March 24-26, 2024 | Kansas City, MO — Early Bird registration ends Nov. 17. Register Now

SPEAKERS

PANELISTS & MODERATORS


Loren Bontrager
Vice President of Franchise and Development | MAD Greens
Loren Bontrager brings 10-plus years of franchise growth experience to his role as Vice President of Franchise and Development at MAD Greens. Previously, he was the Vice President of Franchise Sales and Development with Buff City Soap, where he led all-new franchise sales growth for the company. He also created and implemented a franchise sales program for Jamba Juice which included a new franchise development website, franchise support center videos, sales collateral and franchisee validation videos. Aside from more traditional franchise development efforts, Bontrager has previously focused on non-traditional franchise growth across the seven brands a part of the FOCUS Brands portfolio.
Michelle Bythewood
President | Nation’s Giant Hamburgers
Cherryh Cansler
Vice President of Events | Networld Media Group
Before joining Networld Media Group as Vice President of Events, Cherryh Cansler spent several years as VP of Editorial managing the Networld’s nine B2B publications. Throughout her 20-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.
Sara Carhart
Vice President of Operations | SPIN! Pizza
Sara Carhart is a seasoned professional with an impressive track record spanning over 25 years in the restaurant industry. Before holding the esteemed Vice President of Operations role at SPIN! Pizza, she spent several years opening franchise locations for the company. In her role, Sara Carhart stands as an embodiment of operational excellence with authentic, people-centric leadership. Her leadership revolves around empowerment. Sara’s career is characterized by her dedication to people and resolute commitment to nurturing their growth and achieving success. Her passion for her craft extends well beyond culinary arts and business strategies; it resides in the authentic connections she forges with individuals, both within her organization and beyond its borders. Firmly rooted in her belief that people are the cornerstone of any venture, Sara has dedicated herself to positively impacting the lives she encounters.
Scott Ford
President & Co-CEO | Hawaiian Bros Island Grill
Scott Ford, as President & Co-CEO of Hawaiian Bros Island Grill, possesses a rich three-decade background in the food service sector. His expertise in supply chain optimization, operational design, and brand management speaks to his dedication to the industry. At the core of Hawaiian Bros’ success lies Ford’s ability to assemble and lead a talented team, adeptly navigating the brand through the challenges of the fast-casual restaurant market. Prior to spearheading initiatives at Hawaiian Bros, Ford demonstrated his industry acumen as a principal at DKA Services LLC in Kansas City. Moreover, his leadership at Mr. Goodcents Franchise Systems, Inc., where he ascended to the role of president and CEO, solidifies his standing as an industry stalwart. With Ford's consistent emphasis on experience and teamwork, Hawaiian Bros is confidently positioned for enduring success and continued growth in the ever-evolving restaurant landscape.
Nate Fowler
Brand President | Long John Silver's
Tom Gordon
Co-Founder & CEO | Slim Chickens
Co-founder and CEO of Slim Chickens, Tom Gordon is the driving leader behind the brand. Apart from other brands that release large growth numbers, Slim Chickens stands out because of its foundation of systems and processes. By developing successful, multi-unit franchisees within the system who are just as passionate about Slim Chickens, Tom Gordon specializes in partnering with them by hosting the best franchise support team in the industry. His expertise lies in hiring the most passionate, highly qualified executive and corporate teams existing in their field of expertise. Furthermore, a proud horned frog from the South, he has built a leadership style and foundation that is second to none.
Beto Guajardo
CEO | Blaze Pizza
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.
Dan Harmon
CEO | Playa Bowls
Dan Harmon is a seasoned industry veteran with leadership experience from some of the industry’s most recognized and successful brands. Previously, Harmon was the President and Chief Operations Officer at Smoothie King and has also worked with various brands including Papa Murphy’s, Potbelly Sandwich Works, Blockbuster, and McDonald’s. In 2023, Harmon was appointed to Chief Executive Officer of Playa Bowls, the nation’s leading superfruit bowl shop specializing in bowls such as acai and pitaya, oatmeal, chia, smoothies, juices, cold brew, and more.
Troy Hooper
CEO | Hot Palette Holdings
Troy Hooper joined Pepper Lunch as one of the three global business unit CEO’s for the brand, and oversees Pepper Lunch’s parent company in North America, Hot Palette America. Troy brings 30 years of unparalleled experience in hospitality, operations management and executive leadership to this role, which has fueled Pepper Lunch’s infrastructure development, growth efforts, and brand deliverables, creating a fruitful franchise model for the North American market. Throughout his career, Troy has successfully built new concepts, rebranded existing restaurants, and improved well-established venues for iconic brands. Troy’s decades of experience and business acumen brings a breadth of knowledge to the rapidly growing global brand, Pepper Lunch.
Ryan Maybee
Co-Founder & Managing Director | J. Rieger & Co.
As a lifelong bartender, restaurateur, certified sommelier and Certified Specialist of Wine (CSW) from the society of Wine Educators, Ryan Maybee, co-founder of J. Rieger & Co., is a veteran when it comes to wine, spirits and mixology. It was at Manifesto—located in the basement of the Rieger Hotel—where Maybee became fascinated by the history of the building and he discovered its connection to the historic J. Rieger & Co. distillery, originally founded in 1887. From that point on, he was set on ensuring it was resurrected. After meeting Andy Rieger at the opening of The Rieger in 2010, Maybee and Rieger started putting together a plan to bring back the old distillery. In 2014, the plan fully came to fruition and Maybee and Rieger successfully relaunched the brand with the release of Rieger’s Kansas City Whiskey. As co-founder of J. Rieger & Co., Maybee has played a crucial role in reviving the brand and gaining national prestige.
Rob McColgan
Co-Founder & CEO | Modern Restaurant Concepts
Rob McColgan is the co-founder and CEO of Modern Restaurant Concepts, a rapidly growing restaurant company based in Colorado. He graduated Summa Cum Laude from The University of Notre Dame in 2002 with degrees in Finance and Film and then spent six years in New York with Goldman Sachs. Rob left Wall Street in 2008 to co-found Modern Market Eatery, a restaurant company focused on serving healthy fare in a fast casual setting. Since opening its first location in Boulder, Colorado in late 2009, Modern Market Eatery has grown to almost 30 locations around the country. In 2019 Modern Market merged with Lemonade Restaurant Group, a California-based fast casual chain, to form Modern Restaurant Concepts.
Glenn Moon
Vice President, U.S. Development | Moxies
Kevin Moran
Chief Development Officer | Blaze Pizza
Joining Blaze Pizza with an impressive portfolio of over two decades in financial planning and accounting, Kevin Moran has a history of steering development teams towards outstanding performance through the alignment of fiscal goals with comprehensive strategies. Prior to his current role, Moran held the position of Vice President of Strategic Development at Focus Brands International, where he excelled in driving strategic development for the global franchisor and operator of over 6,600 restaurants. As CDO at Blaze, Moran will apply his seasoned expertise to nurture strategic alliances and accelerate the brand's global growth trajectory.
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.
Jeff Rinke
Vice President of Marketing | Hungry Howie’s
Jeff Rinke joined the Hungry Howie's team in 1987. In 1996, he became Vice President of Marketing & Product Development. Jeff owns and operates a Hungry Howie's Pizza in Grosse Pointe Woods, MI and is very involved in the American Pizza Community.
Sam Rothschild
COO | Slim Chickens
Joining the Slim Chickens team in October of 2013. Sam Rothschild is a knowledgeable restaurant professional who has achieved superior results within company and franchise-owned locations around the world. A Johnson and Wales culinary graduate, he embarked on his career by owning his own restaurants in his early twenties before hitting his growth spurt into the big brand arena with Metromedia Group. He spent 13 years with Bennigan’s as the Regional Vice President of International Operations. From there, Rothschild went on to become the Senior Vice President at Applebee’s and Dine Equity heading up the operations and franchise development teams managing over 2000 locations. He eventually left Dine to partner with Tom and Greg to help mature and cultivate the Slim Chickens brand. Furthermore, Rothschild has had a hand in pioneering the franchise opportunity and its unique and advanced systems that continue to surpass record barriers.
Desi Saran
Founder & CEO | Sweetberry
Desi Saran is the Founder and CEO of Sweetberry, a National Healthy Fast Casual Chain specializing in Acai Bowls, Poke Bowls, Smoothies, and Wraps. Sweetberry has been recognized by FastCasual.com and Entrepreneur.com as 2020's hottest startup fast casuals, 2019 Franchises of the Future, and 2020 Top 100 Movers & Shakers. Desi has an expertise in restaurant software and technology and has spoken on topics involving ghost kitchens, POS Inttegrations, and third party delivery.


View 2023 Speakers

GROUP DISCOUNTS

Take Your Team to the Summit!

Restaurant/Foodservice Operators who register two attendees may add a third attendee at no additional cost.

Group discount does not apply to Franchise Brokers/Consultants or Vendors.

HOTEL RESERVATIONS

InterContinental Kansas City at the Plaza

To reserve your room, call 1-816-756-1500.

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