Dine America, the annual “Executive Idea Exchange” for leaders in the restaurant and foodservice sectors, released the agenda for its 2011 conference. The conference will take place October 9-11, 2011, at the Intercontinental Buckhead in Atlanta.

The conference schedule includes keynote addresses, breakout sessions, and networking opportunities, including an offsite party.

Industry (and Twitter) celebrity Kat Cole kicks off the 2011 conference with an energetic and frank look at how to work to your full potential and build the best team possible. Cole, now president of Cinnabon, has 15 years of industry experience, including having been Cinnabon’s COO and vice president of training and development for Hooter’s of America.

“Kat is our keynote speaker on the first day, and I think she’s going to do a dynamite job of really kicking things off,” says Greg Sanders, director of the Dine America conference and group publisher of Food News Media. “Her knowledge aside, I think her personality is going to bring a lot to the table.”

Also speaking on day one is Stew Leonard, Jr., president of Stew Leonard’s Dairy Stores. His Northeast chain is often referred to as the “Disney of Retail,” a title earned by his Golden Rule: The customer is always right. Leonard shares with attendees how their brands can achieve the same unwavering customer service.

On day two, Gregg Lederman, a branding expert, and Michelle Gass, president of Seattle’s Best Coffee, will address the audience. Lederman has made it his personal mission to dramatically improve people’s lives by positively enhancing work cultures and the customer experience while increasing the company’s profitability.

As leader of a 40-year-old coffee company, Gass is charged with turning the Starbucks Corp. brand into a $1 billion enterprise. She will share exclusively with attendees how the Seattle’s Best brand is leveraging multiple touch points to connect with consumers and beat out the competition.

“One of the things that makes Dine America unique is it has a really nice mix on the agenda of industry-specific insight, but also some outside-of-the-box thinking and insight from other industries,” Sanders says. “When you look at our four keynoters, maybe this year we’ve done a better job than ever of striking a balance between top names and top insight from the industry.”

Other events include breakout sessions each day that focus on different topics vital to the industry. “The Young Guns” instructs attendees on how to position their brands to attract second-generation franchisees who are ditching traditional brands in favor of more niche fast casuals.

“Does a Celebrity Spokesperson Really Drive Sales?” asks whether the long-held marketing practice really works. Brands that have decided for and against the celebrity strategy help attendees find out what is right for their companies.

“It’s going to give people the opportunity to look at some of the niche elements of their business and see if they’ve got ways to optimize their standard business model,” says Don Fox, CEO of Firehouse Subs and board member of Dine America.

The conference also includes a networking lunch each day, as well as cocktail receptions on Sunday and Monday and an offsite party on Monday evening.

“What pushes Dine America over the edge, so to speak, is the networking. It’s a small conference. This isn’t like the NRA show where you’ve got 50,000 people trudging around a trade show floor. This is 150-200 people in a pretty intimate atmosphere,” Sanders says.

“We’ve always branded Dine America as an executive idea exchange, and I think that’s right on,” Sanders says. “It’s about learning, but the learning doesn’t just happen from the person standing up on the stage. It happens with the person you’re sitting next to or sharing a drink with or coffee with.”

“It’s an excellent size conference for people to really be able to network and interact with their peers,” Fox says. “It’s a little more intimate than other conferences, and I highly encourage people to attend.”

If you would like to register for the conference, go to http://dineamerica.us/registration. For more information on Dine America or the 2011 agenda, visit http://dineamerica.us/.

Business Advice, Fast Casual, News, Cinnabon, Firehouse Subs, Seattle's Best