President | Focus Brands International
Beto Guajardo was named President of Focus Brands International in early 2020. Beto brings extensive global experience in corporate and brand strategy, new business development, mergers and acquisitions and organizational structure. Over the past three decades, his career has spanned a broad spectrum of industries, including management consulting, global retail, automotive, energy, consumer packaged goods, and media and entertainment. Beto joined Focus Brands from Starbucks Coffee, where he served as Senior Vice President, Global Strategy. Beto built the Global Strategy team that was responsible for developing the company’s five-year strategic plan and operated as a coordinating body, creating and implementing strategies to succeed corporate goals. His teams worked extensively on executing Starbucks Delivery, acquiring technology to power Starbucks CRM, and developing new go-to-market processes to streamline store development innovation.
PANELISTS & MODERATORS
Founder | Cornbread
Adenah Bayoh embodies the American dream. She is now one of the most successful entrepreneurs in NJ. Inspired by her grandmother, she is now the owner of 7 restaurants which include 4 IHOP franchises, Cornbread her 1st independent fast casual, soul food restaurant, co-founded w/ fellow entrepreneur, Zadie B. Smith. She currently has two locations in NJ and one opening soon in NY. Adenah’s mission is bringing high quality food & services to urban communities, in July she launched her latest restaurant concept, Urban Vegan, downtown Newark. Adenah is also a very successful real estate developer with a portfolio of several major residential and mixed-use urban redevelopment projects across northern NJ.
Director of Digital | A&W Restaurants
Liz Bazner is a self-proclaimed foodie who currently serves as Director of Digital 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.
Director, Architecture & Innovation | Denny’s
Jason Breazeale spent the first 17 years of his career in various technology positions at large food retailers across the eastern US. He provided thought leadership for the early adoptions of virtualization, mobile devices, and enterprise data science. At one large global retailer, he built from the ground up an innovation practice for the incubation of emerging and mobile technologies that changed the way customers shop with augmented reality, mobile applications, and a patented frictionless checkout solution. Since moving to the restaurant and hospitality industry, he is driving an innovation culture with key initiatives towards Cloud based POS, progressive mobile evolution and frictionless curbside, and next generation service platform offerings for Denny’s and its franchisees.
VP of International & Global Brands | P.F. Chang’s
Speaker bio coming soon!
VP of Events | Networld Media Group
VP 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 company’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.
CEO & Founder | Valyant AI
Rob Carpenter is the CEO and Founder of Valyant AI, the first Artificially Intelligent “Digital Employee” to work directly alongside employees in customer facing roles. Valyant’s AI “Holly” works in quick-serve-restaurants to greet customers at the drive-thru post, answer questions and take food orders. Rob has a Master of Business Administration with a concentration in Enterprise Technology Management. He was named one of the top 25 most influential young professionals in Colorado by ColoradoBiz Magazine in 2013 and received the Denver Trailblazer award in 2016. Valyant AI was awarded the Modern Retail Awards’ Best In-Store Tech in 2019 and in 2020 received the ICX Association’s Best Emerging Technology award.
Sr. Director of Global Business Development | PF Changs
Rafik Farouk is the senior director of Global Business Development for P.F. Chang’s. In his role with the international Asian culinary brand, he helps guide international growth strategy and oversees expansion of a company that has more than 300 restaurants in 23 countries and U.S. airport locations. Prior to P.F. Chang’s Rafik served as the Senior Director of Development and Operations at Bloomin’ Brands Inc., where he managed the international franchisees’ development and supported of the global operations as part of the Global Development Team. During his tenure with Bloomin’ Brands, he worked to launch the Aussie Grill by Outback, the first fast-casual concept in company history.
CEO | Slim Chickens
Providing personal and tailored support for franchisees in a rapidly-growing system, cofounder and Slim Chickens CEO is the driving leader behind the brand’s goal to have a 600 unit footprint in the next ten years, and unlike many brands that release large growth numbers, Tom Gordon is leading the team in a manner that makes this goal more attainable with each passing month. Tom & co-founder Greg Smart concocted the idea for the fast-casual chicken concept in Greg Smart’s garage, focusing not on the cost of the food but the quality. Focusing solely on chicken, Slim Chickens has seen accelerated growth backed by a commitment to serve traditional Southern hospitality within its communities.
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.
Vice Chairman | Panera Bread
Blaine Hurst is Vice Chairman of Panera LLC. Blaine served as Chief Executive Officer of Panera from January 2018 to May 2019, after serving as its President since December 2016. Blaine joined Panera in late 2010 to begin the Panera 2.0 initiative, an enhanced guest experience enabled by technology and rooted in operational integrity. In 2014, he launched Panera’s Delivery initiative. Prior to joining Panera, Blaine was an entrepreneur and consultant, assisting numerous restaurant, retail and distribution companies in their development and growth, including the development of Panera’s strategic information systems plan. He previously served as President of Restaurant Technology Solutions LLC, a division of eMac Digital.
CEO | Oath Pizza
Drew Kellogg is the CEO of Oath Pizza. Originally from Seattle, Drew attended the United States Naval Academy and served overseas before earning his MBA from Johns Hopkins University. After working as a financial advisor for various national medical companies, Drew returned to operational leadership at Chipotle Mexican Grill in 2008. Drew served as the Executive Team Director of the Mid-Atlantic Region for nearly a decade, leading all operational, financial and team developments for over 300 restaurants and 7,000 employees. Drew joined Oath Pizza in 2018, and brought his years of executive leadership experience to the rapidly evolving company. Drew now drives Oath Pizza’s strategic vision with his purpose-driven and talented team.
President & CEO | Cowboy Chicken
As president and CEO, Sean Kennedy has been instrumental in establishing Cowboy Chicken as the premium fast casual restaurant brand that pioneered wood-fired rotisserie chicken. Sean has worked to refine the menu, build operational systems, grow system-wide sales and strengthen store financial performance. He launched Cowboy Chicken’s franchise program that helped to pave the way for today’s national expansion and has built a strong corporate team to support franchise development, real estate, construction, training, marketing and franchise support efforts. During his leadership, the brand has been included in Fast Casual’s Top 100 Movers & Shakers list every year since 2011 and in 2017 won the Emerging Chain of the Year award from Restaurant Business.
Owner | Green Market Cafe
Speaker bio coming soon!
VP of Operations Services | Mr Brews Taphouse
As Vice President of Operations Services for Mr Brews Taphouse, Carrie Martin brings over 30 years of restaurant experience to the rapidly growing franchise brand. Prior to joining Mr Brews in 2019, Carrie served as Director of Training for bd’s Mongolian Grill for 15 years accumulating a variety of different responsibilities under her leadership including HR, R&D and operations. Early on in her career, the Michigan State University Hospitality Business School grad also worked for Ruby Tuesdays and a T.G.I Fridays Franchise Group based in Phoenix, AZ. In her current role with Mr Brews, Carrie leads the charge helping develop and oversee training and operations for all 16 Mr Brews Taphouse locations.
VP of Marketing | Wings and Rings
Diane Matheson’s experience has taught her the importance of a relevant and differentiated brand. As Vice President of Marketing, Diane leads the brand management and marketing team, brining extensive background in brand, consumer and design strategy. Prior to Wings and Rings, Diane served as Brand Director at LPK, a global brand design agency, where she led the restage of some of the world’s most recognizable brands, including Pantene, Oil of Olay and Herbal Essences. Diane holds dual degrees in Marketing and Commercial Arts. She joined Wings and Rings in July of 2014.
Owner & CEO | Free Range Concepts
Kyle Noonan is an American entrepreneur, speaker, television personality, 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 eighth 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.
CFO | Luna Grill
Speaker bio coming soon!
Marketing Manager | The Saxton Group
Speaker bio coming soon!
Founder & CEO | Sweetberry Bowls
Sweetberry Bowls was founded in 2017 by restaurant veteran, Desi Saran. He is a serial entrepreneur with an MBA in Finance & BA in Economics from Rutgers University. Desi has extensive experience in developing fast-casual chains and tech start-ups. He created Sweetberry Bowls to provide quality and affordable healthy food options to consumers. The healthy, fast-casual concept specializes in Acai bowls, Poke Bowls, Smoothies, Wraps, & Salads with a focus on product, atmosphere and extraordinary customer service. Under Desi’s leadership, the company opened 20 units across 7 states in 2 years.
VP of Finance & Analytics | Tropical Smoothie Cafe
Speaker bio coming soon!
CEO | Blaze Pizza
Mandy Shaw joined Blaze Pizza in January 2018 as the CFO and was named interim CEO in August 2019 and then President and CEO in November 2019. Mandy previously served nearly 13 years in various roles at Bloomin’ Brands, Inc. including as Chief Financial Officer for the international division, Chief Information Officer, and as Chief Accounting Officer during Bloomin’s transition to a private company and through its subsequent IPO. In March 2020, she was named one of the 50 most influential women in foodservice by Nation’s Restaurant News.
Vice President, U.S. Development | Little Caesars
Craig Sherwood is vice president of U.S. Development at Little Caesar Enterprises, Inc., the world’s third largest pizza chain. With oversight for all aspects of Little Caesars domestic franchise development, real estate and construction, Craig leads a team devoted to the growth of one of the most iconic brands in the world. Uniquely qualified as an attorney, business professional and former United States Army officer, Craig has more than 20 years of franchise development experience across a variety of industries. Prior to joining Little Caesars, he served as chief development officer at Gold’s Gym, where he managed the brand’s franchising community and licensing programs while leading the charge to expand internationally.
Chief Development Officer | Another Broken Egg Cafe
Jeff Sturgis is Chief Development Officer for Another Broken Egg Cafe, leading all restaurant franchise and development functions for both company and franchise units. Jeff is an accomplished, experienced and strategic senior franchising executive. His deep experience, knowledge and understanding of all development functions gives him the ability to align development strategy with unit level operational dynamics and with overall organizational goals and strategy. His experience includes leading cross-functional teams in single and multi-brand environments with the goal of driving intelligent and sustainable unit growth. Jeff has held several senior leadership positions in the franchise industry including Chief Development Officer for Fazoli’s Restaurants and Chief Development Officer for McAlister’s Deli.
President & CEO | Juice It Up!
A highly successful restaurant industry veteran with over 30 years of experience, Susan Taylor joined the Juice It Up! family in 2019 as VP of Operations and Business Development and was promoted to President and CEO of the brand in early-2020. Susan has served in various leadership roles for national franchise chains including 14 years at Jamba, where she was the Senior Director of Franchise Operations, Sharky’s Woodfired Mexican Grill, Baja Fresh and Chevy’s Fresh Mex. Under her leadership, Juice It Up! has built upon its diverse offerings by putting a heavier focus on product innovation and ingredient functionality. Since coming on board, Susan has spearheaded initiatives that have dramatically improved both the guest-and franchisee-facing experience.
President & Majority Partner | Little Greek
Nick Vojnovic currently is the President and majority partner of Little Greek Franchise Development, LLC, since April of 2011. In 2015, Vojnovic, became the owner the USF/Fowler Avenue location in Tampa and rebranded the company to Little Greek Fresh Grill. When Nick first became President, there were 4 locations. Today, there are 46 locations. Prior to, Little Greek, he had a 12-year stint as President of Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Family Sports Pubs from 1998 until 2010, also based in Tampa. His strong work ethic was instrumental in helping Beef ‘O’ Brady’s grow from 30 units, mostly in the Tampa area, to a chain of more than 260 units located in 23 states.