Restaurateurs Danny Meyer and Pinky Cole to share the stage for keynote at the National Restaurant Association Show

The 2023 event, scheduled for May 20-23, will put the spotlight on innovation and what's next for the restaurant and hotel industry.
Danny Meyer Pinky Cole
Danny Meyer is the founder and executive chair of Union Square Hospitality Group, and Pinky Cole is the founder and CEO of Slutty Vegan. / Photo courtesy of the respective companies.

Two of the most headline-driving names in the foodservice industry will keynote the National Restaurant Association Show in Chicago this year: New York restaurateur Danny Meyer and Slutty Vegan founder and CEO Pinky Cole.

The Show, which is scheduled for May 20-23 at McCormick Place, is the largest restaurant and hotel trade show in the U.S. and has been held for more than 100 years. The global event is owned and operated by Winsight LLC in partnership with the National Restaurant Association.

Meyer, who literally wrote the book on hospitality used by many in the industry (“Setting the Table”), is the founder, former CEO and current executive chair of Union Square Hospitality Group. He founded the group at age 27 with the opening of Union Square Café in 1985, followed by Gramercy Tavern in 1994.

Now the group operates a portfolio of concepts, including Blue Smoke, The Modern at the Museum of Modern Art, Maialino, Marta and Ci Siamo, among others, as well as the more-casual Daily Provisions. Meyer also founded Shake Shack, which was born of USHG in 2004 and was spun off as a public company in 2015.

In addition, Meyer launched Enlightened Hospitality Investments, a strategic investment platform dedicated to driving growth for brands aligned with USHG values. Last year, the Atlanta-based concept Slutty Vegan won a $25 million investment led by Meyer’s Enlightened Hospitality Investments and New Voice Fund.

Cole first launched Slutty Vegan in 2018 as a plant-based concept with playfully named sandwiches, such as the One Night Stand, the Fussy Hussy and the Side Heaux. First launched as a food truck, the chain now has seven brick-and-mortar locations with more growth planned, and the company is valued at more than $100 million.

Cole is also celebrated as a game changer in the industry, in part for injecting a strong positive culture of empowerment into the brand. She launched the Pinky Cole Foundation to help build generational wealth for communities of color, and offer education and networking to other entrepreneurs.

The keynote address is scheduled for May 21 at 2 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.”

Also taking the stage will be National Restaurant Association President and CEO Michelle Korsmo, who will present a strategic industry outlook showcasing the association’s work to advocate for and advance the foodservice industry.

“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, in a statement. “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 Show will feature a presentation by industry data specialists Technomic titled, “Chart Your Course: Traversing What’s Next for the Restaurant Industry,” which is scheduled for May 22 at 1 p.m. Technomic’s Joe Pawlak will be joined by industry operators to provide insight into key issues, from labor and menu trends to innovation and industry growth.

Restaurant Business will also award its inaugural General Manager of the Year award to three top GMs from around the country, one each from limited-service chain restaurants, full-service chain restaurants and independent locations. 

More information and to register for the Show, visit nationalrestaurantassociationshow.com and connect with the event on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and TikTok.

Restaurant Business is also a Winsight LLC brand.

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