2020 Restaurant Executive Conference

Innovation, Disruption, Reinvention


Conference Program

Innovation Award

Sam FoxSam Fox, Fox Restaurant Concepts & Co-Founder, True Food Kitchen

Sam’s intense love of the restaurant business has him leaving his fingerprints across each restaurant he opens. Each and every menu item goes through a tasting with Sam. That cool plumbing fixture at Blanco in San Diego? Sam picked it. The dripping paint mural at all the Flower Child restaurants? Yup, Sam, too. The creative visionary has earned some well-deserved street cred as a trendspotter and one of the most intuitive minds in the industry. He is known for popularizing the kale salad (#sorrynotsorry) and is recognized as one of the first to succeed in healthy dining with concepts that are thriving from coast to coast. He has been profiled by numerous media outlets, including Forbes, CBS News and CNBC.

Sam generously gives back to the communities his restaurants serve through FRC’s charitable arm: Feed the Soul and the Fox Family Foundation. And in his spare time, Sam enjoys travelling with his wife and children, sipping on various libations and thinking up new concepts. (See for yourself on his Instagram.)

Foodmanitarian Award


Chad Houser, Founder, CEO & Executive Chef, Café Momentum

Always one to add a little levity to the conversation, Chad often describes Café Momentum as “taking kids out of jail and teaching them to play with knives and fire.” But levity aside, it’s this charisma and passion to teach life, social and employment skills to Dallas’ most at-risk youth that makes Houser a hit with everyone from philanthropists and dinner-goers to the young people participating in the program. After 17 years as a chef, Chad sold his partnership of Parigi Restaurant to devote his full attention to the role of Executive Director of Café Momentum in 2012.

In the community, Chad has previously served as President of the board of directors for Dallas Farmers Market Friends and as Vice Chair of the El Centro Exes Association (Houser received his culinary training at El Centro) where is also a member of the El Centro College Food and Hospitality Institute “Hall of Fame.”

Keynote Speaker

David Birzon’s love for the food industry began in 1989 when he started as an evening prep cook and baker at Paradise Bakery in Aspen, Colorado. David was surprised to find extraordinary joy in his position serving up homemade ice cream and cookies to Aspen locals. Together with the founders, David helped build the nationally known brand that proudly grew a strong culture and industry leading economics during his 23-year tenure.

After successfully selling Paradise Bakery to Panera Bread in 2007, David spent four years as a Senior Vice President at Panera and as President of the Paradise Bakery brand, where he was responsible for both company and franchised locations.

In 2011, David and his family moved to Carbondale, Colorado. He set out to find a restaurant business that “could change the world.” David heard about an innovative breakfast concept named Snooze and was immediately blown away by how differentiated and clever the concept was from anything he had seen before.

David became the CEO of Snooze in 2012 and was nicknamed “Old Major,” after the pig who leads all the other animals to revolution in George Orwell’s Animal Farm. Under David’s leadership, Snooze has grown to more than 42 restaurants across 6 states, with over 2300 employees.

Menu Optimization Panel

The Science & Art of Menu Optimization: Menu decisions are no longer solely a culinary decision, they are business decisions increasingly driven by scientific methods

Your menu in the eyes of the consumer is your reason for being, and in an increasingly competitive marketplace, your key to profitability.  With social media and big data, menu optimization in the 21st century is a much different discipline than the culinary driven processes of the past.  Come hear this expert panel discuss how menu decisions require a careful blend of art and science, and have an impact on your entire organization.

ModeratorMike Lukianoff, Data Science Entrepreneur


Robin Blanchette, CEO & President, Norton Creative LLC

Andrew Hunter, President, Chef Andrew Hunter

Stephanie Perdue, VP Marketing, Chipotle

Jayne Strickland, SVP, Fishbowl

Better For You Panel

Delighting Guests & Winning Loyalty: Serving Awesome Food for Personal and Planet Health

Like never before, restaurant guests have adopted varying types of “eating styles” – from vegan, vegetarian, keto, gluten-free, dairy-free, macro-focused, planet health-focused, and more. These forward-thinking CEOs will share rich insights into how they look at aligning their menus and marketing with guests’ health, wellness, and environmentally conscious values. The panel will also give a sneak peek at how they see the trends, their guests, and their brand evolving in the next 5 years.

Moderator: Anita Jones-Mueller, MPH, CEO, Healthy Dining


Christine Barone – CEO, True Foods Kitchen

Steve Paperno, CEO & Founder, Sharky’s

TK Pillan – Executive Chairman, Veggie Grill

Ghost Kitchen/Virtual Restaurant Panel

The Off Premise Boom: How Ghosts Kitchens are Changing the Way Restaurant Operators Think About Growth

The rise of delivery has forced restaurants to rethink how they manage their off-premise business, creating an entirely new category of restaurant growth in the form of shared kitchen space that is fulfilling delivery orders across the country.  Hear from industry leader Kitchen United, along with fast growing brand Dog Haus to hear how the off-premise kitchen model is changing the way brands adapt their order ahead, real estate and expansion strategies.

Moderator: Liz DiTrapano, Senior Vice President, ICR


Joy Lai, CMO, Kitchen United

Mott Smith, CEO & Co-Owner, Amped Kitchens

Hot Concepts Panel

Moderator: Fred LeFranc, Managing Partner, Results Thru Strategy


Clay Dover, CEO & Taco Maker, Velvet Taco

Kevin Miles, CEO, Mendocino Farms

Sam Polk, CEO & Founder, Everytable

Steve Schulze, CEO & President, Nékter Juice Bar

Operators’ Tools Panel

ModeratorScott Nicholson, VP Operations, The Veggie Grill


Mary Hamill, VP of Solutions Engineering, HotSchedules

Rom Krupp, CEO & Founder, Marketing Vitals

Adam Leff, CSO & Co-Founder, Merchant Centric

Marketing Speaker – Big Data

Mike Hanssens, Distinguished Research Professor of Marketing, UCLA Anderson School of Management

Marketing Speaker

Meghaan Blauvelt, Founder, BlueFields Consulting

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