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March 30 – April 1, 2022 | Nashville — Early Bird pricing ends December 10, 2021. Sign up today!


From AI to VR: When are Tech Upgrades Worth the Upfront Cost?

It’s an exciting time to be in the restaurant business. From back-of-house robots to customer-facing apps that enable virtual experiences, restaurateurs seem to have endless options when it comes to upgrading their technological offerings. But when is it worth the cost?

Our panelists will discuss the pros and cons of their own deployments and talk about emerging technologies that they expect to see in both the near and distant future.


Jacob Brewer | Sr. Director, Restaurant Excellence | CKE Restaurants Holdings

As Senior Director of Ops Innovation at CKE Restaurants, Inc. (Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s), Jacob leads the Operations team across commercialization, testing, packaging, equipment and labor to develop strategic, efficient solutions for CKE’s restaurants. Prior to joining CKE, Jacob was the business owner of the Food Service group at the Kroger Co., focusing on strategically bringing food service brands across the Kroger banners as well as improving labor efficiencies, customer experience and customer journey. He has additional in-depth experience in international QSR operations strategy, operations, sustainability, and innovation during a 7 year tenure with Yum! Brands.

Cesar Elizondo | Controller | StarCorp, owns over 140 Carl Jr’s & Hardee’s locations

Cesar Elizondo is the Controller of Starcorp, a franchisee of Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s restaurants. Cesar oversees daily accounting operations for all of Starcorps’ 144 restaurants, as well as StarCorp’s financial statements, payroll, and general ledger. With over 20 year of experience in the service industry, specifically in logistics and the full service/retail space, Cesar has used his multi-location and entities knowledge to help transition Starcorp to the Quick Service Restaurant (QSR) industry.

Dan Simpson | CEO | Taziki’s Mediterranean Cafe

Dan Simpson is a serial entrepreneur who takes pride in being fully present in whatever endeavor presents itself. He has used that desire to help grow both for-profit and non-profit ventures across multiple industries including: healthcare, logistics, technology, and hospitality. Dan’s personal purpose is to apply his passion for people, as well as his strategic creativity, to support individuals and organizations so that they can achieve their highest calling. After serving for the past two years as Chief Innovation Officer with Taziki’s while being faced with the challenge of reinvigorating the culture, branding, and strategy, Dan was recently selected to serve as the Chief Executive Officer.


Don Hawkins, Jr. | Executive Vice President – Middleby Combi | Middleby Corporation

Don Hawkins is the Executive Vice President – Middleby Combi at Middleby Corporation. His teams interface directly with Emerging and Re-Emerging Foodservice companies to increase product quality, increase operational efficiencies as well as speed of service, and to reduce labor and utility costs via foodservice equipment designed and built around their specific needs. Don has over 30 years in the industry as both an executive in foodservice equipment manufacturing and as a provider of equipment and services to restaurant chains. He’s known for providing new and creative solutions to issues and problems for customers both globally and domestically.

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