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Burger chain founder speaking at event

June 5, 2017
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Tom Ryan
Tom Ryan. Courtesy Smashburger

A fast-food executive known for creating the McDonald’s dollar menu, Pizza Hut’s stuffed-crust pizza and starting a now-international burger chain will speak at a local breakfast event this week.

Tom Ryan, Grand Rapids native and founder of Smashburger, will speak at a breakfast hosted by the Association for Corporate Growth Western Michigan at 7:30 a.m. Thursday, June 8. The event will be at Thousand Oaks Golf Club, 4100 Thousand Oaks Drive NE, in Grand Rapids.

Ryan will share insights on his business successes and struggles, how growing up in Michigan shaped his career and discuss the innovations keeping West Michigan prosperous. He also will talk about his “secret sauce” to “double-decker” growth.

“To grow a business into a national brand that makes an impact, you’ve got to have experience and a product that touches people in all walks of life — whether that’s furniture, retail or food,” Ryan said. “Working in familiar industries that we could make better, I assembled a team of very tenured partners; we were very well-capitalized and very focused on making a difference.”

Ryan’s background

After attending West Catholic High School in Grand Rapids, Ryan earned a B.S., M.S. and Ph.D. from Michigan State University.

He spent the majority of his career working in the fast-food industry and was the creative mind behind McDonald’s McGriddles sandwiches, fruit ’n yogurt parfait and dollar menu, along with Pizza Hut’s stuffed-crust pizza and pizza “lovers” line.

In 2007, Ryan founded Smashburger in Denver. The chain currently has more than 380 locations in 38 states and nine countries. Of those, Smashburger owns and operates 220; the rest are franchises.

Registration

ACG Western Michigan members and non-members are invited to attend. People may register online.

ACG Western Michigan

ACGWM, a business trade association, features speakers who focused on helping high-growth and mid-size businesses.

Last year, more than 860 attendees from 420 companies participated in ACG Western Michigan events, including the ACG Cup competition, Women in Finance luncheons, Outstanding Growth Awards, Young ACG and other networking and educational events.

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