Dr. Randy Ross

Dr. Randy Ross

Dr. Randy Ross is a compelling communicator, craftsman of culture and bestselling author of multiple books, including his latest book entitled, Hope Rises: Make Your Life, Love & Leadership Soar.

Working with brands like GE Appliances, McDonald’s, Panasonic, Cox Communications, Compass Group, Chick-fil-A, Keller Williams and the Intercontinental Hotel Group, he has inspired and enabled countless people to find new passion and purpose in their work, work better together in teams and have greater influence and impact.

When people like what they do, they do it better. When people like those they do it with, they work better together. When they like the impact they are having, they find meaning and fulfillment in what they do. Dr. Ross helps them find what they really like, while building healthier relationships and pursuing a passion beyond self.

As the CEO of Remarkable and a former Chief People Officer, Dr. Randy Ross utilizes his experience to engage audiences worldwide with his keen insight and contagious humor. He is a messenger of practical wisdom and needed hope, untangling the biggest challenges facing today’s business leader, tomorrow’s workforce and the future marketplace. He lives with his wife, LuAnne, and four children in Atlanta, Georgia.

David Salyers

David Salyers was one of the original two marketing executives at Chick-fil-A. He went on to spend 37 years in the Chick-fil-A Marketing Department, most recently as a Vice President, before his retirement. Having worked at Chick-fil-A his entire career, he saw the principles of servant leadership and creating remarkable customer experiences play out in the growth of more than 2,300 Chick-fil-A restaurants around the country. Today, this multi-billion dollar company is recognized as one of America’s most successful, powerful and beloved brands.

During his time at Chick-fil-A, David was instrumental in the growth and development of the iconic ‘cow campaign’ and helped champion a marketing department that rose to international prominence and prestige. David is known for his marketing mind, his servant’s heart, and his entrepreneurial spirit.

Throughout his career, David has had a passion to spark the growth of individuals, teams and organizations. He intuitively sees the potential in others and organizations and what can be rather than what they currently are. After participating in the extraordinary success of Chick-fil-A, David realized the business principles used to catapult that organization can work anytime and anywhere...no matter the size of the team or company. So, in 2018, David founded Spark a Revolution, where he and his team help companies create a competitive advantage by building remarkable cultures and brands. His 2016 book, Remarkable, in which he co-wrote with Dr. Randy Ross, imparts leadership lessons that can transform workplace culture.



Emily Bennett


David Cantu

David Cantu is a 30-year restaurant industry veteran and serves as the President and Chief Executive Officer for Black Box Intelligence™, the premiere performance benchmarking company for the hospitality industry.

Prior to Black Box Intelligence, Cantu worked his way up in restaurant management with Outback Steakhouse and P.F. Chang’s China Bistro, where he served as an Operating Partner in San Antonio, TX. In 1999, he co-founded HotSchedules, the industry’s leading workforce management solution.

In his 21 years at HotSchedules, David served as Chief Revenue Officer and Chief Customer Officer, respectively. He facilitated multiple mergers and acquisitions fueling HotSchedules’ significant scale and market position with 6,000 restaurant brands managing 120,000 locations supported by 2.8 million hourly workers.

Passionate about innovation and client success, he oversaw the customer advisory councils and chaired the annual Spark user conference where valuable feedback was provided to guide product roadmaps for HotSchedules’ portfolio of products. He departed HotSchedules in 2019 after overseeing the acquisition and merger of HotSchedules and Fourth Enterprises by Marlin Equity Partners.

David serves on the board of directors for Wisely, a customer engagement platform, and has investments in various restaurant technologies shaping restaurant operations and guest experience.

David currently lives in Austin, TX with his wife Danielle and 3 children, Cadie, Giana and Luca. He enjoys hiking, boating, grilling and watching his kids play competitive sports.


Victor Fernandez

Victor Fernandez is the company’s most senior analyst, having studied the restaurant industry for over seventeen years. He is responsible for creating and delivering insights, content and products that provide restaurant companies the business intelligence they need to successfully run their businesses in an increasingly competitive landscape. Victor oversees the company’s surveys and research projects and is also responsible for helping guide product development. He is a frequent contributor to articles covering the restaurant industry as well as an experienced speaker at industry events. Victor holds a Master of Business Administration (MBA) and a Master of Science in Information Systems (MSIS) from the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University. He also has an undergraduate degree in Economics from Rafael Landivar University in Guatemala City, Guatemala, his hometown. Prior to joining Black Box Intelligence Victor worked as a research analyst for a consulting firm in Guatemala and along with his wife Antonella, started their own business catering to dog owners. Victor currently lives in Frisco, Texas with his wife and two sons, Diego and Mateo. He enjoys spending time with his family, traveling and is passionate about anything relating to music.

Michael Halen

Michael Halen

Michael Halen is the Senior Restaurant and Foodservice Analyst 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, appears as a frequent TV and radio guest, and hosts a restaurant-focused podcast titled Choppin’ It Up. Halen has covered restaurant stocks for almost 12 years at Bloomberg and Sidoti & Co.

Before joining Bloomberg, Halen spent 11 years trading equities, including nine running trading floors as branch manager. He earned a Bachelor of Science in Finance from Georgetown University, where he was captain of the football team.


Carlos Herrera

Carlos Herrera is Chief Economist for Coca-Cola North America. The main thrust of his work is to increase the visibility of ‘what’s to come’ through a deeper understanding of the Foodservice industry from an economic perspective. His forecasts are a key input to the development of strategic and operational plans.

Carlos regularly shares his insights on the impact of the economy on consumers and the restaurant industry with the executive leadership, boards of directors, and franchisees of foodservice companies around the world. He has spent the last 29 years at Coca-Cola North America serving in various capacities in Operations, Finance, Marketing, and Strategic Planning. Prior to that, Carlos worked for 8 years at Federal Express and holds a Master’s Degree in Industrial and Systems Engineering from Georgia Tech.

He is a member of the board of the National Association for Business Economics, the National Business Economists Issues Council and the Harvard Industry Economists Discussion Group.


Joe Hummel


Scott Lawton


Mariah Machnikowski

Mariah Machnikowski is the Chief People Officer for Lazy Dog Restaurants, where she is responsible for leading the talent strategy and execution supporting the company’s strategic business plan, including talent acquisition, learning and development, succession planning, employee retention, compensation and benefits, as well as the oversight of all HR-related matters.

Ms. Machnikowski also currently serves as a board member of the California Restaurant Association Foundation (CRAF) and The Collins College of Hospitality Management at Cal Poly Pomona.

Prior to joining Lazy Dog Restaurants, Ms. Machnikowski led the human resources function for Tilly’s and Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar.

With more than 20 years in the Human Resources field across multiple industries, Ms. Machnikowski has extensive knowledge and experience in working with senior leaders to define and implement human capital strategies to drive business results.

Dr Pogue Headshot

Dr. James Pogue

As the President and CEO of JP Enterprises, James has spearheaded the development of The Diversity, Inclusion and Bias (DIBs) ModelTM, a critical component of the organization’s work and success.

An outgrowth of research and grounded in theory, this model spawned the inclusive Leadership Assessment ProfileTM, a tool used to measure where an organization, team or individual is on their diversity journey, thus providing the best opportunity for strategic recommendations and change.

Dr. Pogue is also the creator of The No Nonsense ExperienceTM, a diversity discussion concept that leverages cohort learning and emergent best practices to keep participants ‘The RIGHT Kind of Uncomfortable’TM. The No Nonsense ExperienceTM has been the tool used by thousands of professionals to build DEI comfort, confidence and the muscles necessary to lead inclusively.

His expertise and experienced content delivery take the form of Keynotes, thought-provoking Workshops, Webinars, and Executive Coaching. Dr. Pogue supports leaders as they make decisions to attract, engage, and retain talent at all levels while they deepen their understanding of Diversity, Inclusion, and Bias.

His military service, scope of research and work as a speaker and entrepreneur give him tangible examples of the critical balance between leaders and followers on teams. He provides leaders with professionally researched data, partnered with highly engaged training to improve their ability to influence organizational behavior and the bottom line.

In his leisure time, he occasionally competes as a martial artist where he has five national titles, in addition to Silver and Bronze medals at the World Championships. Dr. Pogue has two daughters and five granddaughters.


Peggy Rubenzer

A seasoned executive with more than 30 years in the human resources profession,Peggy Rubenzer serves as Whataburger’s Senior Vice President and Chief People Officer.

Peggy joined Whataburger in April 2022 to support the brand’s continued growth in new states while expanding its 51,000+ Family Member workforce. A member of the Strategic Leadership Team, she is responsible for all Human Resources, Recruiting, Training, and Brand Communication & Culture efforts – from compensation and benefits, to recruiting and training, to community charitable efforts and culture-building.

As Whataburger enters its most significant period of growth in the brand’s 72-year history, Peggy sets strategy to achieve long-term success by strengthening engagement, retention and leadership opportunities for all employees.

“It really all boils down to people: People in the guest-facing positions on the front lines who deliver the brand hospitality to customers, and people behind the scenes who work so hard to support and help to drive those successes," she says.

She brings a wealth of experience to the role, including senior leadership experience at True Food Kitchen, Shake Shack Enterprises, PF Chang’s China Bistro Inc., and Southwest Airlines.

"Peggy has designed, developed and executed people models and training programs for some top-notch brands," says Whataburger CEO Ed Nelson. "Her experience shaping HR and Training functions has proven extremely valuable as Whataburger continues its growth into new markets and new states – and expands its workforce.”

Peggy hails from Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, Illinois, and completed the Executive HR Program at Stanford University for seasoned HR professionals.


Tim Suh

Tim Suh is a Vice President of Data Engineering in charge of leading a small data team at BBI to deliver values and insights for our customers. A hands-on leader who has worked in both private and public sector, he has been successful in designing, building, and creating enterprise products and data solutions for startups and Fortune companies across different verticals,Before joining BBI, Tim worked for a couple of local startups in identity management and advertising space where he served as the Head of Data and Analytics to architect and manage data platforms, support technology initiatives, and develop overall data strategy. He has also served in other leadership roles throughout his career in management consulting, software engineering, and systems integration.

Tim earned a BS degree in Electrical Engineering from the University Of Virginia and later, received a MS from George Mason University in Information Management Systems. To further pursue system thinking, he completed the coursework for the Ph.D program at George Washington University and hopes to keep pursuing other learning opportunities. Hanging out in Northern Virginia with his wife, Jennifer, and two teenage boys, Jeremy and Zachary, and the family dog, Piper, Tim enjoys working out and spending quality time with family and friends on weekends. He likes to read and catch up on technology while playing a game of ping pong, tennis, or basketball.


Joe Wiese

After a career in big tech and consulting, Joe is excited to prove that achieving ambitious business objectives and doing right by the planet are not mutually exclusive. We can do well and do good at the same time.

When Joe’s not out nurturing partnerships for GreenPlaces, he loves off-the-beaten-trail travel, exploring New York City with his partner, and spending time with his family and three amazing nieces back home in Omaha. Prior to his professional career, Joe was a competitive swimmer at Duke University and a founding member of the LGBT alliance.

Shawn Boyer

Shawn Boyer

Shawn Boyer is the Founder and CEO of goHappy. Prior to goHappy, Shawn founded and was CEO of Snagajob, the nation’s largest marketplace for hourly workers and employers, from 2000-2013 and then Chairman of the Board through 2015. Shawn directed Snagajob’s rapid growth from an idea to a marketplace that now has over 100 million members and over 500,000 employer locations. Snagajob was named to Fortune Magazine’s Great Place to Work® Best Small & Medium Workplaces list for eight straight years (including five Top-10 finishes and a #1 ranking in 2011) and was a Deloitte Technology Fast 500 company for five consecutive years. In 2008, he was named the National Small Business Person of the Year and received public recognition from President George W. Bush.

Shawn is a frequent speaker regarding building great workplace cultures and rapidly scaling businesses and has appeared in places such as The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Good Morning America, CNN and in daily newspapers throughout the nation. Shawn is also the author of Help Wanted & Help Found: The insiders’ guide to recruiting & hiring hourly workers.

He is a graduate of the College of William and Mary and the Washington & Lee School of Law, and he received his LL.M. in taxation from Georgetown University Law Center.


Melissa Doolin-Koehne

Melissa Doolin-Koehne is Vice President of Business Development for Black Box Intelligence, the restaurant’s leading resource for financial, workforce and consumer benchmarks and insights. Melissa has been part of the Black Box Intelligence for close to 20 years and leads the business development team in identifying and securing new members to grow the Black Box Intelligence community. She uses her passion for the restaurant industry to help companies become best-in-class performers.

Prior to joining Black Box Intelligence, Melissa worked for the National Restaurant Association. She now is an executive board member of the Texas Restaurant Association. Melissa also spent a year as head of development for Conscious Capitalism, Inc, a non-for-profit dedicated to elevating humanity through business.

Melissa has a Bachelor's degree from Johnson & Wales University in Hotel & Restaurant Management. Born and raised in the restaurant industry, she is a foodie and service leader at heart and enjoys not only helping the clients of Black Box Intelligence; but overall supporting the restaurant industry as an industry of choice. When not working, her days are filled with her family, including her husband Douglas and her four daughters Anya, Ava, Sophia, and Maizi. They love to travel and every year pick a new state to explore with no reservations.


James Fripp

James Fripp is the Chief Equity, Inclusion & Belonging Officer of Yum! Brands. In this role, Fripp has global responsibility for working with leaders across Yum! Brands, KFC, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell and The Habit Burger Grill to advance diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging strategies and practices across the company’s brands, workplaces and franchise system.

Building on Yum! Brands’ years of progress on its diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging evolution, Fripp is focused on increasing diverse representation among company leadership, franchisees and suppliers and continuing the rollout of inclusive leadership and anti-racism training across the company and franchise system.

Since 2011, Fripp has led diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging efforts, where he elevated Yum! Brands’ public commitments and partnerships including the CEO Action for Diversity and Inclusion, The Consortium for Graduate Study in Management, OneTen and We Are All Human’s The Hispanic Promise. He also activated the company’s Business Employee Resource Groups and has trained thousands of brand and franchise leaders around the world on the topics of Inclusive Leadership and Unconscious Bias.

Fripp is a member of the Clemson University Corporate CDO Advisory Board and a member of the Corporate Advisory Board for the Multicultural Foodservice and Hospitality Alliance. He is also a member of the University of North Carolina Corporate Advisory Board on Diversity & Inclusion and Chair of the National Restaurant Association Education Foundation Board.

He holds a Degree in Business Management and is a certified Unconscious Bias facilitator and Hogan Leadership Assessment Coach.​


Mary Hamill

Mary loves leading customer success and account management teams to foster customer retention and expansion of solutions within the customer portfolio. She is passionate about the hospitality industry and recognizes how difficult it is to simply get a cheeseburger served or a pizza delivered to a guest.

Mary has over 20 years of experience in the hospitality industry in leading IT, HR and Training teams. Additionally she spent several years with a software company that specialized in providing back office solutions and business intelligence to the industry.

In March of 2017 Mary co-founded the Women’s Initiative & Networking Group (WING) at her prior company to proactively improve work for women in technology and to support women’s growth and development in their professional and personal lives. She has been instrumental in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion initiatives and hopes to continue this at BBI.


Ben Holschuh

Ben Holschuh is a Senior Product Manager with Black Box Intelligence. He has spent the past 20 years working in the Restaurant Software space with back office, supply chain, 3rd party delivery and business intelligence solutions.

He has lived in Austin, TX 2006.

He would love to connect with you to hear what problems you are facing in the industry today.

Sarah King

Sarah King

Sarah King serves as Darden’s Chief People & Diversity Officer. A member of Darden’s Executive Team, she leads the execution of Darden’s people strategy as well as building organizational capability and employee culture to further enable Darden’s growth. She is also responsible for all aspects of the HR functions within Darden, including oversight of the HR organizations within each of Darden’s operating companies.

Darden owns and operates more than 1,800 Olive Garden, LongHorn Steakhouse, Cheddar’s Scratch Kitchen, Yard House, The Capital Grille, Seasons 52, Bahama Breeze and Eddie V’s restaurants in North America.

Prior to joining Darden in 2017, Sarah spent 19 years with Wyndham Worldwide Corporation where she worked closely with operators and executive leaders to execute successful people initiatives around the world. Most recently, she served as Executive Vice President, Human Resources for Wyndham Vacation Ownership. In this role, Sarah was responsible for developing and rolling out the company’s people strategy, which focused on enhancing the culture to attract, engage and retain top talent.

A native of New Zealand, Sarah studied communications at the Auckland University of Technology.

Fred LeFranc

Fred LeFranc

In a fast-paced restaurant industry with new technology, competition, and laws changing the game each day, Fred LeFranc brings order to disorder and helps businesses thrive. He is a well-respected industry veteran who has advised many of the industry’s most significant executives and companies – from startups to billion-dollar global chains – to deliver long term sustainable success.

Fred is a change agent, assisting brands in reinventing and evolving to stay relevant to their current and potential customers. He combines direct knowledge of operating a restaurant with an inherent talent for business and acute vision for growth. He leverages his passion for business, understanding of human behavior and knowledge of technology to provide corporate counsel and make a lasting impact. As a corporate strategist, he has turned around many declining businesses, helping significantly improve sales.

Fred and his team of hospitality specialists work closely with entrepreneurs, investors and C-suite execs in finding a company's purpose that resonates and energizes the company's team members and its guests. They are true partners, working with companies to assess their business and uncover paths to improvement. His proprietary process provides powerful insights to help devise and implement strategies to optimize every facet of the organization.

Currently, Fred holds the position of President, CEO, Chaos Strategist and Consultant with Results Thru Strategy, a restaurant consulting company he founded in 2006. Fred’s mission is to support company owners and executives while driving change and implementing long-term sustainable growth strategies. On a day to day basis, Fred leads project teams and is responsible for business development initiatives. His confidentiality and discretion is sought after and he serves as a trusted advisor to executive leadership teams and CEO’s, offering guidance throughout the often challenging and complex path to business stability and profitability.


Rachael Nemeth


Maria Rivera

Maria is a senior executive and board member with over 20 years of progressive omni channel retail and hospitality experience. She is a servant leader that focuses on leading with a people first entrepreneurial approach.

In 2022, Maria was promoted to President, US at Krispy Kreme, Inc., leading the end to end country strategy and ongoing business transformation. From 2019 to 2022, Maria served as Chief Operating Officer for the US and Canada for Krispy Kreme Doughnut Corporation where she was responsible for all domestic company, franchise, manufacturing and consumer package goods operations and accountable for P&L responsibility of over $1B in revenue. She also leads all the services functions that support consistently delivering the most awesome doughnut experience imaginable. Prior to these roles, she led the US & Canada company and franchise owned businesses as well as the off-premises services at Krispy Kreme where she delivered tremendous business transformation across the omni channel network.

Before her tenure at Krispy Kreme, Maria served as Executive Vice President of Operations for Logan’s Roadhouse, where she conceived and executed the vision for the enterprise talent infrastructure, employee engagement and operational transformation while having the primary responsibility of leading the operations teams during Logan’s’ financial restructuring. She managed revenues more than $620 million and lead over 15k team members across the US.

Maria is an accomplished executive and has an extensive career that also includes roles as Vice President of Operations for TGI Fridays, Inc., Regional Vice President for Darden Restaurants, Vice President of Food & Beverage for Bally’s, Director of Food & Beverage Operations for the Waldorf Astoria Collection and Food & Beverage Operations Manager at the Walt Disney World Resort. In addition, Maria is a certified sommelier and a certified “spirits” professional. In 2001, she was presented with the prestigious Walt Disney World “Partners in Excellence” Award, the highest honor bestowed to a team member within the Walt Disney Organization. She supports and has volunteered for the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the Hispanic Youth Institute, and is a member of the Chaine de Rotisseurs and the Women Foodservice Forum.

A foodie for life, she enjoys dining at the world’s most unique restaurants, traveling globally and spending time with her family and son, Julian.

Patti Simpson

Patti Simpson

Patti Simpson is the Chief Administrative Officer of Union Square Hospitality Group (USHG), in which capacity she oversees the human resources, legal, and marketing teams and spearheads Hospitality Quotient, the company’s leadership, learning and development consultancy. Patti is an accomplished leader with a deeply rooted background in human resources, operations, organizational design, and learning development. A trained educator passionate about leadership and team development, Patti leverages her experience to further USHG’s culture of Enlightened Hospitality, the belief that putting employees first is the key to running a meaningful and sustainable business.

Previously, Patti served as the Chief People Officer of USHG, in which capacity she led the transformation and modernization of the HR function, and built a diverse, industry-leading C-suite. Following business closures and staff reduction in 2020, Patti and her team worked tirelessly to lead USHG’s hiring efforts to pre-pandemic levels. Patti also spearheaded the formation of USHG’s HUGS Employee Relief Fund, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) created to support USHG team members facing unexpected financial hardship.

Previously, Patti led Human Resource operations for various domestic and international food service brands such as TGI Fridays, Ignite Restaurant Group (Joe’s Crab Shack, Brick House Tavern + Tap), Au Bon Pain, and Ruby Tuesday. Patti serves on the board of Legacy of Hope and the HR Committee at Bethesda Project.


Amy Valentine


Stephanie Callihan

Stephanie Callihan kicked off her restaurant industry career with P.F. Chang's China Bistro & Pei Wei Asian Diner in Scottsdale, Ariz., where she served in various accounting and FP&A roles and was responsible for analysis and insights for the sister companies.

After nearly six years, she switched industries and moved into FP&A at GoDaddy. However, the restaurant industry called upon her again, this time with Cotton Patch Cafe - where she has spent nearly a decade moving through the ranks from director of business intelligence, chief administrative officer and now to her current role as chief financial officer.

Clay Dover

Clay Dover

Clay Dover is the Chief Executive Officer, President and Taco Maker at Velvet Taco, a restaurant committed to a world of tacos without borders and one of the United States hottest fast-casual brands in the industry. Since he assumed leadership in March 2017, Velvet Taco has grown from 4 to 35 company-owned restaurants with 21 more in development and continues to see consecutive quarters of positive restaurant comparative sales.

Dover attributes the brand’s success to quality, chef-driven recipes inspired by flavors around the world served in a tortilla and a strong “Tribe” culture that allows Team Members to be bold, curious, and unconventional. Dover has successfully led the brand during recent unprecedented times, growing sales, improving margins, and continuing the development growth plan domestically and launching the early stages of international growth.

A service industry veteran with over 30 years of restaurant experience, Dover served as President and Chief Marketing Officer, Fry Cook and Cashier for Raising Cane’s Chicken Finger Restaurants for over 6 years while the brand grew from 63 to 225 units in 18 states and developed non-traditional and international presence. He has served in a variety of senior executive and marketing leadership roles within the restaurant industry throughout his career.

Dover was named the past three years as one of the most influential restaurant CEO’s in the Country by Nations Restaurant News and has previously served as Co-Chair of the National Restaurant Association Marketing Advisory Group. Other achievements and awards include CMO of the Year; Dallas’s “40 under 40 Award”, and Chain Leader Protégé of the Year Award.

Jamie Griffin

Jamie Griffin

Starting as an hourly-rate office assistant and handling every conceivable task, Jamie spent 14 years at Raising Cane’s Chicken Fingers, quickly ascending the ranks and ultimately becoming Vice President. Jamie worked directly with the company founder, helping the company to double in size five times, growing into a $500M business operating in 20 states and one international country, and increasing the number of hourly-rate employees from 300 to over 10,000. During Jamie’s tenure, he was an active leader in the business with a front row seat to the rapid growth of a restaurant chain through which he gained in-depth experience in entrepreneurship, strategy, restaurant management, franchising, human resources, risk management, and more.

Based in Dallas, Texas, Jamie volunteers cooking meals at the Ronald McDonald House and serves on the Steering Committee of the IFA Dallas Franchise Business Network. His outside-of-business passions are food-- local and authentic; cocktails--hand-crafted classics; travel--New York, New Orleans, and San Francisco; and photography--nighttime landscapes.

Nathan Havey

Nathan Havey

Nathan Havey has over a decade of experience helping business leaders and their teams to discover, stress test, and ultimately implement their company higher purpose. Along the way, Nathan has learned a lot about what works and what doesn't becoming a sought-after advisor, supporting business purpose efforts all over the world in a wide range of industries and business sizes. In one notable case, a midwestern franchize company worked with Nathan to engage the team in a purpose process which, within the following five years, has led the company to grow 150%, retained the team through the "great recession" and landed the co-CEO's on the cover of a prestigious national publication. Training materials Nathan has created, including the acclaimed film "Beyond Zero" are being used in many of the world's top business schools, in several Fortune 500 companies, notable private equity firms, and other leading companies in the Americas, Europe and Asia Pacific.


Chad Houser


Emily Knight

Sarah Lockyer

Sarah Lockyer

Sarah joined The Elliot Group in 2021. In her role, Sarah looks to harness the firm’s expertise and experience to drive thought leadership, business development, event opportunities, and philanthropic efforts to positively impact the talent and industries that The Elliot Group serves.

Prior to joining The Elliot Group, Sarah was Group Director of The Restaurant & Food Group at Informa Plc. There she led all brand efforts for the leading media, marketing services, and events portfolio, including Nation's Restaurant News, Restaurant Hospitality, Food Management, Supermarket News, and the premier restaurant leadership digital community Restaurants Rise and conference, CREATE: The Future of Foodservi.

Sam Oches

Sam Oches

Sam Oches is the award-winning Editorial Director of Informa's Restaurant & Food Group, which publishes Nation's Restaurant News, Restaurant Hospitality, Supermarket News and Food Management. A graduate of the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio, Sam previously served as Editorial Director of Food News Media, publisher of QSR and FSR magazines. He’s a past president of the International Foodservice Editorial Council (IFEC) and a past board member with the American Society of Business Publication Editors (ASBPE). His foodservice insights have been shared in national media outlets such as the New York Times, USA Today, National Public Radio, and CNBC. He lives in Columbus, Ohio, with his wife and two kids.


Destinee Rollins


Patrick Sterling

A 34-year veteran of the restaurant industry, Patrick Sterling is Vice President of Legendary People for Texas Roadhouse, a growing casual dining restaurant company with 654 restaurants in 49 states and 11 countries.

Patrick oversees executive and management staffing, benefits and compensation, HR administration (HRIS/Payroll), risk management, asset protection and field HR and employee relations.

Prior to joining Texas Roadhouse in 2004, Patrick served in several leadership positions for Ruby Tuesday which included Director of Sales and Performance, Director of Human Resources and Director of Process and Performance.


Kimberlee Vandervoorn

Ms. Vandervoorn began her career as a labor attorney and went on to earn a Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt certification, applying a variety of business principles to design and build organizational cultures and processes to deliver the most efficient and consistent value and highest quality. During her tenure with UnitedHealth Group she has worked with multiple industries to develop health and wellness solutions that meet their unique needs and help them navigate the complex health care system.

Ms. Vandervoorn sits on multiple state restaurant and lodging association boards to better understand the challenges faced by the hospitality industry. She holds a BA degree from Connecticut College, Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt Certification from Villanova and Juris Doctorate from Catholic University of America.

Rob Wilder

Rob Wilder

Rob Wilder is the co-founder with José Andrés of ThinkFoodGroup (TFG), the innovative management company responsible for renowned dining concepts in Washington, DC, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami and Puerto Rico including Jaleo, Zaytinya, Oyamel, minibar by José Andrés, Beefsteak, The Bazaar by José Andrés at the SLS Hotels, China Poblano at the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, and Mi Casa at the Ritz Carlton Reserve in Dorado Beach. TFG also handles José’s additional creative endeavors encompassing cookbooks, food products, television programming, education, concept consulting, and new restaurant projects.

Recently Rob also founded the investment group “FoodTech Angels” to grow innovative early-stage companies that have the potential to disrupt our food systems. As part of his effort to support promising entrepreneurs Rob serves as a Mentor at the Halcyon Incubator and 1776.