Nick Sarillo is Founder and CEO of Nick’s Pizza & Pub and Nick’s University and author of the book, A Slice of the Pie: How to Build a Big Little Business. Nick’s Pizza & Pub is one of the top ten busiest independent pizza companies in per-store sales in the United States. He credits his company’s success to his purpose-driven culture, which is the focus of his book. Nick’s profile and insights have been featured in The New York Times, The Economist, Inc Magazine, Fast Company, Newsweek, Investor’s Business Daily, American Express Open Forum and more. He also appeared on NBC Nightly News when they featured Nick’s very own “It’s a Wonderful Life” story. Nick’s restaurants have won the National Restaurant Association/American Express “Good Neighbor Award” four times and have been featured in Chicago Best as “Great Pizza and Company.”
Jeff Sinelli grew up in Detroit, and after achieving a BA at a Michigan State and an MBA from City University, Sinelli headed west to exercise his entrepreneurial spirit in Dallas. In the mid ‘90s he developed several independent restaurants and nightclubs before focusing on building multiunit concepts. In 1998, Sinelli created Genghis Grill, a Mongolian Barbecue restaurant, which he grew to 11 units in five states. It was awarded the prestigious Hot Concept! Award by Nations Restaurant News in 2002. Sinelli sold the concept in 2003, and set to work on filling what he felt was a void in the sandwich arena. Sinelli created Which Wich in 2003, prompting QSR Magazine to refer to him as a “branding phenom” upon its launch. By 2013, Which Wich has expanded throughout the United States, and has opened locations in Mexico, Panama, Qatar, and Dubai, with over 100 more locations in development. In October 2013, Which Wich launched Project PB&J, a charitable endeavor that donates PB&J sandwiches to people in need. The goal of the project is to “spread the love,” one PB&J at a time. Projectpbj.com
Franchise Account Manager | Cockrell Enovation
As a Franchise Account Manager with Cockrell Enovation, Aurelia takes advantage of the analytical skills she developed over years of professional experience in the travel and hospitality sector. Aurelia enjoys working with brands at all life cycle stages, and enjoys being a trusted brand advisor helping franchise organizations solve challenges related to brand consistency, visual appearance and scale. Aurelia holds a degree in business leadership with a Spanish concentration from the University of Dallas. In her down time, she enjoys traveling, reading and cooking.
Vice President | MOOYAH Burgers, Fries & Shakes
Natalie Anderson Liu is Vice President of Marketing at MOOYAH Burgers, Fries & Shakes. She leads all marketing and communication efforts for the MOOYAH brand, including strategic planning, branding and consumer insights, while supporting franchisees in their local efforts. A proven thought-leader, Natalie is recognized for providing innovative and effective strategies to drive the business forward. Prior to MOOYAH, Natalie worked for The Richards Group as Brand Planner and then spent five years with TracyLocke as Senior Strategic Planner where she worked with such brands as Pizza Hut, Nokia, Zales and Fruit of the Loom.
VP of Human Resources | Rave Restaurant Group
Mary Barker is Vice President of Human Resources for Rave Restaurant Group, Inc., she brings over 30 years of human resources and store operations experience to her charge of creating exceptional experiences for both customers and team members. Previous roles include senior human resources roles with Erdos at Home, Fossil and Starbucks Coffee Company.
Digital Manager | A&W Restaurants, Inc.
Liz Bazner is a self-proclaimed foodie who currently serves as Digital Manager for A&W Restaurants, the nation’s oldest franchised restaurant chain. Liz leads the development of digital & social campaigns to increase brand awareness & positive online sentiment, as well as overseeing the consumer-facing website & email marketing program. After graduating from Vanderbilt University with a degree in political science & public policy, Liz worked for a variety of public officials doing PR & campaign management work before joining the A&W team.
COO | Crest Foods, Inc. (Nestlé Toll House Café by Chip)
Shawnon Bellah is Chief Operating Officer of Crest Foods Inc., franchisor of Nestlé® Toll House® Café by Chip®. Bellah began her career in the hospitality industry 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 NTHC. Bellah was promoted to VP, Operations in January 2009, to SVP of Global Operations in 2010, and to her current position in 2015. Under her direction, AUV has continued positive sales growth and café counts have continuously grown.
Vice President of Regional Marketing | Dickey’s Barbecue Restaurants
As Dickey’s Vice President of Regional Marketing, Emily Bennett has led the nation’s largest barbecue chain into an era of technology-based marketing solutions. She has spearheaded Dickey’s updated loyalty program and managed partnerships to grow the barbecue brand’s loyal guest base exponentially. A ten-year veteran of marketing for large entertainment brands, Bennett has used big data gathered in marketing initiatives to identify Dickey’s heaviest users and how to reach them. She holds a degree in Entrepreneurial Management from TCU and is probably the Texas Rangers’ most loyal fan.
Founding Partner | Elevation Burger and Pupatella
Michael Berger is a Founding Partner and VP of Supply Chain with Elevation Franchise Ventures, franchisor of Elevation Burger. As one of the founding partners of the Elevation Burger franchise company, Michael has lead the company’s growth from a single restaurant to a chain of over 60 restaurants in seven countries. Under Michael’s supply chain leadership, Elevation Burger’s purchases of certified organic, grass-fed beef have grown into one of the largest certified organic beef purchasing programs in the United States and the largest such program of any restaurant group in the US.
Director, Global Curriculum/Training | Dairy Queen
Kimberly Brastad, Director of Global Curriculum/Training at American Dairy Queen, has over 20 years’ experience in training and education. She has developed learning strategies, training programs, professional service offerings, and a wide range of curricula based on identified learners’ needs within their respective roles and organizations. At Dairy Queen’s Global Franchisee Support Center in Minnesota, Kimberly leads a team responsible for the design, development, and delivery of curricula for the DQ Franchise System. Having recently implemented a new learning management system, she is currently working on long-term, integrated strategies to improve employee satisfaction and success through sustained engagement with training.
Vice President, Technology Innovation | Steak n Shake
Adam began his career as an aerospace engineer at General Dynamics working on cruise missiles, the Space Shuttle, and hypersonic missiles. Next he worked at Southwest Airlines as Director of Purchasing and then as Director of Information Systems. Later, he worked for Yum! as VP of IT. In 2000 he joined KPMG as Partner/Managing Director. Adam joined World Vision in 2006 as the global CIO with over 900 staff in 100 countries. Having lived and worked in over 55 countries, he is currently VP of Innovation at Steak ‘n Shake designing and delivering digital marketing solutions, food production automation, and innovative guest experiences.
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.
Co-Founder & Chief Revenue Officer | HotSchedules
David is responsible for sales and building and maintaining strong relationships with customers by engaging with them at all levels to collect and disseminate customer feedback throughout the company. Prior to becoming CCO, David was the vice president of Business Development and cofounder of HotSchedules, Inc. Through his leadership, HotSchedules repeatedly achieved more than 40 percent annual growth goals and was consistently recognized on the Inc. 5000 and Austin Business Journal’s Fast 50 growth indexes. David’s 17+ years of restaurant operations experience have contributed to HotSchedules’ product development and innovative solutions to improve restaurant operations scheduling efficiencies, labor management and increased employee engagement.
COO | US Beef (Arby’s)
President | CoreLife Eatery
VP Franchise Sales & Development | Marco’s Pizza
VP, Franchise Development and Operations | Consolidated Restaurant Operations, Inc.
President & Chief Client Advocate | FranConnect
Keith Gerson brings 40+ years of executive level expertise as a passionate and driven Franchisor and Franchisee with a proven track-record in building rapid-growth, and highly profitable franchise organizations. Over the last five years, Keith has served as President and Chief Customer Advocate for FranConnect where he been able to work closely with many Executive Boards and Leadership Teams that are part of FranConnect’s portfolio of 600+ brands and 110,00 locations. His focus is on helping franchisors to get to their desired future state in sales, operations, communications and engagement. Recognized in franchising circles for his extensive leadership experience, and ability to drive execution, Keith has had the rare opportunity to have created several leading franchise systems from their very conception through launch and sustained growth taking these systems from micro-emerging status to that of successful enterprise level brands.
CEO & Founder | Slim Chickens
Vice President | Visualogistix
President & CEO | Hartman Public Relations
Co-Founder | I Love Bacon
Owner | Aioli Gourmet Burgers & Catering
President and CEO | Cowboy Chicken
Chief Marketing Officer | T-Bird Restaurant Group
Founder | Chi’Lantro
Chief Development Officer | Smoothie King
Public Relations and Communications Manager | First Watch Restaurants
Digital Marketing Manager | Pei Wei
Chairman & CEO | Bennigan’s
Editor | FoodTruckOperator.com
Founder & CEO | ReviewPush
CEO | QiCOde
President & CEO | Mazzio’s
Manager of Guest Services | Firehouse Subs
VP of Marketing | VERTS Mediterranean Grill
Senior Vice President of Restaurants | Groupon
As Senior Vice President of Restaurants at Groupon, Dan is responsible for Groupon’s local restaurant marketplace and marketing solutions, Groupon’s new delivery service Groupon to Go and all aspects of helping great restaurants connect with hungry customers. Prior to Groupon, Dan was Chief Marketing Officer of Vast, Inc., a search technology company that operates search platforms on behalf of clients, including Southwest Airlines, Kelly Blue Book, Yahoo! and AOL. Dan’s other previous roles include GVP of Alliance Marketing for Orbitz Worldwide and Director of Solutions Marketing for the automotive group at Texas-based Trilogy Software, Inc.
Senior Director of Franchising | Dippin’ Dots
CEO & Founder | Russo’s Restaurants
President | Moe’s Southwest Grill
former CEO | Salad & Go and Freebirds
Head of Strategy | Waterfall
President/Partner | Zoup!
Chief Development Officer | McAlister’s Deli
President, U.S. Brand Standards | Steritech
Founder and President | Biju’s Little Curry Shop
VP of Operations | Chicken Salad Chick
Digital Marketing Manager | Pie Five
General Counsel and VP of Global Franchise DevOps | Ruby Tuesday