“We are at a critical inflection point in our quest to achieve gender parity. It is up to all of us to harness this momentum, move urgently forward and drive change. Closing the gender gap in the food industry will make us more competitive and unlock our full potential!” - Denny Marie Post
President & Chief Concept Officer
Salli Setta was named President of Red Lobster in July 2013. In this role, Salli leads all of Restaurant Operations, Marketing, and Culinary and Beverage for the iconic brand, which operates more than 700 restaurants in North America and has more than 58,000 employees.
As President, Salli developed and aligned the company to a simple strategy -- Great Seafood, Great People and Great Results – that seeks to play to Red Lobster’s strengths, helps the company build on its strong foundation and ultimately grow the company long-term. Under Salli’s leadership, Red Lobster introduced a new, simpler, seafood and lobster-centric menu and implemented numerous operations initiatives and simplifications that have led to best ever levels of guest satisfaction. Salli was also part of the leadership team that helped Red Lobster become an independent, privately-held company, leading the organization through significant change.
Prior to being named President, Salli served as the brand’s Executive Vice President of Marketing for eight years, where she led a comprehensive brand refresh. Under her leadership, Red Lobster has made extensive culinary changes, including introducing its Today’s Fresh Fish menu, Wood Fire Grill cooking platform and Quick Catch Lunch program, and created and launched its well-received “Sea Food Differently” advertising campaign.
Salli is the recipient of multiple industry awards. She is a three-time Menu Masters Award winner for her work on Red Lobster’s Today’s Fresh Fish Program and Menu Refresh initiatives and Olive Garden’s Menu Revitalization. In 2003, she was named Restaurant Business’ “Menu Strategist of the Year” and one of Nation’s Restaurant News’ “Top 50 R&D Culinarians.” She is also the recipient of a Silver Effie for Olive Garden’s “Hospitaliano” advertising campaign.
Salli began her career in 1990 as a sales promotion assistant at Olive Garden and held positions of increasing responsibility during her 15 year tenure with the brand. As Vice President of Brand Marketing, she expanded their “Hospitaliano” advertising campaign, developed their lunch business, and identified the RevItalia remodel design. As Senior Vice President of Culinary and Beverage, she led the development of Olive Garden’s award-winning menu and wine list, delivering more approachably authentic Italian dishes and greatly expanding their wine selection.
Salli holds a bachelor’s degree in Organizational Communication from the University of Central Florida and an MBA from Florida Institute of Technology. She also completed the Women’s Senior Leadership Program at the Kellogg School of Management. She has served on the board of the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra, the Lake Highland Preparatory School Board of Visitors and the Women’s Food Service Forum Strategic Marketing Council.
Red Lobster is the world's largest seafood restaurant company, headquartered in Orlando, Fla., with an impressive heritage and an even brighter future. As a private company, owned by Golden Gate Capital, Red Lobster is focused on delivering freshly-prepared seafood at reasonable prices served in a lively, contemporary seaside atmosphere. With 58,000 employees in over 700 restaurants in the U.S. and Canada, and a growing international footprint, Red Lobster is more committed than ever to being not just the biggest seafood restaurant, but the best.
President & CEO
Women's Foodservice Forum
A senior executive with extensive international operations and consumer marketing expertise, Therese Gearhart brings decades of leadership in the Food Industry to her role as President & CEO of WFF. She launched her early career in foodservice and hospitality and advanced to senior leadership with a record of unlocking business performance as an inclusive and authentic leader.
As a 20-year veteran of The Coca-Cola Company, Therese led multi-billion-dollar P&Ls in Latin America and Southern Africa and spent six years working within the North America Foodservice business. She has inspired operational and organizational change across borders and cultures, consistently creating value and driving growth in challenging environments.
Throughout her career, Therese has been a strong role model and staunch advocate for women’s advancement and the role of gender equity in driving business performance. She co-chaired and was a member of Coca-Cola’s Global Women’s Leadership Council advising The Company Executive Committee on strategies to accelerate the advancement of women in leadership. She has been a long-time member of WFF and previously served on the Board of Directors.
She has also served on the boards of affiliated Coca-Cola companies and influential industry groups and is a sought-after speaker on business strategy, inclusion and female entrepreneurship.
A fearless and optimistic leader, Therese has a reputation for creating effective teams and inclusive cultures by gaining trust and collaboration with key stakeholders. She has a passion for mentoring women leaders and embraces the opportunity to advance gender diversity and equality across the Food Industry through WFF and its Partner companies.
As President & CEO, Therese sees WFF as a daily source of inspiration, connection and learning that supports women’s holistic development and helps Partner companies create sustainable traction around gender equity with unique insights, proven solutions and shared knowledge.
Therese embodies WFF’s passion for advancing women and leads the organization into an exciting chapter of growth and increased impact.
President, Foodservice & On-Premise
Kathleen Ciaramello is President, FoodService and On-Premise, Coca-Cola North America. In this role, she has responsibility for all global, national and regional customers operating within the Foodservice and On-Premise channels of business that are headquartered in the United States. Prior to this Kathleen was East Zone Vice President for the FoodService/On-Premise division with responsibility for the 22 east coast states. In this role, Kathleen led a cross functional team to deliver unique solutions that delight guests and grow beverage profits for our FoodService and On-Premise customers. Kathleen joined the Coca-Cola Company in 1985, and has served in various account management, sales and marketing roles.
Kathleen is also one of 12 inaugural members of the Coca-Cola Women’s Leadership Council sponsored by CEO, Muhtar Kent. The Women’s Leadership Council is a sustainable advisory organization designed to help the Company meet the global leadership demands of a rapidly changing marketplace by increasing the focus on the development and movement of women into leadership roles. In her role on the council, Kathleen led work that became the catalyst for the Flexible Work Arrangements rolled out in 2009 across Coca-Cola North America and Corporate. Kathleen also led the Diversity and Inclusion Council for Coca-Cola Refreshments’ Southeast Region from 2011 to 2012.
Kathleen fights hunger as the Chair of the Advisory Board for the Atlanta Community Food Bank’s “Atlanta’s Table”, was engaged in building strong communities as a member of the YMCA Metro Atlanta Board of Directors and Treats Families not the cancer™ as a member of the Jack and Jill Late Stage Cancer Foundation (JAJF) Board of Directors/Ambassadors. Kathleen is also a member of a group called Ribbons of Hope – Invest in Women, Inc., an Atlanta-based foundation made up of 50 women that began as friends and family of The Coca-Cola Company who wanted to reach out and help support organizations that are making a difference in women’s lives. Kathleen is a spokesperson for the ALLY Project, an awareness campaign created to promote LGBT and straight ally relationships and discussions at Coca-Cola. Kathleen was a 2008 Recipient of ""25 WOW Women to Watch"" Award (Bloomingdale’s and Uptown Scoop). Kathleen was inducted into the Show East Hall of Fame in October, 2011, a tribute given to a select group of individuals who have served the motion picture industry with great distinction. She was also awarded the 2011 GRACE Award, Industry Partner of the Year, for her exemplary contributions to Georgia’s prolific restaurant industry. In 2015, Kathleen was inducted into the Methuen High School Distinguished Alumni Hall of Fame.
A native of Massachusetts, Kathleen has a bachelor’s egree in business administration from Boston College. Kathleen and her husband, Paul, live in Atlanta with their two children.
Chief Transformation & People Officer
Yum! Brands Inc
Tracy Skeans is Chief Transformation and People Officer of Yum! Brands, Inc. (NYSE: YUM), one of the world’s largest restaurant companies with over 44,000 restaurants in more than 135 countries and territories with 1.5 million associates. Its restaurant brands – KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell – are the global leaders of the chicken, pizza and Mexican-style food categories. Outside the United States, the Yum! Brands system opens over six new restaurants per day, making it a leader in global retail development.
2016 was a landmark year for Yum! Brands as it successfully completed the separation of Yum China as an independent and powerful growth company. In addition, Yum! Brands launched a new multi-year strategic transformation plan to become a more focused, more franchised and more efficient company in order to strengthen and grow its KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell brands around the world, creating significant long-term value for all its stakeholders.
Skeans reports directly to Yum! Brands’ CEO and leads business transformation and global people capability strategies to build powerful brands and fuel sustainable results around the world. A key area of focus is guiding and accelerating enterprise-wide transformation, developing the right mindset, capabilities, roadmap, repeatable models, stakeholder engagement and culture to fuel same-store sales and net new unit growth. Skeans oversees the transformation strategy, human resources and corporate communications functions. Skeans has a strong track record of business leadership since joining the company in 2000. Prior to assuming her current position, she was President of Pizza Hut International, which at the time, was a business of more than 5,900 restaurants across more than 85 countries. In 2013, as Chief People Officer, Pizza Hut, Skeans was one of the key architects of the strategy and structure to separate Yum! Restaurants International into the global brand divisions of KFC and Pizza Hut. Before leading HR, Skeans spent the first half of her career in Finance roles including strategic planning, asset development and accounting at Pizza Hut.
Prior to Yum!, Skeans worked in an international treasury role at Union Switch & Signal, a leading global developer of equipment for light rail systems and as a senior auditor with Price Waterhouse LLP. Skeans holds an MBA in Finance from the Katz School of Business at the University of Pittsburgh and a BS in accounting from Lehigh University.
National Automatic Merchandising Association
Carla Balakgie, FASAE, CAE is President & CEO of NAMA. Founded in 1936, NAMA is the national trade association representing the $25 billion convenience services industry including vending, coffee service and foodservice management in the business and industry market.
With more than 1100 member companies—including many of the world’s most recognized brands—NAMA provides advocacy, education, research and business development forums to its membership.
Prior to joining NAMA in December 2011, Carla served as Chief Executive Officer of the Electronic Transactions Association (ETA), a position she held for nine years. ETA is an international trade
association representing companies that enable acceptance of electronic payments by merchants at the point of sale.
Previously, Carla served as Senior Vice President and COO of the National Association of College and University Business Officers (NACUBO), where she held management and executive roles during her 15-year tenure. She began her career in association management at the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) following several years in commercial publishing.
Carla, a certified association executive (CAE) and a Fellow of the American Society of Association Executives, is the first woman to lead NAMA in its 82 year history.
SVP, Global Sales
EVP & COO, Dairy Foods
Land O'Lakes, Inc
Chris Roberts is an accomplished senior executive with extensive global experience transforming businesses, developing new products, markets, and distribution channels. He has more than 30 years of experience in general management and business operations roles, and has held key sales and marketing positions within large international companies including Cargill, The Coca Cola Company and PepsiCo.
He is President of the $6 billion North American Foodservice Division of Cargill’s protein group. In his role, Mr. Roberts, is responsible for business strategy, mergers and acquisitions, strategic partnerships, the product portfolio, operations and finance. In his previous role as President of Value Added Protein, Mr. Roberts integrated three independent operating units, creating a $3 billion foodservice enterprise which delivered earnings-after-tax (EAT) growth of 30% over the previous year. From 2011-2015, Mr. Roberts also led the Cargill Kitchen Solutions division to sustained volume, profit, net margin and EBITDA growth of 25%, 27%, 25% and 18%, respectively, while reducing the cost-to-serve by two percentage points.
Prior to joining Cargill in 2006, Mr. Roberts held positions of increasing responsibility at Coca Cola USA from 1999 to 2006. During that time he served as Vice President of Retail Marketing where he created and implemented their first shopper marketing strategy that resulted in portfolio volume growth of 10%. He also served as the Region Vice President for foodservice in both the Southeast and Southwest, and Managing Director of Sales Development at Coca Cola USA. From 1988 to 1999, Mr. Roberts held various brand, new product marketing and sales roles of increasing responsibility with the Frito-Lay division of PepsiCo.
Mr. Roberts serves as Chair of the Cargill Foundation, is on the board of Young Life International (human resource committee). He also serves on the board and the governance committee as an outside director for Catallia Mexican Foods, a privately held Mexican food manufacturer. He has been a featured keynote speaker at numerous business forums focusing on leadership, innovation and business enterprise growth.
Mr. Roberts earned a bachelor’s degree in Economics from The University of Illinois and a MBA from the Kellogg School at Northwestern University, with concentrations in Marketing, Finance and Management Strategy.
Kelli Valade currently serves as Executive Vice President and President of Chili’s® Grill & Bar. In this role, she is responsible for overseeing all aspects of domestic restaurant operations, marketing, franchising and PeopleWorks for the brand.
Kelli has been with Brinker International since 1996, holding various positions including Director of Human Resources for On The Border Mexican Grill & Cantina®, Vice President of Corporate Human Resources and Senior Vice President of PeopleWorks for Chili’s and On The Border and Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer for Chili’s. In 2016, Kelli’s passion for operational excellence and deep understanding of the business led to her promotion to President of Chili’s.
Prior to joining Brinker, Kelli worked for the Specialty Concepts Division of Carlson Restaurants Worldwide and as a Training and Recruiting Consultant for Dallas-based American Service Management Resources.
Active in several industry organizations, Kelli holds a seat on the founders board of the Multi-Cultural Food Service Hospitality Alliance, sits on the Advisory Board for People Report and Black Box Intelligence and is a member of Women’s Foodservice Forum. She has also served on the Board of Directors for the National Restaurant Association.
Kelli holds a bachelor’s degree in Sociology from Binghamton University in upstate New York and an MBA from Syracuse University. She, along with her husband Don, and two children, Morgan and Christian, live in Allen, Texas. In her spare time, she enjoys cooking Italian.
Deloitte Consulting LLP
Jean Chick has 26 years of experience at Deloitte with Consumer Products, Automotive and Travel, Hospitality and Services clients. She is the Lead Consulting Partner for Deloitte’s global relationship with McDonald’s and is a leader in Deloitte’s restaurant industry group. Jean has led complex financial and operational transformation programs with a focus on change management to drive adoption and impact for her clients. Prior to joining Consulting she served as both the Managing Partner for Deloitte’s Corporate Real Estate function and as an Audit Partner where she was the Lead Audit Partner for a Fortune 100 company.
Jean’s experience includes an international assignment in London, where she led the consolidation of her client’s accounting and back office operations into a single shared service center in Western Europe. She is the former Strategy & Operations Women’s Initiative Leader and Central Region Talent Partner for Audit and Advisory.
Jean holds a Bachelor of Science in Accounting from the University of Kentucky, and is an inactive Certified Public Accountant.
Alisa Gmelich is a restaurant marketing strategist who has been in the restaurant industry over 20 years. Alisa’s experience includes developing marketing strategies, campaigns and programs for top restaurant brands such as McDonald’s and Burger King. Today, Alisa is currently the VP Marketing for IHOP Restaurants and has worked on ground-breaking programs like the IHOb campaign which generated record-setting impression and engagement levels nationwide and delivered business results that changed the trajectory of IHOP’s business in the PM daypart.
Alisa is a proud graduate of University of California Riverside and was the keynote speaker at the UCR Women’s Leadership Conference in 2018.
Panera Bread, LLC
Blaine Hurst is Vice Chairman of Panera LLC. Blaine served as Chief Executive Officer of Panera from January 2018 to May 2019, after serving as its President since December 2016.
Blaine joined Panera in late 2010 to begin the Panera 2.0 initiative, an enhanced guest experience enabled by technology and rooted in operational integrity. In 2014, he launched Panera’s Delivery initiative.
Blaine has been named by Fast Casual magazine as one of their Movers and Shakers for the last four years and is the author of eight published patents.
Prior to joining Panera, Blaine was an entrepreneur and consultant, assisting numerous restaurant, retail and distribution companies in their development and growth, including the development of Panera's strategic information systems plan. He previously served as President of Restaurant Technology Solutions LLC, a division of eMac Digital. Before eMac, Blaine was Vice Chairman and President of Papa John's International Inc., after having held the roles of Executive Vice President, Chief Administrative Officer and Vice President, Information Services. As the company’s first CIO, he led the development and rollout of the restaurant industry’s first nationwide online ordering system. Earlier in his career, before joining Boston Chicken as its Vice President, Information Services, Blaine was a consulting division Partner with Ernst & Young, founding the firm's Center for Information Technology Planning and Development.
Blaine earned a Bachelor of Arts with High Distinction in Computer Science from Indiana University. He is also a proud Kentucky Colonel.
SVP, Chief Financial Officer
Dunkin' Brands, Inc.
Kate Jaspon is the Chief Financial Officer of Dunkin’ Brands. In this role, she is responsible for the global financial planning and analysis, accounting, financial reporting, business analytics, tax, debt and cash management, enterprise risk management, electronic payments, insurance and demand planning functions for domestic and international Dunkin’ Baskin-Robbins. Kate has lead Dunkin’ through a number of transactions including the Company & IPO and follow-on equity offerings, securitization and numerous other debt transactions, the divestiture of a brand and several system implementations.
She also currently serves as the Audit Committee Chair of the Board of Directors for MOD Pizza.
Kate joined Dunkin’ Brands in December 2005 as Assistant Controller. She was later promoted to Vice President, Finance and Treasury and Corporate Controller, and was appointed Chief Financial Officer in June 2017.
Eight years prior to joining Dunkin’ Brands, Kate started her career with KPMG LLP, the international financial services corporation, culminating in a role as Senior Manager, where she supported both public and private companies as an auditor.
Kate earned a B.S. in Finance from Babson College in Wellesley, Massachusetts and is a CPA licensed in Massachusetts. She is drinkin’ Dunkin’ Iced Coffee with skim milk and scoopin’ Baskin-Robbins Jamoca.
VP Crew Resources, Fry Cook & Cashier
Raising Cane's Chicken Fingers
Julie Juvera is the Vice-President of Crew Resources, Fry Cook & Cashier and a member of the Senior Leadership team for Raising Cane’s Chicken Fingers, the fastest growing Restaurant chain in the United States.
At Raising Cane’s, Julie serves as an enterprise-wide, senior business partner for the Restaurants, Business Units and Restaurant Support functions. She works closely with the leadership of the Company to develop and lead overall planning and execution of Crew related strategies. All of which is to ensure the successful execution of the Company’s vision - to build Restaurants all over the world and be the brand for quality chicken finger meals, a great Crew and cool culture and active community involvement.
A 25-year veteran of the foodservice industry, Julie began her career in Restaurant operations at Bennigan’s. With hands-on Restaurant management experience, she moved to Texas Roadhouse where she utilized this leadership experience to successfully develop a scalable Field-HR team to support Operations with their people needs through the Company’s high velocity of growth. After 16 years with Texas Roadhouse, Julie expanded her experience working in a Private Equity environment for California Pizza Kitchen (CPK). While working at CPK, Julie was instrumental in developing innovative people strategies to support the Company’s successful Next Chapter transformation.
Julie’s experience includes being the Chairperson and President of CPK’s Kindness Fund, a not-for-profit, employee-funded organization that supports fellow employees in their time of need. Julie has also served on the Board of Directors of The Family Scholar House, whose mission is to end the cycle of poverty by giving single parent students opportunities in advanced education and she has also been a member of the Executive Leadership Team of the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women Chapter in Louisville, KY.
Julie joined the Board of Directors of the WFF in 2016 after volunteering with the organization for 10 years. She serves as the Board of Director’s Chair of the Leadership and Development Counsel. In her 10+ years of service with the organization, Julie served on many committees including the chair of the Success Talks Committee. In addition, she was presented with several honors in the past including the inaugural “Women Making Their Mark Award.”
She has a BA in Psychology from the University of Colorado, Boulder. She and her husband, John, live in Dallas, TX with their two children and lead a very active lifestyle; either running or riding bikes and supporting their kids with baseball and soccer.
Chief Human Resources Officer
Sarah King was named Chief Human Resources Officer for Darden Restaurants in March 2017. A member of Darden’s Executive Team, she leads the execution of Darden’s people strategy as well as building organizational capability and employee culture to further enable Darden’s growth. She is also responsible for all aspects of the HR functions within Darden, including oversight of the HR organizations within each of Darden’s operating companies.
Darden owns and operates more than 1,700 Olive Garden, LongHorn Steakhouse, Cheddar’s Scratch Kitchen, Yard House, The Capital Grille, Seasons 52, Bahama Breeze and Eddie V’s restaurants in North America, employing more than 180,000 people and serving nearly 390 million guests annually.
Prior to joining Darden, Sarah spent 19 years with Wyndham Worldwide Corporation where she worked closely with operators and executive leaders to execute successful people initiatives around the world. Most recently, she served as Executive Vice President, Human Resources for Wyndham Vacation Ownership. In this role, Sarah was responsible for developing and rolling out the company’s people strategy, which focused on enhancing the culture to attract, engage and retain top talent.
A native of New Zealand, Sarah studied communications at the Auckland University of Technology.
Ann Mamer Lloyd
Ann Mamer Lloyd is senior vice president of marketing and operations for the Global Institutional division of Ecolab Inc, the global leader in water, hygiene and energy technologies and services that protect people and vital resources.
In her current role, Mamer Lloyd is a member of Global Institutional’s senior management team where she leads the development of growth strategies and new customer solutions. She has leadership responsibility for marketing and oversees supply chain and regulatory initiatives for the division.
Previously, Mamer Lloyd was vice president of marketing for Institutional in North America, and prior to that she served as vice president of marketing for the company’s Pest Elimination division.
Prior to Ecolab, Mamer Lloyd served as a vice president and general manager for ConAgra Foods and was responsible for a portfolio of brands, including Slim Jim, DAVID sunflower seeds and Crunch 'n Munch. She also spent two years managing product lines in the company's private label business.
SVP, Demand Creation
Rich Products Corporation
Jamie McKeon is the Senior Vice President of Demand Creation for Rich’s Foodservice Division where she is contributing to the advancement of Rich’s position as a leading innovator and solutions provider to the foodservice industry. She is responsible for division strategy and execution, marketplace analysis and insights, brand equity development, portfolio management, product category management, new product innovation, integrated marketing/demand creation and division financial performance.
In addition, McKeon chairs Rich’s Marketing Leadership Team for the USC Region, which is responsible for advancing Rich’s marketing capabilities and effectiveness through process improvement, marketing competency development and technology initiatives.
She also oversees the U.S. Canada Region’s Business Intelligence Team and Digital Experience Team; and is a member of the region’s strategic planning team. She also serves on the Niagara University Food Marketing Advisory board which was founded to support NU on the development of a new Food Marketing curriculum within the College of Business. The board informs, supports and promotes the program; attracts industry support; and advises the university regarding the curriculum and programming. McKeon chairs the Marketing Committee which is developing a strategic plan and marketing plan for the program in collaboration with the university.
A Rich’s associate since 1997, McKeon has contributed in several marketing roles and was named Vice President of Marketing for the Foodservice Division in April of 2013. She previously served as the Vice President of Marketing for the Consumer Brands Division, where she led the team responsible for growing Rich’s leading consumer brands, SeaPak and Farm Rich.
Prior to Rich’s, Jamie spent 10 years at Georgia-Pacific in Atlanta in marketing leadership, marketing communications and product management. She also worked in marketing for five years in the electronics industry at Pioneer-Standard Electronics in Cleveland, Ohio.
A native of Lorain, Ohio, McKeon resided in Georgia for 26 years before relocating from St. Simons Island to Buffalo in 2013 with her husband Matt. She has two daughters, Erin who is a graduate of Georgia Tech and currently an engineer with Georgia-Pacific and Kelly who is in her fourth year at Georgia Southern University and is studying Marketing. She earned a bachelor of science in business administration from Bowling Green State University and enjoys tennis, speedwalking, biking and paddle boarding.
Heather Neary was named President of Auntie Anne’s in November 2015. As President, Ms. Neary is responsible for the overall strategic direction for all functional areas of Auntie Anne’s.
Heather joined Auntie Anne’s in 2005 and has held various roles in the company in which she was responsible for the oversight of marketing, communications, operations, research and development, product innovation, and the franchisee advisory council. Most recently, Heather served as Vice President, Global Marketing.
Prior to joining Auntie Anne’s, Heather held roles in marketing and as a managing editor for a business magazine.
Heather received a B.A. from Millersville University and an M.B.A. from Penn State University.
Group President, Convenience & Foodservice; SVP, Global Revenue Development
Shawn O'Grady leads the Convenience and Foodservice organization. This $2B business is focused on growing sales and profit for General Mills by serving the needs of convenience store and foodservice operators across the United States, including schools, restaurants and hospitals. In addition, O'Grady oversees the development of two of the company’s global capabilities focused on accelerating topline growth, Strategic Revenue Management and Ecommerce. He was named to this position in December 2016.
O’Grady joined General Mills in Marketing in July 1990. He was promoted to Vice President in 1998, and concurrent with the General Mills acquisition of The Pillsbury Company in 2001, took the helm of the Refrigerated Baked Goods business.
Late in 2004, O’Grady joined the Consumer Foods Sales Division with responsibility for retail customers across the Midwest. He was promoted to President for U.S. Retail Sales in 2007. In August of 2010, O’Grady was elected Senior Vice President of General Mills, and assumed leadership of all remaining customer activities in the U.S.
Prior to joining General Mills, O’Grady graduated with honors from Notre Dame with a Bachelor’s of Science in chemical engineering. He received his MBA from Harvard Business School.
Shawn lives in Minneapolis with his wife, Becky and two children, Jack and Mary. He serves on the board of trustees of the General Mills Foundation, Feeding America and Second Harvest Heartland. He is passionate about ending hunger in the U.S. In his free time he is an avid tennis player and runner.
IMMEDIATE PAST CHAIR
Denny Marie Post
Red Robin Gourmet Burgers & Brews
Denny Marie Post previously served as President & Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Women Foodservice Forum (WFF) during the search for a long-term President & Chief Executive Officer and is currently the Immediate Past Chair. Denny brought to the team more than 35 years of leadership experience in consumer-driven marketing, product innovation and building teams to develop and execute strategies that increase brand awareness and drive sales.
Denny recently retired from Red Robin as President & CEO, overseeing all United States and Canadian operations, including overall company strategy and communications with investors. Denny joined Red Robin in 2011 and brought value to the organization as Chief Marketing Officer and President & CEO.
Before joining Red Robin, Denny served as the Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer at T-Mobile USA. She previously held the roles of Senior Vice President of Global Beverage, Food and Quality for Starbucks Corporation, Senior Vice President and Chief Concept Officer for Burger King and several management positions for KFC USA, KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell Canada while at YUM! Brands, Inc.
Denny is a thought leader in the restaurant dining industry, currently serving on the Women's Foodservice Forum board of directors and Wyndham Destinations. She is also a former director on the board of the Denver branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, Blue Dog Bakery and the Denver-based non-profit Nurse-Family Partnership.
Denny holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism and social sciences from Trinity University. Denny and her husband, Patrick (whom she's known since high school) are originally from West Texas and have a son, Daniel. In her spare time, she loves cooking, watching NBA basketball and traveling.
VP Diversity & Engagement
Merary is a proven leader with more than 15 years of experience in PepsiCo’s North America and Latin America businesses. In her current role, she leads the Diversity & Engagement agenda for North America
Merary joined PepsiCo in 2004 as Director of Sales Human Resources for Frito-Lay North America in the Northeast region before moving to Puerto Rico as the Senior HR Director for PepsiCo Caribbean Foods. She later led the Eastern Supply Chain HR team through a complex change agenda for 15 manufacturing facilities, and most recently, she served as senior HR director for Frito-Lay North America, supporting Finance and Human Resources. This experience has given Merary a deep appreciation for the specific needs and opportunities that are important to PepsiCo associates, from the frontline to headquarters. Prior to joining PepsiCo, Merary held roles of progressive HR responsibility for Revlon, Prudential and Warner-Lambert.
She has a master’s degree in Human Resources from Fordham University and a bachelor’s degree from the College of Saint Elizabeth.
VP Talent Experience
Libby Wanamaker is a veteran HR Leader who currently serves as the VP Talent Experience for Chick-fil-A. In this capacity she leads Human Resources for Chick-fil-A’s Corporate Staff including Talent Acquisition, Total Rewards, Talent Development and Talent Operations.
Prior to coming to Chick-fil-A, Libby served as the Chief Human Resources Officer for BlueLinx Corporation, a national lumber distribution company, where she helped lead a merger that doubled the company’s revenue and size.
Libby spent the bulk of her career working for The Coca-Cola Company. In her 18+ years at Coca-Cola she served in a variety leadership role within HR and Coke Foundation including leading Organization Effectiveness, HR Business Partner, Group Director Community Affairs, Global Talent Development and ultimately as SVP of Human Resources for Coke’s North America.
Libby holds a BA from Duke University, an MBA from The University of Texas at Austin and a JD from Emory University.
SVP, Brand and Communications
Sodexo USA, Inc
Jennifer Williamson is Senior Vice President of Brand & Communications, North America, for Sodexo, responsible for managing an integrated communications strategy that enhances and protects the company's reputation and brand. Ms. Williamson is a member of the North America Regional Leadership Committee for Sodexo, the global leader in Quality of Life services. Operating in 80 countries, Sodexo’s 427,000 employees serve 100 million consumers each day through On-site Services, Benefits and Rewards Services, and Personal and Home Services. With $9.9B in annual revenues in the U.S. and Canada, Sodexo’s 150,000 employees in North America provide more than 100 unique services that improve performance at 13,000 client sites. Sodexo is committed to supporting diversity and inclusion and safety, while upholding the highest standards of corporate responsibility and ethical business conduct.
Prior to her current position, she was Senior Vice President Corporate Communications. Other roles at Sodexo include Vice President Internal Communications, where she was responsible for the implementation of an enterprise wide communication program to drive employee engagement and alignment with the company strategy and business objectives. Prior to that, she served as Senior Director of Human Resources and Diversity Communications where she had successfully led several corporate-wide initiatives including the Employee Value Proposition, Spirit of Sodexo Awards Program and the Employee Network Groups.
Ms. Williamson has more than 20 years of human resources, operations and communications experience along with a strong background in training, change management and strategic planning. Ms. Williamson began her career with Sodexo in 1989 as an executive waitress and moved into a variety of operations management positions. She served as a regional Human Resources manager in Corporate Services and Director of Staffing and Development in Schools.
She is a member of the Board of Directors for Cities of Service and Stop Hunger Foundation, an independent charitable organization founded in 1999 to ensure that every child in the United States grows up with dependable access to enough nutritious food to enable them to lead a healthy, productive life. To date, the Sodexo Foundation has contributed more than $29 million in grants to end childhood hunger.
Ms. Williamson received her MBA with a concentration in Human Resources Management from Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, CT. She holds BA in History/Secondary Education from Keene State College, Keene, NH.
SVP & CIO
Colleen Wolf serves as the senior vice president and chief information officer at Ventura Foods. She is responsible for the information technology strategy and execution that support Ventura’s current operations and growth objectives. With more than 20 years of IT management experience, she has led diverse technical functions in both manufacturing and service companies. Prior to joining Ventura Foods in 2011, Colleen served as the CIO of Reliance Steel & Aluminum Company and served as VP, North American Business Systems at Starbucks. She also served as the CIO of New Century Financial and worked in progressive leadership roles at Mattel Inc.
Colleen earned a Bachelor of Science degree in computer science from the University of Alberta.
SVP, Client Solutions Group & Business Development
Armada Supply Chain Solutions, LLC
Loraine Yalch is Senior Vice President of Client Solutions and Business Development for Armada, a $3 billion supply chain solutions provider to the foodservice industry. In her role, she is responsible for client relationship management, of which the foundation is collaboration with clients to innovate and execute supply chain change strategies. Additionally, Loraine provides leadership and strategic direction in all business development initiatives.
Loraine joined Armada in 2001 as a Supply Chain Engineer. Early in her tenure, she led an instrumental project that led to the development of Armada’s supply chain visibility tool, which evolved into its Supply Chain Technology Platform. As Director of Account Management, she successfully took the technology solution to market. She was promoted to Vice President of Business Development in 2010 and into her current role in 2016.
Prior to her time in the foodservice industry, Loraine was director of operations for OnlineChoice.com, an online demand aggregator in the personal and home services arenas, and served as a project manager for several environmental engineering consulting firms.
Loraine holds a B.S. in Civil and Environmental Engineering from the University of Pittsburgh and an M.S. in Industrial Administration from the Tepper School of Business at Carnegie Mellon University. Loraine lives in Denver, Colorado with her husband, Bill.
Armada creates innovative, fully integrated supply chain solutions that deliver competitive advantages and improve business performance for its clients. Through its long tradition of partnering with clients, Armada has become one of the largest fully integrated logistic providers to the foodservice industry, as well as a respected provider among retail and other industries, with operations and offices around the country. Current clients range from Fortune 500 companies to privately held and family-owned businesses.
SVP, Chief Accounting Officer
Anita Zielinksi is Senior Vice President and Chief Accounting Officer of Houston-based Sysco Corporation, the leading global foodservice distribution company. Ms. Zielinski joined Sysco in 2017 and oversees the Company’s accounting functions, with responsibility for financial accounting and reporting, accounting policy, tax compliance and strategy and internal controls. She also acts as the key liaison to external auditing firms, with responsibility for confirming the Company’s views on technical accounting matters.
Prior to joining Sysco, Ms. Zielinski served as partner of Ernst & Young LLP, a public accounting firm (“E&Y”), since 2013 and was a member of E&Y’s assurance practice for over 20 years. She has extensive experience working with both large and midcap public registrants on securities law filings, business combinations and complex accounting and financial reporting matters.
During her tenure at E&Y, and now at Sysco, Ms. Zielinksi has been and continues to be actively and passionately involved in diversity and inclusiveness initiatives. This includes championing initiatives which focus on advancing women in the workplace, as exampled by her involvement in numerous steering committees and mentorship programs. Her continued leadership in these areas has led to tangible outcomes, including the creation and implementation of flexible working arrangements and increased retention of diverse associates.
Ms. Zielinski is a Certified Public Accountant and a member of the Texas Society of Certified Public Accountants. She earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Texas A&M University.
Libby Saylor Wright
Chief Operating Officer
Chief Marketing Officer
Krista Gibson is a Marketing & Strategy C-level Executive with over 25-years of experience in the hospitality industry.
Krista is the former CMO for Chili’s Grill & Bar, a global company with +1600 locations in 31 countries where she led all aspects of brand building, innovation and sales growth strategies. She reported to the CEO and was a member of Brinker International’s (EAT) senior leadership team charged with delivering EPS growth for a $3.25B Fortune 750 portfolio company (Chili’s Bar & Grill and Maggiano’s Little Italy). She collaborated with C-suite peers on all business challenges and actively engaged with the Board of Directors on brand strategy.
Krista has extensive experience leveraging macro-trends and consumer insights to develop a customer-centric brand purpose, strategic plans and operating plans leading to market share growth. She led Chili’s transformative, best-in-class digital customer experience fueling the loyalty program, providing actionable insights with Big Data, simplifying operations, and growing the top & bottom line.
Her experiences span all market conditions and brand lifecycles: from emerging concepts to aggressively growing brands to leading globally recognized brands. Krista currently serves on the Board of Directors for MHI Restaurant Group LLC, an emerging fast-casual pizza concept.
Krista has both a Bachelor of Science and MBA from the University of Florida. She has also served as a Board Member for SMU’s Digital Accelerator Program & SMU Cox School of Business Associate Board Member. She has completed the Governance Fellowship Program with the National Association for Corporate Directors (NACD) and the completed the Director Development Program at Kellogg.
Chief Growth Officer
VP, HR & Organizational Effectiveness
Director, Learning & Development
Senior Manager, Strategic Projects & People
Marketing Manager, Events
Director, Corporate Partnerships and Engagement
Business Manager, Executive Office
Director, Accounting and Finance
Coordinator, Member Relations
Susan leads Sales and Marketing for the Foodservice Division of McLane Company, a wholly owned subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway. In this role she provides strategic direction against the foodservice segment. Working across all departments within McLane, Susan leverages the strengths of the organization to develop optimal supply chain solutions for current and prospective customers.
Susan is active in the foodservice industry; currently she serves on the Women’s Foodservice Forum Board of Directors, National Restaurant Association Board, National Restaurant Educational Foundation Board, Restaurant Leadership Conference Advisory Board and Arby’s Foundation Board.
Susan started her career in food distribution with PepsiCo Food Systems, as Vice President of Operations and was promoted to Senior Vice President, National Accounts and then her current position with the acquisition by McLane Company. Previously, Susan was in the chemical manufacturing industry with Occidental Chemical Company, Rhone-Poulenc and DuPont de Nemours, Inc. She has a degree in Biomedical Engineering and an MBA, both from Vanderbilt University.
Denny Marie Post