Full Agenda

Tuesday, October 15

10:00AM – 3:00PM | Pork Competition | Competition Stage

ServSuccess: Develop Your Team, Win the Future
Sara Anderson | National Restaurant Association
Kenneth Ivory | Creative Dining Services
October 15 | 11:00 AM | Education Stage
Constant churn of talent drains time, energy, and money, detracting from crucial performance in the hospitality industry. Join Anderson and Ivory as they share how high-impact, targeted programs from the National Restaurant Association can improve employee recruitment, performance, and engagement, guiding you on a pathway to greater returns.


12:00 PM | Using Berries + Cherries for Savory Concepts and Unique Beverages | Spotlight Theater
Michigan grows 75 percent of all U.S. tart cherries and 20 percent of sweet cherries, making it 4th in the nation for sweet cherries and 1st for tart. The state is also among the top producing states for blueberries. Berries and cherries aren’t just for dessert — there are many ways to incorporate them into foods and drinks. Make the most out of these Michigan crops with savory concepts from sauces to salads, and ramp up your beverage program with infused spirits and simple syrups.


12:00 PM | Education Stage
Join Mike Fullerton, Brand USA Senior Director of Public Affairs, as he shares Brand USA’s efforts to attract more international visitors to the United States through their marketing campaigns that go beyond commercials but tell the compelling stories of the United States and all it has to offer.


1:00 PM | Keynote Speaker: Colleen Keating, COO, Americas, IHG | Education Stage

Colleen is responsible for leading the operations for more than 3,900 IHG® hotels across the region, further strengthening and cultivating relationships with owners, and overseeing franchisee performance support.

Colleen has more than 25 years of operational leadership experience. Prior to joining IHG in April 2018, she served as Executive Vice President of Operations for Davidson Hotels & Resorts in Atlanta, one of the largest privately held management companies in the lodging industry. In this role, she led all operations functions, including operations strategy and analytics, to deliver greater value to owners and investors under brands including Hilton, Hyatt, Westin, Marriott, Sheraton and Renaissance.

Prior to Davidson, Colleen spent 17 years at Starwood, where she led its franchise operations for North America, overseeing 264 full-service hotels across five brands. Colleen has held management and sales leadership roles in several hotels for Starwood Hotels, Omni Hotels, The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, and a franchise operator of Crowne Plaza® and Holiday Inn Express® hotels.

2:00 PM | Building a Plant-Based Breakfast Menu | Spotlight Theater
Reimagine your morning menu with innovative vegetable-centric and plant-based dishes, from bean scrambles to quinoa breakfast bowls, which are savory and nutritious. We’ll explore trending ingredients and cuisines that lend themselves well to breakfast — no eggs or bacon in sight!


Use your Online Reviews to Fill Your Business
Michael Thibault | DFY Marketing Systems
October 15 | 3:00 PM | Education Stage
As a 25-year restaurant owner turned review and online reputations expert, Thibault helps hospitality businesses make sense of the online review environment, and teaches how to use reviews to increase sales.


4:00 PM | STR Hotel Performance | Education Stage
Join us for a presentation on hotel industry trends.  This session will cover hotel performance for the United States and Michigan with a focus on major markets within the state.  In addition to past performance data, STR will share insights on new supply entering the market and their current 2020 forecast for the U.S. and Detroit.


4:00 PM | Making the Most of Mushrooms | Spotlight Theater
Experiment with Michigan's abundance of mushrooms, and incorporate them year-round in your dishes with these umami-packed recipe ideas.


Wednesday, October 16

10:00AM – 3:00PM | Pizza Challenge | Competition Stage

11:00 AM | Keynote Speaker: Jonathan Maze, Executive Editor, Restaurant Business Magazine | Education Stage

The restaurant industry finds itself amid the most disruptive era in nearly 40 years as technological advancement and demographic change wreak havoc on everything we thought we knew about how to run a successful restaurant. While most national brands have started to adapt with the help of professional data and consulting firms, who is looking out for the independent restaurateur?  

Jonathan Maze to the rescue! Join Jonathan for a summary presentation of what all is changing in the industry and why while offering real solutions for how you can successfully navigate to a safe and profitable harbor.  

Maze is the executive editor of Restaurant Business Magazine and a well-known industry reporter and commentator. He is the host of Restaurant Business’s podcast, A Deeper Dive, and is the author of The Bottom Line blog. He has also been quoted in several newspapers and has been a guest on CNBC and NPR. Maze is an award-winning journalist who has studied the restaurant industry for the past 13 years. Before coming to Restaurant Business, he was the senior editor of Nation’s Restaurant News, and spent several years as the editor of the Restaurant Finance Monitor. 


12:00 PM | Creating Holiday Plates with Plant-Based Proteins | Spotlight Theater
Move over turkey — learn how to incorporate plant-based proteins into your holiday dishes.


Ask the Experts — Live
October 16 | 1:00 PM | Education Stage
You’ve been reading the “Ask the Experts” feature in MRLA Magazine for years, and now it’s time for an in-person Q&A with the experts themselves to get all industry-related legal questions answered.  Submit your questions ahead of time by clicking below.
Submit Questions


1:30 PM | Incorporating Root Vegetables | Spotlight Theater
Root vegetables have long been relegated as a side dish, but today they are finding a place in the center of the plate. Learn ways to incorporate them into various recipes.

Be Found First: Online Searches
October 16 | 2:00 PM | Education Stage
In today’s world, we can use our vehicle or smartwatch to send texts and make calls, order dinner using an app, and even tell our phones “navigate to the best Italian restaurant near me.” Digital marketing puts you in control of your brand’s digital knowledge and it’s your job to take the wheel and steer. With the ever-changing landscape and so many different places to put your business data online, learn how to separate yourself from the noise to boost brand awareness and drive business growth online.


3:00 PM | Utilizing Michigan Potatoes | Spotlight Theater
Potatoes are great vehicles for bold and subtle flavors, making them fun to experiment with in the kitchen. An ideal substitute for people with dietary needs, learn how this humble Michigan crop can be elevated to signature dish status.