President, Foodservice, Boelter

As President of Boelter Companies, Eric has seen a tremendous amount of change occur both within the industry and within his family's business. Over 27 years, he has seen how channel partners have evolved to meet rapidly changing customer needs and service expectations. Boelter itself is focused on successfully growing business through innovation, differentiation and constant nurturing of Boelter’s culture. The goal of each of Boelter’s business units is to positively impact their customer’s brands – both in image and in profitability.

During Eric's tenure as president, Boelter has received numerous awards including: three-time FE&S Dealer of the Year, Deloitte Wisconsin 75 Honoree for Succession, two-time Inc 5000 honoree, four-time Milwaukee Business Journal Fastest Growing Firms, Wisconsin Family Business of the Year, ten-time winner Supplier of the Year from our top customers.

FCSI, Executive Principal, Ricca Design Studios

David Chislett, FCSI, native of New York, brings 35+ years of operations, design and construction project management experience to his role as Executive Principal with Ricca Design Studios. Dave is a graduate of The Culinary Institute of America and The University of Rochester. His background includes serving as an executive chef, corporate food and beverage director, and hotel F&B design/construction manager. David has also served as an Instructor at Johnson and Wales University in Denver teaching Foodservice Facilities Design and Analysis. He is currently a judge for NRA’s Kitchen Innovation Award program. This in-the-trenches background works well to provide current clients with a unique “hands-on” approach to the design process and strong assistance to design teams, Operators and construction teams. David is widely skilled across markets, but enjoys a global practice in upscale hospitality helping numerous brands grow into their potential. David is married with three adult “kids” and three grandchildren and resides in Brooklyn, NY. And yes, he does all the cooking at home...

CEO, Dickey's Barbecue Restaurants, Inc.

Laura Rea Dickey currently serves as Chief Executive Officer of Dickey’s Barbecue Restaurants, Inc. Dickey served as the Chief Information Officer for eight years, and made the transition to CEO after excelling in her previous role. Dickey has worked in the marketing and information technology field for over 15 years, and has led the marketing, IT and training departments at Dickey’s Barbecue Restaurants, Inc. during her time there.

In her time as CIO of Dickey’s Barbecue Restaurants, Inc., Dickey implemented countless new initiatives to improve the Dickey’s brand and better the business as a whole. Dickey found a way to merge technology and barbecue to create a way to better serve Dickey’s customers as well as the business, and has made Dickey’s a technology leader in restaurant industry.

Hospitality Design Specialist, BarMagic

Tobin is a design and operations specialist with a combined 29 years in hospitality operations and 15 years in hospitality design whose work focuses on integrating the development, design, and operations processes. Since 1997, Tobin has helped develop hospitality concepts and designed bars from Honolulu to London, New York to Johannesburg for clients including The Starbucks Coffee Company, MGM Resorts, Marriott-Ritz Carlton, Caesars Entertainment, Hilton Hotels, Ford, Panasonic, Ace Hotels, Gaylord Hotels, Grand Wailea Resorts, and many more.

Called “a shot of adrenaline” by the New York Times, Tobin was born in Silicon Valley and raised in Upstate New York where he first made a name as a 6-time national bartending champion and world-renowned bar and hospitality trainer who now travels the world speaking to designers and operators on holistic high-volume hospitality design– a functionalist and collaborative approach to designing and scaling hotels, restaurants, bars, cafes, corporate and retail spaces that seeks to balance discovery, immersion, and experience with throughput, profitability, and culturized hospitality.

Tobin’s body of multi-disciplinary work has helped win a slew of accredited hospitality awards including Best Hotel Bar in Las Vegas (2005), Best Lounge in Las Vegas (2005), Best Cocktails (2005, 2007, 2009, 2010), Best Hotel Opening (2011), 2nd runner up in PDCA’s PIPP Design Awards (2014), a 2015 GOOD DESIGN Award for his signature line of underbar equipment, and finalist in the 2016 FCSI Americas Innovation Showcase for Product of the Year.

Executive Vice President, RATIONAL North America

Markus Glueck is the Executive Vice President of RATIONAL North America. He is responsible for expediting the growth of the North American subsidiary of RATIONAL AG. Before joining RATIONAL in 2013, Markus was the President/CEO and Board Member of WMF AMERICAS GROUP, INC., an industry leader in both retail and commercial markets. With his extensive educational background, including an economics degree from a German university, a MBA from a United Kingdom university and his doctorate in marketing from a Swiss business school, Markus has a broad understanding of international business. He is dedicated to advancing the RATIONAL name in the combi-steamer market, effectively growing sales and transforming the company’s business throughout North America.

Managing Director, O.C. Tanner

Kathy is a culture strategist, recognition expert, and highly skilled communicator. In her role as a Managing Director for the O.C. Tanner Recognition Company, she has consulted many Fortune 500 clients throughout North America on recognition best practices. She earned her degree in Radio/TV communication from the University of Missouri and is a Certified Recognition Professional through Recognition Professionals International. Her career journey led her through the hospitality, publishing, healthcare, staffing and marketing industries before settling on her passion for helping companies build high-performing work cultures. When not teaching businesses how to say thank you, Kathy spends time with her husband, daughter and son on various sporting fields in the western suburbs of Chicago.

Industry Advisor, Food & Beverage Consumption, NPD Group

David Portalatin is The NPD Group’s national analyst on all aspects of food and beverage consumption in home and away from home. In his role as vice president, industry advisor, Portalatin provides information, insights, and analysis on how U.S. consumers eat and drink, their attitudes and motivations, diet and nutrition, snacking, and personal characteristics. He works closely with food manufacturers and retailers; foodservice distributors, manufacturers, and operators; and media outlets in providing strategic business insights into current and future eating patterns in America.

He is a frequent featured speaker at food and foodservice industry events and corporate conferences and meetings with distributors, manufacturers, and operators. Portalatin is the author of NPD’s annual Report on Eating Patterns in America, which captures the nuanced and significant shifts in eating and drinking habits and looks at how consumption behavior will change in the future. He also serves as a media source for a wide variety of articles on consumer and foodservice trends and how these trends impact the industry. Portalatin’s comments have appeared in The Wall Street Journal, CNBC, and other nationally recognized media outlets.

CEO/Board Director/Advisor, Robinson Hill, Inc.

Dee Robinson is an entrepreneurial leader with a solutions-focused management approach and strong track record of successful results, growth, financial performance, creativity, and team building. Drawing on her varied experience in food & beverage, consumer products, advertising and banking, she founded Robinson Hill, Inc., a concessions management firm specializing in airports and other non-traditional retail and F&B locations across the U.S. Focusing on the core competencies of conceptual thinking and innovation, people management, strategic planning and decision making, Robinson Hill manages and operates restaurants and news & gift stores in locations across the country with a portfolio of award-winning national and local brands such as Ben and Jerry’s Super Premium Ice Cream, Einstein Bros Bagels, Lebanese Taverna, Lalo's Mexican, and Potbelly Sandwich Works. Robinson Hill partners with the Hudson Group at both O’Hare (ORD) and Midway Airports, Potbelly Corporation at Boston Logan, OTG Management at ORD and with Areas USA at the ORD Terminal 5, operating Rick Bayless’ Frontera Grill and other widely-recognized restaurant concepts.

Robinson Hill has built a reputation as a successful operator committed to exceptional customer service, operational efficiency, team development and effective brand management.

Dee believes in giving back to the community; she does so by hiring local talent, mentoring and supporting philanthropic efforts devoted to girl empowerment, education, entrepreneurship and food nutritional advocacy.

President, starrdesign

Steven Starr is an award-winning designer, published author and sought-after speaker. After working in New York City with renowned designer David Rockwell, Steve became a nationally-recognized industry leader in restaurant and retail design. In 1996, Steve moved to Charlotte and started the restaurant and store design studio at Little Diversified Architectural Consulting. Growing it into a retail design powerhouse, he worked with some of America’s most recognizable brands, including Planet Hollywood, Krispy Kreme, and Dean & Deluca. Realizing that he desired a more hands-on approach to design on a daily basis, Steve created what is now starrdesign in 2007. Starrdesign works with clients in the U.S. and globally to create designs that inspire and make a difference. The firm has been featured in publications such as Inc., Fast Casual, National Culinary Review, QSR magazine, Modern Restaurant Management, The Charlotte Observer, and Restaurant Development + Design magazine. The company's roster of clients includes Bellagreen, named by QSR Magazine as a 2018 Top 40 Under 40 fast casual restaurant, Pronto by Giada, Zoës Kitchen, Firebirds, Original ChopShop, REEDS Jewelers, Panera Bread, Mellow Mushroom, and Pandora Jewelry. 

Creative Director and Principal, Vigor

Meet Joseph Szala, the creative director and principal of Vigor, a restaurant and beverage branding and marketing agency, and Grits X Grids, a restaurant branding inspiration blog and podcast. For over 15 years, Vigor has built a reputation for bullish brand thinking and marketing excellence in the food and beverage space with Joseph at the helm. He's led various charges for brands like Zaxby's, Steak n' Shake, Slapfish, Johnny's Pizza House, and Erik's DeliCafe, successfully creating stronger moments of engagement, attraction and brand advocacy. Additionally, Joseph and his team have crafted over 150 restaurant concepts spanning a variety of formats and cuisines.

In 2013, Joseph launched Grits X Grids as a way to uplift the visibility and awareness of what design can do for the food and beverage world. Since then, the publication has been solidified as the No. 1 resource of restaurant branding inspiration around the world.

Joseph has penned articles on innovative thinking and inspiration for multiple publications in the design, advertising and restaurant industries. He indelibly lives and breathes his agency's brand ideal: Do it with Vigor™.