Vibe Conference, the premiere on-premise beverage conference for beverage executives, today announces the Jim Flaherty Industry Legend Award finalists and the Innovator Award finalists. The nominees each have a passion for the industry and have helped to advance it in significant ways. The finalists for both awards show unique and lasting contributions to the hospitality industry, enhance employee culture, act as leaders and mentors, and progress social issues, mental health, sustainability and inclusivity. Vibe Conference takes place February 26-28 at the Town and Country Resort in San Diego, CA.
Tim McLucas, Vice President, Bar & Restaurant said, “These seven individuals are stellar examples of the passion, leadership, and innovation in the beverage industry today. We look forward to announcing the winners at the Vibe Conference in February.”
Jim Flaherty Industry Legend Award Finalists
Wallace “Wally” Blair Doolin, Co-Founder of Black Box Intelligence: Previously CEO of Carlson Restaurants Worldwide and TGI Friday's, CEO & Chairman of Buca, Inc., and CEO & Board Member for La Madeleine & President of Applebee's, today Doolin is active on non-profit boards of Share Our Strength Emeriti and Community Wealth Partners. He also works with his company Black Box Intelligence to unlock potential in the restaurant industry through insights, knowledge, and experience. Doolin is an avid volunteer in Ethiopia, Honduras, and nationally through No Kid Hungry. He is currently focused on Talbot County, Maryland issues and is a volunteer at a food bank, farmer’s market, and shelter. Doolin and his wife established an endowment with the National Restaurant Association Education Foundation to award annual scholarships to minorities and women pursuing an education in the restaurant industry.
David Commer, President, Commer Beverage Consulting: Commer is an acclaimed beverage and hospitality industry expert and speaker with 40 years of experience in the hospitality industry. Commer Beverage Consulting has provided independent and unbiased beverage services and strategies to numerous clients, including TGI Friday’s, Red Lobster, Cheddar’s, Chuy’s, and more. He brings deep and diverse experience in all aspects of restaurant management and operations, and his operator background has been invaluable to creating successful beverage programs at TGI Friday’s.
George McKerrow, President/CEO, Ted's Montana Grill: McKerrow is a 40-year veteran of the restaurant business. He started his career when he purchased the Log Cabin Supper Club in West Virginia. He also worked for the Victoria’s Station restaurant chain, opened the first LongHorn Steakhouse, and successfully evolved that single location into RARE Hospitality International. McKerrow co-founded We’re Cookin’ Inc. with Gerry Klaskala and Ron San Martin. The group has two award-winning restaurants: Aria and Canoe. Along with partner, Ted Turner, McKerrow founded Ted’s Montana Grill and serves as president and CEO of the restaurant company.
Warren Thompson, Founder, Thompson Hospitality: Thompson began his career with the Marriott Corporation as an Assistant Manager at a Roy Rogers unit. Following, he pursued his vision of becoming a restaurateur and created Thompson Hospitality. He expanded the company’s interests into the contract food service arena and created Thompson Hospitality Services, LLC by forging a strategic partnership with Compass Group. Thompson has been recognized for his philanthropic efforts as well as his commitment to promoting diversity in business.
Innovator Award Finalists
Becky Boyd, Senior Director of Menu Innovation and Strategy for Bloomin’ Brands: With a passion for culinary and beverage excellence, Boyd spearheads the strategic direction for menu innovation and quality workstreams for Bloomin’ Brands’ casual dining portfolio of Outback Steakhouse, Carrabba’s Italian Grill, and Bonefish Grill. Boyd’s journey with Bloomin Brands started in operations as an hourly employee and has grown into a management position. She is a driving force behind the continued growth and success of Bloomin’ Brands’ beverage and culinary programs in the industry.
Indre Jasaityte, National Director of Beverage, BJ’s Restaurants: Jasaityte began her career as a buyer for BJ’s Restaurants. Today, she is responsible for managing supplier relationships, purchasing strategies and sourcing processes to enhance overall performance, analytics capabilities, and gross profit goals. She also creates a pipeline of new menu items and optimizes existing menu items in line with the brand vision and market research. Her previous experience includes employment at Yard House Restaurants, Thales, and Sephora.
Nichole Robillard, Chief Marketing Officer, Smokey Bones: Robillard is a results-driven marketing leader and her extensive experience driving growth for multi-unit organizations has been beneficial for Smokey Bones. Since launching the new brand positioning and campaign, “Meat is What We Do,” Robillard has achieved a record-breaking year for comparable store sales in 2021. She also oversees the beverage program and has been elevating the cocktail menu. Her efforts have helped Smokey Bones earn industry recognition and acclaim. Robillard has been instrumental in launching two new virtual restaurants and BiteHall.com, the first-of-its-kind virtual food hall.
The awards were judged by Vibe Advisory Council members. Winners will be announced at Vibe Conference on February 27.
Plan to Attend or Participate in the 2024 Vibe Conference, February 26 – February 28, 2024
To learn more about the latest trends, issues and hot topics, and to experience and taste the best products within the on-premise beverage community, plan to attend the Vibe Conference at Town & Country in San Diego, California. Visit VibeConference.com.
Contact us now to secure your program for 2024:
Donna Bruns, Sales & Sponsorships, (for companies A-L), Email: [email protected] Phone: 936-522-6932
Fadi Alsayegh, Sales & Sponsorships, (for companies M-Z), Email: [email protected] Phone: 440-454-0239