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The blank-check company featuring Ruby Tuesday founder Sandy Beall and a host of &pizza veterans believes its experienced team gives it an advantage, says RB’s The Bottom Line.
Sandy Beall is a decorated restauranteur, hospitality Founder, investor and executive, with a dynamic background spanning nearly six decades.
Serving as the Chief Executive Officer of a public company for over 25 years, and overseeing dozens of highly successful concepts, Mr. Beall’s experience is unquestionable. Mr. Beall founded Ruby Tuesday while in college in 1971, growing the concept to 15 units and ultimately selling it to Morrison Inc. in 1982. Post-acquisition, he remained the President and Chief Operating Officer of Ruby Tuesday, ultimately working his way up the organization to becoming Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Morrison Inc. by 1995. In 1994, he was named Operator of the Year, won the Golden Chain Award from Multi-Unit Foodservice Operators (“MUFSO”) and was named Executive of the Year by Restaurants & Institutions Magazine. Under Mr. Beall’s leadership, Morrison split into three public companies, including Ruby Tuesday, Morrison Healthcare and Morrison’s Cafeteria. Mr. Beall remained as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Ruby Tuesday, overseeing an operation that had grown to 800+ locations in 46 states, 14 foreign countries and approximately 30,000 employees..
Mr. Beall also co-founded Blackberry Farm in 1975, steadily growing it with his family over the following five decades into one of the premier luxury resorts in the world. It has been recognized by Relais & Chateaux since 1994, as well as named to the Conde Nast Traveler Gold List, Wine Spectator Grand Award, the James Beard Foundation, as well as a number of other highly regarded awards and by industry groups. Mr. Beall is a major investor and board member of a number of high-growth restaurant and consumer brands, including &pizza, a 38-unit mid- Atlantic pizza chain, The Meatball Shop, Mexicue, Beyond Sushi and Custom Foods of America. He is also the Principal of Beall Investments LLC, an investment company. Outside of the restaurant space, he previously served on the board of First American Bank, Pilot Flying J, Windstream Corporation, SSC Service Solutions, and Arlington Capital Advisors.
Doug Jacob lives by the power of the brand, seeking to build businesses that transform commercial brands into cultural icons.
Early in his career, Mr. Jacob leveraged his business savvy into hospitality success as the lead investor and operator at EMM Group’s Tenjune nightclub. Recognizing the emergence of food and celebrity chefs, he collaborated with James Beard award winners Ken Oringer and Jamie Bissonette to expand the Toro brand from Boston to New York City, Bangkok and Dubai in January 2013, which is when Mr. Jacob co-founded Toro. Mr. Jacob sold his position in the group in 2016. Along the way, Mr. Jacob focused on the art of creating immersive experiences and began looking for new opportunities to merge design and business in fresh and rewarding ways.
In 2010, Mr. Jacob partnered with Michael Lastoria and Charlie Walk to found JWALK, a full-service creative agency that integrated design with strong business strategy. As the agency evolved, Mr. Jacob stayed dedicated to preserving its small-by-design, nimble-by-nature ethos that earned its identity as a creative disrupter, serving as the company’s Chief Creative Officer and Chief Executive Officer from January 2014 to February 2017. Together, Mr. Jacob and Mr. Lastoria shaped JWALK into an industry leader that flew in the face of tradition, specializing in building cult-favorite brands with a bold digital presence. Creatively led and anchored to the bottom line, JWALK grew into a multi-million dollar-a-year business with lifestyle-driven clients. Shiseido Corporation acquired JWALK in March 2017 to bolster the group’s creative excellence and enhance its digital agility, and Mr. Jacob served as Chief Creative Director of Shiseido until mid-2018. In 2019, Mr. Jacob founded and became Chief Executive Officer of &vest, a hybrid venture fund and branding agency focused on opportunities in the consumer lifestyle space. &vest acquired the second largest position in &pizza, which Mr. Jacob helped to launch with Mr. Michael Lastoria in 2010. Mr. Jacob has served as a board member for &pizza and currently serves as a board member of Butler Hospitality and Virginia Black Whiskey.
Kevin Reddy is a Quick Service restaurant and Fast Casual restaurant veteran, serving in a variety of operational and executive roles.
He began his career with McDonald’s Corporation in 1983 as a regional controller and progressed into positions of escalating responsibility. Following McDonald’s investment in Chipotle in 1998, Mr. Reddy served as Restaurant Support Officer, Chief Operations Officer, and ultimately Chief Operating Officer for Chipotle, overseeing its growth from just 13 units to 420 units in seven years. In 2005, Mr. Reddy joined Noodles & Company as President and Chief Operating Officer. In 2006, he was named Chief Executive Officer, becoming a member of its board of directors and then Chairman in 2008. He led the company to double-digit revenue growth and positive same-store sales for 30 consecutive quarters, and oversaw the company’s initial public offering, with shares nearly doubling on the first day of trading at a valuation of more than $1 billion. He left his position as Chief Executive Officer in 2016. Mr. Reddy works closely with investor groups to acquire premium brands in the hospitality sector. He is also Chairman of the Board of &pizza and Qdoba Mexican Grill.
Todd Higgins is a seasoned entrepreneur and managing partner of Crosby & Higgins LLP, a boutique corporate law firm in New York.
Since co-founding the firm in 2005, Mr. Higgins has guided hundreds of businesses, boards and senior executives, integrating with management teams to provide thought leadership and strategic counsel from start-up to exit. Mr. Higgins has served as outside corporate counsel for companies like VistaGen Therapeutics, a publicly traded pharmaceutical company, Empire Resources, a publicly traded distributor, Tradesy, a luxury online fashion resale market, and & pizza. Mr. Higgins has an extensive track record in the food, restaurant and hospitality sectors in particular, both through his work with private equity funds and directly with businesses like &pizza, Magnolia Bakery, Catch Hospitality, Chesapeake Hospitality, Orwasher’s Bakery, Outstanding Foods, and Ideal Snacks. Mr. Higgins has also co-founded and led numerous companies, including Clear Sight Analytics, where he served as the company’s Chief Operating Officer, and previously served as Chief Operating Officer and General Counsel of CoKinetic Systems Corp., a systems integration and interface technology company incubated with Deutsche Bank. Most recently, he co-founded Vent Multiplexor, where he is leading an emergency effort, in collaboration with Yale New Haven Hospital, to bring to market a patent-pending device for dual-patient ventilation that Mr. Higgins co-invented, which has recently secured emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Chief Strategy Officer
Kimberly Grant is an accomplished chief executive and public company director with over 25 years of hospitality industry experience.
From January 2014 to April 2020, Ms. Grant served as Chief Executive Officer of ThinkFoodGroup (“TFG”), a premier global hospitality company which owns and operates unique dining concepts created by Chef José Andrés, including concepts in the fast casual, polished casual, food hall, and fine dining sectors. During her tenure, TFG has become one of the leading chef-driven organizations in the world, rapidly growing global revenues as the company expanded to 29 locations across nine gateway cities and began its international expansion. In 2018, TFG was recognized by Fast Company magazine as one of the World’s Most Innovative Companies. The company’s most ambitious project to date, Mercado Little Spain, a 35,000 square foot food hall located in New York City’s Hudson Yards development, was recognized by the New York Times as the best new restaurant to open in New York City in 2019. Prior to serving as Chief Executive Officer of TFG, Ms. Grant built a strong record of operations and finance at Ruby Tuesday. She served as Vice President and Controller for the company after its spin-off as an independent public company from 1998 to 2002, and then Senior Vice President, Executive Vice President, President and Chief Operating Officer from 2002 to 2013, where she was responsible for a profits & loss statement with revenues exceeding $1.3 billion each year from 2004 to 2013. Ms. Grant currently serves on the board of Performance Food Group, a publicly traded food product distribution company with more than $20 billion in annual revenue, where she is a member of the audit, nomination, and governance committees. In 2019 and 2020, Ms. Grant was recognized by Nation’s Restaurant News’ “The Power List.”
Garrett Schreiber currently leads investment operations at &vest. He has spent his entire career structuring and underwriting transactions and funds.
In 2012, Mr. Schreiber joined RBC Capital Markets as an investment banking analyst. In 2014, Mr. Schreiber joined as an associate with Enhanced Capital, a portfolio company of Stone Point Capital, where he raised two tax-credit capitalized investment funds and a SBIC fund. While there, Mr. Schreiber worked on fundraising, underwriting, and reporting efforts both to the limited partners and to government regulators. In 2019, Mr. Schreiber helped launch &vest, overseeing all investment, fundraising, and creative agency operations.
Michael Lastoria is the Founder and CEO of &pizza. He is a dynamic entrepreneur with a track record of founding, scaling and exiting a variety of businesses.
In 2002, at the age of 22, Mr. Lastoria founded his first company, Innovation Ads, an advertising, technology and marketing services firm, as his first job out of college in New York City. In four years, as Founding Chief Executive Officer, he oversaw the rapid growth of the company and its sale to Seaport Capital, a New York-based private equity firm, in 2006. Lastoria remained the company’s Chief Executive Officer from 2006 to 2009. In 2010, Mr. Lastoria co-founded &pizza, where he currently serves as Chief Executive Officer. At &pizza, Mr. Lastoria has raised over $80 million of investment capital and has expanded the purpose-driven chain to 38 locations in six markets. In addition to &pizza, Mr. Lastoria cofounded JWALK. Mr. Lastoria is a recognized startup leader and vocal advocate in the fight to raise minimum wage to $15.00 an hour, believing that every employee should not only survive, but thrive. He speaks regularly on the value of design thinking, innovation and entrepreneurship. Mr. Lastoria was named one of the Washington Business Journal’s “40 Under 40.” In 2017, he was awarded the Mort Harris Small Business person of the year by the Small Business Council of America.
Ramin Arani is the CFO of Vice Media, with decades of experience in fund management, media, and financial & investment operations across a wide range of industries.
Previously, Mr. Arani was a portfolio manager at Fidelity Management & Research Company. Most recently, he managed the Fidelity Puritan Fund, achieving top 5% performance relative to industry peers. His financial experience spans a variety of sectors, including media, technology, health care, real estate, retail, aerospace and defense. Mr. Arani has served on several company boards, including Legendary Pictures, Rent the Runway, Goop, Rumble Boxing and Sakara Life.
Steve Kassin is the Founder and Managing Partner of Infinity Real Estate, a privately owned developer, owner, and manager of high quality real estate headquartered in New York City.
Under Mr. Kassin’s leadership, Infinity has acquired or developed commercial property representing over $1.5 billion in direct investment transactions across more than 75 projects. During Mr. Kassin’s tenure, Infinity has honed its expertise in the urban multi-family, lodging and retail sectors. His management and growth initiatives have transformed Infinity Real Estate into a national real estate investment company. In October 2015, Steve was named “Fifty Under 40” in Globe Street’s Real Estate Forum publication. He is also an active participant on various industry panels and guest lectures at NYU Stern School of Business and at other educational institutions. Steve currently serves as a NYU Stern Real Estate Advisory Board Member, NYU Alumni Council Chair, NAIOP Advisory Board Member, ICSC Next Gen. Committee Member, Exec. Board Member, and a PREF Co-Founder.
Alice Elliot is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of The Elliot Group, a widely respected executive recruitment agency in the restaurant and hospitality industry.
Nationally recognized as one of the leading advisors in executive search, human resources, and leadership, Ms. Elliot has been featured in QSR Magazine’s “20 Most Influential Restaurant Leaders,” Nation’s Restaurant News’ “50 Most Powerful People in Foodservice,” and on “CBS This Morning Saturday.” She has also been a featured speaker on Bloomberg Radio, focusing on business trends and innovation. In addition, Ms. Elliot has spoken at many industry highlights and is the recipient of several awards, including the coveted Women’s Foodservice Forum “Trailblazer” award, and the prestigious Roundtable for Women in Foodservice “Pacesetter Award.” She sits on the Board of Trustees of The Culinary Institute of America, and was inducted into the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation’s “College of Diplomates” in 2010 for her tireless work in bringing public awareness to the hospitality industry.
Sanjay Chadda is the Co-Head of Investment Banking at Canaccord Genuity, focusing on media, digital advertising and marketing, commerce, IT and service industries.
Sanjay has led more than 125 transactions during his career and has successfully completed over 50 transactions since the beginning of 2014 alone. He joined Canaccord Genuity through its acquisition of Petsky Prunier in 2019. He focuses on origination, due diligence, marketing, management, and negotiation of both M&A and private placement transactions.
Kris Stevens is Chief Executive Officer of CoKinetic Systems (“CoKinetic”), a technology and systems integrator. Prior to founding CoKinetic, Mr. Stevens was Managing Director and Chief Technology Officer of Deutsche Asset Management.
Previously, he was Managing Director and Chief Technology Officer of Bankers Trust Private Bank. Mr. Stevens developed strong skills in technology acquisition and systems integration during his time at Deutsche Asset Management and Bankers Trust Private Bank, as he played a key role in quickly integrating and developing complex technology systems and platforms in connection with the acquisitions of investment management companies. Mr. Stevens began his career in technology by building programs to optimize the management of certain pizza delivery restaurants which he founded and operated. Recently, Mr. Stevens has begun developing a variety of apps for Apple and Android platforms in subjects that include social media, charitable giving and food.
Ndamukong Suh is an American Football Defensive Tackle, investor and entrepreneur with a long track record of successful ventures.
Mr. Suh was drafted by the Detroit Lions second overall in the 2010 NFL draft and was a 2018 season NFC Champion with the Los Angeles Rams. He has partnered with companies such as Ember, This Bar Saves Lives (TBSL), Human Ventures, Marcy Venture Partners and CourtsideVC. Suh has been heavily involved with real estate development and is an avid investor in the hospitality sector. He is the founder of Generals Restaurant Group which owns, invests in, manages, operates and provides consulting services for hospitality businesses. Through his Generals Restaurant Group, Mr. Suh is an investor in Blue Sushi Sake Grill which is run by Flagship Restaurant Group. Mr. Suh has also partnered with Micah Camden, a well-known restauranteur in Portland, OR, and together they own Bae’s Hot Chicken and Super Deluxe, a boutique burger concept.
Sanjay Lamba is the Principal of Buddhist Wolf LLC, a private placement firm based in New York City with extensive relationships with over 300 capital partners.
With relationships spanning significant single-family offices, multi-family offices, institutional asset managers, venture capitalists, private equity investors, and pension and sovereign wealth funds, Mr. Lamba and Buddhist Wolf have assisted highly disruptive companies in the science, technology, healthcare, fitness, hospitality, and consumer industries. Prior to this, Mr. Lamba spent 15 years as an International Institutional Equity Salesperson with BNP Paribas, Lehman Brothers and Nomura, working in Paris, London, San Francisco and New York.
Dan Gardner is the Founder and current CEO of Code and Theory, with a long background bringing conventional media to life in the digital space.
Mr. Gardner has more than a decade of experience designing cross-platform products and brand experiences for clients in North America, Europe, Asia, and the Middle East, and has led Code and Theory to become one of the largest digital first creative agencies in the United States. Since founding the company in 2001, it has grown to over 500 employees, with offices in New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Atlanta, London, and Manila. In his role as CEO of Code and Theory, Mr. Gardner has overseen major media launches for publishers such as Bloomberg, Vogue, and the LA Times, provided creative solutions for how brands like Maybelline NY and Burger King communicate their stories and redesigned the digital space between government and citizenry through sites like NY.gov. Code and Theory has been honored by Webby’s, D&AD, Cannes Lions, One Show, was Digiday’s 2019 Creative Agency of the Year, and was named to Ad Age’s 2020 A-List and Best Places to Work.
Todd Gurley is entering his sixth season in the NFL as a running back for the Atlanta Falcons, and is a distinguished brand ambassador, entrepreneur, investor and philanthropist.
Throughout his professional career to date, Mr. Gurley has rushed for 5,404 yards and 58 touchdowns on 1,265 carries, has been named to the Pro Bowl three times, and was named Associated Press First Team All Pro in 2017 and 2018. Mr. Gurley was drafted 10th overall in the 2015 NFL Draft by the St. Louis Rams, and joined the Falcons as a free agent in 2020. Prior to the NFL, Mr. Gurley attended the University of Georgia. Mr. Gurley is a Tarboro, North Carolina native. In 2019, Mr. Gurley founded the Make A Difference Every Day (M.A.D.E.) Foundation on the principle of supporting youth by focusing on their physical, social, and educational health. M.A.D.E. aims to give youth a unique perspective on life through sports, education and community involvement, building character that will remain with them for a lifetime. Mr. Gurley also serves as an ambassador for brands including NIKE, Gatorade, BMW, Hulu, T-Mobile, Pizza Hut, American Airlines, Neptune Ice, Activision, and more.
Allison Page is Co-Founder and Chief Product Officer of SevenRooms, a data-driven operations, marketing and guest engagement platform that empowers hospitality operators to maximize revenue, build loyalty and personalize experiences.
SevenRooms is venture-backed by Amazon, Comcast Ventures and Providence Strategic Growth, and has been named to Inc.’s annual list of Best Workplaces for 2020. The company serves a wide range of clients, from neighborhood restaurants to international, multi-concept hospitality groups. Since inception in 2011, Ms. Page has been responsible for driving product innovation, defining the company’s product roadmap, vision and strategic positioning. She holds more than a decade of experience as an entrepreneur in the hospitality industry; launching, building and commercializing high-growth technology platforms across global restaurant, hotel and entertainment brands. She brings knowledge in the areas of technology, guest experience, guest engagement, CRM, marketing, loyalty, data analytics and consumer trends. Prior to founding SevenRooms, Allison started her career in investment banking at Credit Suisse. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Finance & Real Estate from The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania and was named one of Hospitality Technology’s 2019 Top Women in Restaurant Technology. She currently sits on the boards of Red Robin Gourmet Burgers and the Pillsbury Institute for Hospitality Entrepreneurship at Cornell University.