Ideas in Action


Ideas Into Action


The Restaurant Innovation Summit is a one-of-a-kind gathering convening the most innovative and forward-looking thinkers within the restaurant industry. RIS provides deep and actionable insights for solving tomorrow's challenges today.

Through powerful keynote speakers, thoughtful panels, and immersive workshops participants will leave not only with fresh perspectives, but also practical skills and takeaways that can be put into action immediately.



The 2019 Restaurant Innovation Summit is for the Thinkers, Leaders and Doers of the restaurant industry. The Summit will provide innovation skills training to enable you and your restaurant brand to turn Ideas Into Action.

The Summit is for senior-level professionals in the development, finance, marketing, operations, research and information technology disciplines of the restaurant industry who are building growth strategies, improving processes and maximizing performance. Our rich content and premium sessions will help you deliver solutions, build relationships with customers and bring your new ideas to life.

Restaurant operators working in state- or regional-level operations will also gain key insights about how to take their restaurant brands to the next level.


ExperienceInnovation - In Collaboration with IDEO

In today’s economy, innovation is as essential as it is difficult. Corporate cultures capable of “inventing the future” are rare, but the emerging discipline of design thinking - honed by the celebrated innovation consultancy IDEO - provides people with the tools and techniques to think differently, see new opportunities, and create innovative solutions with impact.

ExperienceInnovation provides participants with the opportunity to rapidly experience design thinking and key innovation concepts in a dense timeframe. Within a four-hour workshop, participants will come away with a real experience in design thinking, and the ability to apply these principles to the business challenges of today.



Experience Point



November 4th


7:00 PM - 9:00 PM
Welcome to Cleveland Reception

Stop by the Hilton Cleveland Eliot's Bar, named for famed Prohibition-era crime fighter Eliot Ness, and meet your RIS19 colleagues for light fare and drinks.

Tuesday, November 5th

7:50 AM
Transportation shuttles begin from Hilton Cleveland Downtown to the Tenk West Bank, the event location for the 2019 Restaurant Innovation Summit

8:00 AM - 9:00 AM
Hot Breakfast at Tenk West Bank

9:00 AM - 9:15 AM
Welcome & Opening Remarks

Laura Chadwick, Director, Membership Engagement & Program Director, Restaurant Innovation Summit, National Restaurant Association
John Barker, President & CEO, Ohio Restaurant Association

9:15 AM - 10:15 AM
The Power of Little Ideas: A Low-Risk, High-Reward Approach to Innovation

Presented by American Express
Innovation is often considered as industry-shifting disruption or slow and incremental change. Yet for most companies, restaurants included, neither works. Our 2019 keynote speaker, MIT professor David Robertson --speaker, author, consultant, and student of innovation -- will present a 'third way' of innovation: a low-risk, high-reward strategy that calls for complementary innovations around a core product or service. 
Robertson will highlight how companies like Gatorade, Wegman’s, Novo Nordisk, Lego and others were challenged by tough competition and market forces. But each were able to expand and recover spectacularly by creating ecosystems of products that made their central product or service irresistible to customers - and you can too!

Speaker: David Robertson, Author, Consultant, MIT Faculty Member, and Student of Innovation

10:15 AM - 10:30 AM
Networking Break

10:30 AM - 11:30 AM
Think Like a Futurist Now

Scanning. Issue and trend spotting. Status quo questioning. Successful innovations are rooted in an early awareness of challenges just coming into view and the newest ideas bubbling to the surface. Terry Grim of Foresight Alliance introduces you to disciplined ways of thinking and processes that can prepare you to take your organization from what it is today to all it can be tomorrow. Grim, who teaches Future Studies at the University of Houston, draws upon restaurant industry examples in the Restaurant 2030 report, and explains three steps to get you started. All attendees receive a free copy of the report, produced every ten years to predict the top ten drivers of change and disruption in our industry over the coming decade.

Speaker: Terry Grim, Partner & Founder, Foresight Alliance & Adjunct Professor in Studies of the Future, The University of Houston

11:30 AM - 11:45 AM
Lightning Round: Innovation Skills

Innovation is more process than magic, and the five core skills that make up that process are Questioning, Observing, Networking, Experimenting, and Associational Thinking. Here's the first of three chances throughout RIS19 to experience five-minute "Ignite"-style presentations from leaders in the restaurant and supplier communities. They'll recount how they turned great ideas into action via each of these core skills. Buckle up and get ready to follow their lead.

Zak Weston, Foodservice Analyst, The Good Food Institute
Athena Thomas, Channel Strategy Manager, Wingstop

11:45 AM - 12:15 PM
Putting Your Employees at the Heart of Your Innovation Efforts

One of the best ways to improve the employee experience, and thereby improve customer experience, is to put employees at the center of the company's innovation efforts. Not only are they a tremendous (and inexpensive) source of consumer insight, employees are often creative problem solvers who can uniquely help innovate against customer pain points. And as we all know, a better customer experience drives growth. Join this 25+ year restaurant industry innovation warrior as she shares her learnings and best practices in driving customer experience innovation from the field.

Speaker: Rachel Antalek, Chief Innovation Strategist, Antalek Strategic Innovation Partners

12:15 PM - 1:15 PM
Food Truck Lunch

Cleveland is in the midst of a culinary renaissance, thanks to Iron Chef and hometown hero Michael Symon and other local restaurant innovators. You'll get a fantastic sampling of Cleveland's best fare during the annual Food Truck Lunch, set up right outside Tenk West Bank.

1:15 PM - 1:45 PM
Building A Strong Culture of Innovation

Innovation is hard work and it doesn't just happen. It takes strategy, discipline and intentionality. If you want a strong culture of innovation, you need tactics to make it happen. This session will provide a high-level overview of what contributes to developing a strong culture of innovation in an organization. Key takeaways: Learn about the principles of innovators, innovative guiding principles, best practices for innovative workspaces and how this all relates and impacts culture.

Speaker: Leo Chan, Senior Innovation Lead, Chick-fil-A, Inc. & Leader of Innovation Culture, Hatch, Chick-fil-A's Innovation Centre

1:45 PM - 2:00 PM
Lightning Round: Innovation Skills

Here's the second of your three chances to experience five-minute, "Ignite"-style presentations in Questioning, Observing, Networking, Experimenting, and Associational Thinking from leaders in the restaurant and supplier communities. Ready, set, grow!

Manny Rodriguez, Sr. Director, Ops Systems and Performance, Church’s Chicken
Anita Swope, Enterprise Account Executive, Inkling

2:00 PM - 2:45 PM
Engines of Innovation: Diversity & Inclusion

A recent study showed that companies with a diverse workforce are better at developing innovative products and services than less diverse companies. In the restaurant industry, which serves customers from all walks of life, it's even more likely that diversity and inclusion will produce innovations customers welcome. During this session, you'll hear directly from leaders at national brands that have embraced and benefited from this approach.

Moderator: Gerry Fernandez, President & Founder, MFHA - Multicultural Foodservice & Hospitality Alliance
Laura FitzRandolph, EVP & Chief Human Resources Officer, HMSHost
Carin Stutz, Restaurant Executive and Avid Supporter of Elevating Women Leaders
Kamillah Knight, MPA, Diversity & Inclusion Lead, Unilever

2:45 PM - 3:00 PM
Networking Break

3:00 PM - 3:45 PM
Running with Unicorns: Innovations via Start-Ups

The quickest route to innovation can be acquiring, partnering or venturing with a start-up. But what's the best way to identify a good match? And what's the best way to structure your connection? This panel discussion presents three distinct and tested approaches.           

Kaitlin “Katie” Milliken, Host, "Innovation Answered" Podcast Presented by Innovation Leader Magazine
Kevin Myers, Chief Marketing & Information Officer, Donatos Pizza
Thomas Grote, Chief Advisor, Edge Innovation Hub
Jeff Myers, CEO, Chepri, LLC

3:45 PM - 4:00 PM
Lightning Round: Innovation Skills

Here's the third of your three chances to experience five-minute, "Ignite"-style presentations in Questioning, Observing, Networking, Experimenting, and Associational Thinking from leaders in restaurant and supplier communities. Your last chance!

Speaker: Heather Pederson, Dean of Students, EDWINS Leadership & Restaurant Institute  

4:00 PM - 4:40 PM
Fireside Chat, Presented by American Express
Join us for a special conversation with AnnMarie Rockwell with Microsoft. She'll speak about the culture of innovation at Microsoft and their work with Starbucks to boost the coffee company’s stature as an innovation leader in the restaurant industry.

Ann-Marie Rockwell, General Manager, IOT Solution & Azure Sphere Business Development, Microsoft
Terry Erdle, Chief Operating Officer, National Restaurant Association

4:40 PM
Day One Wrap

Remarks and insights from the day's sessions.

4:45 PM
Transportation shuttles transport attendees from Tenk West Bank to Hilton Cleveland Downtown

6:50 PM

Trolley transportation from the Hilton Cleveland Downtown to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame begins and continues throughout the event

7:00 PM - 10:00 PM
Rock & Roll Hall of Fame – Innovation Celebration, Presented by American Express

You're not dreaming. You're here, inside the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, enjoying a dinner reception with your RIS19 colleagues and exploring the museum with no other guests around. Yes, you and your fellow attendees have the museum all to yourselves, celebrating musical legends who innovated the soundtracks of our lives.

Wednesday, November 6th

7:50 AM
Transportation shuttles begin from Hilton Cleveland Downtown to the Tenk West Bank

8:00 AM - 9:00 AM

Hot Breakfast at Tenk West Bank

9:00 AM - 12:00 PM
ExprienceInnovation Design Thinking Workshop - Part I
Presented by ExperiencePoint in Collaboration with IDEO

Imagine a workshop that helps you master a proven "design thinking" method for spotting and creatively tackling hidden opportunities... that leads to innovations that increase revenue and revitalize your brand... that turns you into a champion of tomorrow. That's ExperienceInnovation, the centerpiece of RIS19 Day Two. You and your workshop teammates will use computer simulations to tackle innovation challenges, and leave with proven, ready-to-apply tools and techniques for innovating products, services, processes and strategies. Here's where innovation takes form and where ideas that are ready to put into action get their start.

Workshop Facilitator: Kimberly Douglas, Firefly Facilitation

12:00 PM - 1:00 PM

1:00 PM - 2:30 PM
ExperienceInnovation Design Thinking Workshop - Part II

2:30 PM - 2:45 PM
RIS19 Closing Remarks

2:45 PM
Transportation from the Tenk West Bank to Cleveland Hopkins International Airport will be provided for all attendees



Restaurant Innovation Summit attendees can take advantage of our reduced-rate room block at the Hilton Cleveland located in the heart of Cleveland's vibrant downtown area. 
Please register for RIS before you make your room reservation. Once you've registered, you will receive an email with instructions on how to book your hotel room.
Room Rate: $189/night + tax


The Tenk


An unconventional meeting held in an unconventional space. Originally built in the 1880s, Tenk West Bank is a converted warehouse that provides a perfect space for innovation.

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame


The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame has the world’s largest collection of rock and roll artifacts displayed throughout more than 50 exhibits. Explore the artists that got their big break in Cleveland and check out memorabilia from legends like The Beatles, Michael Jackson, Bruce Springsteen and David Bowie, as well as contemporary artists like Lady Gaga, The Black Keys and Rihanna.



From culture to cuisine and music to sports, interesting experiences can be found around most every corner in Cleveland. A place many still think is just a stop on the interstate is home to some of the country’s most renowned cultural institutions, quirkiest museums, notorious sports teams and emerging culinary scene.


Presenting Sponsor


Platinum Sponsor

Start Up Sponsors


Please reach out to Mia Roberts at to find out more about 2019 sponsorship opportunities.

Restaurant Innovation Summit 2019