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Breakout Session / Monday / March 25, 2024 / 11:45 AM

Scaling Up: From Small Start-up to Full Growth Mode

You have an amazing concept and you feel like operations are solid enough to start franchising, but what’s the next step? Founders and franchisees join forces to teach you where to go.


Craig Haley | President | Smokey Mo’s TX BBQ
As president of Smokey Mo’s TX BBQ, Craig Haley leads using his expertise in operations management, customer service, team building and quality control. Before transitioning to his role at Smokey Mo’s, Craig served as the chief operating officer at K&N management, where he was in charge of operations for Mighty Fine Burgers, Fries and Shakes and several Rudy’s Country Store & Bar-B-Q franchises. Before beginning his career in the restaurant industry, Craig attended Texas A&M University. In his free time, he likes to spend time outdoors and travel with his wife and four kids.
Josh Halpern | CEO | Big Chicken
Josh Halpern is the Chief Executive Officer for Big Chicken. Josh is a dynamic, partnership-focused, thought leader with a robust career in streamlining efficiency, driving innovation, building diverse engaged teams, and growing economic results across the CPG, retail, and restaurant verticals. Most recently, Josh served as the Chief Sales Officer for FIFCO USA, the 8th largest US brewing company, where he was responsible for commercial operations and building top and bottom-line results for Off-Premise, On-Premise, and company-owned brewpubs. Prior, Josh led the Anheuser-Busch InBev, On-Premise and Small Format channels in the US, and Shopper Marketing globally.
Andrew Pudalov | Founder & CEO | Rush Bowls
After 15 years of working his way up through the competitive ranks of NYC’s financial sector, Andrew Pudalov made a conscientious decision to leave his most recent position as Global Head of Fixed Income Derivative Trading at National Australia Bank to pursue an interest he felt was a virtue of higher importance. While he worked his entire adult life for a number of prestigious financial institutions to achieve an expertise in institutional fixed income derivative trading, he simply felt it time to gratify another more altruistic ambition he had always held. Andrew founded Boulder’s University Hill District’s first all-natural bowl/smoothie bar in the fall of 2004, providing a healthy alternative to the common “Hill” fare. After enormous success, Andrew launched a line of frozen grab-n-go bowls soon to meet the ever-mounting demand. Today, he operates Rush Bowls retail, wholesaling, and franchising with over 100 stores in various stages of development throughout the US.
Ryan Weaver | CEO | Lee's Famous Recipe Chicken
Ryan Weaver is the Chief Executive Officer of Lee's Famous Recipe Chicken, a fast-casual dining franchise specializing in chicken, homestyle side dishes, and freshly made biscuits, based in Shalimar, Florida. Weaver's experience spans diverse sectors, including tech and consulting, and has demonstrated an ability to navigate complex challenges and steer companies toward growth. Weaver was appointed as the Chief Executive Officer of Lee's Famous Recipe Chicken in June 2021. Since taking over the role, his visionary approach has transformed the brand, including the launch of a complete brand refresh in 2023. Under his stewardship, Lee's Famous Recipe Chicken has been named the Best Fast Food Fried Chicken by USA Today, reconnected with its original franchisee base and expanded its market presence. Weaver began his journey in the corporate world as a consultant with international business firm FTI Consulting, where he consulted for the Telecom, Media, & Technology (TMT) Group, specializing in Corporate Finance and Restructuring.

Rachael Nemeth | CEO & Co-Founder | Opus Training
Rachael Nemeth, CEO and Co-Founder of Opus, is a multifaceted leader in the res-tech space. With a career spanning several decades, she has made an impact not only as a business professional but also as a public speaker and educator. Opus, revolutionizes learning and engagement for the "deskless" workforce in the restaurant industry. Her journey features work at renowned establishments like Danny Meyer's Union Square Hospitality Group, Baked, and Hot Bread Kitchen, an NGO empowering underrepresented women through baking skills. Beyond her corporate roles, Rachael's influence extends into the education sphere, where she has championed instructional design and second language acquisition. Her first company, ESL Works, brought industry-relevant English training to kitchen staff via SMS text message. Widely respected in the res-tech space, Rachael is a public speaker, sharing her insights and expertise as a tech leader, restaurant veteran, and educator.
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