Skip navigation
Ahmass Fakahany left and Michael White
<p>Ahmass Fakahany, left, and Michael White</p>

MUFSO Melman Award panel promises to serve insights, inspiration

The 2015 MUFSO Conference will be held in Dallas, Sept. 20-22. For more information and to register visit

One of the most popular sessions ever staged at the Multi-Unit Foodservice Operators conference returns again this year, promising once again to provide invaluable advice and penetrating insights into what makes a successful restaurant business tick and how to grow it in this fiercely competitive environment.

The no-holds-barred general session, titled “Words with Melman,” offers attendees a freewheeling foodservice masterclass led by restaurant impresario Richard Melman, founder of Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises, together with this year's Richard Melman Innovator of the Year Award recipients, Michael White and Ahmass Fakahany, the owners of Altamarea Group.

Michael Sanson, editor-in-chief of Restaurant Hospitality, will join the group as a session moderator.

Since its debut in 2011, this standing-room-only session has emerged as a buzz-generating favorite, as Melman, Sanson and the current year's Melman Award recipients embark on an ideation odyssey that explores their recipes for innovation, growth and success. Topics can range anywhere from menu development to the challenges of multi-unit expansion, and from keeping a concept fresh to harnessing the untapped energy of social media.

The session also cuts across all sectors of the restaurant industry — from fine dining to quick service to business and industry — offering restaurant executives the kind of  real-world guidance they can readily apply to their own operations at home.

Attendees of past sessions have featured such award-winning industry luminaries as Danny Meyer, Drew Nieporent, José Andrés, Joachim Splichal, Sam Fox and Stephen Starr — all of whom have shared their decades' worth of business experience and ideas with MUFSO-goers.

The hour-long session will begin at 9:45 a.m. on Monday, Sept. 21, and attendees will have the opportunity to ask participants questions during a Q&A period — although “Words with Melman” is likely to trigger ideas that will be discussed long after this year's session is over.

White and Fakahany also will be honored during the MUFSO conference as the 2015 recipients of the Richard Melman Innovator of the Year Award. The pair is being recognized for having developed a successful blueprint for operating a growing multi-concept restaurant company.

“We are thrilled that Michael White and Ahmass Fakahany will be accepting the Melman Award this year,” Sanson said. “When you combine White’s finesse in the kitchen with Fakahany’s skill as a numbers cruncher, it’s easy to see why Altamarea Group has been such a huge success. Together they embody Rich Melman’s commitment to create restaurants that excite both customers and accountants.”

White landed his first job out of culinary school at the celebrated Spiaggia in Chicago. Hungry to learn more about Italian cuisine, he followed that up with a seven-year culinary exploration of Italy. While there he honed his craft working at Ristorante San Domenico in Imola. White eventually moved back to Chicago, where he helped earn Spiaggia a four-star review from the Chicago Tribune. After that, he moved to New York, where his culinary skills won popular and critical acclaim at Fiamma Osteria.

Fakahany, Altamarea's CEO, formerly served as president and chief operating officer of Merrill Lynch & Co. While at Merrill Lynch, he often would entertain clients at Fiamma Osteria, where he and White became friends. Fakahany left Merrill Lynch in 2008, joining White as a business partner, and employing his financial skills to help create and expand the Altamarea Group.

Today, Altamarea restaurants include Marea (seafood), Due Mari (modern Italian), Ai Fiori (coastal cuisine), Nicoletta (a pizzeria), The Butterfly (casual fare and cocktails), Crop Shop (butcher shop cuisine in London) and Al Molo (classic Italian in Hong Kong). Some concepts have multiple units, including Osteria Morini (food from the Emilia-Romagna region), Ristorante Morini (upscale Italian) and Costata (a steakhouse).

For more information and to register visit >>

MUFSO is managed and presented by Nation's Restaurant News, Restaurant Hospitality and Food Management. Now in its 56th year, MUFSO is the most comprehensive executive conference in the foodservice industry, offering a wide range of content designed to appeal to restaurant decision makers throughout the industry. In addition to showcasing thought-provoking and inspirational keynote addresses, the conference offers more than 30 educational sessions spread across such discipline-focused tracks as Operations, Culinary, Marketing, Restaurateur and Ideas. For more information and to register visit

Hide comments


  • Allowed HTML tags: <em> <strong> <blockquote> <br> <p>

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.