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Solving Today’s Labor Shortage

About This Webinar

Finding – and keeping – the best staff has never been more challenging in foodservice. Whether you’re a chain operator, distributor or supplier, you’ve likely never been faced with an environment quite like this.

Join us June 3rd when DMA hosts the tenth edition of The Leadership Series and learn how operators are winning the labor wars through community involvement and cultural fluency.

Gerry Fernandez (MFHA) will moderate a panel of successful large and small operators (including Gail Sharps Myers of Denny’s and Ezell’s Famous Chicken founder Lewis Rudd), Kelli Valade will share Black Box’s very latest Workforce Intelligence data and Susannah Sellers-Ryan will offer the supplier perspective from PepsiCo’s Dig In program to partner with Black restaurant owners.

Who can view: People who attended or registered for the webinar only
Webinar Price: Free
Featured Presenters
Webinar hosting presenter
As President and Founder of MFHA - an educational non-profit organization that makes the business case for developing cultural intelligence in the workplace- Gerry has spent decades educating and advocating for the business benefits of cultural diversity and inclusion in the foodservice & hospitality industry. An engagingly energetic Speaker who practices “straight talk”, he travels across the US and internationally, bringing authentic perspective on building Cultural Intelligence that raises the topline, improves the bottom-line, and builds brands’ cultural authenticity. Gerry was named to Nation’s Restaurant News 2018 Power List of the 50 Most Influential People in Foodservice, “the definitive list of industry leaders who are not only setting trends today, but also shaping them for tomorrow."
Webinar hosting presenter
President and CEO of Black Box Intelligence
“Where your talents and the needs of the world cross; there lies your vocation.” Aristotle’s wisdom has guided Kelli Valade’s career since the age of 16, when she landed her first restaurant job as a hostess. It was there Kelli found the same hospitality, the same love of great food and the same connection around the table she’d experienced her entire childhood, cooking and eating Italian food around her grandmother’s kitchen table in New York. Kelli discovered early where her passion for life intersected with work, and she’s built a career living out that passion.

Determined to make a big impact on the industry she loved, Kelli worked her way through school, earning a bachelor’s degree from Binghamton University and an MBA from Syracuse University. She rose to General Manager of a local restaurant at age 21, then her people-first style quickly directed her career to Human Resources, where she led HR, Recruiting and Compensation for national chains like T.G.I. Friday’s and On the Border Mexican Grill & Cantina.

Kelli then spent over 20 years at Brinker International in various roles including SVP of Human Resource for Chili’s Grill & Bar, and later serving as Chief Operating Officer. In 2016, she became the first female President in the brand’s history and was responsible for 80,000 + ChiliHeads and more than 1,600 restaurants in 31 countries and two territories. In this role, she established a clear vision and bold strategies, cultivated a purpose-driven culture and executed the biggest menu change in the brand’s history, all with uncompromising dedication to the guest, and her team members.

In 2019, Kelli joined restaurant insights powerhouse Black Box Intelligence™ as the CEO and President. Black Box Intelligence is the leading provider of data and insights to the restaurant industry with a product suite that is the industry standard for operators seeking to achieve best in class performance. With the largest and most reliable set of real restaurant data in the marketplace, Black Box Intelligence currently tracks and analyzes more than 300 companies, over 2.8 million employees and over $75 billion in annual revenue.

To give back to the industry, Kelli serves on the board of the National Restaurant Association Education Foundation (NRAEF) and on the executive committee of the board of the Women’s Foodservice Forum (WFF). Kelli also served alongside her daughter Morgan on the Allen Chapter of National Charity League (NCL) and currently sits on the Board of Trustees for the Shelton School in Dallas. A compelling and passionate keynote speaker, she also frequently speaks to students and professionals across the industry, sharing best practices and lessons from her lifelong journey.

Kelli has been recognized often by the industry she loves. Nation’s Restaurant News added her to their Top 50 Power List in 2017, The Western Foodservice and Hospitality Expo gave her the Beacon Award in 2016 and Dallas Business Journal named her a Woman Worth Watching in 2013.

Together with her husband Don and their two children, Morgan (19) & Christian (17), Kelli has lived in Texas long enough to be called a native, but her heart (and her accent) remain firmly rooted in New York. You can connect with her on Twitter @kvpalooza, find her on Facebook or just follow the scent of the homemade meatballs. They’re worth the trip.
Webinar hosting presenter
General Counsel and Corporate Secretary of Denny’s Inc.
Gail is a skilled public and private company c-suite executive with 25+ years of business experience. She has deep experience in the board room of multiple corporations, providing key leadership in , multi-billion-dollar strategic acquisitions/dispositions, corporate restructurings and entity transformations. While continuing in full time employment, Gail is actively seeking a U.S. or international corporate board role that will draw on her considerable governance, compliance, human resources and regulatory experience.

Gail currently serves as General Counsel and Corporate Secretary of Denny’s, Inc., with operations in almost all 50 states, and approximately 4,000 employees. As a member of the executive leadership team of this public company, Gail is responsible for all of the company’s legal, compliance and government affairs functions. Gail’s board contributions include lead responsibility for oversight of the board governance process, setting of board agendas, and framing policies for board tenure, composition and recruiting.

From May 2018 to May 2020, Gail served as EVP, General Counsel, CCO and Corporate Secretary for American Tire Distributors, Inc., The largest, privately owned, tire distribution company in North America. While there Gail was a leader in the company’s restructuring transaction in 2018, and subsequent turnaround thereafter.

Gail previously served as a c-suite officer of Snyder’s-Lance, Inc. (LNCE), a publicly traded snack food company with manufacturing and distribution operations across the United States and Internationally. Gail was recruited to Snyder’s-Lance specifically for her mergers and acquisitions experience. She was charged with building out the legal department and was a strategic leader in all of the transactions the company entered into during her 3 years, including being a strategic lead of the negotiation and, subsequently, the transition teams involved with the Campbell Soup Company’s acquisition of LNCE in 2018.

Over the course of the last 16 years, Gail has led the legal, compliance, enterprise risk management, governance, government affairs and real estate functions.

Gail is a frequently sought-after speaker on leadership, strategy, governance and compliance. She is an experienced nonprofit board member, including with the Board of Trustees of the Blumenthal in Charlotte and as Chair of the Equal Business Opportunity Commission for Howard County in Columbia, Maryland.
Webinar hosting presenter
President/Co-Founder, Ezell's Famous Chicken
Lewis Rudd is President and Co-Founder of Ezell’s Famous Chicken. After waiting six years for initial funding, the family opened the first Ezell’s Famous Chicken store on February 3, 1984 in Seattle's Central District. Since opening, Ezell’s was featured in Esquire Magazine as the Most Life-Changing Fried Chicken in America and has made many famous fans including Oprah Winfrey, Rev. Jesse Jackson, Quincy Jones, Norm from “Cheers”, Danny Glover, George Foreman and the Seattle Seahawks. Ezell's Famous Chicken has grown to 16 fast casual locations with over 325 employees, and built a brand that is recognized nationally.

Rudd grew up in Marshall, Texas in a large family of ten siblings, with strong values. His first restaurant experience was as a teenager working three years for a local chicken chain, which sparked inspiration for Ezell’s Famous Chicken. Later Rudd joined the military as a mechanic, which provided him with leadership skills that would become extremely valuable as a business owner. After the military, he continued to work in the field of mechanics for Weyerhaeuser Company for three years. An entrepreneur at heart, Rudd also owned and operated a photography studio as well as a talent agency developing and managing local talent.

In 1984, the dream of owning his own restaurant business became a reality. Rudd and his family saw their mission as simple: Provide fresh and high quality chicken and good homemade side dishes, served with fast and courteous service. Ezell’s makes their signature dishes from scratch, daily at each location. The family-owned and operated company had nine of the ten siblings working at Ezell’s over the years, three of the family founders are still active in day to day operations.

With Rudd’s leadership, Ezell’s evolved from fast food to fast casual dining, added a catering division, mobile food trucks, delivery, and continues to implement technology in key areas of the business. Ezell’s Famous Chicken is now a household name in Seattle and developed a loyal following throughout the Pacific Northwest.

Rudd is very active in the Seattle community supporting many organizations. Since 1985, Ezell’s annually feeds attendees of the Martin Luther King Jr. marches in Seattle for free. The list of other organizations and causes Ezell’s has supported is long, including cancer research and Odessa Brown Children’s Clinic. Rudd volunteers to provide motivational speeches to schools, and has supported high school incentive programs to increase GPAs. Ezell’s supports the Seahawks & Mariners annual fundraising golf tournaments. As Vice President of Tabor 100, Rudd served on the Board. He also served on the Board of Trustees for the Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce. Rudd is on the University of Washington MBA board. He currently serves as Vice President on the board for the Alopecia Support Group.

Rudd is the father of two daughters, a granddaughter and grandson. He spends most of his free time with his wife of 38 years and enjoys cycling, roller skating, and golfing.
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