Human Resources & Risk and Safety

Network with restaurant human resources and risk and safety professionals.

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Human Resources & Risk and Safety Expert Exchange Conference

A gathering of professionals just like you.
There aren’t many of us: human resources & risk and safety executives working in the restaurant industry — specialized executives charged with attracting, retaining, and developing restaurant talent in a changing, challenging world. 
Once a year, at this upcoming conference, we get together face-to-face. We share insights and contact information, professional strategies and career opportunities — and all in a relaxed, productive environment. Don’t miss this opportunity. Register now to join us.
Operator Registration*
Association Members: $399
Non-member: $699
Room Reservation**
Deadline: January 21, 2020
Room Rate: $179/night + tax

*Sending your team? Contact us at to add their names and email addresses to your company's roster to ensure they receive the member rate.
The Human Resources & Risk and Safety group is thrilled to offer HRCI recertification credits, as well as PDCs towards SHRM recertification.

Conference Provider 2020
The use of this official seal confirms that this Activity has met HR Certification Institute’s® (HRCI®)  criteria for recertification credit pre-approval. (13.5 recertification credit hours will be offered)
SHRM Recertification Provider 2020
This program is valid for 13.5 PDCs toward SHRM-CP® and SHRM-SCP® recertification.

Take a look at our agenda!

Every session features subject matter experts accomplished in tough issues you grapple with every day. Some focus on the big questions: How do you engage and keep a prime workforce? Other sessions target specialized issues — from workplace safety to managing new regulations on employee tips. Most important: At meeting’s end, you’ll leave with new ideas, tools and resources you can apply back home … and invaluable contacts you can connect with later. Reserve your space now.

Wednesday, February 12
Noon – 1 p.m. Lunch & Sponsor Introductions
1 p.m. – 1:30 p.m. Welcome & Introductions
Mick Miklos, Program Director, Member Engagement, National Restaurant Association
Jen McGonigle, Director, People & Talent Development, PJW Restaurant Group & Human Resources & Risk and Safety Steering Committee Chair  
Dr. Emily Williams Knight, President & CEO, Texas Restaurant Association
Meet your restaurant industry counterparts at a gathering small enough for substantive conversations, large enough to attract top-level professionals from across the country. Plus, you’ll learn more about our Sponsor Relay, and get a big-as-Texas welcome to the Lone Star State.
1:30 p.m. – 2:30 p.m. Restaurant Industry Outlook & Implications on Talent Sourcing & Retention        
Speaker: Hudson Riehle, Senior Vice President, Research & Knowledge, National Restaurant Association
Count on it. Changing technologies, consumer demographics, labor-force composition, foods, and economics will impact our entire industry — while creating specific new challenges for HR and risk management professionals. How will America’s growing demand for food prepared away from home shape the issues you face? How will remote ordering and third-party delivery affect 
your workforce and workplace? This session reviews current data and industry trends to give you a window into the year — and decade — ahead.
2:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. Panel Discussion: What Happens to Safety, Risk & Talent in Periods of Low Unemployment
Moderator: Sara Anderson Bray, Director, Workforce Development, National Restaurant Association 
Stan Graham, Partner at Waller, Lansden, Dorch & Davis, LLP
LaQuenna Johnson, Regional Leader – Crew Relations, Raising Canes
Ty Miyahara, Field Human Resource Manager, Peter Piper Pizza  
Experts set the stage for the conference’s later sessions by focusing on the growing, critical importance of sourcing, training, and retaining talent. Based on panelists’ on-point experience and on the Association’s research, this thought-provoking discussion explores the link between employee engagement and both turnover and risk management, stimulating new creative ideas for meeting these dual challenges.
3:30 p.m. – 4 p.m. Networking Break 
4 p.m. – 5 p.m. Keynote Presentation: Rock the Employee Experience
Speaker: Mike Bensi, Founder & President,  Bensi & Company
Discover impactful - yet simple - ways to help your company better attract and grow talent. 
5:30 p.m. Opening Reception 
An ideal opportunity to connect with your fellow attendees — a select group of restaurant industry human resources & risk and safety professionals just like yourself.
Thursday, February 13
7 a.m. – 8 a.m. Breakfast
8 a.m. – 9 a.m. Igniting a Team of Top Performers
Speaker: TJ Schier, President, SMART Restaurant Group 
Schier will share where to best spend recruiting resources to attract the ideal candidates with minimal investment; Explore effective training techniques that cost very little yet resonate with this generation of employee and how to gain incentive ideas to motivate the team to improve service, build sales and raise profits. 
9 a.m. – 10:30 a.m. Workforce Development Solutions 
9 a.m. –  9:20 a.m. Helping Transitioning Employees Thrive
Speaker: Edward Walden, Director, Military Programs, National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation
Hiring individuals reentering the workforce from military or justice-involved populations is the first step. Developing and keeping them at their most productive is the next. Learn strategies for acknowledging and valuing previous experience and training, recognizing stereotypes among co-workers, and creating work environments that enable transitioning populations to thrive. 
9:20 a.m. - 10:30 a.m. Training and Retention Tools
Speaker: Sara Anderson Bray, Director, Workforce Development, National Restaurant Association
Explore key drivers that make employees want to start working for you and stay longer. This session covers new competency-based career paths and training solutions, and the value to your business of professional credentials. Included is an update on ServSuccess™, a proven hub of industry training resources and tools for driving retention and improving performance.
10:30 a.m. – 11 a.m. Networking Break
11 a.m. – 11:45 a.m. Business Meeting 
(Closed Session – National Restaurant Association Operators-Members only)
Speaker: Mick Miklos, Program Director, Member Engagement, National Restaurant Association 
Members of the Association’s Human Resources & Risk and Safety Executive Study Group are invited to elect representatives to fill currently vacant seats and help get our 2020 transition to an Expert Exchange off to a good start.
11:45 – 12:45 p.m. Lunch 
Human Resources Breakout Sessions
1 p.m. – 2 p.m. State Employment Laws: Legislative Update with Cannabis Laws Deep Dive
Angelo Amador, Senior Vice President of Legal Advocacy & Regulatory Counsel, National Restaurant Association
Mike Whatley, Vice President, State & Local Affairs, National Restaurant Association
A number of new state and local laws are turning the tables on employee hiring, firing, and compensation policies. Learn about 2019-2020 trends on tip credit, minimum wage, scheduling and other laws impacting the workforce. And, join the presenters for a deep dive into the increasingly complex interaction between state marijuana laws and employment laws.
2 p.m. – 3 p.m. Benefits Panel – How to Provide More & Cost Less
Jen McGonigle, Director, People & Talent Development, PJW Restaurant Group
Mark Senior, Senior Vice President, Marsh & McLennan Agency 
Clinton Wolf, Senior Vice President, National Restaurant Association               
Aaron Frazier, Director, Healthcare Policy, National Restaurant Association
Our expert panel discusses new ways you can structure health and prescription drug plans to reduce premiums — even at a time when premiums are creeping up. Discover cost-saving options such as becoming self-insured, carving out your prescription drug benefit, and benefitting from mega-pool economies of scale through participation in the Association’s UnitedHealthcare program and discounted prescription drug card. Also: Learn how to avoid new reporting pitfalls under the Affordable Care Act — and penalties.
3 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. Networking Break
3:30 – 4 p.m. Workforce Solutions: Employment Placement for Individuals with Intellectual Disabilities                                                 
Speaker: Stephane Leblois, Senior Manager, Workforce Development, The Arc
Hiring people with disabilities is more than the “right” thing to do — it makes good business sense. Hiring people from the disabilities community can have a substantial positive impact on brand, corporate culture, and your bottom line. This session will give you a deeper understanding of why and how to launch a successful disability hiring initiative.
4 p.m. – 5 p.m. Apprentice Accelerator Meeting 
Speaker: John Shortt, Director, Program Development, National Restaurant Association
What makes this age-old workforce development strategy successful with today’s restaurant employees? Learn from the NRAEF's Restaurant Manager Apprenticeship program — a program that’s trained 2,500 apprentices in the last 3 years, and has a retention rate of 90%. Presenters, including NRAEF program employers and apprentices, explain how apprenticeship strategies can improve recruitment and retention, and improve profitability.
5 p.m. – 5:30 p.m. HR Group Discussion: Employee Retention Ideas Facilitated audience discussion - YOU take the lead. 

What keeps you up at night? Armed with ideas from earlier sessions — especially how to retain employees in a period of low employment — you and your colleagues can exchange insights, dig deeper.

5:30 p.m. – 5:45 p.m. Closing Remarks & Adjourn
Risk & Safety Breakout Sessions
1 p.m. – 2 p.m. Creating a Culture of Safety 
Speaker: Kurt Leisure, Vice President, Risk Services & Asset Protection, The Cheesecake Factory, Inc. 
Getting your workforce to “think safety” can be difficult, especially during busy shifts. This session shows you how to get all your operations people on board — how to engage management in safety program objectives and hourly staff in follow-through. Also, learn how to turn injuries that do occur into a positive, safety-building experience.
2 p.m. – 3 p.m. Panel: Creating a Culture of Safety
Moderator: Kurt Leisure, Vice President, Risk Services & Asset Protection, The Cheesecake Factory, Inc.
Gary Lindsey, Partner, Hotchkiss Insurance Agency
Gerry Fernandez, President, MFHA

Lindsey Kramer, Manager, Safety and Security, Raising Cane’s
Following our “Culture of Safety” presentation, this panel discussion focuses on how you can make a safety culture a priority. Restaurant and insurance industry safety professionals share ideas and implementation techniques to create a program that earns employee buy-in.

3 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. Networking Break
3:30 p.m. – 4:30 p.m. Recovering Theft Loss
Lohra Miller, CEO, Turning Point Justice
Jenifer Arapo, Director, Operations, Turning Point Justice
What are the benefits of addressing employee theft by educating offenders and curing dishonest behaviors? This session explains Turning Point Justice’s Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) program. You’ll learn why restitution of theft losses is more effective when employees have access to education, and why behavior-changing therapy is an investment in your business.
4:30 p.m. – 5:30 pm Interviewing & Interrogation Techniques
Speaker: David Thompson, Vice President, Operations, Wicklander-Zulawski & Associates, Inc. 
“I didn’t know it was wrong.” “I thought I was entitled to do it.” “I thought I could stretch the limits of okay.” This session presents the Participatory Method of interviewing and interrogation, which relies on structured questions and strategic planning to obtain facts from subjects and a true understanding of their intent. You’ll learn how to prepare for interviews without disclosing evidence; how to apply the method to fraud, embezzlement, and policy-related investigations; and how, when and whether to go from fact-gathering to accusation.
5:30 p.m. – 5:45 p.m. Closing Remarks & Adjourn
6:30 p.m. - 9 p.m. Dinner Events
A few minutes’ walk from our meeting site is an entirely new setting for operator networking and conversation. Sponsored by the Marsh & McLennan Agency (MMA), we’re hosting an operator networking dinner at Texas favorite Gloria’s — located lakeside on Rockwall Harbor. Gloria’s features Salvadoran/Central American food with a sophisticated flair all its own. Please note, this dinner is reserved for the first 45 operator attendees.
Marsh & McLennan Agency’s dedicated team of specialists partner with hospitality organizations to offer the insight and guidance necessary to develop smart and cost-effective insurance programs. Through exclusive carrier partnerships, a national footprint, local and specialized knowledge and expertise in the hospitality industry, MMA delivers solutions that bring value while also minimizing risk.
Marsh&McLennan Agency Logo
Friday, February 14
6 a.m. – 6:45 a.m. AM Walk/Run
Agree that the best days begin with an early walk/run before breakfast? Join us!
7 a.m. – 8 a.m. Breakfast
8 a.m. – 9 a.m. Workplace Violence - The 2020 Realities of our Work Environment
Speaker: Adam Fiss, Shareholder & Co-Chair, Workplace Violence Prevention  Practice Group, Littler Mendelson P.C.
This session focuses on how to prepare for and even prevent the unthinkable. You’ll understand potential warning signs for workplace violence, the pros and cons of providing active shooter training, and how to respond to actual situations. Also discussed: using outside consultants for threat assessment, and deploying measures proportionate to the threat.
9 a.m. – 10 a.m. Panel Discussion: Realities of Work Environments in 2020
Katrina Grider, Of Counsel, Ogletree Deakins
Aaron Frazier, Director, Healthcare Policy, National Restaurant Association  
Adam Fiss, Shareholder & Co-Chair, Workplace Violence Prevention  Practice Group, Littler Mendelson P.C.
Jeff Murray, Protective Security Advisor, U.S. Department of Homeland Security  

Workplace violence, inappropriate background checks, social media minefields, mental health issues …. Welcome to the ’20s. Our panel, including a representative from DHS, provides a national perspective on making workplaces safer, employee mental/behavior issues that can affect the entire workforce, and where the line’s now drawn on privacy rights, marijuana, and social media activity.

10 a.m. – 10:30 a.m. Networking Break
10:30 a.m. – 11:30 a.m. Workshop: Emotional Intelligence – The Rocket Fuel for Peak Performance & Profitability
Speaker: Dr. Lisa Walker, Lisa Walker Coaching & Consulting 
Emotional Intelligence is about being able to successfully deal with people and your environment in a complex, ever-changing world. Through this workshop, you’ll come to understand exactly what Emotional Intelligence is, why it is a powerful leadership skillset, how to develop it, and how to use it on the job.
11:30 a.m. – Noon Closing Remarks & Sponsor Relay Winner

See below for details on the Sponsor Relay, winners awarded before the final gavel. (You don’t have to be present to win.)

The Four Diamond Hilton Dallas/Rockwall Lakefront Hotel
2055 Summer Lee Drive
Located outside Dallas within the exclusive lakefront community of Rockwall, our conference venue combines spectacular waterfront views and the highest quality amenities — all comfortably scaled to the select number of restaurant industry Human Resources & Risk and Safety specialists who qualify to attend. 
Important: Registration in the conference does not include a room reservation. You must make your own reservation via the link in your confirmation email. Please register for the conference before you make your room reservation.
Sponsor Relay and Raffle
We’re encouraging all Operator executives to visit our sponsors’ presentations. Have your Sponsor Relay passcard stamped by all sponsors, and your passcard may be selected to win the raffle prize of a Bose 700 Noise Cancelling Headphones, a $423 value. You don’t need to be present when the winner’s announced at the Closing Event to win.
Executive Study Group News
Members of our Executive Study Group stay current with the latest issues and solutions in Human Resources & Risk and Safety through our Listserv, or email discussion group. Even as we transition to an Expert Exchange in 2020, our Listserv connection will continue. Stay tuned!


Air Travel

We are pleased to partner with United Airlines for air travel to Dallas (airport code: DFW | Travel dates: 2/9-2/17).
  • MileagePlus members earn Premier Qualifying Dollars and miles for their travel.
You may also call United Meeting Reservation Desk at 800.426.1122
  • Monday – Friday 8:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m. Eastern Time
  • Saturday – Sunday 8:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. Eastern Time
Booking fees are waived for Meeting reservations. International customers may contact their local United Reservation Desk.


Hilton Dallas/Rockwall Lakefront
Hilton Dallas/Rockwall Lakefront
Registration for this event does not guarantee you a room reservation; you are still required to make your own reservation via the link in your registration confirmation email. Please register for the conference before you make your room reservation.
Deadline to book your room: Tuesday, January 21, 2020
Room Rate: $179/night + tax



Sponsorship opportunities are now available. If you are a product or service provider, you are welcome to attend the conference as a sponsor. For available sponsorship opportunities, please contact


ServSuccess Logo
UnitedHealthcare Logo



Corporate Cost Control
Donna Law Firm
Traliant Logo
Tucker Safety Products Logo
Waller Logo


Marsh&McLennan Agency Logo

Catch us in action

Contact us

For questions regarding the Human Resources & Risk and Safety Expert Exchange, contact Mick Miklos, program director, member engagement.