2018 Speakers​

A Message from Dr. Arthur Laffer

Dr. Arthur Laffer

American economist who first gained prominence
during the Reagan administration as a member of
Reagan's Economic Policy Advisory Board.

Rick Steves

Rick Steves writes European travel guidebooks and
hosts travel shows on public television and public
radio. He’s hosted hundreds of pledge drives, raising
millions of dollars annually for stations across the U.S.  
Steves grew up in Washington state and studied at the
University of Washington where he received degrees in
Business Administration and European History.
However, his real education came in Europe—since 1973
he’s spent 120 days a year in Europe writing and filming TV shows 

Ron Shaich

Successful founder and chairman of Panera Bread Company.

Bo Burlingham

Author of Finish Big, How Great Entrepreneurs
Exit Their Companies on Top.

Paul Wahlberg, Chef, Wahlburgers

Chef Paul is one of nine siblings, including
his famous brothers, actor Mark and musician/actor
Donnie. While Mark and Donnie spent childhood
day-dreaming of their inevitable rise to fame, Paul
spent his time in the family kitchen with his mother
Alma, also his restaurant’s namesake.

Guy Adami , Financial Analyst, CNBC

Guy Adami is a member of CNBC’s Fast Money
television show and was once a former gold
and commodities trader. He has held numerous
key leadership roles in the financial services
industry, including time spent at Goldman Sachs. 


Gene Baldwin, Partner, CR3 Partners
Gene has more than 37 years of accounting, finance, senior management and advisory experience. He is a proven business leader with a well-established reputation for his ability to assess, develop and implement operational and financial improvement initiatives that enhance enterprise value for stakeholders. 


Keenan Baldwin, Co-Founder, SiteZeus
Keenan is a founder of Baldwin Beach Capital and Baldwin Risk Partners. Additionally he is co-founder and chief operating officer at SiteZeus Services LLC.


Sanjay Banker, Partner, TPG Growth
Sanjay is a partner at TPG Growth based in San Francisco, where he leads the platform’s investments in the consumer sector. Prior to joining TPG in 2013, Sanjay held senior positions at Bain Capital and McKinsey & Company. 


Joshua Benn, Managing Director, Duff & Phelps Securities
Josh serves as managing director at Duff & Phelps Corporation and Duff & Phelps, LLC. He heads its retail and restaurant investment banking practice. Josh spent his career providing investment banking services to middle market companies executing mergers and acquisitions, exclusive sales and divestitures, private placements and recapitalization transactions. 


John Berg, Shareholder, Monroe Moxness Berg
A firm shareholder, John assists buyers and sellers in effectively structuring and documenting transactions involving business combinations, purchases and sales, and financing. He provides counsel for businesses and individuals


Bob Bielinski, Managing Director, AB Private Credit Investors
Bob is a managing director of AB Private Credit Investors, where he leads middle market lending to the restaurant, retail and franchising industries. He has more than 25 years of restaurant and retail financial management, investment banking, corporate lending and transaction experience. AB Private Credit Investors is the middle market direct lending platform of AllianceBernstein (NYSE: AB), a leading investment management firm with ~$540 billion in assets under management.


Brandy Blackwell, Director of Off Premise, McAlister’s Deli
Brandy actively serves as director of off premise for McAlister's Deli, an Atlanta based fast-casual restaurant chain within FOCUS Brands’ portfolio. McAlister’s currently has 427 units spanning 28 states. Brandy’s role oversees strategy of all off premise initiatives - catering, takeout, third party delivery and all complementary channels and technologies that facilitate meal consumption outside of restaurants. Her role focuses on increasing accessibility, while maintaining the overall guest experience and journey through the purchasing cycle. 


Ben Cattoor, Founder & CEO, Foodsby
Ben is an entrepreneur with significant background in finance and operations. He has lead business development and executed on establishing new lines of revenue for his past employers. He has broad experience in operations, financial reporting, accounting systems and processes, and auditing as a whole. Specific industries include manufacturing, service, internet based, travel industry, and cooperatives.


Mike Church, Managing Director, Deloitte
A seasoned technology and marketing leader with over 23 years of experience guiding digital transformation across the restaurant, hospitality, technology and CPG industries. He is leading a team focused on enterprise digital strategy, self-service technology and mobile food ordering. 


John Clark, Managing Director, JPMorgan
John is a managing director at JPMorgan Chase, a leading global financial services firm with assets of $2.6 trillion and operations worldwide. The firm is a leader in investment banking, financial services for consumers and small businesses, commercial banking, financial transaction processing, and asset management. 


Mitch Cohen, Franchisee, Jersey Mike’s Subs
Mitch is a multi-unit, multi-brand franchisee. He is responsible for the development of 5 Jersey Mikes Subs location in Long Island New York. Prior to that Mitch managed the production and distribution operations for his network of 13 franchise locations in Long Island, NY which include Baskin-Robbins, Dunkin’ Donuts and Nathan’s Famous Hot Dogs, restaurants.


Roger Cohen, Founder and Managing Director, Strategic Legal Advisory
Roger is an expert on how to design, coordinate and launch innovative FinTech and LegalTech Solutions, including blockchain and smart contract projects. He brings more than 13 years experience in managing and advising LegalTech and FinTech start-up companies in capital raising, product design and launch, overall strategy and business development.


Stephen Cohen, Attorney, Stephen Cohen, ESQ
Stephen is a solo practice attorney with a national focus in the restaurant sector.  His areas of expertise include leasing, financing, real estate, business formations and workouts. Over the last twelve years his clients have included Famous Dave’s, Joe’s Crab Shack, Macaroni Grill, T-Rex, Dunkin Donuts, Caribou Coffee, Kona Grill, Chevy’s, El Torito, and dozens of others.  


Nick Cole, Executive Vice President, Wells Fargo Restaurant Finance
Nick is an executive vice president and group head of Wells Fargo Restaurant Finance based in Carlsbad, Calif. Wells Fargo Restaurant Finance provides capital and other banking services to owners of multi-unit, branded retail businesses in the restaurant and convenience store sectors. 


Guy Constant,Chief Financial Officer, Red Robin
Guy is responsible for the finance organization at Red Robin, including accounting, financial planning and analysis, operations finance, tax and investor relations. He brings to Red Robin more than 20 years of leadership in corporate finance. Before joining Red Robin, Guy served as chief financial officer, as well as executive vice president and treasurer, for Rent-A-Center, Inc. 


Robert Cornog, Jr., CFO | Principal, Punch Bowl Social
Robert’s career has spanned from the upper echelons of Wall Street, working as an investment banker at Merrill Lynch and a lawyer at Shearman & Sterling, to landing executive-level leadership roles at multiple growth companies.  His entrepreneurial spirit led him to Punch Bowl Social, the rapidly-growing, award-winning “eatertainment” concept, where he joined Robert Thompson as his partner in 2012 prior to the opening of the first Punch Bowl location in Denver.


Chris Cramer, CEO & Co-Founder, Karl Strauss Brewing Company
Chris pioneered San Diego’s craft beer industry in 1989 by opening the city’s first brewery in more than 50 years.  Karl Strauss is now one of the Top 50 production craft breweries in the US, is the only Southern California brewery to ever win Best Mid-Size Brewing Company of the Year at the Great American Beer Festival (2016), and also operates 10 high-volume brewpubs.  He is a Stanford MBA, a past Chair of the California Restaurant Association, and the current President of the California Craft Brewers Association.


Neil Culbertson, President, Growth Partners
Neilis the founder and president of Growth Partners LLC, a marketing and business development consulting, firm focused primarily on the restaurant and food and beverage industries. He has spent his entire career successfully growing brands and businesses for top 100 restaurant chains and Fortune 500 consumer product companies.  


Robert Daniel, Managing Director, Regions Bank
Robert is the group head and managing director of the restaurant banking group at Regions Bank.  The group was formed in 2009 and is extremely active in the sector with a national focus on established operating companies, franchisors, and franchisees of top brands in the restaurant industry. Prior to joining Regions, Robert was a senior vice president at GE Capital for 6 years.


Scott Davis, President, CoreLife Eatery
Scott is an executive and innovator in the fast casual restaurant industry. He is the president of CoreLife Eatery, a restaurant focused on healthy, active lifestyles. Scott served as the chief concept officer of Panera Bread from the brands inception until December 2015.


Greg Delks, VP of Global & Non-Traditional Development, Firehouse Subs
Greg leads the development of airports, college campuses and new international restaurant development for Firehouse Subs. Prior to the global position he was director of franchise development. In that leadership position he sourced franchise candidates and helped build the Firehouse Subs brand as an outstanding franchise opportunity. 


Randy Dewitt, CEO, Front Burner Restaurants
Randy is CEO of Front Burner Restaurants, overseeing all developmental aspects of the business. Randy has led his team of restaurant professionals to experience phenomenal success since founding Front Burner in 1994. Front Burner concepts include: Mother Pearl’s, Rockfish, Twin Peaks, The Ranch, Ojos Locos, Whiskey Cake, Velvet Taco, Mexican Sugar, Ida Claire, Sixty Vines, Legacy Hall, and Haywire. 


Steve DiFillippo, CEO, Davio’s Restaurants
Steve is the consummate restaurateur. With his award-winning Davio’s brand firmly established in Boston, Foxbrorough, Chestnut Hill, Lynnfield, Braintree, Atlanta, Manhattan, Philadelphia and King of Prussia, DiFillippo has tackled the modern Italian restaurant. Steve’s reach continues to expand as his locations continue to garner critical acclaim and destination status.He has appeared on CBS This Morning, NBC's The Today Show, QVC Network, HLN/CNN, Bloomberg Business, FOX News, Yahoo Business and this September he will be appearing on Hallmark Channel's Home & Family.


Ron DiNella, CFO, Dob B’s Fresh Kitchen
Ron is a senior financial management executive with more than 25 years of progressive experience in finance and business management. Ron’s specialties include: investor relations, budgeting, initial public offering, IPO, restaurant, finance, international joint ventures and structured finance.


Michael Dixon, Chief Financial Officer, FOCUS Brands Inc.
Mike joined FOCUS Brands as chief financial officer in March 2016, bringing with him more than 25 years of corporate finance leadership and public accounting experience in the retail and food service industries. Most recently, Mike served as president and chief financial officer for Ignite Restaurant Group, Inc., the 350-unit, multi-branded restaurant company. 


Don Duffy, President, ICR
Don currently serves as the company’s president. Since 2001, he has worked to build ICR’s industry teams and corporate culture, driving the firm’s rapid expansion in the U.S. and Asia. Don co-heads ICR’s shareholder activism practice and also possesses significant IPO experience. He is a sought after expert on investor relations, activism and transaction matters.


Jeff Eischeid, Managing Partner, Bennett Thrasher
Jeff is managing partner of Bennett Thrasher, leading partners and associates in implementing the firm’s strategic plans. He has extensive experience in advising closely-held businesses and the families that own them. His major areas of expertise include income tax planning, estate tax planning and personal financial planning. 


Alice Elliot, CEO, The Elliot Group
Alice is founder and chief executive officer of The Elliot Group. Elliot Associates, the executive search division of The Elliot Group, began their work concentrating in the restaurant and hospitality industries, and over the years have expanded their repertoire and expertise to include retail, lifestyle brands, and service sectors. The Elliot Group has also grown to include a consulting practice and a strategic media and events division. 


David Farkas, Columnist, Restaurant Finance Monitor
David has covered the restaurant industry for nearly 28 years as a reporter and food writer. During that time he has published hundreds of trend stories, profiles, and case histories about independent and chain restaurants in a variety of consumer and trade publications. David is currently a freelance contributor to Restaurant Finance Monitor, covering private equity, and to Franchise Times.


Ron Feldman, Chief Development Officer, ApplePie Capital
Ron is responsible for growing ApplePie Capital’s brand portfolio and contributing to the product strategy of the company. Ron has been active in franchising for over 20 years. Prior to joining ApplePie Capital, Ron co-founded and was CEO of Franchise America Finance (FAF) and later served as principal and chief brand strategist along with its affiliate, The Siegel Financial Group. 


Chris Fuqua, CEO, b.good
Chris has served as our chief executive officer since May 2018. From September 2009 to May 2018, he was senior vice president for Dunkin’ Brands in Canton, Massachusetts in various capacities in marketing, operations strategy, supply chain and finance. Chris was employed by McKinsey and Company in Boston, Massachusetts from August 2006 to September 2009.


Lewis Gelmon, President, JR Canada Restaurant Group
In November 2015, Lewis completed the purchase for the master rights to own, develop and franchise Johnny Rockets for all of Canada. Lewis’ unique strategy for successfully introducing and growing American brands in Canada has earned him praise and acknowledgement from even the toughest restaurant skeptic. He has raised over $10 Million in private capital for the growth of Johnny Rockets in Canada and he plans to raise much more as he reinvents the burger business in Canada. 


Richard Gibson, Shareholder, Monroe Moxness Berg
A shareholder at Monroe Moxness Berg, Rick represents and advises businesses, business owners and financial institutions. In addition to acting as general corporate counsel, Rick regularly assists clients in the negotiation and completion of business transactions.


Kenneth Gold, CEO, Skilken|Gold Real Estate Development
Ken, chief executive officer of Skilken|Gold, has 40 years of real estate development and brokerage experience. In that time, he has built a strong reputation as a real estate development professional who brings something different to the table –creative solutions and uncompromising integrity


Michael Gottlieb, Assurance Partner – Global Leader Restaurant Services, Ernst & Young
Mike is an assurance partner and the Global leader of Ernst & Young’s Restaurant practice. A 30-year Ernst & Young veteran, Mike manages services, including assurance, advisory, real estate, transactional, human resources, and operational services, to several restaurant clients ranging from quick-service restaurants to full-service dinner houses.  


Robert Grimes, CEO, The International Food and Beverage Technology Association (IFBTA)
Rob is the founder & CEO of the IFBTA. The IFBTAwas launched at FSTEC (Foodservice Technology Conference and Showcase) 2014 which was founded by Rob in 1996, and is a non-profit professional association promoting and advancing technology and innovation for the global food and beverage industries. Rob has been a regular technology columnist for several industry and technology publications and has contributed articles to many other publications in the U.S. and abroad as well as co-authored and contributed to a number of books. 


Michael Halen, Consumer Analyst, Bloomberg Intelligence
Michael is a senior analyst covering restaurant and packaged-food companies for Bloomberg Intelligence, where he publishes company and industry-focused research on everything from government policy impacts on business to shifting demographics affecting consumer behavior. He communicates regularly with management teams and investors, and appears as a frequent guest on TV and radio.


Allan Hickok, Senior Advisor–The Boston Consulting Group
Allan is a senior advisor with The Boston Consulting Group, a global management consulting firm and the worlds leading advisor on business strategy. He is an experienced Wall Street professional with more than 26 years of capital markets experience as a consumer focused investment banker, equity research analyst specializing in the restaurant and specialty retail food industry segments, senior advisor to a global management consulting firm and chain restaurant CEO. 


George Hiller, CEO, Hiller & Associates
George is the CEO of Hiller & Associates, a consulting company he founded in 2007 with the sole focus of assisting restaurant food service, convenience, & hospitality companies of all sizes in the negotiation/renegotiation of their next system soft drink agreement(s). To date, with client contracts having a combined total deal value in excess of $3.25 billion, Hiller & Associates is by far the largest beverage consulting company in North America! 


Jack Huang, CEO, Douzo
Jack is CEO of Douzo Modern Japanese Restaurant and Lounge in Boston and Basho Japanese Brasserie near Fenway Park. He has also partnered with other major food service management companies providing prepackaged sushi to colleges and universities, office building cafeterias, sports arenas and convenience stores. He is a veteran of the Japanese restaurant business who was raised in Japan before moving to the United States. 


Tim Hughes, CEO, Falcon Realty Advisors
Tim formed Falcon Realty Advisors, LLC in 2001 with a focus on full service tenant representation in the retail and lifestyles arena. He has more than 35 years’ experience developing and implementing real estate strategies for a variety of clients throughout US markets. Falcon currently represents over 70 restaurant brands in multiple markets throughout the US. Tim is also an advisor and principal in numerous acquisition and development projects that buy, develop and redevelop retail assets for retailers and restaurateurs.


Jon Jameson, Founding Partner, Bellwether Food Group
Jon has extensive experience with restaurant brand concepts focusing on executive level marketing and operations experience. His knowledge and experience of what drives consumer loyalty, and how that connects back to the brand, is what makes the difference between mediocre brands and great brands. Jon’s professional background is comprised of extensive leadership roles, including senior management roles with two publicly traded restaurant companies.


Todd Jones, Managing Director, Group Head, First Tennessee Franchise Finance
Todd is a proven financial services executive with 20+ years of increasing leadership responsibilities managing diverse teams. He has the ability to consistently deliver results, motivate team members and promote creativity in a dynamic sales and corporate finance environment. Todd is recognized for expertise in the restaurant industry and franchise lending.


Mark Kalinowski, Founder, President, and CEO, Kalinowski Equity Research LLC
Mark is the founder, president, and CEO of Kalinowski Equity Research LLC, the premier sell-side research firm that focuses solely on the restaurant industry. His 20+ year Wall Street career also includes time with Citigroup, Buckingham Research Group, Janney Capital Markets, and Nomura Instinet. He is to the best of his knowledge the only person who has eaten at each of the 250 largest restaurant chains in the U.S.


Lou Katz, Shareholder, Ruberto, Israel & Weiner
Lou is a Shareholder of the firm. His practice is focused on business law, complex commercial transactions and commercial real estate transactions. He regularly handles mergers and acquisitions, corporate finance transactions, entity planning, shareholder matters, joint ventures, license arrangements, business disputes and succession planning for closely held companies. 


Ross Kellman, COO, Streamline Solutions
Ross joined Streamline Solutions, a division of VGM Group, in 2018. In his role as Chief Operating Officer, Ross oversees the business operations, strategy and future expansion of the four business units that make up Streamline Solutions; VGM Client Rewards, Health Services GPO, HALO Logic and Creative Purchasing Solutions.  


Clark Knippers, Founder and CEO, Foremark
Clark is an expert in restaurant, real estate acquisition and development. Prior to founding Foremark, Clark’s corporate career included leadership roles as chief development officer for Quality Dining, Inc. and vice-president of real estate and development for Brinker International, Inc.


Jeff Kolton, Partner, Bird Dog Capital Group
Jeff has 30+ years of experience at the highest levels within the legal, research, marketing, and finance sectors within the franchise sector. He was the founder of FRANdata Corporation which served over 2,500 clients worldwide, including each of the 300 largest franchise systems. Jeff also founded Franchise Market Ventures, LLC to provide strategic business development solutions.


Giovanna Koning, CFO, Falcon Holdings
Giova is the CFO of Falcon Holdings, a multi-unit franchisee of A&W, Church’s Chicken, Hardee’s, Long John Silversand Piccadilly. Giovanna oversees all of the accounting and financial control functions for Falcon Holdings. She has a CPA with 10 plus year of experience in public accounting and 15 years in restaurant finance.


Jake LaJoie, Partner, Bird Dog Capital Group
Jake has a unique combination of private equity, operations, investment banking, and corporate finance experience. Jake’s primary private equity responsibilities include sourcing, execution, and post-acquisition management while focusing on companies in consumer and business services, with a particular emphasis on franchising, general industrials, and financial services. 


Fred LeFranc, CEO, Results thru Strategy
Fred is the founder/CEO of Results thru Strategy, Inc., a consultancy that focuses on helping companies, private equity, owners and C-level executives identify and implement strategies that deliver long term sustainable success for their companies. As a change agent, he aids executives in modifying their behavior to hone in on their natural strengths. This allows them to focus their efforts and achieve extraordinary results.  


Gary Levy, Partner, Consumer and Industrials Industry Leader, CohnReznick
Gary, CPA, is a partner with CohnReznick and is the firm’s hospitality industry practice leader. He specializes in providing innovative management advice to the hospitality industry, advising over 500 operators throughout the country, including many premier restaurateurs and celebrity chefs in the United States. 


Bill McClave, Managing Partner, Birchwood Resultants
Bill is managing partner at Birchwood Resultants which helps chain restaurant and retail companies realize their true growth potential through custom-built real estate modeling and unit level performance disciplines. Bill is an experienced owner with a demonstrated history of working in the consumer goods and services.His strong strategic planning professional skills help high growth companies identify and realize their long-term potential. 


Cindy McLoughlin, Partner-Hospitality Industry Leader, CohnReznick
Cindy is a partner with CohnReznick and leader of the firm’s hospitality industry practice. With more than 20 years of experience, she has developed extensive expertise in providing audit services to mid through large-sized companies.


Ed Meyette, Partner, Crowe LP
Ed has more than 20 years of experience in conducting fixed asset services to a wide array of privately held and publicly traded clients in the construction and real estate, manufacturing and distribution, financial serves, healthcare and hospitality industries. He Ed currently is the partner in charge of Crowe’s fixed asset solutions practice in the national tax office. 


Nicole Miller Regan, Managing Director, Piper Jaffray
Nicole is a managing director and senior research analyst at Piper Jaffray Companies, research division. She focuses on restaurants and branded hospitality space within the consumer sector. Nicole joined the firm in August 2006. Prior to this, she served as a research analyst at ThinkEquity LLC, research division, and at Sterne Agee & Leach Inc., research division. 


Andrew Moger, President & CEO, BCD
Andrew has been the president and CEO of Branded Concept Development (BCD) since he founded the company in September of 2001. BCD is an outsourced real estate and construction management firm for developing restaurant and retail concepts. Whether imparting proven expertise to a start-up, or supporting the roll-out of an existing brand, BCD provides the essential insight for a comprehensive and cost-effective approach throughout the expansion process.


Chris Monk, CEO, Your Fare, Inc.
Originally from Silicon Valley, Chris started his hospitality career working for Ovations Food Service and Titan Brands at the Wild Horse Pass Hotel and Casino in Chandler, Arizona. In 2016 Chris created Your Fare Inc., an online ordering management software for restaurant owners. Your Fare streamlines multiple online ordering services like GrubHub and DoorDash onto one simple, user-friendly platform. Chris remains dedicated to solving the challenges brought on by the online ordering trend for restaurant operators and aspires to own his own brewery and pizzeria in the future.


Dennis Monroe, Chair, Monroe Moxness Berg
Co-founder and chairman of Monroe Moxness Berg PA, Dennis is a pioneer in corporate financing with a broad network of finance contacts and clients. He assists businesses, from emerging companies to multi-national firms, by providing creative ideas, identifying unique financing sources, and developing the financial tools necessary for their growth and development. His focus is on multi-unit acquisitions.


John Nicolopoulos, National Retail and Restaurant Sector Leader, RSM US
John is a partner in RSM’s assurance practice and the national retail sector leader of RSM’s consumer products practice. He has nearly 25 years of experience, providing assurance and business advisory services to  retail and restaurant clients. John regularly works with industry clients and associations to provide insight and perspective on issues and their impact. 


Lina O’Connor, Chief Financial Officer, Tender Greens
Lina is the chief financial officer at Tender Greens. She joined Tender Greens in 2012 with a mandate to develop the company's finance and accounting infrastructure. Since then the company has grown from four to 27 locations. Most recently the company opened its first New York and Boston restaurants with plans to expand across the eastern seaboard and beyond. 


Cristin O’Hara, Managing Director & Group Head, Bank of America Merrill Lynch
Cristin is a managing director and group head of Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s Restaurant Group which provides global access to capital, best practices across a broad platform for working capital management, markets, investment banking, 401K and deferred compensation tools, private wealth management and many other industry leading products and services available through the Bank of America Merrill Lynch umbrella in addition to deep industry expertise related to multi unit restaurant franchisees and franchisors. Clients include large corporate restaurant brands, smaller franchisors, multi-unit franchisees of national or regional scale, and many private equity firms. 


Chris Oliva, Managing Director, Tax Services, Crowe LLP
Chris is a tax managing director for Crowe LLP, a public accounting, consulting, and techonology firm with offices across the globe.


Ivan Orkin, CEO/Founder, Ivan Ramen
Ivan is the founder and chef of Ivan Ramen, a ramen noodle restaurant.


Jeff Owens, CFO, Clyde’s Restaurant Group
Jeff is the CFO for Clyde’s Restaurant Group. Clyde’s is a family restaurant concept using locally-raised and sustainable foods. Prior to Clyde’s in 1995, Jeff practiced as a CPA with Arthur Andersen for 10 years. Forging win-win arrangements with their business partners and guiding the management team to improve performance makes him a seasoned asset to the company’s organizational growth and stability. 


Bill Pabst, Principal, The Cypress Group
Bill is a franchise finance industry veteran with over twenty years’ experience. He has originated, structured, and closed over $2 billion in loans and sale leasebacks in the franchise and multi unit restaurant industry, ranging from three of the largest franchisee transactions ever completed, each in excess of $150 million, to smaller loans to literally hundreds of franchisees and chains. Prior to joining Cypress, Bill was a senior vice president at GE Capital Franchise Finance for nearly 11 years.


Armando Pedroza, Managing Director, Citizens Bank – Restaurant Finance
Armando manages Citizens Bank’s general restaurant business which includes franchisee, franchisor and chain restaurant financing. Citizens Bank is a leading national restaurant lender with over $4B in loan commitments to restaurant owners nationwide and is the country’s 13th largest bank with over $150 billion in assets and over 17,000 employees.


Marie Perry, Former EVP, CFO of Jamba Juice & Board Member of Women’s Leadership Forum
Marie is the former chief financial & chief administrative officer for Jamba Juice. In her current role, Marie was responsible for the financial management of the organization to include budget analysis and management, financial modeling and reporting, forecasting needs, accounting, treasury operations, tax, investor relations, human resources and legal.


Andy Pforzheimer, Barcelona Restaurant Group
Andy was the founder and CEO of Barcelona Restaurants and Bartaco, and chairman of its parent company, Barteca, until its sale to Del Frisco's Restaurant Group in 2018.  Prior to that he was a chef at well-known restaurants all over the world.


Gunther Plosch, Chief Financial Officer, The Wendy’s Company
Gunther has served as CFO since he joined the company in May 2016. Previously, he worked for 16 years at Kellogg Company, a preeminent global food products company, where he held several key leadership positions from 2000 to 2016, including vice president of global business services, vice president and chief financial officer of Kellogg North America, vice president of finance for Morning Foods, vice president of corporate planning and finance director of Kellogg Company’s United Kingdom/Republic of Ireland division.  


Louie Psallidas, President & CEO, UNO Restaurants
Louie is the president & CEO of UNO Restaurants. He began his career at the accounting firm of Deloitte & Touche where he spent 6 six years. While at Deloitte & Touche, Louie worked on both public and private audit clients and in a variety of industries including retail and cable television. He has experience involving SEC registrants, has been involved in numerous M&A transactions, and has significant experience working with private equity firms. 


Brent Ragsdale, Senior Vice President & CFO, Chick-fil-A
Brent is senior vice president and chief financial officer of Chick-fil-A, Inc. and a member of the company’s senior leadership team, the executive committee. In his current role, he oversees financial services, information technology, supply chain, enterprise social responsibility, enterprise planning and budgeting, enterprise analytics and risk management, and the Cathy family office. 


Jim Rand, Catering Practice Leader, ezCater
Jim is a 36 year restaurant industry veteran, having served in multiple operations leadership roles over the past 3+ decades. Most recently, Jim joined ezCater where he is helping the tech company provide the very best solutions to help restaurants grow their catering businesses. 


Larry Reinstein, CEO, LJR Hospitality Ventures
Larry is CEO of LJR Hospitality Ventures, a consulting firm that provides profitable and executable solutions to private equity, owners and operators of restaurant companies. He is one of the original innovators and leaders in the fast casual segment. Larry is a resource to provide strategy and advise to both growing emerging companies as well as those in turn-around situations.


Joe Remsa, CEO, This is It! BBQ & Seafood
Joe’s career spans over 35 years in the restaurant industry holding a variety of senior-level operations positions. Joe is currently president and CEO of Belief Brands Partners (“Belief Brands”). Belief Brands is the exclusive developer of “This Is It” Southern Bar-B-Que restaurants. 


Scott Roehr, Principal, Restaurant.Biz Valuation & Advisory
Scott is a valuation and financial advisory professional. He has over 30 years of professional experience with his practice being focused on the restaurant industry for the past 17 years. His practice is dedicated to the analysis of restaurant businesses and business interests. Scott specializes in the development of comprehensive valuation studies prepared to professional standards.


Vann Russell, Managing Partner, Arlington Capital Advisors
Vann is managing partner of Arlington Capital Advisors, a boutique investment bank with a successful track-record advising restaurants, craft brewers, craft spirits, and other multi-unit, franchised, and consumer focused businesses.  Prior to founding Arlington, Vann spent over a decade with Deloitte, starting his career in the audit services group and later working in the tax division with ultra high net worth families and large corporations. Vann also serves on the board of directors of Milo’s Hamburgers.


Mark Saltzgaber, Consultant, Director of Snooze A.M. Eatery and Jack’s Family Restaurants
Mark is currently an active consultant and partner to leading restaurant companies, aiding them in managing and financing their development, and to prominent private equity firms looking to make restaurant industry investments. Mark currently serves as chairman of Snooze and as a director of Jack’s Family Restaurants.


Dan Schneider, CEO, SIB Fixed Cost Reduction
Dan founded SIB in 2008 and has been its CEO since its inception. Prior to founding SIB, Dan enjoyed a successful entrepreneurial career in the wireless industry. At age 18, Dan founded Main Street Cellular, a retail wireless company that eventually expanded to 12 store locations in the greater Philadelphia, PA region. 


Ashish Seth, Director, BMO Capital Markets 
Ashish is a director at BMO Capital Markets, where he leads the restaurant investment banking practice. Ashish is focused on helping restaurants achieve their strategic and capital needs across their lifecycle by leveraging BMO’s expertise in mergers & acquisitions, eequity capital markets, debt capital markets, corporate banking and restaurant lending. Ashish has more than 15 years of experience in investment banking and private equity. BMO is a full-service investment bank and the 8th largest by assets in North America.


Ron Shaich, Founder and Chairman, Panera Bread 
Ron Shaich is the managing director and CEO of Act III Holdings, a $300 million fund that will invest in public and private restaurant and consumer companies. Ron is also the founder and chairman of Panera Bread. It’s safe to say that building Panera and leading the brand until its recent sale is one of the finest success stories we’ve ever seen in the restaurant business. Come listen to Ron’s advice and hear how he built a great company without short-term, financial engineering as a mind-set. 


Gary Shamis, CEO, Winding River Consulting
Gary is the CEO of Winding River Consulting, a company that helps accounting and consulting firm managing partners and leadership with the challenges of successfully identifying and attaining their grow, productivity, and profit goals. Gary spent thirty-five years building SS&G, one of the nation’s largest accounting and consultancy firms before combining it with BDO USA.


Mark Shoniker, Vice President North American Industry Sector, BMO Financial Group
For the past 25 years Mark has specialized in business financing issues for North American private and public companies, holding executive positions for several financial institutions. He is currently employed by BMO Harris Bank, the 8thlargest bank in North America as its vice president of North American industry sectors. 


Chad Spaulding, Director, CapitalSpring
Chad is a managing director at CapitalSpring, a $1.5 billion investment fund dedicated exclusively to the restaurant industry. He carries 20+ years of investing, investment banking and asset management experience, including the past 15 years focused on the restaurant sector. 


Russell Stein, Shareholder, Ruberto, Israel & Weiner
Russell is chair of the firm's corporate & business law group. He is also a key member of the firm's hospitality and retail services group. Russell represents businesses in a variety of corporate, employment, and real estate matters, including business formation, financing, mergers and acquisitions, shareholder disputes, as well as intellectual property and technology issues. 


David Stiles, Managing Director, Trinity Capital
David carries 16 years of commercial and investment banking experience including; mergers and acquisitions, debt and equity financings, securitizations, risk management, portfolio management, turnarounds and restructurings, valuations, warehouse financings, credit evaluation, lending operations, loan servicing and investor relations.


David Tarantino, Senior Research Analyst, Baird
David is a senior research analyst at Baird and has been covering the restaurants sector since 2006. He is also Baird’s associate director of research. Prior to joining Baird in 2003, he held a variety of positions in brand management and product development at The Procter & Gamble Company. David received a BS in chemical engineering from the University of Notre Dame and an MBA with concentrations in finance and accounting from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.


Jayson Tipp, CEO, Pincho Factory
Jayson is the CEO of Pincho Factory, which is the family owned Latin American fast-casual concept known for pioneering the combination of premium hamburgers and grilled kebabs (“pinchos”) with a Latin-twist. A nationally recognized restaurant leader considered an expert in consumer analytics, market strategy and development, he has a track record of translating insights into results. He was named CEO of Pincho in June 2018. Prior to that, Jayson was at Papa Murphy’s International (PMI), where he served as chief development officer overseeing the brand’s growth across franchise sales, real estate and technology.


Anjarae Washington, Caviar for Teams Lead, Caviar/Square
Anjarae is caviar for teams lead at Square, where she is responsible for the growth of Caviar’s corporate diners. Most recently, this included leading the acquisition and integration of Zesty to expand Caviar’s catering offering and increase revenue for our restaurant partners.


Charles Watson, Chief Development Officer and Interim Chief Executive officer of Tropical Smoothie Café (TSC).
Under Charles’ leadership at TSC, the system has grown from 265 units to 700 units. A veteran hospitality professional, Charles has worked for several hospitality-related companies including Wyndham Hotels & Resorts, Intercontinental Hotels Group (IHG), US Franchise Systems, Inc. (USFS) and Hospitality Real Estate Counselors (HREC). 


Tim Watt, Partner, Bennett Thrasher
Tim is a partner in the tax department and is a member of the real estate practice. He has more than 13 years of experience and works primarily in the US real estate industry focusing on complex tax consulting and compliance engagements for domestic international investors, developers, contractors, managers and other closely-held real estate concerns. 


Larry Weinberg, Partner, Cassels Brock & Blackwell
Larry is a partner at the Toronto law firm of Cassels Brock & Blackwell LLP. Since 1989 he has had a practice that specializes in franchise law and providing all necessary legal services to franchisors. 


Andrew Wiederhorn, CEO, FAT Brands

Andrew has served as the chairman of the board of directors and president and chief executive officer of FAT Brands Inc. since its formation. He has served as the chairman of the board of directors and chief executive officer of Fatburger North America, Inc. since 2006 and Buffalo’s Franchise Concepts, Inc. since 2011. He also served as the chairman of the board of directors and chief executive officer of Fog Cutter Capital Group Inc. since its formation in 1997.


Dave Worroll, CFO, Subway

David serves as the chief financial officer for Subway restaurant, the world’s largest franchise restaurant chain. In his role, David is responsible for the oversight and management of the company’s global financial activity, including the management of tax compliance, financial reporting, budgeting and forecasting for all the various Subway operations.


Charles K. Yorke, CFE, President, Paragon Small Business Capital Group
A native of Rock Hill, SC Charles began his banking career upon graduating from Wofford College in 1980 with a double major in accounting and economics. He worked with C&S National Bank and First Union National Bank in Charlotte over the next decade. He has started three SBA shops over the past 20 years and currently is president of the Small Business Capital Group for Paragon Bank.


Jeff Young, Chief Development Officer, Monarch & Misfits
Jeff is the CDO for Monarch & Misfits Inc., the franchisor for La Carnita and Sweet Jesus.  La Carnita is a licensed, casual dining Mexican taqueria concept with a gringo twist. Sweet Jesus is a premium ice cream concept featuring hand crafted, chef inspired pimped out soft serve ice cream. Jeff is a seasoned franchise executive and for decades has enjoyed helping franchisees get into business and has championed the expansion of some of Canada’s most recognized franchise brands


Dana Zukofsky, Director, BDO USA
Dana specializes in the restaurant and hospitality industries, providing tax, assurance and financial consulting services. She advises on policies, procedures, and growth strategies. In addition, she has experience acting as outsourced CFO for small businesses. Dana is the former director of finance for Bobby’s Burger Palace, celebrity chef Bobby Flay’s restaurant empire.