Idea Factory

ORA's Idea Factory featured Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption and the National Restaurant Association

Rita Soronen

Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption's CEO Rita Soronen spoke about the power of giving back to Ohio's foodservice industry on Wednesday, August 23. Soronen was one of two speakers at the Ohio Restaurant Association's (ORA) Idea Factory in Dublin.

For more than 30 years, Ms. Soronen has worked on behalf of abused, neglected and vulnerable children, providing leadership for local, state and national efforts working to improve the juvenile justice and child welfare systems, while striving to assure safe and permanent homes for North America’s children.

Leading the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, a national nonprofit public charity, since 2001, and the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption-Canada since 2004, Soronen works to find adoptive families for each of the more than 130,000 waiting children in the United States and Canada’s foster care systems

The Idea Factory brings together members of Ohio’s foodservice industry (restaurant owners, operators, managers and suppliers) for events centered around thought leadership. This meeting is exclusively for ORA members.

"The ORA Idea Factory is designed to bring innovation, thought leadership and chances for growth targeted at Ohio's foodservice industry professionals," said ORA President & CEO John Barker.

Hudson Riehle from the National Restaurant Association (NRA) provided attendees with a restaurant industry outlook.

As senior vice president of the NRA's Research and Knowledge Group, Riehle directs consumer, economic, market, human resources, tourism and operations research. He also oversees the NRA’s Knowledge Center, which provides information services to restaurant operators and researchers.

Riehle serves as an information source and spokesperson for the restaurant and hospitality industry.

ORA's Cincinnati Idea Factory

The Ohio Restaurant Association’s Idea Factory event was Wednesday, May 10 in Cincinnati. The event featured Coca-Cola Customer Marketing Manager Ashley Alexander and La Soupe Owner Suzy DeYoung.

​Sysco Cincinnati also provided food trend insights from their corporate chef.

The Idea Factory brings together members of Ohio’s foodservice industry (restaurant owners, operators, managers and suppliers) for events centered around thought leadership. The meetings are free to ORA members; $25 for guests and $10 for students.

Coca-Cola's Ashley Alexander

Ashley Alexander is senior customer marketing manager for The Coca-Cola Company. She will provide insights from the global beverage leader. She discussed the economy, consumer trends, demographic shifts impacting the restaurant business, evolution of “healthy”, branding, digitization and more.

Ashley is a brand and marketing strategy professional with more than a decade of experience within multiple consumer branded businesses, including restaurants. Her work has ranged from leveraging consumer and industry insights to inform brand strategy to collaborating with culinary and operations to drive menu innovation. She provides marketing expertise to national restaurant accounts headquartered in and around Columbus, Ohio, where she calls home.

La Soupe's Suzy DeYoung

​La Soupe is a French roadside soup shack that mixes the cooking talents of owner, Suzy DeYoung, with the comfort of a family table.

More than just a delicious restaurant, La Soupe has a variety of programs that are giving low-income kids and families a chance to eat well and learn how to make incredible soups. La Soupe provides several services that help distribute food where it is needed most; including: cooking classes, Chef Bucket Brigade Challenge, where talented chefs work with us to give back using their own or donated excess ingredients and with their therapeutic broths.

Cleveland Federal Reserve Bank economist and BlueBridge Network speaker highlighted ORA's Idea Factory in Cleveland

Leading business experts gave insights into the economy and reinventing your business at the ORA Idea Factory in Cleveland on April 5.

Our inspirational speaker was Kevin Goodman, managing director/partner of BlueBridge Networks. Dr. Joel Elvery, an economist with the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, gave an overview of the regional economy and community development.

"Kevin Goodman has been honored for his commitment to raising money for cancer research in Ohio," said ORA President & CEO John Barker. "His inspirational story, paired with Dr. Elvery's economic insights into the community, will provide an afternoon of learning for restaurateurs and other business-minded people in Cleveland."

The ORA provided updates about politics in Ohio impacting the restaurant business.

Donatos Chairwoman Jane Grote Abell and Market Insights Expert Casey Minton spoke at the first ORA Idea Factory event on Sept. 7

The Ohio Restaurant Association is hosted an event on Wednesday, Sept. 7 that featured Donatos Chairwoman Jane Grote Abell and Market Insights Expert Casey Minton at Red Brick Occasions in Columbus.

Jane Grote Abell of Donatos Pizza shared the Donatos story, then and now, and her 4 Cs to Success (Character, Conviction, Compassion and Courage) with an emphasis on changing with the times and new generations. Casey Minton of KCM Insights Consulting offered valuable insights on consumer and marketplace trends with a focus on the importance of demographics, economics, and food and dining trends.

Jane Grote Abell

A founding family member of Donatos Pizza, Jane Grote Abell currently holds the title of Chairwoman of the Board.

Over the last four decades, Jane has held a variety of positions at both Donatos Pizza and Jane’s Dough Foods, Donatos’ food service commissary operations. In 1988 with a degree from Ohio State University in Organizational Communications, and a strong passion for people, she was promoted to Chief People Officer and served in this role during the acquisition by McDonald’s in 1999.

​During the four years with McDonalds, Jane served as Senior Vice President of Development and maintained her role as Chief People Officer. In these leadership positions, she helped steer the company’s business strategy. In 2003, Jane was a major catalyst behind the decision to purchase Donatos back from McDonald’s. Following the buy back, in December of 2006, Jane was promoted to President and Chief Operating Officer.

Though Jane is heavily focused on the chain’s mission of promoting goodwill through product, service, principles and people, since taking over as Chairwoman of the Board in 2010, Jane has had time to focus on work outside of Donatos. Because her roots trace back to the first store on Thurman Avenue on Columbus’ south side, she and her family remain committed to the area’s success. Evidence of this was the $1.5 million donation that the Grote family contributed to help a city plan to revive the South Parsons Corridor. She has been an advocate for this project from its inception in 2012 and founded the Reeb Avenue Center, a social-services center housing 13 non-profits that focus on education and workforce development.

Jane is a member of the American Heart Association Go Red for Women and the co-chair for the 2015-2016 Go Red Campaign with husband Tom Krouse. She is a founding member of the Ross Leadership Institute and serves on the Otterbein Women's Leadership Advisory Council. She sits on the Board of Directors for Reeb Avenue Center, Action for Children, Experience Columbus and I Know I Can. She is also a member of the Columbus Chapter of the Young President’s Organization.

Jane has received a number of awards and recognitions. In 2014 she was named to the YWCA Columbus Academy of Women of Achievement, one of only 237 women so honored since 1986. In 2014, Columbus CEO Magazine named Jane CEO of the Year and Franchise Update Magazine listed her as one of the Top 24 Women in Franchising. Jane was also featured in CBS’s hit series Undercover Boss where she donned a disguise and went undercover in Donatos restaurants.

In 2015, Jane released her first book THE MISSING PIECE: Doing Business the Donatos Way. Jane’s book is the story of a classic American family business. It is a warm, insightful account of Jane’s lifelong education in leadership, authenticity and running a values-based business.

Casey Minton

Casey Minton is a Consumer Insights and Marketing Analysis executive with 20+ years experience in applying marketing research and analytics to generate impactful insights that drive strategic initiatives and build brands, working with names such as The Wendy's Company and P.F. Chang's.

Throughout his career he has excelled in identifying and representing consumer motivations and needs, and how these manifest themselves in behavior and affinity for brands/products/services. He recognizes that the key to a powerful insight is what you do with it, and prides himself on being able to parse through disparate data sources and crystallize insights into implications for action.

Minton's specialties:

  • Qualitative and quantitative marketing research methodologies and design

  • Brand positioning and consumer targeting/segmentation

  • Brand health/equity tracking and customer experience measurement

  • New product and concept development research and validation

  • Strategic/marketing planning and measurement

  • Sales analytics

  • Advertising and marketing communication effectiveness

  • Syndicated industry and consumer trend data mining and analysis

  • Guest relations

  • Pricing strategy and optimization

​This Sept. 7 event was free for Ohio Restaurant Association members.