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Padma Lakshmi

Join Padma Lakshmi, acclaimed culinary expert and “Top Chef” personality, during the keynote session as she shares insights on: 

  • Culinary Excellence and Trends: Discover the importance of staying ahead in culinary trends and leveraging partnerships for innovation.

  • Collaboration in the Kitchen: Explore the value of teamwork in creating exceptional dining experiences.

  • Innovation and Creativity: Gain valuable perspectives on fostering creativity in the culinary landscape.

  • Celebrating Diversity in Food: Embrace multicultural flavors to cater to diverse customer bases.

Joseph Bona

Internationally recognized retail designer, Joseph Bona is President and Founder of Bona Design Lab. His extensive experience spans more than 35 years on six continents, providing him a unique perspective on global trends, as well as practical knowledge of how to adapt and respond to local markets.

Over his career, Joseph has directed design initiatives for many leading companies including: Shell, ADNOC, Copec, Puma, PetroChina, Sol, Arco/ampm, Wawa, Rite Aid and Sak’s Fifth Avenue. Joseph has been a frequent speaker at industry forums across the globe such as NACS, Global Shop, Euro Shop and IGDS, and was a featured expert on the History Channel’s “Modern Marvels” series bringing his knowledge of
convenience retailing to television.

His work has led to numerous international design awards with many of his projects being published in: CS News, NACS, Retail Vision, Global C-store Focus, VM+SD, Chain Drug Review and Chain Store Age Executive to name a few.

Jon Cox

Jon Cox is Vice President of Retail Foodservice for McLane Company, one of the largest distributors in America serving convenience stores, mass merchants, and chain restaurants. Jonathan leads McLane’s foodservice strategy for its retail customers, driving innovation and helping customers implement programs tailored to their specific goals.

Jon leads the McLane Fresh team, which oversees the McLane Fresh suite of foodservice programs including Cupza!, McLane’s award-winning beverage program, Central Eats, fresh grab-and-go products for all dayparts, and the groundbreaking freezer to oven program, Prendisimo. Jon also led development and launch of McLane’s Innovation Kitchen; a full-scale c-store showcase for customers to explore the latest in foodservice menu and equipment innovation.

Jon joined McLane in 2023 and has more than 25 years of extensive leadership experience across retail, grocery, and convenience store organizations including Giant Food, HEB, Target, and Sears Holding Corporation. Prior to McLane he served as Chief Merchandising Officer for Giant Eagle’s subsidiary Getgo Café + Market and WetGo.

Eric Hildenbrand

Eric Hildenbrand is Senior Vice President and Chief Strategy Officer of McLane Company, one of the largest distributors in the United States, serving restaurants, convenience stores, drug stores, and mass merchants. As Chief Strategy Officer, Eric advances McLane’s corporate vision and enterprise strategy, oversees the company’s business development activity, and leads its transformation.

Prior to taking on the role of Chief Strategy Officer, Eric served as McLane’s Chief Transformation Officer and General Counsel. As Chief Transformation Officer, Eric designed the company’s transformation goals and initiatives, built its transformation team, and led its change management efforts. As McLane’s General Counsel, he provided strategic legal advice on transactional, litigation, regulatory, and operational matters, with a focus on reducing overall legal and compliance risk while growing revenue and income.

Eric was previously a Senior Counsel and Compliance Officer for General Electric Capital’s Equipment Finance business. Before joining GE, Eric was a lawyer with Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP, specializing in defending companies and individuals in Securities and Exchange Commission, Attorney General, U.S. Department of Justice, and Congressional investigations, as well as conducting internal investigations for public companies. Eric also has experience in SEC reporting matters.

Eric has published articles on accounting and tax compliance. He has also guest-lectured on compliance and ethics at the Jindal School of Management at the University of Texas.

Eric focuses his chartable work on providing students with access to higher education. He is an active Rotarian, leading his club’s scholarships and educational activities and mentoring students in Central Texas.

Eric received his law degree from the Georgetown University Law Center. He received his undergraduate degree in political science from Muhlenberg College, where he currently serves on the Board of Trustees.

Eric, his wife, and three children live in Temple, Texas.

Farley Kaiser

Chef Farley Kaiser is Senior Director of Food and Beverage for McLane Company, one of the largest distributors in American serving convenience stores, mass merchants, and chain restaurants. Farley leads a team focused on developing innovative programs for quality food service in convenience stores. Her strategic vision and culinary skills have been instrumental in reshaping the c-store food landscape, most recently through launches of McLane Fresh and McLane’s Innovation Kitchen—McLane’s innovative retail foodservice program featuring high-quality, fresh food and beverage brands with on-trend products for all dayparts that can be customized for retailers any size.

Farley has more than 25 years of experience in the culinary industry. As a chef educator for more than 10 years, including a role as Culinary Department Chair at Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts, she mentored aspiring chefs and played a role in helping them start their own journey into the culinary industry. Farley jumped into the world of research and development as the corporate executive chef for Buffalo Wild Wings where she focused on core menu item optimization as well as innovative LTO development for the national brand. She then joined the team at Wawa where she was introduced to convenience store processes launching many menu items over the years.  After managing food and beverage for GetGo she then headed to McLane’s headquarters in central Texas, where she resides with her family.

Farley’s commitment to culinary excellence and innovation has made her a respected figure in the industry, driving the evolution of the culinary industry in the U.S.

Vito Maurici

Vito Maurici is Customer Experience Officer (CXO) for McLane Company, one of the largest distributors in America, serving convenience stores, mass merchants, and chain restaurants. As an industry-leading partner to the biggest retail and restaurant businesses, McLane buys, sells, delivers, and serves the world’s most beloved brands. McLane has more than 80 distribution centers across the country, employs more than 25,000 teammates, and delivers to nearly every zip code in the U.S.

Vito’s career spans 27 years as a sales and marketing executive. As McLane’s CXO, Vito drives the company’s commitment to innovation and customer experience across the enterprise, designing and implementing key strategies to scale current business, build new relationships, and add value enhancements to McLane’s extensive portfolio of products and services including private label, foodservice, and ecommerce programs.

Maurici joined McLane in 2016. Prior to CXO, he held multiple sales leadership positions, most recently as Senior Vice President of Sales for the company’s grocery division, serving customers across convenience, mass merchandise, drug, wholesale and club, travel, dollar, military and independent retailers. During his tenure, Vito has transformed McLane’s sales mission to focus on delivering solution-oriented services and driving sales while leading more than 300 teammates across the sales organization.

Vito is on the NACS Supplier Board, and before his McLane career, held executive roles at NJOY and Altria, where he successfully oversaw the strategy, execution, and engagement of new product launches, merchandising programs, and customer partnerships. He also led EMEA trade marketing efforts at Philip Morris International and was a strategic consultant to 7-Eleven.

Vito has a Bachelor of Science in Marketing and Management from Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business where he earned academic and athletic honors including the Big Ten Medal of Honor.

Maurici and his family reside in Austin, Texas where they enjoy traveling, hiking, sports, fitness, and volunteering in the community.

Michelle Patterson

Michelle Patterson is a sharp brand architect and communications executive with over 20 years of experience in strategic marketing and communications. She is the Vice President of Marketing and Communications at McLane Company Inc., one of the largest
distributors in America, where she shapes the company’s brand presence, voice and vision, leads go-to-market strategies for new innovations and manages internal and external communications. Her finely tuned instincts, bold ideas and entrepreneurial approach are steadily ushering the distribution and logistics giant into the
future.

Prior to joining McLane, Michelle co-founded ShakeWell Creative, a strategic marketing agency based in Austin, Texas. For seventeen years she led the agency as CEO with a focus on positioning Fortune 500, medium-sized, and non-profit companies for long-term growth. Michelle remains on the board of the agency and provides strategic guidance to the leadership team. She’s the Board Chair for the Pangea Network, an international nonprofit dedicated to improving the lives of women and girls through proven education and empowerment programs. Her passion for advancing women in leadership positions continues in her work as a founding board member of CSW, which formed in 2023 to drive positive change in the convenience industry.

When not in the board room or at the office, Michelle enjoys challenging hikes, long runs, birdwatching, devouring podcasts and books, and spending quality time with her husband, John and Boston Terrier rescue, Max. She resides in Austin is a proud graduate of the University of Texas.

Art Sebastian

Art Sebastian stands at the helm of NexChapter, Inc. as its visionary leader and CEO, spearheading a growth advisory firm dedicated to propelling the convenience retail industry forward. With an extensive background spanning over twenty-five years in retail and consumer packaged goods, Art brings a wealth of expertise to empower clients across retail, brands, and technology.

In his previous role at Casey’s, Art spent five transformative years steering the ship of Digital Transformation and establishing the Omni-channel Marketing Organization. During this tenure, he orchestrated the implementation of a world-class technology ecosystem, setting the stage for the successful launch of Casey’s leading loyalty program, e-commerce business, digital marketing initiatives, and retail media network.

Before Casey’s, Art served as the VP of Digital Shopping and E-Commerce, leading the Digital Transformation at Meijer. His leadership journey also includes a stint as the Vice President of Category Leadership at Kraft Foods.

Beyond his role at NexChapter, Inc., Art extends his influence as an advisor to technology startups and as a valued member of the Shoptalk Advisory Board. Most recently, Art was appointed as Chairman of the C-StoreTEC Advisory Board, a new platform introduced by CSP.

Chris Smith

Chris Smith is president of McLane Company’s Retail division, one of the largest distributors in America, serving convenience stores, mass market clubs, drug, dollar, and discount retailers. Chris joined McLane in 2021 and leads all aspects of McLane Retail, including 24 distribution centers, operations, sales, and merchandising.

Before joining McLane, Chris served as senior vice president and chief supply officer at Walgreens Boots Alliance, overseeing supply chain functions for 9,200 U.S.-based Walgreens stores through 16 distribution centers and 9,000 warehouse employees. Prior to Walgreens, Chris was the executive vice president and chief supply chain officer at C&S Wholesale. Chris also held senior leadership positions in distribution and logistics with McKesson Corporation, a Texas-based leader in healthcare.

Chris started his career in finance at Home Depot and transitioned to the logistics area of the business which set the course for his career. As a leader, he’s known for his sharp business acumen, approachable style and people skills, which he attributes to working for and learning from the best leaders and brands in the business.

Chris has a Bachelor of Arts in Economics from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and serves on Phillips Pet Food & Supplies board.

Gray Taylor

Gray Taylor grew up in the convenience store industry with the opening of the family’s first convenience store in 1963. Involved in the family 87 store retail business, Gray gained experience in all phases of convenience store and fuels retail operations, and pioneered consumer financial services in the convenience industry.

After his Market Maker experience on the CBOE, Gray returned to the family business to start a fuels retail business. He also founded a consumer banking service; the first retailer-owned electronic banking network.

Gray has more than 15 years of vendor experience, including global product strategy and executive leadership, for three of the world’s largest retail petroleum equipment and systems vendors and Vice President of Research & Technology for the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS).

Gray is Executive Director for Conexxus (www.conexxus.org), the industry’s technology and standards non-profit, where its highly experienced team leads the digitization of convenience and energy retail.

He also consults and participates with NACS’ executive team (www.convenience.org) on innovations, payment, and technology issues. Gray is the founder of TruAge, the AI (8112) project, and several other NACS initiatives aimed at improving the industry’s preparedness and innovation for the digital future.

Gray graduated from Denison University with a B.A. in Economics in 1981 and has received certification from all NACS executive programs. He lives in Georgetown, TX with his wife Rachel and their five kids – all in Texas Universities. He can be reached at +1 512.508.3469, or [email protected].