september, 2019

25sep6:30 pm9:00 pmBuilding a Restaurant Startup


Event Details

Building a Restaurant Startup

Fast-casual restaurants are on the rise, with investors and entrepreneurs looking for the next break-out successes like Shake Shack or Sweetgreen (the latter of which just became the first-ever restaurant unicorn).

With the recent attention to new fast-casual restaurants, savvy entrepreneurs are figuring out the pillars that will put their restaurant startup a notch above all the others.

But building a restaurant startup isn’t easy. Restauranteurs have to give thoughtful attention to their brand, product, and team to edge out their competitors. Add to that they face unique challenges in their industry: the brick & mortar component, adherence to food & labor laws, and short-life-cycle inventory, just to name a few.

But for those that figure it out, they’ll find themselves among giants in the restaurant world, with beloved brands that make our hearts (and stomachs) full.

Join us on September 25th as we discuss what it takes to build a restaurant startup with some of the smartest entrepreneurs and restauranteurs in NYC. We’ll discuss

  • Hiring a team for a restaurant startup
  • Launching new locations
  • Leveraging technology for your restaurant startup
  • Marketing strategies for restaurants
  • Fundraising options
  • Building a scalable and unique brand

About the Panelists

  • Yong Zhao, Co-Founder and CEO of Junzi Kitchen. Yong was born and raised in Liaoning, northeast of China. He received a Bachelor degree in Life Science from Yuanpei School at Peking University, and then received a MESc and deferred his doctoral program in environmental science at Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies. Yong was the president of Association of Chinese Students and Scholars at Yale in 2010 and founded Yale US-China Forum with Wanting Zhang. In 2013, with two good friends from Yale, Yong co-founded Junzi Kitchen and has been leading the team as CEO.junzi kitchen 君子食堂 is a modern fast-casual concept that makes authentic and everyday Chinese food accessible. junzi combines Chinese culinary traditions and new ideas in a menu of bings, noodles and salad bowls. First opened in 2015 in New Haven near Yale University, junzi has locations in both New Haven and New York City. Located near Columbia University in Morningside Heights and close to New York University in Greenwich Village (introduced in July 2018), junzi opened the Bryant Park flagship in April 2019.
  • Caroline Sizer, Vice President, Investing & Portfolio Management – RSE Ventures. Caroline is responsible for sourcing, reviewing and optimizing business opportunities for RSE and RSE’s investment portfolio. She is also a Board Observer for RSE’s investment &pizza, a quick-service restaurant brand with over 35 locations across the East Coast. She helps &pizza’s management team with strategic planning, monitors trends in the fast-casual industry, and introduces new business development relationships.

    Caroline leads due diligence surrounding RSE Ventures CEO Matt Higgins’ restaurant investments on Shark Tank, where he is a Guest Shark. In addition, she oversees RSE’s partnership with media-marketing company VaynerX and serial entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk, leading deal processes for new investment opportunities and monitoring firm and industry performance.

    Prior to her current role, Caroline worked at Next Street Financial, a boutique advisory firm that provides financial and strategic planning services to small- and medium-sized businesses, enterprise nonprofits, and government entities. She began her career at Analysis Group, an economic consulting firm that provides economic, financial, and strategy consulting to law firms, corporations, and government agencies.

    Caroline holds a BA in Economics and Environmental Studies with a certificate in Community Action and Public Policy from Connecticut College.

  • Michelle Gauthier, Founder & CEO of Mulberry & Vine – Michelle Gauthier was born and raised in New Orleans, LA and graduated from LSU with a degree in Communication Studies. A serial entrepreneur, she owned a women’s clothing store in New Orleans then a furniture store in Manhattan before following her lifelong passion for food. She attended the professional program at the Institute of Culinary Education and 10 years later opened the first Mulberry & Vine in Tribeca in 2013. To date, Mulberry & Vine has four locations in Manhattan and one location in Brooklyn. Expansion plans include more locations in Manhattan as well as other markets. Mulberry & Vine has received numerous accolades and was named one of America’s Hottest Fast Casual Startups by QSR Magazine. Michelle is a full-time single parent to her two boys, JW and Rome, and lives in Tribeca, a stone’s throw from her first location.


  • (Guest Moderator) Lauren Hobbs, Founder of LEH Consulting – Lauren Hobbs is a business-driven brand strategist who works at the intersection of technology and hospitality. In 2017 she founded LEH Consulting with the idea that a “hi-tech for hi-touch” strategy can achieve real results across industries. Prior to LEH Consulting, Lauren served as the Director of Marketing at Union Square Hospitality Group, the award-winning family of businesses founded by Danny Meyer. Lauren led the team that shaped visual identity and storytelling across the company as it grew from 8 to 17 brands. She also created new ways to power hospitality with technology by leading cross-functional teams to leverage data and systems. This creative collaboration inspired Lauren to co-found TechTable, an annual conference that has brought together leaders in hospitality, technology, and finance since 2014.


6:30 – 6:50: Drinks & Networking
6:50 – 7:50: Panel
7:50 – 8:15: Audience Q&A
8:15 – 9:00: More Drinks & Networking


(Wednesday) 6:30 pm - 9:00 pm EDT


Betaworks Studios

29 Little West 12th Street