Speakers

Aaron Schwartz, Indeed

As a Senior Manager with the Indeed Employer Insights Team, Aaron Schwartz leads a national team of Recruitment Evangelist's who pair platform data with industry trend analysis to share Indeed’s story and bring the value of the company’s programs and solutions to life. As an evangelist himself, he has helped hundreds of employers optimize their recruitment solutions and make the key hires they need to grow their businesses.

Aaron was a distinguished and award-winning member of the Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship at the University of Maryland and also served as a Sergeant in the 931st Army Brigade in the Israel Defense Forces.

Alicia Voltmer, Greenberg Traurig, LLP

Alicia S. Voltmer is Board Certified in Labor and Employment Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and AV® Preeminent® Peer Review Rated by Martindale-Hubble®. She advises employers, from start-up companies to Fortune 500s, in a variety of employment matters. She handles client mediations, arbitrations, administrative hearings, and court proceedings involving state and federal laws including the ADA, EPA, FLSA, FMLA, OSHA, NLRA, Title VII, the TCHRA, the OWBPA. In addition, she counsels clients on day-to-day employment matters, including reductions in force, disciplinary actions, accommodations, hiring, and firing. She has been a featured speaker on labor and employment law topics before local, state, national and international audiences, has appeared as an employment law commentator on the local affiliates of Fox and NBC News, and has published numerous legal articles.
Alicia graduated magna cum laude from SMU and earned her J.D. from California Western School of Law in San Diego.

Anita Jaisinghani, Pondicheri

Anita Jaisinghani, the chef & co-owner of Pondicheri was born and raised in India and is of Sindhi descent. She began her culinary career with an out-of-home catering business & selling chutneys through Whole Foods.

Her first restaurant job was at the famous Café Annie, where she worked in the pastry department for 2 years. Following her time at Café Annie, Anita opened Indika in 2001 serving deeply personal dishes that illustrated her desire to portray Indian food in a new light. Pondicheri, followed in 2011, expanding with the opening of the Bake Lab + Shop in 2014 & it’s first out-of-state outpost in New York City in the summer of 2016. With all of her kaleidoscopic menus, Anita combines the complexities of Indian cuisine with leanings toward the ancient body of wisdom of Ayurveda, the magic of spices & the goodness of fresh, local ingredients.

Anna Tauzin, Texas Restaurant Association

At TRA, Anna leads the evolution of the Association’s innovation and marketing strategies, focusing on membership and partner products to improve member value and Association revenue. Additionally, she is driven to bring more restaurant technology to the state of Texas with unique partnerships and innovative programming. 

Anna is a frequent speaker and serves on multiple boards for startups and industry events, including SXSW Interactive. 

Previous to coming to TRA, she headed up innovation for the National Restaurant Association in Washington, D.C. 

She has worked in several restaurants during her career, including BOH and FOH. Her favorite job was as a Denny's waitress on the graveyard shift. She could tell you some stories.

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Alex Barrotti, TouchBistro

Alex Barrotti, CEO and Founder of TouchBistro iPad restaurant POS, is a pioneer in mobile technology for restaurants. In 2011 when TouchBistro was launched, the iPad was viewed more as a gimmick than as a serious productivity tool. Today TouchBistro is the top grossing restaurant iPad POS app in 37 countries.

Alex has emerged as a visionary in the advanced technologies that will help a business grow. Before TouchBistro, he was at the forefront of e-commerce development when he founded INEX in 1997. While others doubted online shopping would one day become the norm, Alex persisted in developing a novel turnkey solution that enabled storeowners to create online storefronts with pre-designed templates. At 30 years old, he sold INEX for $45 million.

Alex has been a guest speaker at major international events, such as mPOS World, MPE, the Visa Innovation Summit and Restaurants Canada. His presentations are educational and forward thinking, providing insight into existing restaurant technology and future trends.

Bill Penczak, Briggs & Veselka

Bill Penczak is a long-time foodie who travels the world as an excuse to sample great food. His day job is to run the marketing and sales functions for the 3rd largest independent CPA and consulting firm in Houston, Briggs & Veselka. Prior to joining the firm, Bill was a marketing consultant for a variety of clients, including QSR, fast casual, and fine dining concepts. Bill will be playing the role of moderator/translator of the financial aspects of running a successful concept, where the left brained CPAs on the stage will communicate to the right brained operators in the audience.

Bobby Heugel

Bobby Heugel, Anvil Bar & Refuge & Others

Bobby Heugel is an owner of Anvil Bar & Refuge, Better Luck Tomorrow, The Pastry War, Tongue-Cut Sparrow, Squable and other bars and restaurants in Houston. He also was Founding President of the OKRA Charity Saloon, a non-profit bar that has donated over a million dollars to local charities since 2012. Heugel introduced modern cocktails to Houston over a decade ago, launching a career that has spanned a dozen businesses from bars to restaurants. He consults for hospitality groups, developers, and spirits brands, travels frequently – visiting over 400 distilleries over the past decade, and writes for national publications.

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Kristin Booth, Main Street Hub

Kristin Booth leads Main Street Hub's local business outreach from Austin, Texas. As regional development representative, she hosts educational workshops, both live and online, to help small businesses get more word-of-mouth and referrals on sites like Facebook, Twitter, Yelp, & Foursquare. Through her position, Kristin has had the opportunity to train thousands of companies and business owners. Her specialty is making her events and workshops engaging, thought-provoking, and results-oriented.

Kristin brings a colorful background in event management, education, and leadership to her position. She began her career working as a regional manager for a national clothing retailer and was part of the travel team to launch new store locations in expanding markets. In addition, she worked for a private college developing events and educational programs that encouraged community involvement and brand awareness. Throughout her career, Kristin has been a thought-leader and has brought measurable success to the teams and companies with whom she has worked.

Brian Medina

Brian Medina, Self Opportunity

Moderator

Brian Medina has 20 years’ experience in Recruitment Advertising & Talent Acquisition strategy for the Restaurant Industry.  He is key in driving candidate flow and improving the candidate experience for his clients. He uses traditional recruitment advertising sources and innovative sources including social recruiting, text to apply, job search engines and AI for finding candidates. He has spoken at the TRA Marketplace/TalentNet Live, Hardee’s/IHOP/Golden Corral/Fazoli’s/ Franchise conferences,  and the Self Opportunty Meeting of the Minds restaurant recruiting conference in Dallas, led numerous training workshops for clients like Jason’s Deli, Red Lobster, and Raising Cane’s.  He is currently on the board of the Greater Dallas Restaurant Association and Texas Restaurant Associations Education Foundation.

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David Cantu, HotSchedules

David Cantu is responsible for building and maintaining strong relationships with customers by engaging with them at all levels to collect and disseminate customer feedback throughout the company. Mr. Cantu's 17+ years of restaurant operations experience have contributed to HotSchedules' product development and innovative solutions to improve restaurant operations scheduling efficiencies, labor management, and increased employee engagement.

Catherine Le

Catherine Le, Eating with Catherine

Catherine Le is a Houston fashionista foodie. She runs the popular lifestyle blog, Living with Catherine and also her foodie-focused Instagram account, @eatingwithcatherine. Her work in the food scene picked up after meeting with other Houston foodies and learning the ins and outs of the industry. She’s worked with many PR companies, restaurant owners and managers, and built relationships within the community. She has attended and hosted many tastings for restaurants and influencers and can tell share what restaurants should expect and what the influencers expect when inviting them in to dine. She’s been named one of Houston’s Most Inspiring Stories and Lady Boss: Redefining what a boss looks like by Voyage Houston. She is also featured in “The Trailblazer: Rewriting the Narrative” which highlights inspiring and successful female leaders and role models.

Charles Kinard

Charles Kinard, ADP

Charles Kinard has been with ADP for 5 years as a Human Capital Management specialist working with organizations of all sizes and industries. Charles is a multi year top revenue producer in the company and prides himself on his partnerships and customer service to his clients. He attributes his success to his strategic partnerships and in helping organizations align their business goals through maximizing their human capital strategy.

Kevin Naderi

Chef Kevin Naderi, Roost

Taking his passion and the experience he gained staging at Picholine in NYC and Madrona Manor in Napa along with his work at Brennan’s, Haven, Soma and most recently as consulting Chef for Saint Genevieve in West Ave, at 26-years-old Kevin Naderi opened his first restaurant, Roost in December, 2011.

Roost’s 50-seat space is cozy and unpretentious amid walls paneled with old shutters and Edison-like light fixtures fashioned from gutter drains. Roost’s rustic and diverse menu is revised every three weeks, inspired by local availability of farm-fresh seasonal ingredients and flavors of the world including the American south, Asia and from the Middle East, taking advantage of Naderi’s Persian heritage. Says Naderi, “I’ve taken a little bit from everywhere I’ve worked. It’s a good showcase for what we do.”

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Chris Shepherd, Georgia James

Chef Chris Shepherd has helped change the landscape of the Houston culinary scene. After opening his first restaurant Underbelly, Chris was named one of the 10 Best New Chefs in America by Food & Wine in 2013 and the 2014 James Beard Award for Best Chef: Southwest. 

He owns and operates Georgia James, UB Preserv, One Fifth, Hay Merchant and is a partner in Blacksmith. In 2019, Georgia James, UB Preserv and One Fifth were No. 1 on Texas Monthly's list of the Best New Restaurants in Texas. Georgia James was on GQ's list of the best new restaurants in America. He was a James Beard Award semifinalist for Outstanding Chef in 2019. Chris’ first cookbook, Cook Like a Local, will be published in September 2019. 

Chris' foundation Southern Smoke has donated $1.3 million to the National MS Society and to those in the food and beverage industry in crisis.

Chris Simms

Chris Simms, Lazy Dog

Chris Simms has been involved in restaurants all of his life. While attending Cornell University and spending summers in Jackson Hole, WY, Chris worked his way up the ladders of various restaurants and began his career with P.F. Chang’s China Bistro.

A few years later, Chris began work on his own restaurant concept and the first Lazy Dog was born in Huntington Beach, CA in 2003.

As a casual dining concept for the next generation, Lazy Dog serves handcrafted American food and drink with a creative twist. Guests get the taste of life in a small mountain town from the warm, genuine service and the rustic social setting.

As CEO, Chris keeps a close eye on concept innovation and site development. With plans for 6 more restaurants in 2019 in markets across the country, Lazy Dog will have 36 restaurants with the first in Houston later this summer.

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Christa Jaganath, Briggs & Veselka

Christa is a dedicated hospitality niche leader and has been passionately servicing this industry for 8+ years. She has provided services for quick service restaurants, fine-dining, franchises, food distributors, and retailers. Her technical experience in this industry includes providing quality services in audits, reviews, compilations, employee benefit plan audits, agreed upon procedures, technical accounting, and reporting in both IFRS and U.S. GAAP. Christa is an active member of the Texas Restaurant Association and its local chapter, Greater Houston Restaurant Association. In her spare time, Christa is also an adjunct professor at the University of Houston Downtown lecturing in auditing and intermediate accounting courses.

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Betsy Craig, Menu Trinfo

Betsy Craig is an award-wining CEO and the Founder of MenuTrinfo®, LLC , AllerTrain by MenuTrinfo, and Kitchens with Confidence. Betsy is considered the national leading expert on food allergies and their impact on the foodservice industry.  Being a trailblazer in food safety for those with special dietary needs have lead to the development of her newest company, auditing and accreditation leader for food allergies and gluten-free is Kitchens with Confidence. 

The three different companies pull together a complete suite of services includes menu labeling, certification and training in the areas of food allergies and food sensitivities, audits for food service, certification for product free from different allergens, AllerTrain™ the only ANSI accredited food allergy & gluten-free training class in the food service industry, nutritional counseling and policy development.

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Donna Hood Crecca, Technomic Inc.

Donna Hood Crecca is an associate principal at Technomic Inc., where she leads the firm’s Convenience Store Practice and is active in its Adult Beverage Practice. She is a veteran of the foodservice and drinks industries, having covered the restaurant, foodservice, convenience store, beverage and beverage alcohol markets for nearly two decades.

Before joining Technomic, she was publisher & editorial director of Nightclub & Bar magazine; prior to that she was editor of Cheers. Additionally, she served as a contributing editor to Chain Leader for 10 years, was editor of F&B Business and a contributor to CSP Magazine. She has broad knowledge of bar, nightclub and restaurant marketing, operations, human resources and growth strategies, with specific expertise in beverage sales, promotion, service and training, having covered these topics for a number of industry magazines. She is a frequent presenter at industry events including VIBE, Convenience Retailing University, FARE, Flavor, the Nightclub & Bar Convention and Trade Show, Tales of the Cocktail, National Restaurant Association Show, Council of Hotel and Restaurant Trainers (CHART) and the Alcohol Responsibility Conference.

Donna holds a bachelor's degree in magazine journalism from Syracuse University and has done graduate work in magazine publishing management at New York University. She is BarSmarts Advanced Certified and has served as President of the International Foodservice Editorial Council.

David Denney

David Denney, Denney Law Group

David is an attorney whose firm counsels restaurants, bars, chefs, caterers, and other members of the hospitality community.

David currently serves as the President of the Greater Dallas Restaurant Association, and is an owner of GDRA member restaurant Hillside Tavern.

David and his team focus the majority of their practice on matters including the formation, purchase and sale of business entities; private equity transactions; commercial leases and real estate transactions; trademark protection; employment law; alcoholic beverage licensing; and franchising. The firm also represents its clients in various types of civil litigation.

David’s professional commitment to the food and beverage community is highlighted by his industry-wide involvement, including writing and speaking on various topics in restaurant law throughout the year.

David Scott Peters

David Scott Peters, DavidScottPeters.com

David Scott Peters is a restaurant coach and speaker who teaches restaurant operators how to cut costs and increase profits with his trademark Restaurant Prosperity Formula. Known as THE expert in the restaurant industry, he uses a no-BS style to teach and motivate restaurant owners to take control of their businesses and finally realize their full potential. Thousands of restaurants have used his formula to transform their businesses. To learn more about David Scott Peters and his formula, visit www.davidscottpeters.com.

Dominic Panetta

Dominic Panetta, ZipRecruiter

Dom is in charge of over 275 active recruiting campaigns, that handles $2.4 Million in spending, annually. His 2 major industries he covers are Food & Beverage, as well as Trucking & Transport. Dom has been with ZipRecruiter for 2+ years and loves to help increase his clients talent by using repeatable and predictable techniques. As a “Hip” Millennial, Dom is an expert at letting you know the truth about what his peers think of recruiting processes.

Duc Hoang

Duc Hoang, Public Content

Duc Hoang is a content marketing professional at Public Content, a Houston-based Public Relations, Marketing, and Consulting Firm. He runs a food/photography blog @fooodeelicious and @ducducshoot. Started fooodeelicious page in 2016, he is now the founder of a big food blogger group called Grubclubhtx, recruiting top potential food blogger to join. The idea behind Grubclubhtx is to use the power of our top influencers to help local businesses in Houston. He connects his members with pr companies, restaurant owners, and built relationships within the community. He has also attended, hosted, tastings and set up a soft opening for many franchises from out of state. He has worked with many big names such as Miller Lite, Buffalo Wild Wings, Carnival, Stella Artois, Wendy's, Jack in the Box, Chili's, TGiF...etc. He was featured in a commercial ad for Miller Lite during the rodeo season and a Carnival Vista campaign. He was voted by Zagat as one of the best top 101 food accounts in the U.S in 2017. 

Emily Williams Knight

Emily Williams Knight, Texas Restaurant Association

Moderator

Knight has more than 20 years of experience and success in national and global leadership positions and is the newly appointed CEO of the Texas Restaurant Association. Most recently, she was the Managing Director of Higher Education North America at Study Group, a leading provider of international education. Her career includes senior leadership roles at Laureate Education and serving as President of Kendall College, a leader in hospitality and culinary arts education. During her time as Kendall’s president, Knight expanded access to culinary education throughout the Midwest, Latin America and the Middle East. She worked closely with the Illinois legislature to advance the industry and partnered with the Mayor of Chicago, Choose Chicago, and the Illinois Restaurant Association to drive Chicago visitors to a record 50 million per year.

Knight has extensive experience working with industry, workforce investment boards, and community colleges to create skills training programs designed to fill the growing number of restaurant and hospitality job openings. Early in her career, Knight held several leadership roles at Pearson, including head of marketing for teacher education and head of sales for the west region. Out of undergraduate studies, she was recruited into Pizza Hut’s Management Training Program and also served as a Catering Sales and Event Manager for Marriott’s Key West Resorts.

Knight holds a Doctorate in Higher Education Leadership from Walden University; an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Newbury College; a Master of Science in Management from Troy University in Alabama; a B.S. in Hospitality Administration from Boston University, where she was a Trustee Scholar and an A.S. in Hotel and Restaurant Administration from Newbury College where she was a Presidential Scholar and captain of the women’s basketball team.

Additionally, Dr. Knight is a member of several boards, including the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation (NRAEF), where she serves as the chair of the governance committee and is a member of the executive and strategic planning committees. 

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