A podcast that feeds food & beverage brands


Ep 81: Benjamin Calleja / CXO of Livit Design

Every eight hours, a new Livit designed restaurant opens somewhere in the world and Benjamin Calleja is leading that charge. As the founder and chief experience officer of Livit Design, he’s overseen the design of some of the biggest names in the hospitality industry, including Burger King, Applebees, Subway, Starbucks, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell and many more.

In this episode of Forktales, Michael and Benjamin talk about how great design can enhance brand performance, his involvement in an architectural marvel known as “The Line,” some of the biggest design mistakes restaurants make and how Livit created the most Instagrammed restaurant restroom in the world.

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Ep 80: Dan Rowe / CEO of Fransmart

Dan Rowe is known in the restaurant industry as The Chainmaker. He takes emerging restaurant brands and, along with the team at Fransmart, turns those brands into successful national restaurant chains. It’s a formula he used for Five Guys, Qdoba Mexican Grill and, more recently, Halal Guys – a thriving chain that started from a food cart in New York City.

On the menu in this episode of Forktales, Dan talks about what makes a good franchisee (and a bad one), the role of real estate in marketing a new brand, his recent project with rapper Pitbull and the question one franchisee asked that immediately ended a meeting.

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Ep 79: Jason E. Brooks / Founder of HospiVation

Jason E. Brooks is a coach, a motivational speaker and an author with a lifetime of restaurant experience. That’s one of the reasons he created HospiVation, a leadership coaching clinic that helps restaurants build better teams. It’s also why he wrote the book, “Every Leader Needs Followers: 10 Keys to Transform Restaurant Managers into Hospitality Leaders.”

In this episode, Michael and Jason talk about the difference between managing, leading and coaching (and why all three are important), how to motivate teams, effective training plans and why we suck at meetings.

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Ep 78: Emily Rugaber / VP of Marketing for Thanx

Why do so many restaurants fail to properly use data? What are the biggest mistakes restaurants make when designing loyalty programs? Two huge questions and Emily Rugaber answers them both. Emily is the VP of Marketing for Thanx, a leading loyalty and guest engagement platform for restaurants.

In this episode of Forktales, Emily talks about the most common challenge restaurants face when it comes to data, the problem with discount-based loyalty programs, and why personalized programs are so difficult.

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Ep 77: Betsy Hamm / CEO of Duck Donuts

Duck Donuts is one of the fastest growing donut shops in the nation, with 32 new locations last year and another 45 planned this year. The brand’s fresh, made-to-order donuts are a big part of that successful formula. Leading that growth is marketer-turned-CEO Betsy Hamm.

In this episode of Forktales, Michael and Betsy talk about the Duck Donuts origin story, what makes an ideal franchisee, managing rapid growth and why donuts really are the key to happiness.

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Ep 76: Jay Cipra / CEO of Broaster Company

If you live in Wisconsin and the surrounding region, you know broasted chicken and how good it is. And the only way to make broasted chicken is with pressure-frying equipment and ingredients from Broaster Company. Jay Cipra is the CEO of Broaster Company and one of the many people tasked with promoting and protecting that trademark.

On the menu in this episode of Forktales, Michael and Jay talk about global expansion, pressure-fried cheesecakes, the future of pressure-frying in the home and how a passionate consumer base can be a brand’s best police force when it comes to protecting a brand.

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Ep 75: Mark Schostak / Executive Chairman of TEAM Schostak Family Restaurants

Mark Schostak is the third generation of a four-generation family business that oversees 150 restaurants throughout Michigan. It’s a portfolio of culinary options that includes Applebee’s, MOD Pizza, Wendy’s and the company’s own brand, Olga’s Kitchen.

In this episode of Forktales, Michael and Mark talk about core values, the challenges of instilling those core values on teams spread across 150 locations, how to retain talent, why looking within to recruit high-quality managers is always a good idea and how to keep tabs on your restaurant’s competitors.

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Ep 74: Rob Grimes / Founder & CEO of IFBTA

As the founder and CEO of the International Food & Beverage Technology Association (IFBTA), Rob Grimes spends his time forecasting tech trends and helping brands apply those trends to stay one step ahead of the competition.

In this episode of Forktales, Rob joins us from the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas where he offers his thoughts on what’s hot (and what’s not) at CES, drones, robotics, the rise of electric vehicles, and why we should all keep an open mind about plant-based steaks.

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Ep 73: Andrew Glantz / Founder of GiftAMeal

Studies have shown that 84% of Gen Z shoppers are more likely to purchase from a brand if the brand gives back and 71% of Millennials would pay more for a product if they knew that some of the proceeds were going to a good cause. That’s the inspiration behind GiftAMeal, an app created by Andrew Glantz that makes a donation to local food banks when diners take photos of their meals at participating restaurants.

In this episode of Forktales, Michael and Andrew talk about cause marketing, the profits-with-a-purpose business model, entrepreneurial spirit and how GiftAMeal beat out thousands of competitors to win a $25,000 Amazon Business grant.

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Ep 72: James Passafaro / Co-Founder of opsi

James has 20 years of experience in the restaurant industry and a strong vision for technology’s role in it. One day, while working as a chef de cuisine in an overworked, frenzied and disorganized kitchen, that tech vision and the need to create a more streamlined and organized kitchen became the inspiration behind opsi.

In this episode of Forktales, James talks about how opsi is changing how modern operators manage restaurants. James and Michael also talk about robots in restaurants, elk recipes and the light switch moment as an 11-year-old that made James pursue a career in the kitchen.

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Ep 71: Dan Costello / CEO of Home Run Inn Pizza

Dan Costello oversees nine Chicago area pizza shops and a thriving frozen pizza brand as the CEO of Home Run Inn Pizza. That position gives him a front row seat in the battle for hearts, minds and stomachs in the Pizza Capital of the World.

In this episode of Forktales, Michael and Dan talk about brand storytelling, creating synergy between restaurant brands and CPG brands and, of course, pizza. Specifically, they discuss the origins of the Home Run Inn Pizza name, which meat tops more Chicagoland pizzas (hint: it’s not pepperoni) and whether deep dish pizza is really just a casserole disguised as pizza.

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Ep 70: Joseph Szala / Digital Guru & Bullhearted Author

Joseph is a vice president of digital experience, an author of multiple books about modern marketing and brand-building and a board advisor to restaurant tech companies and startups. He’s also the former host of Forktales.

In today’s episode, we meet the new host of Forktales, Michael Pavone (President and CEO of Pavone Group, which includes Vigor). Michael and Joseph talk about how to be a good podcast host, effective email marketing, the future of the restaurant industry and we play a game that tests Joseph’s knowledge of past guests and Forktales episodes.

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