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The Power List 2015: Reader Picks

The Power List 2015: Reader Picks

You've seen The Power List — the most powerful people in foodservice in 2015 as chosen by NRN. Here, find out which industry players your peers believed were poised to make this year's list. View the full Power list 2015 >> Learn about the selection process >>

NRN editor-in-chief Sarah E. Lockyer

The NRN Power List, in its second year in 2015, has become a must-see grouping of the foodservice industry’s most influential players — and a most coveted selection among top executives and up-and-comers alike.  

To create the list, NRN uses its own expertise — comprised of our editors booking an aggregate of more than 70 years covering the industry — the sourcing of players from well-trusted industry experts and the scouring of news and future predictions to form a collection of people that have, or will, drive change. The list starts very large and discussion goes very deep to get to the 50 spots.

But we know there is more out there. And we turned to our audience to crowdsource names and faces perhaps poised to make the Power List.

NRN offered nomination forms on through the month of December, and we received more than 130 responses, with a total of 92 people submitted for consideration. We went through each nomination, and these Power List “reader picks” are published here in full in alphabetical order.

If there was a “most popular” category, Kevin D’Onofrio, foodservice director, United States Military Academy, West Point; Ken Toong, executive director, auxiliary enterprises at University of Massachusetts-Amherst; and Rick and Elise Wetzel, co-CEOs at Blaze Pizza would win hands down. Each was submitted multiple times by various people.

The Wetzels were included in the NRN Power List, as Blaze Pizza has helped create the growing fast-casual pizza segment, and may be the first to hit a national footprint, with major backers looking to spur growth.  

Our readers also nominated Sam Fox, CEO of Fox Restaurant Group and Mario Del Pero, CEO of Mendocino Farms — both of whom made the list. Fox is an entrepreneur building new and relevant brands in the spirit of Richard Melman, and Del Pero’s Mendocino Farms has presented consumers with a special fast-casual offering based on fine food, all while attracting major investors to drive growth.

Cutting names and faces we know well was more difficult this year than last, and readers submitted many of the same people who were on our original list as well. Leaders like Paul Brown, CEO at Arby’s; Kim Lopdrup at the helm of Red Lobster; and Julia Stewart, CEO of DineEquity Inc. were discussed at length. So many were close calls, but we were relentless in our pursuit of those creating major change in the entire industry — whether through new concepts, new ways of approaching and listening to the customer, or new leadership perspectives. It was hard to leave Zoe’s Kitchen Inc. CEO Kevin Miles off of our list, too. Zoe’s was one of the top performers among restaurant companies that went public in 2014.

I could go on and on.

Brands like Uncle Maddio’s, Papa Murphy’s, Raising Cane’s, Corner Bakery Café and American Blue Ribbon Holdings. Dealmakers like Damon Chandik at Piper Jaffray, Gary Levy at CohnReznick and Riley Lagesen at Davis Wright Tremaine. Alice Elliott continues to find and support tomorrow’s industry leaders. And the National Restaurant Association, International Franchise Association, Women’s Foodservice Forum and Multicultural Foodservice & Hospitality Alliance work hard to move the industry forward. 

They can’t all make the list. NRN is confident its official picks for 2015 were laser-focused on the future of foodservice and those shaping it, like our top three selections, Greg Creed at Yum! Brands Inc., Howard Schultz at Starbucks Corp. and Steve Ells at Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc.

 All of the Reader Picks appear below. Continue sending us your feedback on Twitter with #NRNPowerList and join us Wednesday at 2 p.m. Eastern for a live Facebook chat.

Click through the next few pages to see who you chose.

Reader Picks (A-D)

(Continued from page 1)

David Adjey

Founder and chef, The Chickery

Rodney Anderson  

President,  Pancheros Mexican Grill

Matt Andrew  

Founder and CEO, Uncle Maddio's Pizza Joint

Adam Baker 

Co-Founder and CEO, Larkburger

Lynne Bartusek    

Executive Vice President of Talent and Human Resources, Cheddar's Casual Café

Selim Bassoul

Chairman and CEO, The Middleby Corporation

Alan Bekerman 

Founder and CEO,  iQ Food Co.

Paul Brown    

Chief Executive Officer, Arby's Restaurant Group Inc.

Ross Burack    

Co-Founder, Choza Taqueria

Kevin Burke    

Founder and Managing Partner, Trinity Capital

Tom Buxton 

President and CEO,  Buxton

Steve Caldeira

President and CEO, International Franchise Association

Ken Calwell 

President and CEO, Papa Murphy's Take 'N' Bake Pizza

Steven Chan

Founder and CEO,  Tin Drum Cafe

Carl Chang    

Founder and CEO,  Pieology Pizzeria

Dan Chaon  

CEO, Native Grill and Wings

Scott Chorna

Senior Vice President of International Development,  Johnny Rockets

Gerard Craft    

Owner and Executive Chef, Niche Food Group

Scott Crane    

CEO,  Smashburger

Chris Dahlander    

Founder and CEO, Snappy Salads

Erle Dardick  

Founder and CEO, MonkeyMedia Software/ The Catering Institute

Jonathan  Davis    

Senior Vice President, Innovation ARYZTA

Allen Dikker    

Founder and CEO, Mendocino Farms

Dan DiZio    

CEO and Co-Founder, Potatopia

Lorna Donatone    

COO and Education Market President, Philly Pretzel Factory

Kevin D'Onofrio  

Director of Food Service, Sodexo Inc., DCA Culinary Group, United States Military Academy at West Point

Shaun Doty    

Executive Chef and Co-Owner, Bantam + Biddy

Reader Picks (F-H)

(Continued from page 2)

Ahmass Fakahany   

CEO and Owner, Altamarea Group

Paul Fleming    

Co-Founder, Paul Martin's American Grill

Andrew Freeman

President, Andrew Freeman & Co. Restaurant and Hospitality Consultants

J.R. Galardi

Chief Visionary Officer, Wienerschnitzel/Galardi Group Inc.

Heather Gardea    

VP of Research and Development, El Pollo Loco Inc.

Kevin Gillespie

Owner, Executive Chef, Author, Gunshow

Noah  Glass  

Founder and CEO, Olo

Todd Graves    
Founder and CEO, Raising Cane's Chicken Fingers


Tom Gray    

Chef and Owner, Moxie Kitchen + Cocktails

Melissa  Greenwald    

Board Member of MAFSI, Zink Marketing, Foodservice Group

Phil Greifield    

President and CEO, Captain D's Seafood Kitchen

Andrew Gruel  

Head Chef, Co-Founder and CEO, Slapfish

Chris Hadermann  

Co-Founder and Partner, Southern Proper Hospitality

Ann and Peter Haigh  

Co-Host and Co-Producer, On The Menu Radio

Will Harris    

Owner, White Oak Pastures

Scott Harris    

Founder, Francesca's Restaurant Group

Aziz Hashim    

Managing Partner, NRD Holdings

George Hiller  

Founder, President and CEO, Hiller Associates

Mike Hislop  

CEO, Corner Bakery Cafe

Gary Huether  

President and Co-Founder, Arooga's Grille House and Sports Bar

Reader Picks (I-P)

(Continued from page 3)

Bernard Ibarra    

Executive Chef, Terranea Resort

Mark Kaplan  

CEO and Chairman, Great Wraps

Peter Karpinski    
Co-Founder and COO, Sage Restaurant Group

Sun-Kwon Kim    

Founder and CEO, Caffébene

Amit Kleinberger  

CEO, Menchie's Frozen Yogurt

George Labelle    

Chief Information Officer, Independent Purchasing Cooperative

Riley Lagesen    

Partner and Chair of DWT’s National Restaurant Industry Practice Group, Davis Wright Tremaine Law Firm

Fred LeFranc  

President, Results Thru Strategy

Larry Leith    

Founder and President, Tokyo Joe's

Gary Levy  

Partner and Hospitality Industry Practice Leader, CohnReznick

Kim Lopdrup  

CEO, Red Lobster

Jonathan Marek    

Senior Vice President, Applied Predictive Technologies Inc.

Tim McEnery    

Founder and CEO, Cooper's Hawk Winery and Restaurants

John C.  Metz  

Executive Chef, Marlow's Tavern, Aqua Blue, Hi Life Kitchen and Cocktails


Kevin Miles    

President and CEO, Zoës Kitchen

Cameron Mitchell  

Founder and President, Cameron Mitchell Restaurants

Ashley Morris  

CEO, Capriotti's Sandwich Shop


Charlie Morrison  

President and CEO, Wingstop Restaurants Inc.

Austen Mulinder    

President and CEO, Ziosk LLC

Tré Musco    

CEO and Chief Creative Officer, Tesser Inc.



Kimbal  Musk  

Chef and co-founder, The Kitchen Cafe LLC

Erik Oberholtzer  

Co-Founder, Tender Greens

Hazem Ouf

President and CEO, American Blue Ribbon Holdings

Pierre Panos   

Founder and CEO, QS America


Andrew C. Peskoe    

Partner, Golenbock, Eiseman, Assor Bell and Peskoe LLP

Rachel Phillips-Luther  

Vice President of Marketing, Zoës Kitchen


John Piemonte    

Co-Founder/Partner, Southern Proper Hospitality Group

Reader Picks (R-Z)

(Continued from page 4)

Carrie Reynolds

Vice President Product Development, El Pollo Loco

Adam Romo  

CEO, Eatzi's Market and Bakery

Tim Ryan

President, The Culinary Institute of America


Steven Schussler

Creator and CEO, Schussler Creative Inc.

David Shea  

Founder and owner, Shea Inc.

Jeff Sinelli  

Founder, CEO and Chief Vibe Officer, Which Wich Superior Sandwiches


Anthony  Smith

President and partner, Paul Martin's American Grill

Julia Stewart    

Chairman and CEO, DineEquity Inc.

Marico Thomas    

President, FOUR STAR Pizza -- Thomas United Co. -- Bermuda Hospitality

Tony Thompson    

CEO, Krispy Kreme Doughnuts Inc.



Ken Toong   

Executive Director of Auxiliary Enterprises, University of Massachusetts - Amherst


Reese Travis    

CEO, Orange Leaf Frozen Yogurt



Andrew Wiederhorn    

CEO, Fatburger North America Inc.


Gary and Colleen Worthington  

Founders, Kneaders Bakery and Café

Tim York  

President, Markon Cooperative Inc.

Picks who made the Power List

(Continued from page 5)

Sam Fox  

President and CEO, Fox Restaurant Concepts

View full Power List profile >>








Mario Del Pero

Co-Founder, Owner and CEO, Mendocino Farms

View full Power List profile >>








Rick and Elise Wetzel

Wetzel Founders, Blaze Fast-Fire'd Pizza

View full Power List profile >>







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