Chicago Conference 2024


Spring 2024 Supply Chain Expert Exchange Conference May 16-17 in Chicago, Register Now!

Professional Development

Connect with your restaurant supply chain peers May 16 - 17, 2024 at the Swissotel Chicago for the Supply Chain Expert Exchange Spring Conference!

With an agenda developed by your industry peers, this is the only conference created by and for restaurant supply chain professionals.

The conference is only open to restaurant operators and those who work in supply chain management for restaurant or hospitality companies.

The first 100 restaurant operators who register for the conference and book their room using the link in their confirmation email will receive a complimentary standard hotel room the night of Thursday, May 16. 

All restaurant operator attendees will receive free admission to the National Restaurant Association Restaurant Show, May 18 - 21.

​​​​Register Here!



General Session – Zurich Ballroom

Meals – Vevey

Networking Breaks – Zurich Pre-Function

Reception & Dinner Thursday Evening – Offshore Rooftop (Transportation Provided)


Thursday, May 16

11:00 a.m.

Registration Desk Opens

Zurich Registration

2:00 p.m.

Conference Welcome & Kick Off

Speaker: Kristi Kingery, Senior Vice President of Supply Chain, Tropical Smoothie Cafe

2:15 p.m.

Operational Excellence with Charles Watson: Navigating Growth At Tropical Smoothie Cafe

Join us for an in-depth conversation with Charles Watson, CEO of Tropical Smoothie Cafe, as we delve into the operational strategies and logistics that have propelled the brand to over 1,300 cafes in 44 states. Gain insights into the leadership philosophies and decisions that have guided one of the fastest-growing restaurant franchises in the U.S and the critical role supply chain plays.  This conversation will be a blend of professional wisdom and personal narrative, offering a unique perspective on achieving success in the foodservice sector during uncertain times.

3:15 p.m.

Networking Break

3:45 p.m.

Traceability – How prepared are you for FSMA Implementation?

This session offers a unique lens on traceability from the viewpoints of operators, distributors, and suppliers. Learn from the experiences of industry peers as we navigate the complexities of implementing robust traceability systems to meet FSMA (Food Safety Modernization Act) requirements. Discussion will include insights that may even transform your view, highlighting the benefits awaiting on the other side of compliance.

4:25 p.m.

Day One Wrap-Up

Speaker: Dessi Zaneva, Vice President of Strategic Sourcing, Jersey Mike's Franchise Systems, Inc.

6:00 p.m.

Buses Begin Loading for Reception & Dinner at Offshore Rooftop

6:30 p.m.

Reception & Dinner

Offshore Rooftop, 1000 E Grand Avenue, Chicago, IL 60611


Friday, May 17


7:30 a.m.


8:30 a.m.

Opening Remarks

Speaker: Kristi Kingery, Senior Vice President of Supply Chain, Tropical Smoothie Cafe

8:40 a.m.

Navigating Commodities: Economic Forces, Trends and Your Questions Answered

Speaker: Dhamu Thamodaran, Advisor, National Restaurant Association Supply Chain Expert Exchange

Experience Dhamu's distinctive, data-driven, and engaging take on the ever-evolving commodities market. You’ll get practical knowledge geared for the unique foodservice needs, deepening your understanding of market dynamics for strategic decision-making. This year, the format adds a fresh twist: after a 30-minute overview, the floor will open for a Q&A session. So come prepared with your questions to make the most of this opportunity!

9:30 a.m.

Regulatory Roadmap: What’s ahead for the Foodservice Supply Chain

Speaker:  Laura Abshire, Director of Food and Sustainability Policy, National Restaurant Association

Are you ready for the next Prop 12? This session covers the latest rules and upcoming regulations shaping the foodservice industry. Learn how these changes could influence operators and their supply chain partners, equipping you with the knowledge to prepare for future challenges and adapt pathways for success.

10:00 a.m.

Networking Break

10:40 a.m.

Distribution – TBD

11:20 a.m.

What is Keeping Supply Chain Executives Up at Night?

Moderator: Joel Neikirk, Chief Executive Officer, Restaurant Services, Inc


Kirsten Michulka, President and Chief Executive Officer, Independent Purchasing Cooperative

Anissa Mandell-Chance, President, ARCOP, Inc.

James Butler, Senior Vice President & Chief Supply Chain Officer, Brinker International

This session addresses the pressing concerns and challenges facing today's foodservice supply chain leaders. We’ll cover a range of hot topics, from emerging issues and government regulations to the next significant challenges on the horizon. Hear from leading supply chain executives as they share insights and predictions on what lies ahead in our post-COVID world.

12:00 p.m.


1:00 p.m.

Roundtable Discussions

Our most popular session! Learn from industry peers, share your own experiences and grow your network while discussing what’s most important to you. You’ll have the opportunity to interact with peers in a small group format and participate in two roundtable discussions each lasting 30 minutes. Table guides will ensure lively and interactive conversations, making sure everyone has a chance to share and take away actionable solutions.

2:30 p.m.

Networking Break

3:00 p.m.

Session - TBA

4:00 p.m.

Cybersecurity and Artificial Intelligence

In this discussion our speakers will explore how emerging technologies and digital advancements are reshaping security and privacy landscapes. With a focus on practical implications for the foodservice supply chain, you’ll get insights on the complexities of data protection, mitigating cybersecurity threats, and leveraging AI for enhanced operational efficiency.

4:40 p.m.

Closing Remarks






Author: Supply Chain Scene