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The Restaurant Finance Monitor’s annual Restaurant Finance & Development Conference is the restaurant industry’s premier financial event for restaurant company owners, operators and financial executives. The RFDC is a space destined to deep-dive into the business side of the restaurant business and an opportunity to get “up to speed” with what’s happening in the restaurant business and capital markets. Attendees gain key insight by attending expert educational sessions covering a wide variety of financial, economic, accounting, technology, strategy and restaurant operations topics. In addition to an excellent educational forum, attendees have the opportunity to meet with a wide variety of financial sources during the conference.

Year after year, owners, operators, executives, and board members from various multi-unit restaurant companies—whether public, private, franchised, non-franchised, or independent—send multiple representatives to the conference. This allows them to benefit from expert financial workshops, explore new expansion opportunities, engage in buying and selling restaurant businesses, and establish valuable contacts.

The diverse group of attendees includes owner-operators, partners, board members, CFOs, controllers, and senior executives specializing in finance, operations, development, legal, real estate, and franchising. The conference also extends invitations to lenders, investment bankers, real estate developers, accountants, attorneys, private and public equity investors, consultants, family offices, and other firms with investments in the restaurant industry.

Recognizing significant contributions within the industry, the Restaurant Finance Monitor featured our very own Kamal Singh's story of growth in an in-depth article, along with other publications, such as the June/July issue of Franchise Times Magazine. As Emerge continues to thrive, Singh, the CEO, was once again called upon by the Restaurant Finance Monitor to participate in discussions, acknowledging his role as an important and influential young entrepreneur.

In a session at the conference, held on November 13-15 in Bellagio, Las Vegas, a panel of speakers called "4 Under 40: The New Breed of Multi-Concept Franchise Operators Committed to Rapid Growth" was led by Michael Eagen, Synovus Bank Senior Director. Four influential and successful restaurant owners under the age of 40 shared valuable insights:

Shehzaan Chunara, Vice President at Chunara Group of Companies:

Shehzaan earned his undergraduate and graduate business degrees from Emory’s Goizueta School of Business. Since graduating in 2014, he has dedicated himself to the family business, currently serving as the Vice President of Development for the Chunara Group of Companies. In this role, he oversees the expansion of the family’s partnerships with brands such as Dunkin Brands, Checkers, Popeyes, Churchs, Take 5 Oil, My Eye Lab, and recently, Kale Me Crazy. Shehzaan's mission is to foster the growth of operating partners within the Chunara family, providing them with the resources needed for the retention and success of their restaurant-level team members. Additionally, he manages the expansion of the family’s real estate holding company.

Nick Rhoads, Co-Founder & Managing Partner at Heritage Partners Group:

Nick co-founded Heritage Partners Group, a principal investment firm and holding company focused on acquiring, building, and growing enduring businesses and consumer brands. With investments in Wendy’s and Papa John’s, Heritage is recognized as a leading franchisee in the industry. Before Heritage, Nick held positions at Goldman Sachs and Fidelity Investments, achieving recognition as a top producer. He serves on the board of directors of Family Office Exchange and has been a guest lecturer at Columbia Business School and the University of Maryland.

With 60 Wendy’s and 36 Papa John’s, Heritage Partners Group is proudly ranked number 136 in 2023’s Monitor 200®.

Mike James, Founder & CEO of Guernsey Holdings:

Mike is the visionary leader behind Guernsey Holdings, bringing over a decade of experience in restaurant franchising, mergers & acquisitions, and commercial real estate. A graduate of the Arygos School of Business and Economics, Mike resides in Los Angeles, California, guiding his company in its vision, growth, and strategic partnerships.

With 87 Sonic Drive-In and 38 Little Caesars under the belt, Guernsey Holdings ranked 92nd in 2023’s Monitor 200®.

Kamal Singh, Founder & President of Emerge! Inc.:

Kamal, the CEO of Emerge! Inc., commenced his entrepreneurial journey as a single-unit franchisee in 2009. Since then, he has evolved into a prominent franchise operator, overseeing 130+ restaurants spanning four states. His diverse portfolio encompasses renowned brands such as Sonic Drive In, KFC, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, Baskin Robbins, Bullritos Tex-Mex, Auntie Anne’s, Nestle Toll House, Cinnabon, and Lenny's Sub Shop.

Kamal's remarkable success is underscored by Emerge!'s impressive $170 million top-line revenue and its recognition as the sixth-fastest-growing private company in Houston in 2019. Leading a team of over 5,000 individuals, Kamal places a strong emphasis on employee empowerment and leadership. His commitment to community involvement is exemplified by Emerge! Inc. being acknowledged as the largest donor to Autism Speaks in Texas in 2018.

In a league of accomplished entrepreneurs, Kamal distinguishes himself by his journey of building a business from the ground up. Through strategic decisions, he transformed his initial Lenny’s unit, where he first started, into an impressive 168 units featuring top-tier brands. This accomplishment firmly establishes him as one of the most significant and influential young owners in the restaurant group industry today.

Kamal stands out among the panelists with a unit count of 48 Sonic Drive-In, 48 Pizza Hut, 23 Taco Bell and 18 KFC, granting him the 88th position in 2023’s Monitor 200®.

During the conference, all panelists had the opportunity to share about the finance background that led to their current success, as well as their methodologies regarding capital sourcing, promoting equity and finding commercial real estate, rating best corporate franchisors and evaluating new profit concepts. Internal vs external development in the line of management was also discussed with vast differences among the panelist’s approaches; a people-driven approach ever present in Emerge’s selection process:

As the curtains closed on the latest Restaurant Finance & Development Conference at Bellagio, Las Vegas, its profound impact on the restaurant industry became evident. This annual financial gathering consistently proves indispensable for owners, operators, and financial minds, offering deep insights and fostering collaborations. From spotlighting industry contributors like Kamal Singh to featuring a panel of under-40 trailblazers, the conference stands as a dynamic hub of diverse perspectives. These young entrepreneurs, adept at navigating multiple concepts and resources, share strategies for growth in unpredictable times. Their stories resonate with the resilient spirit of the restaurant industry, and the conference remains a vital catalyst for propelling it into new realms of possibility.

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