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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.

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.

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.

Hassy Braggs

Director of Marketing | Your Pie

Speaker bio coming soon!

Dave Brewer

COO | Middleby Corp.

Speaker bio coming soon!

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.

Cherryh Cansler

Director of Editorial | Networld Media Group

Before joining Networld Media Group as Director 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

Patrick Conlin

Senior Vice President | Jake’s Franchising, LLC / Wayback Burgers

Speaker bio coming soon!

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Janene Holig

Executive Chef | Hot Indian Foods

Speaker bio coming soon!

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 Founder & CEO for Vale Food Co, a rapidly growing healthy fast casual restaurant in Florida that offers build your own bowls; açaí bowls, and also provides meal plan delivery services. A true entrepreneur, he set out in 2014 to create a meal plan delivery company to provide people with healthy food that is delicious, convenient, affordable and has variety. In 2016, he was able to grow from a meal plan delivery business to opening up as a restaurant as well. As a dual revenue stream company, Vale Food Co in a year has been able to grow into 3 locations in prime real estate and thrive.

Larry Jones

VP of Construction | Captain D’s

Speaker bio coming soon!

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.

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.

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.

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

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 Sales | Dickey’s Barbecue Pit

Speaker bio coming soon!

David Ponce

CMO | Wings Etc.

Speaker bio coming soon!

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.

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.

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.

Jason Valentine

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 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

Speaker bio coming soon!

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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