Feb 26 - 01, 2023
FoodOvation #31
Commercial Exchange

The 31st FoodOvation exchange is for commercial operators and manufacturers only.

Relationships are the currency of successful businesses! Great business is built upon relationships cultivated out of meaningful, shared experiences. FoodOvation is a hand-crafted exchange designed to forge partnerships and drive innovation by providing participants opportunities for genuine interactions.

Through intimate group sizes, FoodOvation cultivates powerful interactions between decision-making peers that both provide insights that spark vibrant, collaborative, concentrated culinary discussions and ideas, as well as fosters the building of relationships in order to take action and win in the marketplace. This is not watching a speaker, but an exchange of ideas and birthplace of connection. Attendees leave FoodOvation invigorated with new ideas, new experiences, and new relationships.

Saturday - February 25, 2023
Time Event Location
2:00 - 5:00PM Registration (Sponsors) Riley Board Room at River House
Sunday - February 26, 2023
Time Event Location
12:00 – 5:00PM Registration Riley Board Room at River House
6:00 – 9:00PM Welcome Reception & Dinner Oak Ballroom at River House
Monday - February 27, 2023
Time Event Location
8:00 – 8:20AM Breakfast Montage Residences
8:20 – 12:00PM Morning FoodOvation Sessions Montage Residences
12:15 - 1:15PM Lunch Oak Ballroom
1:20 - 3:00PM Afternoon FoodOvation Sessions Montage Residences
3:15 - 5:15PM Group Activities Various Locations
5:15 - 6:00PM Relax & Refresh
5:50 - 6:20PM Trolley Transport to Dinner Inn (Bell stand)
6:00 – 9:00PM Reception & Dinner Moreland Landing
8:45 - 9:30PM Trolleys back to Inn
Tuesday - February 28, 2023
Time Event Location
8:00 - 8:20AM Breakfast Montage Residences
8:20 – 12:00PM Morning FoodOvation Sessions Montage Residences
12:15 - 1:15PM Lunch Oak Ballroom
1:20 - 5:00PM Afternoon FoodOvation Sessions Montage Residences
5:00 - 6:00PM Relax & Refresh
5:50 - 6:20PM Trolleys from Inn (Bell stand) to Dinner Inn (Bell stand)
6:00 - 9:00PM Reception & Dinner Cole's Restaurant
8:45 - 9:30PM Transportation back to Inn
Wednesday - March 1, 2023
Time Event Location
All Day Departures As Scheduled
Committed Sponsors
Committed Restaurateurs/Operators

Black Bear Diner

Anita Adams, CEO
Joanna Dean, VP of I.T. & Culinary Services
Cindy Wright, Senior Director of Supply Chain

Black Bear Diner is one of the fastest-growing franchises in the country. Founded in 1995 by Bruce Dean and Bob Manley in Mt. Shasta, California, Black Bear Diner brings home-style comfort food classics and personal service to the dining experience. The quickly growing family dining concept, open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, offers a vast, enticing menu anchored in hearty portions and excellent value, with service rooted in genuine hospitality.

The franchise now operates over 150 diners in 14 states and growing. Black Bear Diner has been consistently recognized for its significant growth and outstanding performance – Winner of FSR Magazine’s 2021 Reader’s Choice Award for Best Legacy Brand, Top 10 Customer Service Winner, Top 10 Fastest-Growing Chain and Top Disruptor from Nation’s Restaurant News. Franchise Times has called Black Bear Diner one of the “smartest-growing brands” in the country. The company is a disruptor in the family-dining segment for its growth and performance and will continue to focus on serving home-style comfort food classics and bringing personal service back to the dining industry as the brand continues to execute its expansion plan.

Cooper's Hawk Winery

Christopher Evangelides, Director of Culinary, Piccolo Buco

Cooper’s Hawk Winery & Restaurants was created with the inspiration of bringing the Napa Valley experience to all of America, by combining an elegant tasting room with a polished casual restaurant and scratch kitchen. Built upon the belief that food and wine hold the power to forge lasting connections, Cooper’s Hawk is home to one of the world’s largest wine clubs with nearly 600k-and-growing member base. The Cooper’s Hawk portfolio currently includes 54 Cooper’s Hawk Winery & Restaurant locations, as well as two new “by Cooper’s Hawk” brands introduced in 2022: Esquire by Cooper’s Hawk and Piccolo Buco by Luca Issa & Cooper’s Hawk.


Joshua Gomes, Sr. Manager of R&D

Dunkin’ is the world’s leading baked goods and coffee chain, serving more than 3 million customers each and every day. True to our name, we offer 50+ varieties of donuts, but you can also enjoy dozens of premium beverages, bagels, breakfast sandwiches and other baked goods.

Elevate Entertainment

Jeff Mann, VP of F&B

As an Inc. 5,000 Fastest Private Growing Company and the
nation’s leading and largest operator of cinema entertainment centers, the Elevate
Entertainment Group portfolio of brands includes EVO Cinemas, EVO Entertainment,
Elevate Rewards, ShowBiz Cinemas, Times Square Grand Slam, and Violet Corwn. The
organization offers a broad slate of activities including movies, bowling, games, and
attractions like climbing walls, virtual reality, ropes courses, and bumper cars. Guests
can enjoy refined food and beverages from their scratch kitchens and bars while
immersing themselves in a variety of entertainment options for everyday fun.

Hello Fresh

Ellie Gleason, Strategic Sourcing Manager

Home Chef

Ben Niksch, Category Manager

Founded in 2013, Home Chef is the leading meal solutions company with both a retail and online presence. Available from and in retail at more than 2,200 Kroger Family of Stores, Home Chef is committed to bringing ease and convenience to home cooking through simple, delicious meals, so fans can enjoy their time at home, both in and out of the kitchen. The Chicago-based meal kit company was ranked #1 in Customer Service among Meal Kits by Newsweek. Home Chef is a subsidiary of The Kroger Co. (NYSE: KR). Find out more and get cooking at Follow us on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook for updates and inspiration.


Johnny Yoo, Senior Chef, Menu Strategy & Development

For more than 65 years, IHOP has been a leader, innovator and expert in all things breakfast, any time of day. The chain offers 65 different signature, fresh, made-to-order breakfast options, a wide selection of popular lunch and dinner items, including Ultimate Steakburgers, Hand Crafted Melts, Burritos & Bowls and more. IHOP restaurants offer guests an affordable, everyday dining experience with warm and friendly service. As of September 30, 2022, there are 1,756 IHOP restaurants around the world. IHOP restaurants are 100% franchised by affiliates of Dine Brands Global, Inc.

Islands Restaurants

Ian Reischl, Director of Food and Beverage

When Islands founder Tony DeGrazier stepped off the beaches of Oahu after a day of surfing with his Navy buddies in the early 60s, he did what came naturally to him. He went searching for a juicy burger, a hot basket of fries & a cold drink. Twenty years later, in 1982, it was that sense of place & satisfaction he was trying to recreate when he took a little chunk of the islands & plopped it down right in the mainland of Southern California.

Lazy Dog Restaurants

Nick Yeager, R&D Culinary

We have sourced ingredients from places and farmers we love and respect. Each ingredient we use is carefully picked and prepared. We make every meal by hand each day, including all of our sauces, marinades and dressings.  We also have a seasonal menu, which is our ode to the current season, and where we celebrate Mother Nature’s beautiful bounty the best way we know how.

Moe's Southwest Grill

Matt McKinney, Culinary R&D Manager


Joe Chiarelli, Senior R&D Chef

SERG Group

Christopher Carge, Partner & Director of Culinary

The Southeast Entertainment Restaurant Group (SERG) has been tantalizing taste buds with quality cuisine and exceptional customer service with its award-winning restaurants on Hilton Head Island and in Bluffton since they opened Giuseppi’s Pizza & Pasta on Hilton Head in 1984. Today, SERG is the Lowcountry’s leader in hospitality, with 17 different restaurant concepts. The group employs over 1,200 people and has 41 partners in the group all living and working here in the Lowcountry.

Shake Shack

Allison Oesterle, Sr. Director, Quality Assurance and Commercialization

Shake Shack is a modern day “roadside” burger stand serving a classic American menu of premium burgers, hot dogs, crinkle-cut fries, shakes, frozen custard, beer and wine. With its fresh and simple, high-quality food at a great value, Shake Shack is a fun and lively community-gathering place with widespread appeal.


Victor Ty Goerke, Sr. Mgr. Culinary & Brand Performance

Founded in 2007, in Denver, CO, Smashburger opened with one single notion; to serve a better burger. The every bite a better burger experience is known for their namesake smashing technique – smashing a hand-packed Certified Angus Beef patty on a hot seasoned grill – delivering an elevated burger experience, every time.

We want to be the best burger restaurant for the next generation of burger lovers. Delivering this requires everything the Smashburger brand stands for: the highest quality ingredients; an exceptional “smashing” culinary technique; modern, inspired curated recipes; and menu variety that satisfies all cravings.


Justin Morrow, Culinary Innovation Manager

In 1953, the prototype of the first SONIC® Drive-In® opened in Shawnee, Oklahoma. Back then, SONIC revolutionized the ordering process by using curbside speakers that allowed customers to place food orders without ever leaving their cars. This technology spawned the slogan “Service at the Speed of Sound™,” which translated to one word: SONIC. Troy Smith Sr. aptly changed the name from Top Hat to SONIC Drive-In in 1959. With a dynamic history, SONIC surges forward while specializing in fresh, made-to-order meals that you can’t get anywhere else. SONIC’s menu is unique, just like the 3 million customers who order from our drive-ins each day.

Starbird Chicken

Kevin Villanueva, Senior R+D Chef

We fuse Michelin star chefs, culinary innovators, design thinkers, brand strategists, and foodservice operators to forge the future of food and beverage. From front-end innovation to real-world implementation, we’ll help you generate the business results you need to overcome the staffing and supply chain challenges facing F&B today, while building for a prosperous future.

Steak N Shake

Jerry Baldwin, Chief Procurement Officer

For over 85 years, the company’s name has been symbolic of its heritage. The word “steak” stood for STEAKBURGER. The term “shake” stood for hand-dipped MILK SHAKES. Gus was determined to serve his customers the finest burgers and shakes in the business. To prove his point that his burgers were exceptionally prime, he would wheel in a barrel of steaks (including round, sirloin, and T-bones) and grind the meat into burgers right in front of the guests. Hence arose the origin of our famous slogan, “In Sight It Must Be Right.”

TGI Fridays

David Stadtmiller, Sr. Director Global F&B Innovation

As the world’s first casual bar and grill, TGI Fridays® is the birthplace of fun, freedom, and celebration, bringing people together to socialize and experience “That Fridays Feeling™” – a sense of celebrating the fun in everyday moments, big and small. For over 50 years, Fridays® has been lifting spirits around the world with nearly 700 restaurants in 52 countries, serving high-quality, classic American food and iconic drinks backed by authentic and genuine service. Visit for more information and join Fridays Rewards®. Follow us on InstagramFacebook and Twitter.


Meagan Sullivan, Director of Culinary Operations & Strategy

WaBa Grill

Afshin Companivala, COO
Erik Heckman, Director of Supply Chain & Product Development

Wood Ranch

Gordon Klass, Director of Purchasing

Yogurtland & Egg N Bird

Joseph Orellana, Sr. Procurement Manager
Cynthia Locke, R&D Manager

How can we help you connect and create shared value?