Speakers

Aaron Demerson headshot

Aaron Demerson, Texas Workforce Commission

Aaron Demerson serves as the Commissioner Representing Employers for the Texas Workforce Commission. Governor Greg Abbott appointed him to the three-member Commission on August 20, 2019.

In his role, Commissioner Demerson serves as an advocate for over 565,000 Texas employers and over 2.6 million small businesses. Commissioner Demerson’s team is devoted to serving as the first line of resources for all Texas employers. His office provides a variety of tools including employment law conferences and an employer hotline to help businesses start, grow and thrive in Texas. Demerson is also devoted to supporting the economic development and education that helps advance the skilled workforce that Texas demands.

Prior to his appointment, Commissioner Demerson served as the Director of the Office of Employer Initiatives at the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC). In this position he provided leadership and direction to engage employers, business organizations, and the economic development community in the ongoing development of a customer-focused, market-driven workforce system.

Before TWC, he was a Senior Advisor to Governor Rick Perry and Executive Director of the Economic Development and Tourism Division in the Office of the Governor, leading a team that marketed the State of Texas as a premier destination for both business and travel.

Commissioner Demerson has a BBA in Finance from Texas A&M University–Kingsville. He also received a general banking diploma from the American Institute of Banking and is a 1991–1992 graduate of Leadership Austin.

Adrian Escobedo Headshot

Adrian Escobedo, Serv A+ Food Safe Inspections Inc.

Adrian Escobedo is the CEO and owner of Serv A+ Food Safe Inspections Inc., based out of Addison, Texas. He is also an instructor, proctor, and health inspector. He is bilingual in English and Spanish and uses his bilingual abilities in instructing courses. Adrian is also a TRA Preferred Instructor, a ServSuccess proctor, and an independent health inspector in two professional arenas: American Airline Center and Texas Motor Speedway.

Al Flores headshot

Al Flores, Gringo's and Jimmy Changa's

Al Flores is the General Counsel for Gringo’s Mexican Kitchen, Inc. and Jimmy Changas. He got his Bachelor of Science from the University of Houston and his Juris Doctorate from Texas Southern University.

Al also serves as President of the Greater Houston Restaurant Association, and Executive Board Member of the Texas Restaurant Association, a board member of the Greater Houston Restaurant Association, and a PAC Trustee.

Alexandra White headshot

Alexandra White, Digital Marketing Specialist, TRA

Alexandra White was born in Houston, Texas, but made her way to Austin for college and has lived there since 2013. Alexandra has a BFA in photography and an MA in mass communications/digital media from Texas State University.

She has been photographing weddings professionally since 2015 in the Austin area. After getting her MA in 2018, she started working for the Texas Restaurant Association as their Digital Marketing Specialist. She handles email marketing, social media posting, website management, and various other tasks throughout the organization. When she's not working, she is caring for her pit mix Velvet!

Alice Gatson, Galveston Historical Foundation | African American Heritage Committee

Alice M. Gatson is a BOI (born on the island) of Galveston Texas, a graduate of Huston-Tillotson College, and the University of Texas Medical Branch (School of Allied Health). She began this historical journey after retirement with membership in Galveston Historical Foundation, serving on its board of directors and past chair of the African American Heritage Committee.  She also serves on the board of the Old Central Cultural Center.  Alice also co-authored, with Tommie Boudreaux, “African Americans of Galveston.” Alice believes “You need to know where you have traveled, to see which road to take forward”.

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.

Aliston Kieckhafer

Alison Kieckhafer, The Event Lounge

Alison Kieckhafer, CMP is the Owner and CEO, Chief Event Officer, at The Event Lounge and Virtu-Meet. She is a 20+ year veteran of the special event and meeting production industry. Most recently, The Event Lounge launched Virtu-Meet – a proprietary, virtual meeting, tradeshow and production platform that is fully scalable and customizable. Alison’s industry experience runs the full spectrum as she has served as a Meeting Planner, Event Producer, Creative Director, Project Manager and Account Executive. Alison has managed all segments of live and virtual corporate events and production including virtual platform management, travel logistics, destination management, food and beverage, special event décor, audio-visual production, tradeshows, and name and local entertainment. Alison was honored as one of Collaborate Magazine’s 40 Under 40. She is also highly involved in Meeting Professionals International (MPI) and is a Past President of the Dallas/Fort Worth Chapter.

Amy Nedwell headshot

Amy Nedwell, Good Times Restaurants Inc

Amy Nedwell is the Director of Marketing at Good Times Restaurants Inc where she oversees the marketing initiatives for Good Times Restaurants Inc, a publicly held company based in Denver, CO. Amy drives the branding, voice and marketing efforts for both concepts within the group, Good Times Burgers & Frozen Custard, a concept with 33 locations and Bad Daddy's Burger Bar, a full-service bar & grill restaurant with nearly 40 locations. As a member of the Good Times' executive team, Amy determines the future project, promotions, growth and execution on all mediums for both brands. Amy has been with Good Times Restaurants Inc for nearly 8 years and was previously a Business Development Director for Red Book Solutions.

Andrew K Smith, Savory Management

Andrew began his career as an entrepreneur at the age of 23 as a tech CEO. Between 1998 and 2009, he co-founded 3 tech companies and exited each of them via private and public exists.

Since his first successful venture over two decades ago, Smith has raised over $520 million in funding, generated over $1.7B in sales and created over 32,000 jobs which remains his #1 focus. His passion for creating jobs and opportunities for as many as possible continues to be his main driver.

In 2008, Andrew co-founded Four Foods Group, a multi-brand restaurant operations and investment company that built and operated 170 restaurants across the U.S. Four Foods surpassed $1.2B in food and beverage sales since inception. In 2017, FFG was named one of the fastest growing restaurant operations companies in the nation 2 years in a row by Restaurant Monitor.

Andrew co-founded the Savory Fund F&B practice with Greg Warnock, founder of Mercato Partners in the fall of 2018. The first inaugural fund of $100M was closed in the fall of 2020, right in the middle of Covid.

Andrew was a recipient of the 2017 EY Entrepreneur of the Year® award in his category. He served as an EY Judge for the 2018, 2019 and 2020 EY Entrepreneur of the Year program. He was also awarded the KPMG QuantumShift Entrepreneur of the Year award in 2018. Four Foods was also an 8-time honoree of the Inc. 500 program between 2011 and 2019. Andrew appeared on the cover of the November 2018 issue of Franchise Times with his partner and wife, Shauna K. Smith (co-Founder of Four Foods Group and currently the CEO of Savory Management).

Andrew received a B.S. in Finance and Marketing. He is an avid car collector, races GT4 Porsche and Audi whenever humanly possible, and also enjoys a good float down a river with a fly rod in his hands. Born and raised in Chicago, Illinois, Andrew currently resides in Utah with his wife and two sons, 21 and 15.

Angela Saunders headshot

Angela Saunders, Grub Burger Bar

Angela is currently the Director of Talent Management for Grub Burger Bar.  Grub has 19 restaurants operating in Texas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, and California.  She has been in this role for just over 2 years.

Angela has over 25 years in the Hospitality Industry.  She started her career at Walt Disney World, Florida, where she realized her passion for operations and restaurants.   Her career has afforded her experience at many different brands and wearing many different hats, which helps her in her current role.  Brands include:  Planet Hollywood, Brinker International, Champps Entertainment, Johnny Carino’s, Caribou Coffee, Twin Peaks, CPK and Front Burner Restaurants. She realized early on that her true passion was for Talent Selection and Development.

Session(s): Hiring Techniques
Angell Tsang headshot

Angell Tsang, Tso Chinese Delivery

Angell Tsang is the Chief Technology Officer and Co-Founder at Tso Chinese Delivery, a delivery and carryout only restaurant concept in Austin, TX. Tso offers free delivery and a no tipping policy for fresh, high-quality yet affordable, Chinese-American food. After the huge success of the first Tso location, the second Tso opened in fall of 2019 in North Austin. Angell helped develop the cloud based kitchen platform on which Tso functions. Ever evolving, Angell works on the platform with his developers to build even more features and other improvements that will make the ordering experience even better and improve kitchen functionality. Before joining ’Tso, Angell was part of the thriving Austin tech industry at companies like Bazaarvoice, Moxie, Spredfast, Edgecase, Medici and Dosh.

Angelo Amador headshot

Angelo Amador, National Restaurant Association

Angelo Amador is senior vice president of legal advocacy and regulatory counsel for the National Restaurant Association. He also is executive director of the Restaurant Law Center, an incorporated public policy law firm affiliated with the Association that represents the industry before the courts and federal regulatory agencies.

Amador serves as chief litigation officer for the Association, prioritizing legal matters to be pursued through amicus briefs or first party litigation. He also represents the Association’s interests by advocating before regulatory agencies; testifying at public hearings; drafting and filing regulatory comments; and, when necessary, recommending and managing legal challenges.

Prior to his current role, Amador was vice president of labor and workforce policy. He was  responsible for working with the business community to develop the restaurant industry’s position on labor, health care, immigration, education and other issues affecting the benefits, availability and quality of the workforce. He advocated on behalf of the Association and its members before Congress and the executive branch.

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 the Texas Restaurant Association, Anna leads the charge on shaking things up at the 84-year-old institution. She heads up all products and services, business development, marketing, and communication and also creates new member value through events and education. 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 moderator, serves on the SXSW Interactive Advisory Board, and is an active member of Les Dames d'Escoffier Austin Chapter.

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.

Anndrea Brown, SHRM-CP, Whataburger

What is the best part of working for Whataburger? Well outside of the Sweet & Spicy Bacon Burger for lunch it’s working for a brand that puts people and development first. Anndrea is a San Antonio native who joined the Whataburger family 3 years ago for just that reason. With a Business background from UTSA, Anndrea knew early on that at the heart of any business is its people. Joining the team, she strives to ensure the restaurants are focused on engagement, appreciation and development at every level. Whataburger is already known for great food, but being able to share with their employees, or “family members,” that Whataburger is also a great place to work is exactly why she joined the brand.

Annie Robson headshot

Annie Robson, DOL - Wage and Hour Division

Annie Robson started her career with the Wage and Hour Division Chicago District Office as an Investigator in 2003.  Ms. Robson was promoted to become Regional Enforcement Coordinator with the Midwest Region in 2011.  Ms. Robson served as a subject matter expert to the region in immigration and agriculture matters. Ms. Robson transferred to Houston District Office as an Assistant District Director in 2013.  As an Assistant District Director, Ms. Robson supervises a team of Investigators and Technician. In addition to enforcement and supervisory duties, Ms. Robson also assists Houston District Director in the daily operations of the office.

Annie Spilman headshot

Annie Spilman, National Federation of Independent Business

Annie Spilman joined the Texas office of the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) in 2014 and heads up the organization’s public policy and political programs throughout the state.

Spilman has 20 years of legislative experience, both inside and outside the Texas Capitol. She brings valuable experience in government relations, grassroots organizing, fundraising and direct lobbying to NFIB.

Spilman began her political career in 2000 as a legislative staffer in the Texas House of Representatives and left in 2006 to begin her lobbying career with attorney Steve Bresnen. Throughout the years, she has also found time to work on political campaigns in the state. She’s a proud 6th generation Texas woman who has a passion for helping others find a voice and protecting small business in Texas. Spilman is a graduate of Texas State University.

Ashlee Wiechkoske

Ashlee Wiechkoske, The Coca-Cola Company

Ashlee Wiechkoske has spent 10+ years collaborating with foodservice and retail brands to develop long-term strategies for growth. She is passionate about uncovering the intersections between consumer need and a brand’s differentiators to develop winning strategies. As Director of Customer Growth at The Coca-Cola Company she leads a dynamic team of marketers who own the end-to-end marketing strategy for foodservice and on-premise customers in the central region of the United States.

Ashley Rosenfeld, A’ La Carte

In her over 15 years of experience in the hospitality industry, Ashley has treasured her time with A’ La Carte above all else. Ashley’s devotion to the hospitality industry began when she arrived at the Culinary Institute of America in New York. Upon graduation, she moved to Houston, Texas to further her education with a Bachelor Degree from the Conrad Hilton College in Hotel and Restaurant Management. An avid learner, Ashley continued her education by completing her Masters of Science in Hospitality Management, as well as her Masters of Business Administration at the Bauer College of Business within the University of Houston.

Her strong education and extensive work experience in both front and back of the house operations within various restaurants, hotels and catering operations, made Ashley a perfect fit for the A’ La Carte Foodservice Consulting Group team.

Ashley consults on new concept development, existing restaurant operations and growth-related matters for all aspects of the national and international foodservice industry, including independent operators, chains, hotels, airports, parks, and mixed-use developments.

After an 8-year tenure as an associate with A’ La Carte and managing numerous client projects, Ashley has transitioned into the role of principal. As principal, Ashley leads the A’ La Carte team on client projects that range from new restaurant concept development to turn-key restaurant openings, operational improvements to expansion planning, and franchise development to maximizing profitability.

Ashley is an active member of the Texas Restaurant Association and is on the board of the Texas Restaurant Association Education Foundation.

Atour Eyvazian headshot

Atour Eyvazian, Jack in the Box

After escaping war-torn Iran and 40 days in a Turkish prison, Eyvazian fled to the United States in 1984. Just two weeks after his arrival to Los Angeles, he secured his first job as a maintenance worker at Jack in the Box, where he quickly taught himself English. He applied his strong work ethic to the position and within two years became a Jack in the Box restaurant manager.

As Eyvazian continued to rise in the ranks at Jack in the Box, he used the company's tuition-reimbursement program to attend night classes and earned a bachelor's degree in 1998 and an MBA in 2001. In 2005, Eyvazian became a franchisee of 10 Jack in the Box restaurants in Sacramento, CA.

As an individual from a diverse background who overcame hardship and adversity to become a successful restaurateur, Eyvazian received the first-ever American Dream Award in 2007. He was named National franchisee of the year in 2008. He was elected to Houston's National Restaurant Association board of directors in 2009 and was elected to serve in National Franchise Advisory Council (NFAC) for Jack in the Box in 2010. Eyvazian was elected Chairman of the Board for H.E.A.R.T. (a locally-based non-profit organization that assists adults in learning disabilities) from 2014-2015.

Alex Barrottii Headshot

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.

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Bevin Biggers, Taste Bar + Kitchen

7+ year bartending vet, bartending trainer, cocktail blogger, and youtuber; Houstonian Bevin Biggers is no stranger to camera. Whether in front of it or behind it filming and editing, nothing gets untouched. You can catch her on Instagram (OhBevin) and YouTube channel (OhBevin) weekly mixing up goodies!

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.

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