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Ryan Smolkin

Founder & CEO | Smoke’s Poutinerie

Ryan Smolkin is the Founder and Chief Executive Office of Smoke’s Poutinerie. After graduating with a Bachelor of Business Administration degree in 1995, Ryan established AmoebaCorp, an internationally-recognized Graphic Design and Branding company with clients including Nike, Molson, Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, Corus Entertainment, YTV, Sims Snowboards and Nelvana. Ryan’s primary goal has always been to bring Canada’s National Iconic dish to the rest of the world in an original and unique way, and to ultimately achieve GLOBAL DOMINATION! With Ryan at the helm of Smoke’s Poutinerie, the franchise has been growing at an astoundingly fast pace. Currently, The World’s Largest & Original Poutinerie has over 150 stores across North America.


Scott Absher

Co-Founder & CEO | ShiftPixy

Scott Absher, Co-Founder and CEO of ShiftPixy, brings over 25 years of expertise in Human Capital Management strategy and support for small business. Scott has had significant exposure to the unique challenges and pressures restaurant and hospitality operators face and offers a unique insight as to the origins of and new approaches to meeting these new challenges. Scott will address the strategy that drives ShiftPixy’s leverage of leading edge technology to help its operator clients navigate today’s human capital realities.

Sammy Aldeeb

CEO | Urban Bricks

Sammy Aldeeb came to the U.S. in 1998 from Dubai and jumped right into franchising. Within 10 years, he’d amassed a portfolio of more than 20 franchise locations. Wanting to dive into the fast-casual pizza industry and not finding one that he liked, he created his own brand and launched Urban Bricks in 2015. With a culture that’s edgy, outgoing and progressive, Urban Bricks allows guests to build-your-own pizza, panini, pasta and salad, choosing from more than 30 ingredients that are prepared fresh each morning at over 17 locations in the United States.

Derin Alemli

Founder & CEO | Square Roots Kitchen

Derin Alemli is a serial entrepreneur residing in Chicago. Having founded DownBeats in 2012, he is currently focused on his role as the Founder & CEO of Square Roots Kitchen, a fast casual healthy restaurant that opened their first retail establishment at 120 S Halsted in January 2018. SRK launched at the beginning of 2016 using non-traditional means to get to market before leveraging that success into their technology-enabled storefront. Prior to becoming an entrepreneur Derin worked in hedge fund portfolio management for Grosvenor Capital Management. Derin has an MBA from the University of Chicago in addition to holding the Chartered Financial Analyst designation.

Zaid Ayoub

Founder & CEO | SAJJ Mediterranean

Zaid Ayoub is the founder and CEO of the Bay Area-headquartered Falafel Inc., the parent company of the rapidly expanding fast-casual chain SAJJ Mediterranean. Under Zaid’s strategic leadership, Falafel Inc. has grown SAJJ Mediterranean from a single brick-and-mortar location into a growing network of two food trucks and nine stores offering in-store dining, app rewards, catering, and event services. Before founding Falafel Inc., Zaid started DCI, a semiconductor test equipment company which, under his leadership, acquired Liberty Research Company and opened international offices before being sold. Ayoub is also an angel investor for start-ups in the technology and food and beverage industries.

Bob Bafundo

President | RAVE Restaurant Group

As President of RAVE Restaurant Group, Bob Bafundo oversees day-to-day operations for all RAVE brands. An industry veteran with a passion for restaurants, Bafundo joined RAVE in 2016 as president of Pizza Inn. During his tenure, he developed and implemented successful initiatives leading to positive same-store sales and a resurgence in restaurant growth for Pizza Inn. He also led the brand to introduce a new non-traditional brand, PIE, as a complement to the brand refresh and expansion of Pizza Inn. Previously, Bob served as President of Garbanzo Mediterranean Grill. With a background in operations, Bob has worked through the ranks of both single and multi-unit operations.

Jim Balis

Managing Director, Strategic Operations Group | CapitalSpring

Jim Balis joined CapitalSpring in 2014 where he now serves as Managing Director and leads the Strategic Operations Group, which provides support to CapitalSpring’s portfolio company operations and due diligence process. He has over 25 years of restaurant experience. Jim is currently interim CEO of Buddy’s Pizza (the originator of Detroit Style Pizza), was previously CEO of Norms Restaurants (an iconic family dining brand), Co-Operator of a Qdoba franchise, and also serves on the boards of directors of several CapitalSpring portfolio companies. Prior to joining CapitalSpring, Jim was Founder and President of the Restaurant Management Group, a boutique advisory firm specializing in the restaurant industry.

Kris Bartel

Chief Business Development Officer | ZIVELO

Kris Bartel brings over 15 years of executive level leadership in supply chain and operations positions. Kris was most recently the Director of US IT Supplier Management for McDonald’s. Kris has also held senior positions at Discover and Arthur Andersen. He holds an MBA from the University of Phoenix and a BA in Psychology from Northern Illinois University.

Liz Bazner

Digital Manager | A&W Restaurants

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 & drive measurable traffic to A&W locations across the country, 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.

John Benner

Director of National Accounts | Polar King

John Benner began his career with the Tippmann Affiliated Group as a Regional Sales Manager for Polar King International, Inc outdoor walk-in coolers and freezers ( In 2014, he became the Director of Sales for Thermodyne Foodservice Products, Inc. slow cook & hold ovens (; and American Griddle Corp. counter top electric steam griddles (, both of which are sister brands to Polar King. In 2016, in addition to his duties with Thermodyne & American Griddle, John took over as the National Accounts Manager for Polar King. As a dedicated food service professional, he’s worked with numerous restaurant chains (both regional and national) and independent franchisees.

Hassy Braggs

Director of Marketing | Your Pie

With more than 15 years of professional marketing experience, Hassy Braggs brings a wealth of industry knowledge to the Your Pie family. He has held marketing and brand development roles for national brands such as Outback Steakhouse, LongHorn Steakhouse, Chick-fil-A and ESPN. As Marketing Director at Your Pie, Hassy is responsible for developing and implementing Your Pie’s overall marketing strategy and brand development at both the national and store levels, with a particular focus on raising brand awareness among new audiences, driving store sales and fueling franchise development.

Sean Brennan

Founder | The Pie Hole

Sean is the founder of the international multi-unit quick serve pie and coffee concept “The Pie Hole” based in Los Angeles. He has plus or minus 20 years’ experience in hospitality and organizational development. By classification, he is a builder, whether it be teams, companies, campaigns, or even the perfect sandwich. Sean earned a Master’s degree in Public Policy at California Lutheran University as well as a Master’s degree in Special Education and B.S. in Elementary Education from the University of Wisconsin, Stevens Point. He was lucky enough to be a Fulbright Scholar in Japan, and taught a year in Ireland.

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 Brewer 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.

Sam Brewer

Project Lead, Restaurant Design | Chick-fil-A

Sam Brewer leads initiative work for Restaurant Design Innovation at Chick-fil-A. Leaning on a background in Industrial Engineering and experience with General Electric Appliances and Disney Parks and Resorts, he is focused on designing new layouts, equipment and operations to meet the expectations of the Chick-fil-A’s future Guest. Recently leading program development and rollout of new equipment to support catering production, a front of house redesign to support fulfillment of mobile orders, and internal testing of revolutionary drive thru layouts. Sam is passionate about the restaurant industry and providing a remarkable and repeatable experience for every single Guest.

Cherryh Cansler

VP of Editorial | Networld Media Group

Before joining Networld Media Group as Vice President 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

Alex Canter

Owner | Canter’s Deli

Alex Canter was raised in the kitchen of world famous Canter’s Deli in Los Angeles and is the fourth generation owner/operator of the restaurant. Growing up in the family business, his primary role was to identify and implement new technology to bring the old-school deli into the next generation. Canter’s Deli now has 180 full time employees in its West Hollywood location, and 2 additional commisary kitchens in LA focused on delivery only. In 2017, Alex also created Ordermark to help restaurants maximize the benefits of online ordering.

Alonso Castañeda

VP of Brand Development & Strategy | Four Foods Group

Alonso Castañeda’s professional career began as a General Manager for Qdoba Mexica Grill in Colorado and he excelled in the business quickly and passionately. Since then he has worked as a Director of Franchise Operations, Regional Manager, Director of F&B, Director of Sales and Store compliance and currently Vice President of Brand Development and Strategy for the Four Foods Group Brands. He received the RevGen award from Mercato Partners in 2017 for top revenue generator in the FFG Brands. He has worked with great companies such as Qdoba, Paradise Bakery, Panera Bread, Café Rio, Kneaders Bakery & Café, R & R BBQ and Mo’Bettahs Hawaiian Style Food.

Sarah Chaffin

Executive Chef | The Pie Hole

The Pie Hole Executive Chef Sarah Chaffin fell in love with baking in Charleston, West Virginia and hasn’t looked back since. She developed a perfectly healthy obsession with pie immediately after starting as a baker with The Pie Hole. Her higher education in science and the passion for pie was a perfect combination for upward mobility and was soon leading the amazing central kitchen team. Sarah is inspired by vintage cookbooks and farmers markets and loves beer, her pets, and her husband, not necessarily in that order. Her professional highlight thus far is training and opening two units of The Pie Hole Tokyo.

Patrick Conlin

President | Jake’s Franchising, LLC / Wayback Burgers

Pat Conlin joined Jake’s Franchising, LLC, franchisor of Wayback Burgers, as Senior Vice President in 2017. He has direct responsibility over the marketing, product procurement & distribution departments. His other responsibilities include assisting in franchise development, training, operations, strategic planning and franchise relations. Through his years in the franchising world, he’s been involved in all aspects of running a successful franchise business – from operations, franchise development, real estate, construction, marketing, delivery. Previously, he was in franchising with Blimpie from 1985 until 2018. Pat graduated from Rutgers University in 1985 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in business with a minor in finance.

Jodie Conrad

VP of Marketing | Fazoli’s

Jodie Conrad leads Marketing and Culinary functions at Fazoli’s – including advertising, field marketing, consumer insights, off-premise business development, public relations, and new product development and testing. Prior to joining Fazoli’s, Jodie was with The Wendy’s Company as a Director of Brand Marketing, and has also served as Director of Marketing for Donatos Pizza, Customer Marketing Manager for The Coca-Cola Company and Brand Manager for the Pillsbury Company. She has a BBA in Finance and an MBA from Ohio University. In addition to her work, Jodie is an avid reader and enjoys cooking and entertaining friends and family.

Christina Coy

VP of Marketing | Pie Five Pizza

Christina Coy, Vice President of Marketing for Pie Five Pizza Co., has been in the food business for over a decade. She leads brand marketing for the fast casual pizza concept and has been instrumental in creating digital and in store marketing campaigns, menu development, and guest engagement platforms including the infamous Circle of Crust. She joined RAVE Restaurant Group in 2009 and was part of the original team that created Pie Five in 2011. Prior to becoming a pizza aficionado, she spent five years at ad agencies working on QSR brands such as Domino’s and Popeye’s Chicken.

Healey Cypher


Healey Cypher is the CEO of ZIVELO after the merger of Oak Labs, where he was CEO/Founder. He served as Head of Retail Innovation team and Chief of Staff to the CTO at eBay Inc. after the acquisition of where he was VP, Business Development. He has been recognized as Silicon Valley Business Journal’s “40 under 40,” WWD’s “Ten of Tomorrow,” and was awarded as one of Goldman Sach’s “Top 100 Most Intriguing Entrepreneurs.” He is an alumnus of the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and from Nebraska, but spent the majority of his early life in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

Scott Davis

President & CCO | CoreLife Eatery

Scott Davis joined the CoreLife Eatery team in September 2016 to head up menu development and guide strategic brand growth. Scott’s experience during the growth of both Au Bon Pain and Panera Bread make him an invaluable asset to CoreLife Eatery. Scott served as Chief Concept Officer for Panera Bread from the inception of the brand until December 2014, during which time he oversaw menu development, category management, restaurant design, and sustainability efforts. Scott led many key initiatives that drove the long-term success of Panera Bread, as it became a leader in the fast casual segment of the restaurant industry.

Marc DeVinney

VP of Product | Long Range Systems

Marc DeVinney has been recognized throughout his career for his ability to develop and lead disruptive and sustaining innovation strategies in healthcare, communications, consumer, and information technologies. His experience includes defining and developing new products and services, business development, and business unit leadership. Marc led the development and product launch of cloud-based wearable location service devices that protect autistic children, patients and medical staff, and independent but vulnerable seniors. Marc is Vice President of Product at Long Range Systems where he leads an outstanding team responsible for product marketing and management, product development, and customer support. Marc holds a BSEE and MSEE in Digital Signal Processing from Southern Methodist University.

Matthew Douglass

Senior Director of Solutions Engineering | CBTS

Matthew Douglass is Senior Director of Solutions Engineering at CBTS, a Cincinnati Bell company and premier vendor partner of Parallel Technologies, Inc. Matt leads a team of Solution Engineers specifically focused on UCaaS, SD-WAN, & NaaS technologies in the Retail Channel. Matt has been in the Voice and IP Industry for over 30 years with 10 years at CBTS. Matt’s previous roles at CBTS have included Product Management, Enterprise Sales, Sales Engineering and Agent Channel Management. Prior to CBTS Matt founded in 2000 the first independent ADSL Internet Service Provider in Indianapolis which was later purchased by CBTS in 2008.

Ciarán Duffy

Corporate Executive Chef | Moe’s Southwest Grill

Ciarán Duffy joins Moe’s Southwest Grill, a brand within the FOCUS Brands portfolio, as Vice President and Corporate Executive Chef. His previous role was Director of Research & Development for FOCUS Brands Channels Group, where he developed licensed products for the consumer-packaged goods and foodservice divisions, for each of the FOCUS Brands snack and restaurant brands. In his new role, Ciarán works with the Moe’s leadership team and franchise community on menu innovation to create new platforms, flavor profiles and ingredients to continue the bold and unique dining experience at Moe’s Southwest Grill. Chef Ciarán brings more than 20 years of professional culinary experience to the table.

Chris Duffy

Controller, Customer Team | Pizza Hut

Speaker bio coming soon!

Landon Eckles

CEO | Clean Juice

After a career in pharmaceutical management and then international real estate development, Landon Eckles was fed up with the unhealthy lifestyle and rigorous travel schedule that these professions demanded. In 2014, he and his wife, Kat, decided to go all in on a small business venture together. With a passion for wellness and organic plant-based foods, Clean Juice was founded. They moved to Charlotte, NC and launched their flagship store in Huntersville, NC. As of November 2018, Clean Juice has 50 open locations and another 70+ in development. Clean Juice is the first and only USDA Certified Organic juice bar franchise.

Cesar Elizondo

Controller | StarCorp

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.

Susie Fogelson

Founder | F&Co.

Susie Fogelson was the driving force behind the Food Network and Cooking Channel brands for 15 years, and you may also recognize her as a judge on Next Food Network Star — so she is accustomed to the role of judging concepts and providing feedback on the fly! Now, with her company F&Co, she’s helping food and bev brands, grocery and restaurant groups develop/reinvent their brand marketing and storytelling strategy in the context of the dynamic food industry and the mindset of the food connected consumer – an audience that she was very influential in creating. She has her finger on the pulse of trends in these sectors.

Daniel Forest

Managing Partner | Datavalet Technologies

Daniel Forest is a Managing Partner of Datavalet Technologies, a leading managed Wi-Fi solutions provider. Datavalet is a trusted partner to medium and large enterprise customers in North America, tailoring solutions to the business needs of leading brands and allowing them to grow revenues, better control costs, improve operation productivity and drive customer engagement. Daniel is passionate about enabling customers to surpass their own objectives and in proving to Datavalet team members that they can do the same. Prior to Datavalet, Daniel had been investing in and financing technology and technology-enabled service businesses with Alpine Growth Partners and BMO Capital Partners.

Matt Friedman

Co-Founder & CEO | Wing Zone

Back in 1991, finding Amazing Flavor was not so easy – especially at the University of Florida in Gainesville, FL where Matt Friedman and Adam Scott were away at school. Matt and Adam spent many a night in their fraternity house kitchen perfecting the recipes that one day would become Wing Zone’s trademark flavors. Starting with a single storefront, Matt and Adam built the Wing Zone brand, satisfying the cravings of Flavorholics in other towns, states and now, worldwide. Today, Matt and Adam are among the few ever to be inducted in the Buffalo Wing Hall of Flame. Wing Zone now has nearly 100 locations.

Phil Friedman

CEO | Salsarita’s

Phil Friedman is a highly regarded C level executive that has served as the Chairman/CEO of Salsarita’s Fresh Cantina since 2011. From 1999 to 2010, Phil was Chairman, Chief Executive Officer and President of McAlister’s Corporation. In 2005 Phil led the successful sale of McAlister’s Corporation to Roark Capital Group, becoming the company’s second largest shareholder. Prior to McAlister’s, Phil served as Chairman of Rosti Restaurants, President of Panda Management Company, Inc., Chief Financial Officer for Service America Corporation, Vice President of Restaurant Planning for Marriott Corporation, Vice President of Planning Chi Chi’s Inc. and as Chief Operating office for Sutton Place Gourmet Markets.

Tracey Fullington

National Account Manager | Essity North America

Tracey Fullington is National Account Manager for Essity North America. 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 / 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.

Randy Gier

CEO | NRG Restaurant Group

Randy Gier is CEO of NRG Restaurant Group, parent company of Burger Monger. Previously, Randy served as CMO at GameStop and CEO of RAVE Restaurant Group, the parent company Pizza Inn and Pie Five Pizza Co. He also served as the Founder and Chief Eating Officer of Savvy Fare Restaurant Group. Prior to that, Randy spent 25 years in executive positions at blue chip Fortune 100 companies – PepsiCo, Yum! Restaurants, and Cadbury-Schweppes (now Dr Pepper Snapple Group). He has served as Chief Marketing Officer at Pizza Hut, KFC and Yum! International, as well as heading up Marketing, R&D and Strategy for Cadbury Schweppes North American Beverage group.

Scott Goodrich

COO | Stacked Pickle

As an industry leader, Scott Goodrich’s role as COO of Stacked Pickle comprises driving the business through operations, marketing, purchasing and a passion for people. Scott entered the restaurant industry after developing his leadership skills with United Airlines. Scott 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 and training procedures, and was a key architect behind the massive growth of the Five Guys franchise system. With a calling for brand development, Scott made an impactful contribution in the growth of Uncle Maddio’s Pizza as COO.

Jack Gordon

Executive Director of Catering & Business Development | City Barbeque

As Executive Director of Catering and Business Development for City Barbeque, Jack leads City Barbeque’s efforts to deliver competition-quality barbeque and outstanding guest service to every guest at every catered event. Under his strategic leadership, City Barbeque Catering continues to serve and create happiness for more and more folks every year, catering full-service barbeque spreads for everything from formal wedding receptions and massive company picnics to small family gatherings and backyard barbeques. Jack brings with him 24 years of catering and event management experience, as well as Certified Meeting Planner credentials. A past president of the Ohio Chapter of Meeting Professionals International, Jack has served on the board of that organization.

Kyle Gordon

Owner | Dillas Quesadillas

Kyle Gordon is a dedicated husband, father and restaurateur. Born and raised in Austin, Texas, he later attended The University of Texas. After graduation, he spent 7 years as a Certified Training Managing Partner at Raising Cane’s Chicken Fingers. In 2013, Kyle started his own restaurant concept, Dillas Quesadillas. Dillas now has 4 locations and more than 10 in the works, employs over 100 Team Members and has sales over 5 million dollars. When he’s not flippin’ quesadillas, you’ll find Kyle spending time with his wife and business partner, Maggie, and two children, Parker and Grace.

Andrew Gruel

Founder & CEO | Slapfish

Andrew Gruel, a graduate of Johnson & Wales University, is currently the CEO and Founder of Slapfish Restaurant Group, the award-winning food truck turned international brick and mortar, based out of Huntington Beach, CA and Co-Owner of Butterleaf Restaurant and Two Birds Chicken. Andrew has appeared on multiple television series including his most recent role as a judge on Food Network’s Chopped Junior. He was recently the Host of FYI Series “Say It To My Face” as well as a judge on Food Network’s “Food Truck Face Off.” He has made appearances on the TODAY show, PBS, Cooking Channel, and has been featured in numerous publications.

Chris Grundell

VP of Sales | SOCi

As VP of Sales, Chris Grundell is responsible for leading SOCi’s sales efforts with a focus on the multi-location Franchise and Restaurant channels. Dedicated to helping multi-location organizations scale their businesses through localized Social Media and Reputation Management, Chris brings 10-plus years of Social Media and Digital marketing experience. Prior to joining SOCi, Chris most recently held senior leadership positions at Under Armour and Hearst Corporation.

Will Hanrahan

Digital Brand Manager | Fazoli’s

Will Hanrahan is the Digital Marketing Manager at Fazoli’s. He oversees growth of the Fazoli’s Rewards Program since launching the App in 2017. He leads the digital strategy for America’s largest Italian elevated QSR chain focusing on CRM, social and digital advertising.

Matthew Harding

Director of Culinary & Corporate Executive Chef | Piada Italian Street Food

Matthew Harding is Director of Culinary and Corporate Executive Chef at Piada Italian Street Food. A Culinary Institute of America Graduate of Hyde Park. Matt has worked for the Inter-Contental Hotel group in Washington DC and Campton Place Hotel, Kimpton Restaurant Group and the Stanford Court Hotel before working with Steigenberger Hotels in Bavaria. Returning to the US, Matt moved to Columbus, Ohio as the executive chef of Lindey’s, then in 2009 opened the first Brio Tuscan Grill and oversaw the growth of Brio and Bravo during a 21-year tenure with the company. He joined Piada in early 2015.

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.

Jena Henderson

VP of Growth | Saladworks

Jena Henderson’s passion for Saladworks runs deep, having spent more than 13 years with the brand and currently the Vice President of Growth. Jena has been an integral member of the corporate team, helping shape initiatives for the franchise system and honing in on processes to provide franchisees with support to grow their businesses. During Jena’s tenure as VP, she has accomplished a myriad of successes including assisting in the creation and implementation of an innovative strategic plan, supporting the launch of new menu items, a system wide remodeling project and a technology bundle. With operations and marketing experience, Jena has a constant pulse on the system’s inner workings.

Craig Herbison

Chief Executive | Plexure

Craig Herbison is the chief executive of Plexure, a mobile engagement software company that focuses predominantly on the QSR and Convenience sectors. Plexure’s technology is being used by over 65 million in over 40 markets such as Japan, the Middle East, Netherlands, and Australia. Craig is highly skilled, with more than 20 years of experience in digital and brand marketing, business transformation, sales and corporate leadership. He has held a variety of positions, with leadership positions in the UK, Australia, and New Zealand. Prior to his role at Plexure, Craig worked as the Director for customer loyalty company Loyalty NZ and as the Director of Retail Banking and Marketing at BNZ.

Andy Howard

President & CEO | Huey Magoo’s

Andy Howard brings over 30 years of experience in the restaurant industry, specializing in developing brands to expand nationally and internationally through franchising. As Executive Vice President of Wingstop for over 10 years, Andy helped expand the brand from approximately 80 restaurants to over 600 when he left. Today, Wingstop has over 1,100 locations. Andy has held several other senior executive positions with other regional and national brands throughout his career. Currently, Andy is CEO and President of Huey Magoo’s Restaurants LLC, which operates seven successful restaurants throughout Central Florida and rapidly expanding throughout the region, in South Florida and Atlanta with another 50 franchises sold and coming soon.

Sunny Ilyas

Founder & CEO | Vale Food Co.

Sunny Ilyas is the CEO and Founder of Vale Food Co which offers build your own bowls; açaí bowls, & also offers meal plan services. As a recent FSU alum, he initially bootstrapped in 2014 to create a meal plan delivery company to provide people with healthy food that is delicious, convenient, & affordable. In 2016, he grew from meal plan delivery to opening up as a restaurant in Tallahassee. Now he has scaled to 7 locations in FL in under 3 years. The best way to describe Vale is imagine is Whole Foods and Chipotle had a baby.

Michael Johnson

Sr. Director of Technical, Voice & Data Services | Papa John’s Pizza

Mike Johnson currently serves as the Sr. Director of Network & Data Center Services at Papa John’s International. Papa John’s has over 5,000 stores located in 45 countries around the world. Mike is currently leading the digital transformation of Papa John’s retail store environment by modernizing 3,200 domestic stores using state of the art SD-WAN & VoIP technology. Prior to Papa John’s, Mike served in a variety of leadership roles in the Telecom industry as well as the Enterprise space. Mike holds both Electrical Engineering and MBA degrees from Texas A&M University.

Larry Jones

VP of Construction | Captain D’s

Larry Jones has been with Captain D’s LLC since 2011 and is currently Vice President of Construction. Larry is responsible for new restaurant construction for Captain D’s and Grandy’s brands, as well as restaurant design, remodels, facility services, equipment innovation, and design. Previously, Larry was Vice President of Innovation for Cracker Barrel Old Country Store (1991-2011). Larry has a degree in Political Science from Macon State University.

Tony Jordan

Director of Field Marketing | Frymaster

Speaker bio coming soon!

Stacey Kane

CMO | Mahana Poke & Firenza Pizza

Stacey Kane has more than 22 years of experience working with multi-unit restaurant chains. Stacey is part of the launch team of Mahana Poke, an innovative fast casual experience that will open its first location later this year. In 2016, Stacey joined Firenza Pizza a leader in the premium fast casual pizza segment. Prior to that she served as the Chief Marketing Officer of the 35 unit comfort casual chain, East Coast Wings + Grill for almost 2 years. In 2007, Stacey started at California Tortilla, where she was known for her incredible creativity as the VP of marketing.

Akash Kapoor

Founder & CEO | Curry Up Now

Curry Up Now founder Akash Kapoor has been a self-employed entrepreneur and businessman since childhood. He moved to the U.S. in 1993 and successfully grew a variety of businesses before leaving the traditional business world in 2009 to start Curry Up Now with his wife, Rana. Curry Up Now was the first Indian street food truck in the Bay Area, and has since grown to include four food trucks, two craft cocktail bar concepts, and six brick-and-mortar locations, with over 50 franchised locations planned in nearly every major region of the U.S. Today, Curry Up Now is recognized as the largest and fastest growing Indian fast casual.

Frank Klein

Founder & CEO | Asian Box

Frank Klein is Founder and CEO of Asian Box, a lifestyle fast casual restaurant group. Asian Box focuses on a more healthful yet massively flavorful and authentic Vietnamese food experience. Founded with his fine dining partners “The Box” as it is known tries to nail that $10 price point by exceeding expectations. Based in California, Klein plans to take Asian Box national in the coming years. Prior to founding Asian Box Frank started FK Restaurants & Hospitality. There he consulted with some of the biggest names in the restaurant industry and takes special pride in his work also for The District of Colombia Public Schools.

Brian Lee

Data Analytics Practice Director | Wavicle Data Solutions

Brian Lee, Practice Director at Wavicle Data Solutions, is a global thought leader and data enthusiast who is passionate about turning big data and analytics into business insights for his customers. His unique combination of global corporate and consulting experience has positioned him well to understand the challenges facing enterprises as they tackle complex, blended data environments, machine learning, and the growing data-driven demands of their organizations. Before joining Wavicle, Brian was responsible for the IRI Media Center of Excellence product development and held multiple project management roles within True Value Company and McDonald’s Corporation.

Desereé Lopez

Sr. Digital Marketing Manager | la Madeleine

Desereé Lopez spent the majority of her 13 year Digital career in Advertising agencies, yet food was never far from her mind. Desereé brought her loyalty and Digital ecosystem to Main Event Entertainment, a rapidly growing Foodertainment concept based in Dallas. Leading the Digital Marketing charge there, she worked to build a multi-currency reward program and pioneered online ordering and reservations for the brand. Currently at la Madeleine, she is a part of a results-oriented team working towards revamping the Digital Tech stack for la Madeleine and it’s sister brands. She also leads the Digital efforts through all touch points and their loyalty App.

Paul Macaluso

President & CEO | Krystal

Paul Macaluso a 25-year restaurant industry veteran, currently serves as the President and CEO of Krystal. Paul’s background includes experience in operations, franchising, marketing and brand strategy with some of the most prominent brands in the foodservice industry, including Taco Bell, Burger King, Sonic Drive-Ins and Moe’s Southwest Grill. Before joining Krystal in April 2018, Paul’s was President of McAlister’s Deli, where he led the brand to records in new restaurant openings, franchisee new restaurant commitments, systemwide sales and EBITDA. Paul holds a BS/Communication and an MBA from Florida State University.

Bernie Matz

Culinary Director | Bodega Taqueria Y Tequila

Now a staple in the Miami culinary scene, Chef Bernie Matz opened his first restaurant, Wet Paint Café, on Lincoln Road in 1986 when he was only 24. It was at Wet Paint Café where Bernie and Chef Doug Rodriguez developed what was to become a signature style of cuisine called “Nuevo Latino” or New Miami American Cuisine. After his venture in the Miami scene, Chef Bernie worked in New York before honing his culinary abilities at Johnson & Wales culinary school. Chef Bernie Matz joined on as the Culinary Director of Bodega Taqueria Y Tequila five years ago. Chef Matz is the brainchild behind Bodega’s Pan Latin menu.

Peter McLaughlin

Head of Customer Success | PlayerLync

Specializing in innovative learning technologies that enable teams to learn faster and operate more successfully, Peter McLaughlin has helped lead high-growth business for more than 20 years. At companies such as Symantec and Clearwell, he managed Education Services teams, which delivered training courses for thousands of customers. In his current role as head of Customer Success for PlayerLync, he collaborates with customers such as Chipotle, Jack in the Box, and Blaze Pizza to improve their training and performance. He has an MBA from the University of Denver, and a BA from UCLA.

Justin Mink

Senior VP of Sales | Scorpion

Justin Mink is Senior Vice President of Sales at Scorpion, where he focuses on expanding the company’s national business across various industries. Before coming to Scorpion he served in founder and executive roles for a variety of technology and marketing companies. Justin was the Chief Marketing Officer at New Frontier Data, a provider of real-time data and analytics for legal cannabis operators and investors. He also served as co-founder and VP of Strategy at Music Audience Exchange, National Director at ReachLocal, and Brand Marketing Lead at Gannett. Justin has a B.A. in political science from the University of Mary Washington.

Mike Mirkil

VP of Consumer Marketing | Kitchen United

Mike Mirkil is a senior restaurant marketing executive with a 25+ year career focused on understanding consumer behavior and leveraging insights to create effective marketing, advertising and branding initiatives that drive profitable growth across the restaurant and retail industries. He has worked for and with global ad agencies including JWT, FCB, DDB and TBWA Chiat/Day as well as corporations including Taco Bell and General Mills. In 2010 he became the first head of marketing for The Habit Burger Grill, helping grow and scale that brand from 30 to 100 locations.

Jason Moore

Corporate Executive Chef | Schlotzsky’s

Jason Moore first fell in love with cooking while growing up with his maternal grandfather who taught him that thoughtful preparation of good food was meant to be shared with family and friends. Adopting that same passion for cooking, he went on to receive his culinary certification and training with the American Culinary Federation in Nashville, TN. Post professional training, Jason gained real-world experience learning classic techniques used in fine-dining restaurants. By 2017, Jason was the culinary innovation chef at Buffalo Wild Wings, leading all culinary development projects including a complete revamp of the core menu. Most recently, Jason joined Focus Brands as executive chef for Schlotzsky’s.

Heather Neary

President | Auntie Anne’s

Heather Neary was named President of Auntie Anne’s in November 2015. Heather joined Auntie Anne’s in 2005 and has held various roles in the company in which she was responsible for the oversight of marketing, communications, the franchise business consultant team, research and development, product innovation, and the franchisee leadership team. Most recently, Heather served as Vice President, Global Marketing. Prior to joining Auntie Anne’s, Heather held roles in marketing and as a managing editor for a business magazine. Heather received a B.A. from Millersville University and an M.B.A. from Penn State University.

Kyle Noonan

Owner & Founder | Mutts Canine Cantina

Kyle Noonan is an American entrepreneur, speaker, television personality, sommelier, and creative tastemaker. First known as an entrepreneur who grew his hospitality and entertainment company to a $50mm company in five short years and is on pace to eclipse $100mm in revenue by his seventh year. Not only has Kyle quickly emerged as an innovative entrepreneur and respected speaker, but he has been recognized as an engaging media personality appearing in national outlets such as CBS, NBC, ABC, Fox, Bravo, ESPN, FoodNetwork, Travel Channel, Food & Wine Magazine, New York Times, WallStreet Journal, and many more. Kyle has been described “as innovative as he is engaging” by the New York Times.

Brandon Overstreet

Brand Loyalty Innovator | Touchpoint Restaurant Innovations

Speaker bio coming soon!

Aaron Noveshen

Founder & President | Starbird & Culinary Edge Ventures

Aaron Noveshen is the Founder and President of Starbird, a modern chicken concept that is revolutionizing food and convenience in the QSR/Fast Casual marketplace. A graduate of UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, Aaron is an award-winning chef, a restaurant entrepreneur and a leading authority on creating and operating successful food and beverage brands. Aaron is the founder of The Culinary Edge, a San Francisco innovation agency that provides global companies with strategic food, brand and operations solutions. The Culinary Edge has developed over 20 restaurant concepts from the ground up for their client partners, in addition to being a leader in culinary and operational development for global food and restaurant companies.

Jim Perkins

VP of International Development | Dickey’s Barbecue Pit

Jim Perkins joined the Dickey’s Barbecue Pit family as the Vice President of International Development in 2018. Jim partners with the Franchise Sales team to continue to grow the Dickey’s brand internationally. At Dickey’s, Jim seeks to find the perfect partners for international expansion and works with them through every phase of opening their Dickey’s location. Before joining the Dickey’s team, he was the Vice President of Development at MAM Food Co. and Papa Murphy’s. Jim earned his BS in Mathematics and BA in Spanish from Purdue University.

David Ponce

CMO | Wings Etc.

David Poncé started his career as a high school teacher: speech, drama, debate, creative writing. He transitioned from teaching creative writers into becoming an ad agency writer/creative director. Eventually, David moved from the ad agency side to the client side, working with a wide range of small to mid-sized companies: from startup franchisors in need of essential brand definition and development to established/maturing franchise companies with over 1200 units operating. David has helped franchisors and franchisees succeed on a continually-shifting marketing and advertising landscape. In his current position, he creates/manages projects for system-wide consumer marketing, franchisee/local store marketing and franchise development.

Pedro Ramos

VP of Sales | Agilence

Pedro Ramos is responsible for managing the Agilence sales team across our national platform. He has overseen the growth of the 20/20 Data Analytics Suite of products adding over 110 logos in a 5 year period. Prior to Agilence, he managed the loss prevention and reverse logistics programs for Pathmark, a 141 store supermarket chain, acquired by A&P in 2008. While at Pathmark, he led Pathmark’s loss prevention program, which consistently delivered industry leading shrink results. Pedro is a former chairman of the New Jersey Food Council’s Loss Prevention Committee. He is active in the Pennsylvania Food Merchants Association, NY Food Industry Alliance and the Loss Prevention Foundation.

Kelly Roddy

President | Schlotzsky’s

Kelly Roddy was named President of Schlotzsky’s in December 2007, and since then he has built a strong management team, introduced new programs and launched a systemwide rebranding effort, all of which have helped to accomplish over a decade of consecutive sales growth. He joined the company from H-E-B®, a century old retailer with more than 315 locations throughout Texas and Mexico. While at H-E-B, Kelly served as Director of Sales and Marketing and later became Director of Retail Operations. Before his tenure at H-E-B, he was Vice President and Executive Director of New Business Development for Scholastic Corporation, the renowned national book publisher.

Steve Rothenstein

Senior Director of Franchising | Dippin’ Dots and Doc Popcorn

Steve Rothenstein is the Senior Director of Franchising for Dippin’ Dots and Doc Popcorn. During his 5-year tenure at Dippin’ Dots, Steve has facilitated the addition of 68 new franchise agreements and thousands of new points of presence around the United States. He has helped lead the expansion of the franchise to serve more than 2,000 schools participating in the YoDots®, Smart Snack Approved School program. In addition, Steve has spearheaded the development of the Dippin’ Dots-Doc Popcorn Co-Brand concept, which currently has 25 locations with 30 more to follow in 2018. A 25-year veteran of the franchising industry, Steve has held leadership positions with several franchise brands.

Bobby Shaw

CEO | ACW Wahlburgers

Speaker bio coming soon!

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.

Mike Smith

VP of Operations | Taziki’s Mediterranean Cafe

Mike Smith serves as the Vice President of Operations for Taziki’s Mediterranean Café and is responsible for cultivating a strategy for planning, organizing, and training necessary to achieve operational objectives in cost minimization, employee retention, guest services, food quality, unit cleanliness, and sanitation. Mike currently leads the operations, training and technology teams with the focus around maintaining both a high tech and high touch guest experience in all Taziki’s now 85+ restaurant locations. Since joining Taziki’s in 2016, Mike has built strong franchise relations by creating a Franchise Advisory Council, which engages franchise leaders to help advise and foster the brand.

Atul Sood

Chief Business Officer | Kitchen United

Atul Sood was most recently Director of Global Business Development for McDonald’s Digital, a business unit formed to help spur technological innovation across the restaurant. In this capacity, Atul forged partnerships across the technology ecosystem – ranging from payment platforms to voice activated ordering to food delivery initiatives – to help McDonald’s build the ‘restaurant of the future’. Prior to this role, Atul founded and sold a big data start-up in the sales intelligence space. He has also been the turnaround CEO of a company in the Knowledge Process Outsourcing industry, led business development for an enterprise software company, and been an investment banker.

Reed Slobusky

Owner | SkinnyFATS

In June of 2013, Reed Slobusky created the first SkinnyFATS, an innovative fast-casual restaurant with a “happy” and “healthy” menu. The restaurant gained such popularity in the Las Vegas community he opened three more locations with several more on the way. Restless to bring more deliciousness to the city, Reed opened up ColdPress Express, the sister juice shop to the SkinnyFATS brand, and also developed a line of mind blowing sauces, consisting of four ketchups and a hot mustard, called SkinnyFATS Catchup. An eccentric entrepreneur, Reed continues to innovate and create with his eyes set on a nationwide expansion of his concepts.

Andrew K. Smith

CEO | Four Foods Group

Andrew K. Smith founded Four Foods Group with his wife, Shauna, in 2008 and acts as Chief Executive Officer. Andrew began his career as an entrepreneur at the age of 23, when he started his first technology business. Over an 11-year period, Smith raised over $55 million from private investors, created over 2,000 jobs, and built and sold three technology businesses to private and public companies. Today, Andrew leads Four Foods Group as a multibrand restaurant development, operations and finance company. He has been responsible for raising the necessary capital ($200 million to date) to develop, acquire and operate 157 restaurants across an 11 state territory.

Christine Specht

President & CEO | Cousins Subs

Christine Specht grew up with Cousins Subs — the sub sandwich chain her dad, Bill Specht, founded with his cousin two years before she was born. Before taking on the role of Cousins’ human resources manager in 2001, Christine worked as a staff member of the Wisconsin Legislative Audit Bureau in Madison, Wisconsin. In 2008, she became the President and Chief Operating Officer of Cousins Subs and in 2015 assumed the role of Chief Executive Officer following her father’s retirement. Christine earned a bachelor’s degree in criminology and law studies from Marquette University.

Scott Stalnaker

Director of IS Operations & Projects | Donatos Pizza

Scott Stalnaker serves as Director of IT Infrastructure for Donatos Pizza, a 55-year-old company with 159 stores in nine states. Scott, who attended The Ohio State University, has spent 24 years at Donatos in various roles. His operations expertise from serving as a General Manager at three stores as well as supervising eight stores as a District Supervisor and receiving Gold Standard recognition are very valuable in his IT position. He joined the home office staff in 2007 as the Operations Development Coordinator and has played key roles in POS design and implementation, website development and new phone system rollout.

Jason Valentine

President & COO | Zoup! Eatery

Having worked in the industry for more than 25 years, Jason Valentine has experienced every aspect of what it takes to operate a restaurant franchise. Jason is the President & Chief Operating Officer for Zoup! Eatery, which has restaurants across the U.S. and in Ontario, Canada. Before joining Zoup!, Jason was the Vice President of Operations for Cousins Subs, joining the company’s Leadership Team after operating his family’s multi-unit Cousins Subs franchise. Jason has a deep understanding of the restaurant industry from the perspective of both franchisee and franchisor, and his experiences are of tremendous value to Zoup! as he leads the company’s rebranding transition from Zoup! Fresh Soup Company to Zoup! Eatery.

Sebastiaan Van De Rijt

Owner | Bamboo Asia

Sebastiaan Van De Rijt is a Dutch food entrepreneur and CEO and founder of California fast casual eatery chain Bamboo Asia. He started his food journey working as a young restaurant manager in Brussels, and during his global travels became enthralled by the scrumptious food marketplaces in countries like China and Vietnam. Along with 3 diverse co-founders, Sebastiaan launched the first Bamboo Asia locale in 2011, and followed this with 2 additional Bay Area locations. The restaurant won Fast Casual’s “Brands to Watch 2019” and is set to launch additional locations in 2019. Sebastiaan has been featured on Sous Vide magazine, Restaurant Hospitality, San Francisco Business Times, and more.

Bradley Voreis

VP of Strategic Marketing | Scorpion

Brad Voreis is Vice President of Strategic Marketing at Scorpion, where he focuses on maximizing clients’ overall web presence by helping them achieve their digital marketing goals. His unique background provides the insights needed to create and implement custom digital marketing solutions and tailored advertising campaigns for a diverse set of franchise systems. Prior to joining Scorpion, he served as the Vice President of Operations for Glass Doctor, a NeighborlyTM company (formerly The Dwyer Group) where he oversaw their North American operations as well as their digital initiatives. Prior to joining Neighborly, Brad was a Glass Doctor Franchisee in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex where he achieved consistent double-digit annual sales growth.

Leslie Walters

Director of Marketing & Design | My Favorite Muffin

As Director of Marketing & Design for My Favorite Muffin & Big Apple Bagels (BAB Systems Inc.), Leslie Walters utilizes her passion for brand, consumer and retail design strategies to lead her team to create the ultimate retail experience. Leslie uses her expertise in design and merchandising, dovetailed with social, local and traditional media to create successful marketing strategies for the My Favorite Muffin and Big Apple Bagels franchise organization. Prior to BAB Systems Inc., Leslie was a Senior Retail Designer with Hallmark Marketing, a division of Hallmark Cards, working with national & regional retailers to create their retail experience.

Brittany Warren

Director of Content Marketing | Networld Media Group

Brittany Warren has spent the last 13 years executing a full-spectrum of marketing, sales and communication activities for both small and large businesses in a range of industries, from financial services to advertising to B2B media publishing. Currently, Brittany is responsible for developing the custom content for Networld Media Group’s 9 B2B media publishing websites, including white papers, case studies, research reports, webinars, and video projects. She also oversees the strategy development and implementation of each sites’ social media channels, specifically Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

Ray Wiley

CEO | Hot Head Burritos & Rapid Fired Pizza

Ray Wiley grew up on the West Coast and cut his teeth in the restaurant business during the early years of Pizza Hut. Food was in his blood and he became store manager for concepts such as Pepperoni Express, Domino’s, and Skyline Chili. Supervision of 10 Skyline stores in Columbus Ohio brought him to Dayton in 1989. Ray purchased his first Subway that year and was named Regional Franchisee of the year in 2002, owning as many as 15 stores before he developed the Hot Head Burritos brand in 2007. In September of 2015 the first store of his next creation – Rapid Fired Pizza opened, which now has 6 stores.

Doug Willmarth

CMO | Mongolian Concepts

Doug Willmarth is Chief Marketing Officer at Mongolian Concepts leading brand strategy and marketing for Genghis Grill, bd’s Mongolian Grill, and FlatTop Grill. In the last year, he has led brand revitalization initiatives for Genghis Grill and bd’s Mongolian Grill brands including updates to positioning, marketing creative and asset remodel designs. Prior to Mongolian Concepts, Doug worked with restaurant and retail companies as a fractional Chief Marketing Officer. He has previously served as Chief Marketing Officer for Wingstop and Rave Cinemas and held senior marketing positions with Pizza Hut, Frito Lay and Chili’s.


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