Restaurateurs Danny Meyer & ‘Slutty Vegan’ Pinky Cole to Headline National Restaurant Association Show® 2023
Foodservice entrepreneurs to share strategies for building best-in-class businesses, the power of hospitality and how to break rules to turn passion into profit
Chicago, IL – The National Restaurant Association Restaurant, Hotel-Motel Show®, the foodservice industry’s premier event, has announced that New York restaurateur Danny Meyer and Slutty Vegan owner and CEO Pinky Cole will headline the event as the 2023 keynote speakers. During the session, these 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. The National Restaurant Association Show will be held May 20-23, 2023, at McCormick Place in Chicago, with the keynote address taking place on Sunday, May 21 at 2:00 p.m.
“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. The keynote will inspire foodservice professionals from across the industry as Meyer and Cole 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 one of the most revered and influential foodservice industry leaders. He is the founder, former CEO and current executive chairman of Union Square Hospitality Group (USHG), the company behind some of New York’s best 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 Cafe, pioneering a new breed of American eatery, pairing imaginative food and wine with caring hospitality, comfortable surroundings and outstanding value. In 1994, he launched Gramercy Tavern in a historic landmark building. Blue Smoke and Jazz Standard followed, offering mouthwatering 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.
Cole, CEO and Founder of Slutty Vegan, 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 Cole. 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 incredible 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,” said Korsmo. “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.”
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. where 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.
As the global restaurant and hospitality industry’s premier trade show, the National Restaurant Association Show is the place to explore everything that’s happening in the hospitality industry, from the latest food and beverage trends to emerging technology.
Additional details about the 2023 keynote session can be found here. For more information and to register, visit nationalrestaurantshow.com and connect with the Show online on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and TikTok.
The National Restaurant Association Restaurant, Hotel-Motel Show is owned and operated by Winsight LLC in partnership with the National Restaurant Association.
About Winsight LLC
Winsight LLC is a business-to-business information, event and market intelligence company serving the restaurant and noncommercial foodservice, convenience and petroleum retailing and grocery industries. Winsight provides research and analytics, branding solutions, face-to-face opportunities, lead generation initiatives, and content marketing services through products including subscription data products, reports, research tools, research programs, fully custom studies, conferences, custom marketing services, meetings, print, digital trade media and tradeshows, including the National Restaurant Association Show.
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