Mo Asgari – President- MonkeyMedia Software
Mo is an expert at aligning technology development and corporate strategy to anticipate, shape and lead major market trends. As a professional manager with over 25 years of Software Development and Technology experience, most of his career has been spent in an executive technology management role developing and managing products ranging from an extensive enterprise solution, to corporate wide client-server solutions, to an off-the-shelf consumer based solution. He has owned and driven entire releases of major software solutions, taking ownership of tasks and believes in management through empowerment.
Michael Atkinson – Founder- Orderscape.
As a serial entrepreneur, former corporate executive and multi-hyphenate living in Silicon Valley, Michael Atkinson now helps restaurant brands, venture investors and early-stage food and restaurant technology companies. Atkinson’s areas of expertise are corporate development, corporate finance, strategy, product development and resource integration. By living and working at the intersection of food and technology, Atkinson has the ability to to participate and attend food and wine events and conferences, and speaks topics that relate to his passions.
Tracy Avolio – Vice President- The Catering Institute
As VP, Tracy’s role is to help multi-unit restaurant concepts develop, implement and grow their catering program, focusing on strategic program planning and educational training. Tracy has been in the restaurant industry for nearly 25 years working in positions such as Marketing Manager, Sales Director, Regional Catering Sales, and National Account Manager, with concepts such as Ruby Tuesday, Landry’s Seafood and Boston Market.
Barbara Blackwell – Director of Catering – Bruegger’s Bagels
Barbara has over 30 years of restaurant industry experience within the fast, fast casual, casual and the campus dining segments. She has held roles in operations, marketing and catering sales. Prior to joining Bruegger’s Bagels Barbara held various positions as Director of Retail Dining for Columbia University in Manhattan NY and Southern Methodist University in Dallas TX. She was Brand Manager for Arby’s Brand and a Regional Catering Sales Manager for Corner Bakery Café for over 8 years. Barbara holds a Bachelor’s of Science in Food Service Administration.
Erle Dardick – Founder & CEO of MonkeyMedia Software, The Catering Institute and Catering Insights
Erle Dardick, Restaurant catering veteran, business turn-around expert and author, and is best known for helping multi-unit restaurant executives create successful catering revenue channels. After owning and running a highly successful retail deli and catering operation, Erle founded MonkeyMedia Software and The Catering Institute to provide catering solutions to multi-unit restaurant operators including strategy, education, and software. He is also the founder of Catering Insights, an industry publication that covers trends, data and best practices surrounding restaurant catering, takeout and delivery operations. He is also the author of “Get Catering and Grow Sales! A Strategic Perspective for The Multi-Unit Restaurant Executive”. Passionate about community-building, Erle is dedicated to his work with multi-unit restaurant executives.
Brian Farris – Vice President International Operations – FOCUS Brands
Brian was recently named Vice President of International Operations for FOCUS Brands. Before moving to the international role he served as Vice President of Strategy for Schlotzsky’s where he led the relaunch of their catering business doubling sales in the first two years and spearheaded the development of their new concept evolution, Schlotzsky’s Austin Eatery. Prior to joining FOCUS Brands, he took a short respite from the restaurant business as Chief Operating Officer for the USA Pro Challenge, a Tour de France caliber professional cycling event in the US. Being an avid cyclist himself it was an opportunity to marry business acumen with a personal passion. Brian is a thirty-year veteran of the restaurant business. From humble beginnings as a dishwasher, he has grown to serve in executive positions across multiple disciplines including accounting, finance, operations, marketing and international business development for companies such as Boston Market, Quiznos, Consumer Capital Partners and now FOCUS Brands.
Paul Hicks – Senior Vice President, Operations Services & Brand Development -Corner Bakery Cafe
Paul joined Corner Bakery Cafe in 1998 serving in various field operations roles in Dallas-Fort Worth and Southern California prior to becoming Director of Catering Operations in 2006. He was named Vice President of Operations Services in 2008, took over people training and development in 2010, and then became Senior VP of Operations Services & Brand Development in 2015. With over 25 years of industry experience, including various multi-unit roles in the QSR & Fast Casual segments, Paul is responsible for the strategic alignment and successful implementation of all cross-discipline brand initiatives for the +190 unit company and franchise system. He oversees the brand’s catering program, including the development and support of all catering systems and processes. He and his team are also responsible for all training and development programs for field operations.
Richard Hodges- VP, Operations Services- La Madeleine.
Joining la Madeleine in 2002 as the Director of Learning, Richard Hodges has transitioned through different roles within the company over the last 14 years including training, new café openings, information technology and operations services. Over 30 years a restaurant industry veteran, Richard has operated concepts in the casual and fast casual dining segments, from large multi-unit chains and single owner operated restaurants. In 1997, while working for Metromedia Restaurant Groups, Richard moved from field operations to corporate support representing the Steak in Ale brand in training, operations engineering and eventually operations services. In 2002, Richard rolled out e-mail for his first project with la Madeleine as the Director of Learning. Almost each year to follow and while in different capacities, Richard’s initiatives have encompassed technology implementation and training in an effort to better support operations. These initiatives have included: inventory management, labor allocation, Handhelds/Line Busters, Kitchen Display Systems, POS upgrades, Menu Boards, Call Centers, Online Ordering, and corporate wide catering and off premise sales programs. Richard is a nerd and frustrated English major still yearning to write the Great American Novel…set in a restaurant.
Trudy Jones – Director of Alternate Platforms – Catering – Red Robin International, Inc.
Trudy Jones brings over 20+ years of expertise in off-premise sales, menu and operational strategy, guest services programs and call center architecture and operations. Currently she is creating and implementing Red Robin’s new catering program serving as the Director of Alternate Platforms. She’s a purpose driven leader with a passion for leading through serving.
Ed Keller – Director of Off-Premise Sales – Whichwich
Ed joins us with extensive experience in the restaurant industry. Ed most recently worked for more than 20 years for the Boston Market Corporation. He has not only led the Catering Department for them, but has also led the Training / Learning & Development and Ops Services Departments. Ed has created numerous training programs and has implemented a food truck program, a monthly QSC Inspection Program and the Covey 7 Habits / WIGs programs. His extensive catering experience includes planning and directing sales initiatives; implementing and running a delivery driver program; implementing a home delivery, school lunch, and third-party catering programs. Ed enjoys working with his franchise partners to help them determine the proper approach to building sales. His varied experience in operation, training and catering make him a valuable addition to the team!
Tim Kimmel – Director of Off-Premise Business Development – Fazoli’s
Tim Kimmel graduated from Indiana State University with a degree in Business Management. He has been involved with the Hospitality Industry for over 35 years, 24 of those have been spent with Fazoli’s Restaurants. He began as a General Manager/Managing Partner, Area Supervisor and Director of Operations for both company and franchise locations. He spent two years as Director of Operation Services where he coordinated a joint venture between Fazoli’s Restaurants and the McDonald’s Corporation. Tim is currently the Director of Off-Premise Business Development, and is responsible for developing the Catering program for 123 company-owned Fazoli’s locations. His responsibilities include creating menus, marketing and packaging, establishing a centralized Call Center, implementing Catering and Takeout Technology programs for all company locations, Website Development and Fleet Management. In 2017, Tim is looking forward to expanding his team, by hiring both Regional Catering Sales Managers and Catering Sales Managers. These positions will be located in strategic markets to generate Catering sales and drive repeat business. This will add and strengthen Fazoli’s catering market share in the Restaurant Industry.
Jackie Kurkjian – National Director of Catering and Backline Sales- Potbelly Sandwiches
Jackie has more than 14 years of restaurant catering experience and has been instrumental in designing and implementing national catering programs for Boston Market and Qdoba Restaurant Corporation. Her expertise includes strategic planning, improving efficiency of operations, directing all aspects of the sales process and developing and implementing multi-channel marketing plans.
Gracie Prasanson – Director of Sales – Jason’s Deli
Gracie is passionate about quality work and performance excellence while creating an environment where team members feel valued and challenged in their roles. Gracie enjoys the challenge of creating new positions and The Sales Department in her tenure with Jason’s Deli. Gracie has a proven track record in managing diverse teams and developing successful leaders in both operations and sales. Founded in 1976, Jason’s Deli is a dynamic, growth-oriented, family-owned private organization which strongly believes in Core Value-based, servant leadership. We have developed a reputation for great service and quality food through principled execution and customer trust. I love what our founding owner, Joe Tortorice, says about the business… “We’re in the People Business, we just happen to be selling food.” This says it all about our organization and it’s commitment to improving the lives of all we serve.
Jim Rand – VP, Catering – P.F. Chang’s
Jim is a 34 year restaurant industry veteran, having served in multiple operations leadership roles over the past 3 decades. Early in his career, Jims’ hands-on experiences with Au Bon Pain, Einstein’s, and Metromedia Restaurant Group provided unique insight into the day to day challenges of operating multi-unit restaurants in challenging start-up, franchise, and turn-around environments.From 2000 to 2016 Jim worked with Panera Bread. For the first seven years, as a Franchisee and Operating Partner in Minnesota, Jim built and led a team that successfully opened and operated 27 Panera Bread Bakery Cafes. Upon successfully selling and transitioning the cafes to Panera, LLC, in 2007, Jim joined the company to lead their catering efforts. Over an eight year time period, he was responsible for the strategic and tactical catering initiatives for Panera, LLC, resulting in multiple years of double digit sales growth. Jim joined P.F. Chang’s in May of 2016, and is developing and implementing a Catering program for the concept, as well as leading the initiatives for all Off Premises Dining, including take-out and third-party delivery. Jim is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin, Madison and is a devout Badger fan and Cheese-head. He resides in Hingham, Massachusetts with his wife and best friend for 30 years, Sande, and their two children, Casey and Luke.
Jason Schlenker – SVP, Business Development
Inktel Contact Center Solutions. Jason has played a key role in Inktel’s success. As the company’s SVP of business development, Jason is primarily tasked with growing the company’s revenue, identifying new industry verticals and services and helping shape policy and direction for the company. Over the past 17 years, Jason has learned what it takes to create great partnerships and has come to value the impact of developing solutions that truly impact and innovate our clients’ businesses. After earning his Bachelor’s degree at Florida International University, he joined Inktel, an incredibly energetic company that put a premium on building great partnerships with its clients. 17 years later, Jason has worked in nearly every department at Inktel and continues to lead “The Inktel Way.”
Melissa Wilson- Principal – Technomic
Melissa works closely with senior leadership teams and private equity firms on identifying strategic opportunities for restaurant concept positioning, brand evolution, growth strategy and domestic and international expansion. Melissa leads the firm’s Off-Premise Practice and Catering Insights Program and directed the firm’s recent On Demand Delivery and Off-Premise studies.