Executive Insights | May 2012 | By Morgan Bolling and Sonya Chudgar

Top Movers & Shakers Under 30

These 15 innovators have successfully built companies, operated franchises, and developed food trucks before even celebrating their 30th birthdays.

What’s hot in foodservice?

Ask the entrepreneurs of the Millennial generation. Their ideas reflect Gen Y values such as sustainability, nutrition, and charitable giving.

Their dedication is unwavering. Mary Lemmer skipped her high school prom to go to the Northeast and research Italian water ice. Seth Priebatsch debuted his first online company—he admits it was a complete failure—at 12, and kept conceiving ideas until one stuck. Deepti Sharma kissed law school goodbye when an all-night study session inspired an ordering website for food trucks.

They frequently play dress-up. As Bradley Newberger says, “Somebody once told me, if you ever want to be an entrepreneur, you have to be able to wear a lot of hats, and I think I have a closet full of about a thousand hats.”

Age is no barrier. Investors love the high energy of young entrepreneurs. And when people don’t take them seriously, as 25-year-old Sharma says, “you take that as a way to put it back in their face and say, ‘Just because I don’t have 20 years of experience in the field doesn’t mean I can’t make it.’”

Our Choices for Top Young Entrepreneurs in the Restaurant Industry

Deepti Sharma

Founder and CEO / foodtoeat.com

Bailey McGuire

Franchisee / Mooyah

Christos Marafatsos & Kosta Dionisopoulos

Founders and Owners / Delta Produce

Misa Chen & Jennifer Green

Founders / Nom Nom Food Truck

Mary Lemmer

Owner / Iorio’s Gelateria

Melissa Chen

Digital Marketing Specialist / Tavistock Restaurants

Bradley Newberger

President & Cofounder / Ambiance Radio

Dain Pool & Jonathan Wagner

Founders / Two Trucks LLC

Seth Priebatsch

Chief Ninja / Levelup

Jonathan Neman, Nicolas Jammet & Nathaniel Ru

Founders / Sweetgreen

Plus: Five Who Just Missed the Age Cut

Deepti Sharma

Founder and CEO / foodtoeat.com

Age: 25

FoodtoEat overhauls online ordering. The website features 350 restaurants in New York and 40 food trucks—the first service of its kind to align with street vendors. Patrons can jump the line when they arrive to pick up orders, and, unlike competitors like Grubhub and Seamless, which charge restaurants up to 15 percent of the total order, FoodtoEat charges a flat 10 cents.

“Restaurants are a very high-risk business,” Sharma says. “If a restaurant doesn’t survive within its first year, they usually just shut down. And we’ve had that happen with two or three of our restaurants. Our pricing model is helping them to be able to sustain their business.”

In the summer of 2008, FoodtoEat was a far-flung possibility. Sharma had just graduated from Stony Brook University in New York and was preparing to take a job at a consulting firm in Washington, D.C., while studying for the LSAT. But papers she’d written on restaurant operations swirled in her head, and, living in Long Island, she was inundated with food trucks everywhere she walked.

“I kept thinking, what can I do, what kind of combination of a business can I run?” she says.

In late 2010, she hired a firm in Delhi, India, to design FoodtoEat. While technicians worked out the digital design, Sharma set out to get food trucks on board.

“It was a battle,” she says. “They were like, ‘No, I don’t want to work with you because I don’t trust you. Are you going to take my money from me?’ But slowly we were able to prove ourselves to them.”

FoodtoEat beta-launched in June 2011, and Sharma is now eyeing expansion into Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and the West Coast.

As for her abandoned law degree? “I should probably do something part-time,” she says. “Maybe a JD/MBA.”

Baily McGuire (far left) with Crew Members

Bailey McGuire

Franchisee / Mooyah

Age: 27

Tired of the corporate world of sports marketing, McGuire left to pursue his lifelong dream of starting his own business in June 2011.

McGuire and business partner, Frank Sciuto, opened their Mooyah franchise in the small town of Burleson, Texas, to avoid the over-saturated “better burger market” of Fort Worth.

Originally, McGuire had no plan of opening a franchise.

“I didn’t even have any intention of entering the foodservice industry,” McGuire says. “However, now I can’t imagine what it would have been like during those first months to not be able to pick up the phone and call [Mooyah corporate] after a rough day.”

McGuire has succeeded by being persistent.He apprenticed at a local Mooyah store for free to learn the ins and outs of the company. He then was unrelenting when getting funding for his franchise.

“We had to meet with nine banks before we could convince one to work with us,” he says.

With the business up and running, he is still bound by the strict guidelines of a start-up. Using diligent social media and word-of-mouth marketing, he saves money on advertising while working toward his lofty goal of $19,500 in transactions per week.



I was actually approached by a licensing group retained by Johnsonville Sausage to come up with a plan to license food trucks to carry Johnsonville product and display their brand on the trucks.I came up with a better idea and that was to either have corporate owned or franchise vehicles offering a gourmet Johnsonville menu. The licensing group had Mrs. Stayed contact me directly and we hit it off from there. Shelly Stayer and I worked closely together with Jon.After having the Stayed Family review my plan, I decided to bring the Pool Group in as an operating partner to assist and help complete the branding and launch.

Yeah, I also believe that age is no barrier to become toppers because most of investors and market entrepreneurs love the high energy of young entrepreneurs.

What about the 17 year old from Champaign,IL started the Crave truck Belgian Waffles. cravetruck.com ?

Don't forget about therestaurantzone.com. Two 25 year olds made an organized, free and spam free classified page that specifically serves the bar and restaurant industry. It's easy to navigate and localizes a niche market. An amazing tool for any restaurant owner looking to for a great deal!

Food To Eat, really a Great concept & I am sure with time its gonna go greater. You have shared how most of the restaurants failed in there first year & that's very true......and what I found out , most of the time it happens Because most of the Restaurant owner give very less time & energy to create marketing msg & Marketing TOOLS what they Should... we at AppsChakra.Com keep improving ourselves to offer best tools to restaurant owners so they will have the right system in place for long term as well as short term success we create personalized mobile application with the feature created by marketers & for YOUR Restaurant & Needs in Mind.

At the age of 25 I started my own restaurant, Cheese Daddy, a grilled cheese restaurant. I'm in the process of opening a 2nd location. In my view, I think process can be repeated over and over by other young entrepreneurs. I created a blog, YoungRestaurantOwner.com to share some of my experiences with hopes of inspiring other young entrepreneurs to take the leap of faith of restaurant ownership.


Add new comment