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From the editor: The power of people

Last fall, following our MUFSO conference, I broke down what makes the event important and insightful. While the top five reasons were given, it came down to one phrase: We don’t golf; we learn.

It became a bit of a mantra during our planning for this year’s event, and we’ve doubled down on presenting the best top-to-top educational conference in the restaurant industry. Nowhere else do you get dozens of sessions with the best in the business not only leading discussions but attending and learning as well. When Yum! Brands CEO Greg Creed both shares his knowledge from the main stage as a Golden Chain winner and attends small breakouts to learn with his peers, you know something good is going on. This year the lineup is shaping up as the best to date.

Keynoter Gene Simmons of the iconic rock band KISS — entrepreneur, entertainer, business powerhouse and restaurant brand founder — will discuss branding and business success as he’s experienced it at this year's MUFO. The 2015 Golden Chain winners will be Peggy Cherng, co-founder and co-CEO of Panda Restaurant Group Inc.; John Gainor, president and CEO, International Dairy Queen Inc.; John Miller, president and CEO, Denny’s Corp.; Charlie Morrison, CEO, Wingstop Restaurants Inc.; and Julia Stewart, chairman and CEO, DineEquity Inc.

Our Melman Award goes to the team behind New York City’s Altamarea Group, Ahmass Fakahany, CEO and co-owner, and Michael White, chef and co-owner. And our Norman Award winner is Cheryl Bachelder, CEO of Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen Inc.

But those aren’t just awards given at an evening celebration — which is a fun party, by the way — the award winners each speak on the main stage sharing insights on business growth and leadership.
And let’s not forget that we also celebrate the Hot Concepts winners at our opening celebration. A look at the most exciting emerging restaurant brands is one of the biggest highlights of MUFSO. We’re lining up those winners as we speak. I encourage everyone looking to move their brands forward and gain insights into tactics to overcome industry challenges to attend MUFSO. You can find all updates on the conference as we continue to line up speakers and sessions at

The power of events that bring people together, the importance of face-to-face meetings is perhaps understood best by one of the most active and dedicated executives to the restaurant industry: Carlton Curtis.

Curtis, vice president of industry affairs for the foodservice and on-premise division of Coca-Cola North America, is retiring this summer and his constant presence at restaurant industry events and gatherings will be missed. NRN honors his work — but more importantly his human touch, mentorship of many and inspiration to all.

While many know Carlton better than I do, I met him 10 years ago, only three months into starting my job at NRN. I was lucky enough to score dinner with him early on, and we’ve had countless meals and conversations since. To me, he’s been the highlight of the many events I attend, and a guiding force for me — whether he knows it or not — on how to appreciate people, how to give back and how to celebrate the good things in this world.

I truly feel honored to have been at his last official ProStart event as a Coca-Cola representative, although I have no doubt we will see him there again.

Thank you, Carlton.

Sarah E. Lockyer, Editor-in-Chief
E-mail: [email protected]
Twitter: @slockyerNRN

TAGS: Operations
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