New York restaurateur Danny Meyer and Slutty Vegan owner and CEO Pinky Cole will headline the upcoming National Restaurant Association Show as the 2023 keynote speakers.
The country’s largest restaurant event will take place May 20-23 at McCormick Place in Chicago. In the keynote address, to be held on Sunday, May 21, at 2 p.m., the two restaurant visionaries—who have had entrepreneurial success both individually and in collaboration—will speak about the challenges and opportunities that paved the way for their business growth.
“We are thrilled to welcome Danny Meyer and Pinky Cole to the National Restaurant Association Show as our esteemed keynote speakers to share their strategies for success in building a diversified restaurant empire and leading the way for the next generation in the industry,” said Tom Cindric, president of Winsight Exhibitions, which owns and operates the show. “Meyer and Cole exemplify the dedication and ingenuity of so many within the industry and have also made it a priority to give back to their communities and to those just getting started in the business. Our hope is that show attendees will walk away with insights and inspiration to help grow their own businesses.”
This year’s event will mark the newest wave of foodservice innovation as the show continues to lead the way in showcasing the industry’s latest technology and equipment enhancements, solutions-driving operational efficiencies and the latest in flavor, taste and dining trends.
Meyer and Cole will share their vast expertise, business prowess, commitment to creating strong teams, and philanthropic and community initiatives.
The powerhouse industry leaders’ paths first crossed in 2021 when Cole collaborated with Shake Shack’s Harlem restaurant for a limited-time “SluttyShack” offer. Meyer saw first-hand the impact of Cole’s work—not only evidenced by the long customer lines but also in her ingenuity and leadership—and has since become an investor and mentor.
Meyer is the founder, former CEO and current executive chairman of Union Square Hospitality Group (USHG), the company behind some of New York’s leading dining destinations. Meyer’s restaurants and chefs have earned an unprecedented 24 James Beard Awards. Under his leadership, USHG has been highly regarded for creating positive work environments and mantras like “employees first” and “enlightened hospitality.”
In 1998, at age 27, Meyer opened his first restaurant, Union Square Café. In 1994, he launched Gramercy Tavern in a historic landmark building. Blue Smoke and Jazz Standard followed, offering real pit barbecue and world-class jazz music. In 2004, USHG opened the modern roadside burger stand Shake Shack. In 2005, it launched Union Square Events, a full-service catering and venue hospitality business, as well as the Roman-style trattoria Maialino, the farm-to-table coffee shop Untitled, and the American bar and grill North End Grill. In 2009, USHG launched the learning and consultant business Quotient.
In 2021, Meyer launched USHG Acquisition Corp., a strategic investment platform dedicated to driving growth for values-aligned companies and foodservice entrepreneurs like Slutty Vegan’s Pinky Cole.
As CEO and founder of Slutty Vegan, Cole is one of today’s most successful restaurateurs. Bringing vegan options and food awareness to Atlanta’s West End has always been a life dream of hers. From her beginnings in a shared kitchen to a food truck and, eventually, to seven brick-and-mortar locations (and growing), Cole has built an empire as the owner and visionary of the Atlanta-based restaurant. With a rotating menu and a standard two-hour wait to pick up made-to-order food, Slutty Vegan is considered a game changer, with revenues growing to $4 million within the first six months of its grand opening.
As an economic engine for Atlanta—as well as other regions of the country—Cole believes her business journey should help others along the way and, from the very start, has incorporated a strong positive culture into the Slutty Vegan brand. She is focused on building strong teams, empowering people to be entrepreneurs and helping make those dreams into realities.
Cole (in partnership with another philanthropist) is also dedicated to giving back to communities. She has paid rent for local businesses, paid the tuition of 30 Clark Atlanta students, provided coats to those in need, and supports the health and generational wealth of the community by encouraging Black males under a particular income threshold to get life insurance.
The National Restaurant Association’s President and CEO Michelle Korsmo will also take to the stage to present a strategic industry outlook showcasing the work being done across the Association to advocate for and advance the foodservice community.
“Restaurants, and the people who come to work in them every day, are the foundation of our communities. Danny Meyer and Pinky Cole’s commitment to serving great food and their communities is a model for the entire industry,” Korsmo said. “It is great to celebrate and learn from Danny and Pinky. The National Restaurant Association is proud to highlight the innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship that have been the hallmarks of our industry and most certainly part of our future.”
Additional details about the 2023 keynote session can be found here.
In addition to the keynote session, the National Restaurant Association Show will hold a featured session with Technomic, titled “Chart Your Course: Traversing What’s Next for the Restaurant Industry,” on Monday, May 22 at 1 p.m. In that session, attendees will embark on a journey through the future of the restaurant industry. Technomic’s Joe Pawlak and a Winsight Media expert, along with top industry operators, will provide insights on the key issues impacting the industry today—from labor and menu trends to innovation and industry growth.
For more information and to register, visit nationalrestaurantshow.com.