4:00- 7:00 pm
Location: Radisson Blu Aqua, Level 1: Atlantic Ballroom Foyer
Stop by the registration desk to pick up your name badge and registration materials.
5:30 - 7:30 pm
Location: Level 1, Atlantic Ballroom Foyer
Mix and mingle with friends, old and new, at our Opening Reception. Drinks and hors d'oeuvres will be provided.
8:00 - 10:00 pm
MEG After-Party Presented by DIRECTV FOR BUSINESS NATIONAL ACCOUNTS
Location: SPIN, 344 N State St. (0.7 miles, 15 walk from Radisson Blu Aqua hotel)
Join us for food, drinks and Ping Pong! Whether you want to compete in a ping pong tournament, or just hang out with fellow marketers, you won’t want to miss out on the fun! Be sure to dress casually and pack your tennis shoes if you’d like to play.
7:45 - 8:45 am
Location: Level 2, Pacific Ballroom
8:45 - 9:30 am
Welcome & Introductions
9:30 - 10:30 am
Opening Keynote: The Future of Consumerism
In this fascinating talk, Doug Stephens tackles the future of consumerism. He sheds light on the key shifts in economics, demographics, technology, and media that are completely transforming the consumer landscape, and the very essence of how we buy. Who the consumer is, in addition to how, where, and even why they shop, is changing rapidly and forever? The way our stores look—and how we interact with them—are constantly in flux. Mobile technology, social commerce, artificial intelligence, the internet of things, virtual reality, big data, and a deluge of developing technologies are all conspiring to forever change how we buy.
How do we cope with all these transformations? Stephens shares what smart brands are doing today to re-imagine their businesses and capitalize on these historic changes.
Doug Stephens, Retail & Consumer Futurist | Internationally Acclaimed Author & Founder of Retail Prophet
Doug Stephens is the Founder and CEO of Retail Prophet and is widely regarded as one of the world’s foremost retail industry futurists. His creative and intellectual work has influenced the strategies of global brands including IKEA, Nike, Coca Cola, LVMH, and L’Oréal.
He is the bestselling author of three books on the future of retail, including his latest book, Resurrecting Retail: The Future of Business in a Post-Pandemic World.
Doug is also a nationally syndicated retail columnist for CBC Radio and sits on multiple advisory boards, including the David Sobey Centre for Innovation in Retail at St. Mary’s University.
His unique perspectives on retail and consumer behavior have been featured in many of the world’s leading publications and media outlets including The New York Times, The BBC, The Business of Fashion, The Wall Street Journal, and Fast Company.
10:30 - 11:00 am
11:00 - 12:15 pm
Tales from the Front: What Employees Want, Presented by Paradox
Restaurants are scrambling for employees. The retention rate prior to the pandemic was troubling, and the past two rollercoaster years of shutdowns, layoffs, and rehiring have rendered the relationship between employees and employers even more fragile.
PinPoint Collective conducted a series of proprietary, deep dive conversations with employees who are currently working in restaurants and with those who recently quit. The goal: to identify through firsthand accounts, the high points, and the pain points, of working in the restaurant industry. What do these employees consider important to job satisfaction today; what are the perceptions, needs, and expectations?
Following the research presentation, firsthand accounts continue live, but this time from the perspective of restaurant marketers, recently tasked with recruitment duties, who will share the hurdles and winning strategies they've employed to find and keep talent.
Faith Hurley & Stacy Callighan, Co-Founders, PinPoint Collective
Faith Hurley and Stacy Callighan are the Co-founders of PinPoint Collective, a female-owned, equity-centered innovation firm based in Chicago that believes great design starts with great research. Stacy and Faith live a mission to advance underrepresented audiences through quantitative and qualitative research methods. The result? Those valuable voices are incorporated into the design process, allowing a variety of data, perspectives, context, and needs to directly influence impactful goals and outcomes. It’s no longer enough for executives to sit around a boardroom making decisions based on what they think people want. Whereas equality means treating everyone the same, equity means providing everyone with what they need to have the same chance at success — and that only happens when we approach people as individuals and amplify their voices. This is where equity-centered innovation is invaluable. PinPoint's process includes quantitative and qualitative research, strategic design concepts, and implementation of new brands, products, services, technologies, and spaces that genuinely answer the needs and desires expressed authentically by the audiences their clients serve.
Dan Bejmuk, Co-Founder & CEO, Dreambox
Dan Bejmuk is Co-Founder and CEO of Dreambox, the nation’s leading digital advertising agency within the restaurant space. Fortunate to have worked with over one hundred different national and regional restaurant brands in the firms over twenty-two-year history he brings a unique perspective to digital marketing across every segment of the industry. A graduate of Cal Poly Pomona’s College of Business he spends most of his free time chasing around his five-year-old daughter Chloe and is based in Los Angeles.
Kaffee Hopkins, Director, Brand Marketing, Marlow’s Tavern, the Woodall, Sterling Culinary Management
Kaffee is responsible for marketing strategy for Marlow’s Tavern, the Woodall, and Sterling Culinary Management. She manages corporate branding and communications to ensure brand integrity and growth, as well as develops and implements all marketing communications, including advertising, social media, online/web media, broadcast, public relations, and sponsorships. She also directs PR, media, and advertising agency partnerships.
Kaffee has thirty plus years of marketing and advertising experience, which includes time on both the agency and client sides of the business. Before joining Sterling Hospitality, she consulted for such notable companies as AGCO, GE, Applebee’s, and Georgia Natural Gas.
Prior to entering the freelance world, Kaffee was Vice President/Group Account Director at the Atlanta office of Grey Global. While at Grey she managed accounts such as Cousins Properties, US Franchise Systems (Microtel and Hawthorne Suites), Southern Company, Georgia Power, Icehouse Beer, Miller Genuine Draft, The World of Coca Cola and Cost Plus World Market. Kaffee also worked on accounts for GCI, Grey’s sister PR agency. She was the lead on the PR efforts for the Olive Garden brand as well.
Before joining Grey, she was SVP of Account Service for Fletcher Martin. During her five years there she managed several regional and national accounts including Arby’s, Mrs. Winner’s Chicken and Lee’s Fried Chicken, E-Z-GO Golf Cars, Carvel Ice Cream, and Cinnabon.
Hopkins’ career began in the marketing department with Applebee’s International in 1987 when they had a mere 50 restaurants.
Kaffee has served four years on the National Restaurant Association’s Marketing Executives Group (MEG) board where she is currently Chairman.
Karen LuKanic, Owner & Operator, Chef Zorba’s
Karen LuKanic has worn many hats in the restaurant, catering, and events business during her 30-year career. Currently, Karen is the owner and operator of Chef Zorba’s, an old-time neighborhood diner in Denver’s Congress Park.
Prior to her entrepreneurship, Karen served as Chief Marketing Officer for the legendary steakhouse, The Palm. Karen also managed catering operations and restaurants at 29 cultural and entertainment venues for Wolfgang Puck Catering (Newseum, Georgia Aquarium, Union Station Dallas, Hollywood & Highland) in addition to overseeing prominent events such as the Academy Awards Governor’s Ball, the GRAMMYs, American Music Awards ESPY Awards and many movie premieres. During her tenure at Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG), one of the world’s leading sports and entertainment presenters, Karen oversaw the development of all restaurants and catering operations at L.A. Live (GRAMMY Museum, Ritz-Carlton, Nokia Theatre, STAPLES Center, 17 restaurants) and The O2 in London (O2 Arena, The British Music Experience, 40+ restaurants). Karen has also served in executive capacities for The Walt Disney Company (ESPN Zone, Club Disney, DisneyQuest), Richard Sandoval Restaurants, and Xanterra Parks & Resorts (Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, Zion National Park).
Karen currently serves on the Board of Directors for EatDenver, a nonprofit network of over 200 independent restaurants committed to supporting and strengthening Denver’s restaurant and dining community. She is also an active member of the Colorado Restaurant Association and served as an advisory board member for The Special Event, and as a member of the National Association of Catering Executives and Luxury Marketing Council. She’s spoken at major conferences and events, including The Special Event, Meeting Professionals International (MPI), the National Restaurant Association and the Marshall School of Business at University of Southern California. She is a two-time Gala Award Winner and was named “Best Presenter” by the Charitable Celebrity Commission.
A Chicago native, Karen attended Eastern Illinois University and Northwestern University and completed the professional chef curriculum at The New School of Cooking in Los Angeles as well as a pastry specialty at the California School of Culinary Arts (Le Cordon Bleu North America). She lives in Centennial, Colorado with her husband and daughter.
Joshua Secrest, Vice President, Client Marketing & Advocacy, Paradox
Joshua Secrest is Vice President of Client Marketing and Advocacy at Paradox. Prior to joining Paradox, he led talent and talent acquisition teams for some of the world’s largest and most recognizable brands. During his time at McDonald’s Corporation, Joshua was head of global talent strategy and global talent acquisition where he helped build and launch the world’s first voice-initiated application in partnership with Paradox, Google, and Amazon. Joshua also spent over 13 years at Abercrombie & Fitch Co. where he led various HR functions including global talent acquisition, philanthropy, and home office development. Joshua graduated from Yale University with a B.A. in Economics. He and his wife Morgan live in Chicago’s West Loop neighborhood.
12:15 - 1:15 pm
Location: Level 2, Pacific Ballroom
1:15 - 2:15 pm
Past, Present, and Future with Carlos Herrera, Chief Economist, The Coca-Cola Company
Join Carlos as he highlights consumer food spending over the last 60 years and what we can expect going forward.
Carlos Herrera, Chief Economist, Coca-Cola North America
Carlos Herrera is Chief Economist for Coca-Cola North America Foodservice and On-Premise division. The main thrust of his work is to increase the visibility of ‘what’s to come’ through a deeper understanding of the Foodservice industry from an economic perspective. His forecasts are a key input to the development of strategic and operational plans. Carlos regularly shares his insights on the impact of the economy on consumers and the restaurant industry with the executive leadership, boards of directors, and franchisees of leading foodservice companies around the world. He has spent the last 29 years at Coca-Cola North America serving in various capacities in Operations, Finance, Marketing, and Strategic Planning. Prior to that, Carlos worked for 8 years at Federal Express and holds a Master’s Degree in Industrial and Systems Engineering from Georgia Tech. He is a member of the National Association for Business Economics board of directors, the National Business Economists Issues Council and the Harvard Industrial Economists Discussion Group. Carlos is chair of the board of the Institute of Mexican Culture in Atlanta.
2:15 - 3:00 pm
How Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) Can Help Build Your Brand
ESG marketing is the activity of promoting environmental, social and governance attributes of a company's strategy to its investors, buyers, and other stakeholders in alignment with corporate purpose and mission. Having ESG marketing message helps build brand equity, financial worth and true social impact.
Hear from a panel of experts who lead their brands work to address pressing issues like climate change, diversity and inclusion, and economic equality, all while driving business value.
Jeffrey Clark, Director, Member Services, National Restaurant Association
Jeffrey Clark, an eight-year veteran of the National Restaurant Association, engages industry professionals who oversee three separate areas of expertise within their restaurant companies: food safety & quality assurance, nutrition, and sustainability.
Mr. Clark develops focused, collaborative gatherings in which these professionals connect and educate each other about industry issues and challenges they’re experiencing such as food safety policy and education, sustainable foodservice packaging, children’s nutrition policy, menu labeling, and animal rights activism.
In addition, Mr. Clark develops research reports, educational videos, and sustainability case studies highlighting specific best practices such as reducing food waste in restaurants and avoiding seafood fraud.
Mr. Clark manages member-only platforms for these groups within the Association, including food safety & quality assurance, nutrition, and sustainability, where colleagues can regularly ask questions and share best practices on current concerns.
A widely sought-after speaker, Mr. Clark’s passion is sustainability, where he presents the latest research and resources to businesses, state restaurant associations, and the public. He represents the restaurant industry regularly each year, moderating panels on live and virtual events, hosting webinars, and presenting at meetings covering many restaurant-related topics.
He is actively involved with efforts to improve local food systems and with initiatives designed to give low-income communities access to nutritious foods. He served three years on the Montgomery County Food Council, acting as secretary to the board, where he helped the organization transition into a 501(c)3 nonprofit.
Mr. Clark completed his Master’s in Public Policy from Duke University, and his Bachelor of Science in physics from the University of California, Santa Cruz.
His hobbies include photography, surfing, cycling, and gardening. He has lived and worked in Europe and the Middle East and is currently teaching a sustainability course at Georgetown University.
Amanda McGuire, Director, Global Impact & ESG Communications, McDonald’s
Amanda McGuire is a corporate communications strategist, specializing in ESG communications. In her role as Director of Global Impact and ESG Communication at McDonald’s, Amanda and her team as responsible for propelling reputation-driving initiatives that illustrate the positive impact McDonald’s has on the planet and the 40,000+ communities it serves around the world.
Prior to McDonald’s, Amanda was a senior vice president at Zeno Group, a leading global integrated communications agency. Over her eight years at the agency, Amanda was responsible for developing and executing strategic programming across a broad range of clients, including Hyatt, Chick-fil-A, Crate & Barrel and many more. She led planning, strategy and activations that drove reputation while managing teams spanning disciplines and geographies. Highlights included leading the planning and rollout of Hyatt’s first-ever ESG platform, as well as serving as lead corporate brand strategist for Chick-fil-A’s new wholly owned subsidiaries.
Amanda began her career at global PR agency Ketchum in New York, where she played a lead role on FedEx Corp, the agency’s largest global account.
Amanda graduated from Xavier University. She lives in Glenview, Illinois, with her husband Tracy and two children.
Katie Wallace, Chief ESG Officer, New Belgium Brewing
Katie Wallace is the Chief ESG Officer at New Belgium Brewing, where she has been for 18 years. As a pioneer in ESG and B Corp business models, Katie leads the company’s work to address pressing issues like climate change, diversity/inclusion, and economic equality while driving business value. Her team works toward these goals through companywide operational initiatives, governance, philanthropy, policy advocacy, brand-based advocacy, and coworker culture.
Katie sits on the executive team at New Belgium. She is the cofounder of the Glass Recycling Coalition and the Brewers Association Sustainability Committee. Before joining the sustainability team at New Belgium, Katie’s experience includes water quality, finance, sales & marketing, and supply chain planning. She holds degrees in Finance and Economics as well as a Masters in Applied Positive Psychology where she studied approaches to advancing a culture of social and environmental change in organizations.
New Belgium is the largest craft brewer in the United States. The company was founded in 1991 in Fort Collins, Colorado, by Kim Jordan, a social worker, who built her company the only way a social worker would: People first. Early on, New Belgium prioritized a ‘human-powered’ business model and found co-benefits between social and environmental well-being and financial success. Today they are the makers of Voodoo Ranger IPA and Fat Tire Amber Ale, the nation’s first Certified Carbon Neutral beer. NBB is a Certified B Corporation, holds a perfect score on the HRC Corporate Equality Index, and is a founding member of 1% For The Planet. Learn more at www.drinksustainably.com and www.brewedforall.com.
3:00 - 3:30 pm
3:30 - 5:15 pm
Location: Level 2, Baltic/Bering Room & Caribbean/Caspian Room
This session is open to restaurant marketing operators/consultants who represent a restaurant brand only. This session is closed to sponsor partners.
Visit three roundtables for a 25-minute discussion at each. Each table is set for 8 attendees and will feature a topic moderator, along with key questions and solutions to hot topics and issues that keep you up at night.
ROOM 1: Baltic/Bering Room: Local Store Marketing & Guest Experience
Local Store Marketing, Moderator: Courtney Mazzella, Director, Client Services, Champion
Local Store Marketing – Activating Cause Marketing for Community Engagement, Moderator: Tammy Lucich, Director, Marketing & Beverage, Hickory Tavern
Influencer Marketing, Moderator: Heather Stennis, Vice President, Marketing, Cinnaholic
Off-Premise Hospitality, Moderator: Cassie Cooper, Director, Marketing, Velvet Taco
How to Respond to Reviews (Customer Engagement & Recovery), Moderator: Angus Gorberg, Senior Account Executive, SOCi
ROOM 2: Caribbean/Caspian Room: Digital Marketing & Guest Segmentation
6:30 - 9:30 pm
Evening Dinner Event: Fulton Market Kitchen
Our dinner & drinks event takes place at Fulton Market Kitchen, inspired by the 1980s NYC art scene and the Wynwood Walls in Miami, Fulton Market Kitchen offers guests the rare opportunity to enjoy dining, drinking, and the work of incredible artists in a single, truly unique setting.
Transportation from the hotel will be provided.
7:00 - 2:00 pm
7:30 - 8:30 am
Location: Level 2, Pacific Ballroom
8:30 - 8:45 am
MEG Business: Charities & Initiatives
CORE (Children of Restaurant Employees), Meals on Wheels and the NRAEF will share the work they do and how you and your company can help. You'll also hear about the Association's partnership with UnitedHealthcare which provides members with access to essential tools and healthcare options.
8:45 - 9:45 am
Past Experience, Forward Vision: A Candid Conversation with Julia Stewart
One of the best known and most respected leaders in the restaurant industry, Julia Stewart reflects on a lifetime in the corporate spotlight. She’s improved brands, bottom lines, ROIs, P&Ls….and people. She’ll share the innovation, motivation and methods that took her to the top as a successful CEO and reveal how she's redeploying these skills as she transitions to trailblazing entrepreneur. This don't-miss, interactive exchange will be led by journalist, menu analyst and MEG favorite Nancy Kruse. Bring your questions and join us for the opportunity to hear the wit and wisdom, insights, and opinions of two of the ultimate industry insiders.
Nancy Kruse, President, The Kruse Company
Nancy Kruse is a nationally recognized authority and widely quoted expert on food and menu trends. As founder and president of The Kruse Company in Atlanta, Georgia, she tracks the trends and reports on hot-button issues in both the restaurant and supermarket industries.
A prolific food writer, Nancy is a contributor to Restaurant Business magazine. In demand as a speaker, she regularly addresses restaurant associations, major supermarket and restaurant companies, food manufacturers and promotion boards both here and abroad.
Prior to founding her own company, she served as executive vice president for Technomic, Inc., where she conducted a wide range of consulting assignments for Fortune 500 food and restaurant companies.
Nancy earned a Master of Arts degree from the Film School of Northwestern University, and she was a Woodrow Wilson fellow in Russian literature at the University of Wisconsin. She also completed coursework at the Culinary Institute of America, where she served as guest lecturer. And she has been named one of the Top 100 Influencers in the US by business-networking site LinkedIn.
Julia Stewart, Founder & CEO, Alurx
Julia Stewart’s impressive career spans more than 40 years at some of America’s most iconic and beloved brands. Her leadership accounts for the rejuvenation and growth at companies such as Taco Bell, Applebee’s, and IHOP. Most recently, she served almost 20 years as Chair and CEO for IHOP and subsequently, Dine Brands Global (NYSE: DIN). Through her strategic vision, IHOP acquired Applebee’s resulting in the creation of Dine Brands, the world’s largest sit-down restaurant chain. Because of her enduring career and numerous accomplishments, Fortune Magazine named her to their list of the 50 Most Powerful Women in the US.
Today, Julia brings her CEO wisdom, experience, and drive to the world of wellness. She founded Alurx in 2020, with a sharply focused vision to enhance everyone’s quest for wellness. Alurx is a technology platform, uniquely positioned in a global marketplace. It’s a distinctive approach where consumers benefit from a customized and comprehensive plan utilizing education, interactive guidance, products, and services for improved health and a better life. As part of the platform, she has created the AMEC (Alurx Medical & Expert Council), an independent group of physicians, academics, wellness professionals, and scientific experts. Their ongoing mission is to develop and curate solutions and modify behaviors for health-conscious consumers through the Alurx App.
Julia also serves as an independent board member for Avery Dennison (NYSE: AVY), Bite Acquisition Corp. (NYSE: BITE), and Fogo de Chão Restaurants. She is an active philanthropist and sought-after inspirational speaker.
9:45 - 10:45 am
Marketing + Operations: How Wildly Successful Brands Harness their Combined Power
Restaurant leaders share top strategies for accelerating future growth.
Jami Sharp, SVP, Public Relations & Digital Marketing, Champion
Jami Sharp is the Senior Vice President of Public Relations and Digital Media at Champion. With a career spanning over two decades, Sharp is a nationally recognized communication, social media, content marketing, media training and crisis communication strategist skilled at building and amplifying powerful brand stories. With specialties in national and franchise public relations strategy, Sharp has an impressive roster of national network media contacts and frequently provides strategic communications counsel to senior leaders in managing all aspects of communication, marketing, and digital platforms. Prior to joining the Champion team, she was the Director of Corporate Communications for RAVE Restaurant Group and Director of Public Relations for Dickey’s Barbecue Restaurants, Inc.
Bruce Skala, Senior Vice President, Marketing, HOA Brands - Hooters/Hoots
Bruce Skala is the Senior Vice President of HOA Brands, based in Atlanta. Bruce is responsible for global marketing programming for the iconic brand, Hooters, and the fast casual sister brand, Hoots. Prior to joining HOA Brands, Bruce led Field Marketing for Heineken USA, and multiple roles for The Coca-Cola Company.
Mr. Skala is married to Kristine, a Surgical ICU Nurse at Emory University Hospital, and has two children.
André C. Vener, Founding Partner, Dog Haus Worldwide
Along with his two business partners, André co-founded Dog Haus in April 2010, with the mission of elevating stadium food classics into culinary masterworks. Over the last decade, Dog Haus has expanded from its Pasadena, CA, base to nearly 50 locations from coast-to-coast. André and his partners have spearheaded the craft-casual brand’s rapid expansion by forming alliances with leading ghost kitchen networks, an innovative partnership with Live Nation and the 2020 introduction of The Absolute Brands – a suite of virtual restaurant concepts spun off from several of Dog Haus’ signature menu items, such as the Bad Mutha Clucka.
André has been interviewed as a restaurant industry expert on multiple national platforms, including CNN, FOX News Channel and MSNBC. He and his Dog Haus partners were featured on the cover of QSR Magazine’s April 2020 edition, and they have been profiled in Entrepreneur magazine, Food & Wine and more.
Prior to co-founding Dog Haus, André served as Executive Producer of Pasadena Entertainment, where he produced hundreds of events in venues of all sizes, including The Rose Bowl, Los Angeles County Arboretum, Dorothy Chandler Pavilion and more. André founded and operated redwhite+bluezz, an award-winning restaurant and jazz club that served great food, wine, and live music for eight years. Before entering the hospitality industry, André served as CEO & President of the California Philharmonic for 10 years. Under his leadership, the orchestra performed its annual concert series at noted venues such as Walt Disney Concert Hall, The Ambassador Auditorium and Santa Anita Race Track.
André earned his Executive MBA in 2007 from the Claremont Graduate School of Management, and his BA in Psychology from San Francisco State University. A competitive athlete, André played soccer in college and served as captain of the LA-based semi-pro soccer club Euro Stars. He has played across the US, as well as in Germany, Holland, and Costa Rica. André enjoys sharing his passions for food, wine and world travel with friends and family. He, his wife Amanda, and daughter Ava live in Pasadena and enjoy spending weekends on Catalina Island.
Jack Gibbons, CEO, FB Society
As the CEO of FB Society, Jack Gibbons has been an integral leader of a dynamic group of industry professionals that create, incubate and grow innovative restaurant brands across the country. Jack brings his unmatched creative energy and operational expertise to build cutting-edge developmental strategies and inspire a like-minded team to push the boundaries of food and hospitality.
FB Society is a Dallas-based restaurant group that includes Whiskey Cake, focusing on craft cocktails and locally sourced comfort food; wine-forward restaurant Sixty Vines; Mexican Sugar, featuring Mexican Food and tequila-based cocktails; Southern restaurant Ida Claire; Texan cuisine-focused Haywire and The Ranch at Las Colinas; and a fast-casual slider concept called Son of a Butcher. FB Society also operates a food hall and restaurant incubator in Dallas called Legacy Hall, a catering company, an event venue called Bingham House, a craft brewery called Unlawful Assembly Brewing Co., and a non-profit organization called Furlough Kitchen.
Since joining FB Society, Jack has been instrumental in bringing transformative and timeless brands to untapped markets. Under Jack’s leadership, FB Society is fulfilling its mission to continue opening independent concepts with colorful names and use fresh, local products to fill a gap in the market and break the traditional rules of dining.
Prior to joining Front Burner in 2008, Jack spent 25 years with the Pappas Restaurant Group, rising through the ranks from server to Chief Operations Officer of Pappadeaux. Under Jack’s leadership, Pappadeaux successfully grew from one unit in to thirty-three restaurants across the country.
10:45 - 11:15 am
11:15 - 12:15 pm
The Path from CMO to CEO
Hear from a panel of CEOs who made big and bold decisions that helped, or hurt, these brand leaders as they navigated unchartered waters.
Clay Dover, CEO, President and Taco Maker, Velvet Taco
Clay Dover is the Chief Executive Officer, President and Taco Maker at Velvet Taco, a restaurant committed to a world of tacos without borders and one of the hottest fast casual brands in the industry. Since he assumed leadership in March 2017, Velvet Taco has expanded from 4 to 34 restaurants with 15 more in development and continues to see consecutive quarters of positive restaurant comparative sales. Dover attributes the brand’s success to quality, chef-driven recipes inspired by flavors around the world served in a tortilla and a strong “Tribe” culture that allows Team Members to be bold, curious, and unconventional. Dover has successfully led the brand during recent unprecedented times, maintaining positive cash flow, improving margins, and continuing the development growth plan.
A service industry veteran with over 25 years of experience, Dover previously was the Chief Marketing Officer at Pei Wei, overseeing brand direction and culinary strategy. Additionally, Dover served as President and Chief Marketing Officer, Fry Cook and Cashier for Raising Cane’s Chicken Finger Restaurants for over 6 years while the brand grew from 63 to 225 units in 18 states and developed non-traditional, international and locations. He has served in a variety of senior marketing and leadership roles within the restaurant industry throughout his career.
Dover was named the past three years as one of the most influential restaurant CEO’s in the Country by Nations Restaurant News and has previously served as Co-Chair of the National Restaurant Association's Marketing Executives Group (MEG). Other achievements and awards include CMO of the Year; Dallas’s “40 under 40 Award”, and Chain Leader Protege of the Year Award.
Clay makes his home in Plano, Texas with his wife, Rebecca, and family. When he’s not applying his passion to global taco domination, he enjoys snowboarding in the winter and trail running in the summer with his dogs Oakley and Parley.
Timmy McCarthy, Founder, Cara Zale
Timmy McCarthy is an entrepreneur and social change advocate with almost twenty years of experience in the business world. Timmy spent many years building and focusing on RCO Limited, the Ohio Franchise Partner of Raising Cane’s Chicken Fingers. He built this up to be the largest franchise organization within the Raising Cane’s system, and Timmy and RCO Limited became known for their impressive results as well as the way they advocated for and supported their employees.
Motivated by the social impact made possible by a successful business, and desiring to make this impact on a larger scale, Timmy and his business partners purchased WorkPlace Impact (then WorkPlace Media) in 2013. In July 2017, Cara Zale, a Social Capital Investment Company was born. Through Cara Zale, Timmy and his partners publicize that they are focused on “Growing Great Businesses and Developing People who Create Social Change.” Timmy lives in Worthington, OH, and guest lectures regularly at both The Ohio State University, his MBA alma mater, and Wittenberg University, his undergrad alma mater, sharing his experiences in building businesses with students at the Fisher College of Business. He has been mentioned or featured in articles in Business First, Franchise Times, The Daily Reporter, The Lantern, Crain’s and The Columbus Dispatch.
Timmy currently serves as chair of The Business of Good Foundation based in Mentor, OH, and has helped to develop TheBusinessofGood.org and their practice of “Serving Those Who Serve the Very Poor.” He also hopes to encourage budding entrepreneurs and social entrepreneurs to continue their development of community and national projects, as those are the sources of America’s future potential success.
Carin Stutz, President & CEO, Native Foods
Carin Stutz is the President and CEO of Native Foods, the original 100% plant-based fast casual eatery. Stutz previously served as the EVP/COO of Red Robin overseeing operations across the US and Canada. Prior experience includes the President of McAlister's Deli, CEO and President of Cosi, and President of Global Business Development for Brinker International, leading all operations and franchise development for Chili's and Maggiano's restaurants around the globe.
Prior to joining Brinker, Stutz was EVP of Operations for Applebee's International, the Pacific Division Vice President for Wendy's International, served as Regional Operations Vice President for Sodexo, U.S.A., and was Vice President of Corporate Operations for NutriSystem, Inc.
She serves on the board of directors for Checkers and Rally’s and Kura Sushi, as well as the board of trustees for Western Illinois University. She is a member of the Fast Casual Industry Council, the Illinois Restaurant Association Board, Panhandler’s Pizza Advisory Board, and a founding board member of the GLEAM Network, a mentoring platform for the foodservice industry.
She is a Past Chair of the Women's Foodservice Forum; recognized in Chicago's top 100 Women to Watch and Women Making a Difference; Texas Women Worth Watching award; received the distinguished alumni award from WIU, and national judge for ProStart, NRA Education Foundation.
Stutz holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Western Illinois University and an MBA from Mid America Nazarene University.
Stutz and her husband Rodger have two adult sons, two wonderful daughters-in-law and four grandsons. They enjoy music, theater, golf and travel.
Chris Tomasso, CEO, First Watch Restaurants, Inc.
Chris Tomasso was named Chief Executive Officer of First Watch Restaurants, Inc. in June of 2018 after serving as President since December of 2015 and Chief Marketing Officer from 2006 to 2015. Chris brings more than 25 years of restaurant industry experience to the role, including executive leadership positions at both large-scale public and private domestic and international multi-unit concepts. Prior to joining First Watch, Chris led national and international marketing efforts for renowned brands such as Cracker Barrel and Hard Rock Café International. He was honored on Nation’s Restaurant News’ Power List in 2017 and named a Top Private Company CMO in 2012 by ExecRank.
12:15 - 12:45 pm
Stay or Go?
Listen to industry experts present trending topics and cast your vote for whether they're a flash-in-the-pan or sticking around for a while!
Stay or Go: Third-Party Delivery
Donna Hood Crecca, Principal, Technomic, Inc.
Donna Hood Crecca is Principal at Technomic Inc., where she leads the firm’s Convenience Store Practice as well as its Adult Beverage Practice, and is founder of its Cannabis Practice. As Principal, Donna develops research-based insights and recommendations for leading and emerging supplier and operator companies to enhance their go-to-market and product development programs and strategies. She is a veteran of the foodservice and drinks industries, having covered and consulted for the restaurant, foodservice, convenience store, beverage and beverage alcohol markets for more than three decades.
Stay or Go: QR Codes
Amy Nedwell, Director, Marketing, Good Times Restaurants Inc.
Amy Nedwell is the Director of Marketing at Good Times Restaurants Inc. where she oversees the marketing initiatives for Good Times Restaurants, a publicly held company based in Denver, CO. Amy drives the branding, voice and marketing efforts for both concepts within the group, Good Times Burgers & Frozen Custard, a QSR concept with 31 locations and Bad Daddy's Burger Bar, a full-service bar & grill restaurant with 42 locations. As a member of the Good Times' executive team, Amy determines the future project, promotions, growth and execution on all mediums for both brands. Amy has been with Bad Daddy's & Good Times for nearly 10 years and was previously a Business Development Director for Red Book Solutions.
12:45 - 2:00 pm
Reach Local Customers & Drive In-Person Visits. How a Digital-First Approach Can Help You Reach Your Business Goals.
Megan Danielson, Head of Restaurants, Google
With 20 years of digital experience, Megan Danielson serves as Head of Industry for Restaurants based in Google's Chicago office. In this role, Megan identifies and oversees innovative digital advertising, marketing and technology solutions for the Restaurant industry to better serve the changing consumer landscape. She also spent nearly 12 years at Google leading various teams in the Travel and Healthcare verticals, and helped shape many of Google's current Travel product offerings including Hotel Ads and Google Flight Search.
Directly prior to her current role, she spent nearly two years launching and building the Travel and Tech-Telco verticals at Pinterest. She was responsible for national sales strategy and development and shaping Pinterest's product development for those verticals. She was a frequent speaker at industry events. Megan"boomeranged" back to Google in 2019 to lead the Restaurants vertical and also became a certified #IamRemarkable facilitator, helping to empower women and under-represented groups in the workplace.
Earlier in her career, Megan worked at an Omnicom advertising agency overseeing relationships with brands in the Finance and Retail verticals. She started her career in market research for Restaurant and CPG brands, helping to launch digital research teams at comScore and The NPD Group.
Megan holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Journalism from the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana. She currently resides in Park Ridge, IL with her husband and three children.
James Rohaley, Director of Performance Media, Spark Foundry
James Rohaley is the Director of Performance Media across the QSR portfolio of brands at Spark Foundry. He is charged with leading the teams and driving the overall approach to media execution across all digital touchpoints. This includes both partner selection to drive digital goals, but also recommendations on the flow of the consumer journey. He also is tasked with developing the omnichannel approach for restaurant brands to ensure profitability in a post-covid world. James earned his Bachelor’s degree from Miami University (Oxford, Ohio) and currently lives in Chicago.