Expanding growth through franchising doesn’t come without risks, but successful chains rely on specific procedures to mitigate as many as possible. This panel of experts will discuss how they use audits to create custom training programs for executives, franchisees and employees to ensure safety while still driving value and increasing sales during scaled growth.
Providing personal and tailored support for franchisees in a rapidly-growing system, co-founder and Slim Chickens CEO, Tom Gordon is the driving leader behind the brand’s goal to have a 600-unit footprint by 2025, and unlike many brands that release large growth numbers, Tom is leading the team in a manner that makes this goal more attainable with each passing month. Tom & co-founder Greg Smart concocted the idea for the fast-casual chicken concept in Greg Smart’s garage, focusing not on the cost of the food but the quality. Tom started his restaurant career at Brinker flagged Romano’s Macaroni Grill after graduating from Texas Christian University with a B.S. in Finance.
Steve Rothenstein is the Senior Director of Franchising for Dippin’ Dots & Doc Popcorn. He leads all franchise development and operations efforts for both brands. From 2008-2012, Rothenstein oversaw domestic and international franchisees as Director of Franchise Operations for Tasti D-Lite and Planet Smoothie. Before that, he was both a franchise business coach and a franchisee owning his own Cold Stone Creamery. Rothenstein spent the first 10 years of his career with Taco Bell. His robust franchising background equipped him to lead Dippin’ Dots franchisees to double-digit growth each of the last four years with an aggregate growth rate of more than 90 percent.
Jim Thompson, VP of Operations at Chicken Salad Chick, has over 25 years of leading operations teams that also includes Wendy’s, Kings Family Restaurants, Papa Gino’s and D’Angelo. At Chicken Salad Chick, Jim has built operations, training and management systems from the ground up that have been integral to Chicken Salad Chick’s growth from six locations to over 65 in just three and half years. Chicken Salad Chick has earned recognition for its successful growth including being named one of Nation’s Restaurant News “Hot Concepts”, Fast Casual Magazines Top 100 in 2015 and #37 among Inc. Magazines Top 500 fastest growing US companies in 2016.
James Vitrano is General Counsel and Vice President of Global Franchise Development and Operations for Ruby Tuesday. In his role, James leads a team of legal, ER, risk and franchise professionals who work tirelessly for Ruby Tuesday’s 27,000 employees and franchise operations on five continents. James spearheads the franchise development decision process, actively seeking out qualified leads to join the brand’s franchise system. Prior to Ruby Tuesday, James served as General Counsel and Senior Vice President for Einstein Noah Restaurant Group. With over 700 restaurants in 39 states and nearly 8,000 employees, James was responsible for all legal aspects of the publicly traded company and its three brands.
As president of Steritech, Doug Sutton uses his unique combination of skills, experience and insight to help industry partners rethink delivering a strong and consistent customer experience. Ever the marketer at heart, Doug also brings broad experience in sales, operations and general management. Since joining Steritech in 2014, Doug has championed shifting the status quo of the industry’s expectations on the audit experience through a consultative and programmatic philosophy. His ardent belief in the importance of a stellar customer experience continually drives his approach with industry partners. With his focus on driving improvement in training and SOPs, to food safety, service excellence auditing and more, Doug helps clients get the most out of the basic, often overlooked building blocks of their business – leading to new and lasting levels of growth.