Norman Abdallah

Norman Abdallah, Del Frisco's

Norman Abdallah has been CEO of Del Frisco's since 2016 - he was previously one of the company’s directors. Abdallah was an operating partner for CIC Partners, where he took an operating and investing role at the private-equity group’s portfolio companies.

Before that, he had been the interim CEO of Dinosaur BBQ. He also established a restaurant investment platform for a family office. Previously, he worked with Romano’s Macaroni Grill before its acquisition by Ignite Restaurant Group Inc. He has worked with Restaurants Unlimited and Fired Up Inc., parent company of Carino’s Italian.

Session(s): Restaurant Legends
Rory Arredondo

Rory Arredondo, NickelCommerce

Rory is a cofounder of NickelCommerce and leads product development. He lived in London and worked in financial compliance at RWC Partners, a hedge fund, prior to moving home to Texas to work on NickelCommerce. At RWC, he was instrumental in the operation of funds totaling $14B in assets under management. Rory holds a degree in Electrical Engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. When not working, you can find Rory playing piano, traveling, or grabbing a cheeky pint with mates.

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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.

Nicole Bean

Nicole Bean, Pizaro's Pizza Napoletana

Nicole Bean is the President of Pizaro’s Pizza Napoletana in Houston, Texas. She was born and raised in Houston and currently owns and operates two pizzeria locations with her family. She has 7 years experience in Napoletana pizza making (trained by her father who was certified with Pepe Miele in 2010). After 3 years in the industry, she went to The International School of Pizza with Tony Gemignani in San Francisco to study American style pizzas. Since certification with the school Nicole serves 3 styles of pizzas: Napoletana, Detroit and New York styles at both locations. “My focus is to create and maintain authenticity of each medium of pizza as they are specific to their region.”

Nicole has competes in pizza competitions in Las Vegas at the International Pizza Expo and The Northeast Pizza and Pasta show in Atlantic City since 2017 and will be traveling to Parma, Italy in 2019 for the World Pizza Championship competition.

Dror Ben-David

Dror Ben-David, Tabit

Seasoned and accomplished technology & business professional with extensive knowledge of hospitality, retail, and supply chain software.

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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.

Geoffrey Brown

Geoffrey Brown, GoDaddy

Geoffrey is a member of GoDaddy's local business outreach team. He has worked at GoDaddy since 2015 finding success with social media and online reputation management for local businesses. He has put to practice his experience with Yelp, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for these businesses and is looking forward to sharing what he has learned with new audiences.

Tommy Campbell

Tommy Campbell, NickelCommerce

Tommy is the founder and CEO of NickelCommerce, a digital marketplace that tracks restaurant costs and brings transparency to purchasing by allowing operators to share invoice data. Prior to NickelCommerce, he worked as a consultant to large hospital chains and the military, helping develop innovative, cost-effective solutions for healthcare delivery. Tommy holds a Masters in Economics from Boston University and a degree in Management from the University of Texas at Austin. He is a self-taught computer programmer and a craft beer lover.

David Cantu

David Cantu, HotSchedules

As Chief Customer Officer, David is responsible for sales and building and maintaining strong relationships with customers by engaging with them at all levels to collect and disseminate customer feedback throughout the company. Prior to becoming CCO, David was the vice president of Business Development and co-founder of HotSchedules, Inc. Through his leadership, HotSchedules repeatedly achieved more than 40 percent annual growth goals and was consistently recognized on the Inc. 5000 and Austin Business Journal’s Fast 50 growth indexes.

David’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. David attended the University of Texas at San Antonio. He lives in Austin, Texas with his wife and three children. He is an active member of Vistage International, an executive peer advisory program, and enjoys running, fishing, water sports, volunteering with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Texas and escaping to the wine country or beach whenever possible.

Johnny Carraba

Johnny Carrabba, Johnny Carrabba Family of Restaurants

Proudly born and raised in the East End of Houston, Johnny Carrabba III was raised in his parent’s family-owned grocery store, Carrabba’s Friendly Grocery. In 1986, Johnny opened The Original Carrabba’s on Kirby Drive. The second location on South Voss Road opened its doors in 1988. In 1993, Outback Steakhouse created a joint venture partnership opening over 250 Carrabba’s Italian Grill Restaurants nationwide. Johnny and his family continue to own and operate the two original Carrabba’s locations. In 2012, the family’s new fast-casual concept, Mia’s Table, opened behind the Original Carrabba’s on Kirby. In 2014, Grace’s, affectionately named after Johnny’s grandmother, Grace Mandola, opened its doors forging the fourth family-owned and operated restaurant. Mia’s Table opened its second location in Shenandoah, in 2018 and the third location in Webster, in 2019. Mia’s Table continues to grow throughout the greater Houston area as future locations include Katy, Cypress, and Memorial City.

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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.

Lucy Garcia, United States Department of Labor - Wage and Hour Division

In 2006, Lucy Garcia joined the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division as an Investigator in the New Orleans District Office and currently serves as the Community Outreach and Resource Planning Specialist in the Houston District Office. Ms. Garcia has a broad base of Wage and Hour experience by conducting investigations under the Fair Labor Standards Act, Government Contracts labor standards statutes, the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act, the Family and Medical Leave Act and additional enforcement under The Immigration Reform and Control Act. 

Ms. Garcia has received numerous Worker Protection Awards from the Secretary of Labor and has conducted over 1000 outreach events to proactively engage employers, employees and communities to ensure they are aware of the resources available to assist them in understanding their rights and responsibilities under the law enforced by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division.

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.

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. 

James Hunter, Paul Quinn College

James Hunter is the Farm Director at the Paul Quinn College (PQC) - We Over Me Farm. In this position, James manages and instructs 15 student workers each semester as part of the PQC Work College Program. He focuses primarily on career and professional development using the farm as a living laboratory to teach agriculture, entrepreneurship and small business management. He is responsible for day-to-day operations of the 2-acre farm, including vegetable row crops, a 3,000 sq. ft. greenhouse, aquaponics systems and poultry flock. James began farming four years ago, working at several farms and orchards throughout Texas, Washington and Spain. Prior to farming, James spent five years developing and managing sustainability operations for Goodwill Industries of Central Texas, focusing primarily on waste reduction and recycling operations.

Anita Jaisinghani

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.

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John Johnson, American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP)

John Johnson is the Senior Vice President of Licensing for the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP). Based in Nashville, Johnson is responsible for advancing ASCAP’s core licensing operations to meet the challenges of today’s complex music licensing landscape. Over the past few years, Johnson has led the transition of ASCAP licensing practices to more advanced cloud technology solutions. These changes resulted in substantial savings for the organization over the last decade. Johnson joined ASCAP in 1995 and has held roles in collections, general licensing, business analysis and licensing operations. He has served on several ASCAP project teams including the ASCAP "I Create Music Expo” launch. Johnson holds a B.A. in Management and Human Relations and an M.B.A. from Trevecca Nazarene University in Nashville, Tennessee.

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Sandy Korem, The Catering Coach

Sandy Korem is the CEO and founder of The Festive Kitchen, a one-of-a kind catering company based in Dallas, Texas. No other catering company in America has established such a diverse and profitable “take-home catering” division. In 2008, Sandy was awarded the White House Food Service Medallion for outstanding service to President George W. Bush. Her company, The Catering Coach, helps restaurateurs maximize their off-site catering profit potential. Sandy uses her 25 years of experience to teach independent restaurant owners and caterers how to NOT give away all of their catering profits. Her teaching focuses on increasing sales and profits with little or no investment and maximizing earning potential by adding multiple catering revenue streams to their existing business.

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.

Matthew Mabel

Matthew Mabel, Surrender, Inc.

Matthew Mabel founded Surrender, a leading Texas-based hospitality, and management consulting firm, in 1991. His life’s work is advising successful restaurateurs to maximize profit, revenue, unit growth, harmony, and personal freedom. He is known for urging restaurateurs to be as good to themselves as they are to their guests. He says “Owning an independent multi-unit restaurant company ought to be a joy, let’s make it that way”. Surrender develops custom programs using their Management Power, Revenue Builder, Creating Consistency, Restaurant Reinvigorator, and High Profile Start-Up processes. He accelerates results by working with ownership, senior management and unit level management teams in operations, organizational development, strategic planning, concept, and management development. He is a trustee of the Texas Restaurant Association Education Foundation, where he also serves on the executive committee, and as chairman of the restaurant education committee. www.surrender.biz

Daren Martin, PhD, DarenMartin.com

Daren Martin, PhD, is the author of the bestselling books, A Company of Owners and Whiteboard. His thought leadership and change strategies in transforming companies earned him the title, "The Culture Architect."

Daren has a PhD in psychology and over a decade of experience leading corporate change initiatives, reinventing teams and forging company cultures of passion and high engagement. As a keynote speaker, he engages audiences across the world. His travels have taken him to over 40 countries as a speaker and teacher at companies ranging in size from start-ups to Fortune 500. He is an inspirational resource for business managers and teams.

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Robert Mayberry, The University of Texas at Austin

A 5th generation Texan on both sides of the family, Chef Robert Mayberry learned southern cooking from his mother; B-B-Q and Tex-Mex from his father. Family holiday gatherings and camping trips on Texas rivers and creeks instilled a love of the outdoors and an appreciation for celebrating with food which developed into a lifelong interest in all things food-related including foraging, hunting, fishing, gardening and cooking for family and friends.

After graduating high school in 1973, Chef Robert spent 13 years as a baker and cook in Central and West Texas. He later attended the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco. After graduation, Robert spent the next couple of years expanding his repertoire in Santa Fe at the Coyote Café under Chef Mark Miller and the Hyatt Islandia San Diego under Chef Michel Re before returning home to Austin. He continued to develop his culinary, management and teaching skills as executive chef at Onion Creek Country Club, instructor at the local culinary school, and executive chef and ServSafe instructor with SODEXHO at Dell Computer Headquarters.

Chef Robert joined The University of Texas, Division of Housing and Food Service in 2003 as executive chef as part of the initiative to bring modern foodservice to the university. His division serves the university's 50,000 students as well as 13,000 faculty and staff in seven locations.  In 2007, Chef Robert accepted the position of Campus Executive Chef.

Chef Robert continues to work as a caterer and “camp cook” in his spare time, and finds time to garden and fish whenever he can.

Aman Narang

Aman Narang, Toast

Aman Narang is President and co-founder of Toast. Prior to Toast, he worked on innovation initiatives at Endeca, now Oracle. Aman spearheaded the development of Endeca’s business intelligence platform as well as their mobile commerce platform, each of which became major business units. He holds BS and MS degrees in Computer Science from MIT and currently leads innovation and business development initiatives at Toast.