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CREATE Experience will feature Ask the Experts sessions with leaders from Slutty Vegan, Hart House, Jeni's Ice Cream and more

Restaurant leaders will offer 1-on-1 conversations in bursts of intel and tips

The CREATE Experience will feature eight Ask the Experts sessions, providing half-hour one-on-one conversations with restaurant industry experts and leaders.

CREATE has scheduled the eight Ask the Experts sessions for Tuesday, Oct. 3, during the three-day conference in Palm Springs, Calif.

“The CREATE Experience offers a much more interactive and engaging environment than your typical conference, with more small-scale conversations and easy accessibility between attendees and speakers,” said Sam Oches, editor-in-chief of Nation’s Restaurant News, which hosts the conference.

“Our Ask the Experts sessions are one of the key ways we accomplish that more engaging experience, as they are one-on-one conversations between one of our editors and a restaurant leader, digging deep into that leader’s story and expertise to provide practical insights for attendees in a way that a panel couldn’t offer,” Oches said.

The program includes 30-minute bursts of future-focused, interactive conversations and informative presentations designed to provide attendees with information to move their business forward.

Among the Ask the Experts restaurant leaders are:

Jason Crain, president of Atlanta-based Slutty Vegan, and Joanna Fantozzi, senior editor with Nation’s Restaurant News, will discuss accessing capital, the startup mentality and growth strategies.

Mario Del Pero, partner at Los Angeles-based DOM Food Group and co-founder of the fast-casual Mendocino Farms, in a conversation with Oches to discuss virtual restaurants, brand building and marketing in “Developing the Digital Restaurant of the Future.”

Andy Hooper, CEO of Los Angeles-based Hart House, will discuss with Bret Thorn, senior editor for food and beverage at Nation's Restaurant News, about how to design a brand to take plant-based food mainstream, including menu trends, brand building, pricing and value.

Tracy Kim, CEO of New York City-based Dig, and Ron Ruggless, senior editor of Nation’s Restaurant News, will discuss going from chief operations officer to CEO and leading Leading with an operations mentality, from operational efficiencies and reach new demographics to growth strategies.

Rian McCartan, CEO of American Fork, Utah-based Swig soda shops, and Leigh Anne Zinsmeister, group managing editor for Nation’s Restaurant News, will discuss “Building a Buzzworthy brand” by developing unique signature items and creating memorable customer experiences.

Stacy Peterson, CEO of Columbus, Ohio-based Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams, and Oches will discuss expansion strategies and emerging-brand innovation.

Maria Rivera, CEO of Atlanta-based Smalls Sliders, and Alicia Kelso, executive editor of Nation’s Restaurant News, will discuss the growth strategies for a brand, from figuring out the right pace for expansion to building a more efficient footprint.

Steve Shlemon, president of Fort Myers, Fla.-based Ford’s Garage USA, will discuss with Kelso the future of full-service restaurants, including ways to elevate the guest experience, craft a brand’s aesthetic and drive repeat business.

“Our speaker lineup for this year’s Ask the Experts sessions features some extremely talented restaurant leaders who are driving the industry in innovative new directions,” Oches said. “Each brings a distinct perspective to the CREATE stage and will provide practical tips to attendees for how they can innovate within their own restaurant business.”

The CREATE Experience is the destination for growth-minded restaurateurs ready to take their businesses to the next level. It will feature area tours, an investment summit, and roundtable discussions on hot-button issues. Keynote sessions will feature Jack Li, founder of Datassential, and Danny Trejo, actor, restaurateur, and cookbook author.

Restaurant operators can register here for the event.

Contact Ron Ruggless at [email protected]

Follow him on X: @RonRuggless

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