating the Blue Turtle Restaurant chain.
CEO and Co-Founder | Newk’s Eatery
Chris Newcomb has a special talent for developing innovative restaurant concepts that meet consumer’s current and future needs. As a founder of McAlister’s Deli, he pioneered the fast casual restaurant concept, defining the fastest-growing segment in the industry. After establishing McAlister’s Deli, Chris and his team sold the successful chain to create the Newk’s Eatery concept. For consumers, Newk’s Eatery provides a variety of made-to-order menu choices, available for in-café dining or pick-up. For franchise owners, it’s a streamlined, low labor operation designed for efficiency, site adaptability and multiple revenue opportunities. Under the direction and leadership of Chris, Newk’s has opened over 80 locations.
CFO | Wetzel’s Pretzels
Michael Nishi joined Wetzel’s Pretzels as Chief Financial Officer in June 2014. Prior to Wetzel’s Pretzels, Nishi served as CFO for southern California-based restaurant companies including Slater’s 50/50 and Innovative Dining Group (BOA Steakhouse, Sushi Roku). He got his start in the restaurant industry in Tokyo, Japan where he lived for eight years and worked for Global-Dining, a publicly-traded, multi-concept restaurant company. Nishi began his career as a CPA at Deloitte & Touche in Los Angeles where he served Japanese multinational companies in both the audit and tax departments.
CIO | Wingstop
Stacy Peterson is Chief Information Officer for Wingstop, providing strategic oversight for system-wide information technology projects and activities. She is a transformative business leader with a proven track record of helping companies leverage technology to drive business value. Throughout her 18 years of experience, Stacy has specialized in the retail and restaurant industries, holding various technology roles at companies such as Blockbuster and Kinko’s, which evolved into FedEx Office. Prior to joining Wingstop, Stacy was VP for Application Development at CBRE, the largest global commercial real estate firm.
Senior Vice President | Buxton
Stephen Polanski is Senior Vice President of Buxton, a leading provider of customer analytics. Stephen leads Buxton’s retail, restaurant and franchise consulting teams. For nearly a decade Stephen has worked to build relationships with his clients to help them to get the maximum benefit from customer analytics and create and execute successful growth strategies. Stephen’s clients include Wingstop, Famous Dave’s, Which Wich and UFC Gym. Before joining Buxton, Stephen was as a professional golfer. He received his bachelor’s degree in business management from Texas Christian University.
Co-Founder and Chief Concept Officer | Smashburger
Tom Ryan is Co-Founder and Chief Concept Officer of Smashburger, one of the nation’s fastest growing fast-casual brands in history. He has vast restaurant experience and is well known in the industry for his menu development and innovations at large brands across the globe. Tom has invented iconic products such as Pizza Hut’s Lover’s Line, McDonald’s Dollar Menu and McGriddles and Quiznos’ Steakhouse Beef Dip and Prime Rib Sub. In 2006, Tom and his partner Rick Schaden set out to build new, disruptive concepts focused on the next generation of consumers. In 2007, Smashburger was born and has become an industry icon for quality, growth and business acumen.
Head of Strategy | Waterfall
As Head of Strategy at Waterfall, Matt Silk drives innovative mobile marketing programs for restaurants serving to increase consumer engagement, generate revenue and expand the brand’s footprint. These marketing programs integrate traditional marketing channels with the new and emerging technologies of today. Prior to Waterfall, Matt held senior positions with E*TRADE Financial including Director of Retail Product Management, where he was responsible for web brokerage and core user experience. He began his career at the Wharton Small Business Development Center, where he managed a portfolio of clients and provided one-on-one management consulting to entrepreneurs in the Philadelphia region.
Director of Franchise Development | HuHot Mongolian Grill
Laura Sporrer is Director of Franchise Development at HuHot Mongolian Grill. Laura’s career in franchise development started 10 years ago at Quiznos corporate, where she paved the path for their first ever online disclosure of the FDD. Her work includes franchise marketing, campus and airport development, FDD management, as well as market development and planning. In her current role she is responsible for all aspects of franchise recruitment (with a limited budget). Her efforts resulted in HuHot’s largest number of leads in 2015 and several new signings.
Vice President of Operations | Cousins Subs
Jason Valentine is Vice President of Operations at Cousins Subs—a Wisconsin-based, fast casual sub shop. Previously, Jason played an active role in his father’s multi-unit Cousins Subs franchise system where he acquired intimate knowledge of what it means to be a franchisee. He believes that four core operational foundations (100% Guest Focused; Quality, Service and Cleanliness; People Development Plan; Servant Leadership) play an integral role in Cousins Subs’ success. People and culture are his number one priorities along with a strong belief that a culture focused on serving others will lead to both business and personal success.
Editor | QSRWeb.com and PizzaMarketplace.com
Travis Wagoner is editor of QSRWeb.com and PizzaMarketplace.com. He spent nearly 18 years in education as an alumni relations and communications director, coordinating numerous annual events and writing, editing and producing a quarterly, 72-plus-page magazine. Travis also was a ghostwriter for an insurance firm, writing about the Affordable Care Act. He holds a BA degree in communications/public relations from Xavier University.
President of Operations & Development | Johnny Rockets
James Walker is President of Operations & Development for Aliso Viejo, CA based Johnny Rockets. He has over 25 years of senior level and management experience in the hospitality and retail industry, and has conducted business in a wide range of global markets, including Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Pakistan and Mongolia. Comfortable from the dish room to the board room, James’ specific skill sets include mergers and acquisitions, development, operations, licensing and R&D. Major positions have included the roles of president and chief development officer, as well as senior operations and R&D positions. He has spent time with such brands as Baja Fresh, Cinnabon and Sweet Factory.
Vice President, Government Affairs | National Restaurant Association
Matt Walker leads the NRA’s advocacy strategy in the U.S. Senate and supports efforts directed at the U.S. House of Representatives and the Administration. The NRA represents the nation’s second largest private sector employer, an industry that employs over 14 million people and has annual sales in excess of $709.2 billion. Prior to joining the NRA, Matt worked in Congress for 14 years, most recently as longtime Deputy Staff Director and Chief Counsel of the U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship and senior aide to U.S. Senator Olympia Snowe. Matt earned a Juris Doctor from the Maine School of Law.