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


What’s Your Why?  This is an important question for any business, but it’s absolutely critical to restaurant companies.  Differentiating yourself, telling your story, focusing on your mission; these are key elements of brand building, and they define your company. “What’s Your Why?” encompasses who you are, what you do, what you stand for, and why you matter.  Nothing could be more essential!

Today marks our 20th UCLA Extension Restaurant Industry Conference. As in prior years, we will explore many of the issues which are vital to the success of your brand, and to the success of the restaurant industry as a whole. Consumers are now more connected than ever before, and expect more social responsibility from the businesses they patronize. With easily-accessible online resources, potential guests can evaluate a restaurant company’s practices in sourcing, sustainability, sanitation, food access, fair labor practices, and social justice, and evaluate whether the restaurant is positively contributing to the community – or not. 

This year our Innovation Award goes to Janet Napolitano, President of the University of California and one of the key advocates of the UC Global Food Initiative.  The Global Food Initiative addresses one of the most critical issues of our time: how to sustainably and nutritiously feed the world’s population.  The Initiative aligns UC’s research, outreach, and operations to develop solutions for food security, health, and sustainability. President Napolitano will engage in an armchair conversation with last year’s Innovation Award winner, Kevin Reddy, Chairman and CEO of Noodles & Company. Under Kevin’s leadership, Noodles & Co. is in the forefront of many of the progressive ideas comprising the Initiative.

Simon Mainwaring, CEO of We First, will discuss his assertion that “You are what you make” and teach us how to inspire employees, guests and partners to become our brand’s most passionate advocates.  We will review the State of the Industry with William Rosenzweig, Dean of The Food Business School of the CIA, examine developing food production and distribution systems, and consider the impact these changes have on human health, planetary sustainability and food equity. Many of our speakers are recognized as leaders in these areas, and their brands embody the ideals:  Erik Oberholtzer, Tender Greens; Mario del Pero, Mendocino Farms; Adam Schlegel, Snooze, an AM Eatery; and Chuck Scofield, Share Our Strength. Nurit Katz, Chief Sustainability Officer of UCLA and Kim Kessler, Director of the UCLA Resnick Program for Food Law and Policy, will lead us in discussions of progressive practices that can make a huge difference in the world. We also feature the CEOs of four exciting and distinctive early-stage concepts, Cava Grill, Blaze Pizza, Pressed Juicery, and Urban Plates, and consider the “Three Faces of Finance,” and the effect your choice of capital partner can have on the growth and development of your business.

All in all, we’ve put together an incredible group of people, both on the stage and behind the scenes.  I am extremely proud to serve as Chair of the Conference, and very grateful to the members of our Advisory Board and the educators of UCLA Extension for their extremely hard work in designing the Conference curriculum and gathering such a powerful group of speakers.  I’m also very grateful for the strong financial commitment of our generous sponsors and Circle of Excellence Members. Finally, I’d like to thank each of you for attending. I invite you and your company to become more involved with the Conference by contacting me at




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

Please note:

When registering , please select a credit status, if this is your first time enrolling in this conference please select “New Student”. Also, please leave the Parking option as [None Selected], because parking is included in the enrollment fee.

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