Message from the Chair



Anna M. Graves
Conference Chair, Partner and Co-Leader of the Restaurant, Food & Beverage Industry Group,
Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP



Is it the best of times, or the worst of times?  Depending on the statistic you’re reviewing, it could be either. The labor market is tight. Margins are thin. Competition is stiff. Regulation is increasing, as are labor costs.  But overall the economy is up, and the outlook is healthy. Consumers have more discretionary cash. The number of meals not prepared at home continues to grow. Food costs are reasonable. Quick casual concepts continue to thrive. Many publicly-traded restaurant companies had double digit-stock price growth over the past 12 months. Other restaurant chains shuttered locations or filed for bankruptcy.

Our Conference is designed to provide guidance across the full spectrum.  The good and the bad.  The light and the dark.  The risks and the opportunities. We will look at the evolving state of the industry and track the developing movements. Our keynote, “Miss Val” Kondos Field, the former Head Coach of the 7-time NCAA Champion UCLA Women’s Gymnastics team, was voted PAC 12 Coach of the Century. She deeply understands how to make teams work and will share her insights.  My friend Daryl Ansel is our Foodmanitarian Award winner this year. Daryl has spent much of his life searching for ways to combat homelessness and food insecurity and you will be amazed by some of the creative approaches he’s taken.

Wally Doolin will review the state of the industry. Several panels will discuss how successful concepts have differentiated themselves, built a following, and grown market share. We’ll look at the guest experience though each phase of customer engagement:  before, during and after a meal; discover “personalized nutrition” and other rapidly-evolving trends; and explore employee engagement as an antidote to high turnover and poor guest experiences.

This year our Innovation Award is presented to Julie Felss Masino, President-North America of Taco Bell. Taco Bell is an astonishing success, built in part on masterful product innovation, in part on highly effective social media campaigns and perfectly targeted marketing, and in part on a sincere commitment to diversity, inclusion, and listening to every part of the team. A health-conscious product line? Alcoholic beverage service at polished casual locations? A vegetarian and vegan-friendly menu? Voted America’s No. 1 favorite Mexican restaurant?  Taco Bell?  Yes!

This is our 23rd Conference and I am extremely proud of that. We’ve assembled a remarkable group of people, both on the stage and behind the scenes. I am extremely honored to serve as Chair of the conference, and very grateful to the members of our Advisory Board and the educators at UCLA Extension for designing our outstanding and ambitious program. I am also incredibly grateful to our sponsors.  Finally, thanks to you for attending. I invite you and your company to become more involved with the Conference by contacting me at

Anna Graves' Signature




Anna M. Graves
Conference Chair; Partner and Co-Leader of the
Restaurant, Food & Beverage Industry Group,
Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP

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