Founders of Haven Hot Chicken, Mahana Fresh, Pizzawala, Pucci Brothers Fresh Italian and Sankranti Indian Kitchen will take the stage on Oct. 9 to pitch their concepts to FCES attendees.

Following a global contest, five concepts have been selected to participate in The Perfect Pitch, FastCasual’s “nicer” version of “Shark Tank,” where restaurant founders try to convince attendees of the Fast Casual Executive Summit, being Oct. 8-10 in Louisville, that their concept is ready for growth.

After hearing a five-minute pitch from each founder, and listening to advisers grill the founders about their business plans and growth strategies at 9 a.m., on Oct. 9, audience members will vote on their favorite pitch. The winner will receive bragging rights, a $3,500 prize and six months of free service with Ovation, a guest feedback platform specifically designed for restaurants.

The 2023 finalists, which were required to have between one and 10 locations and be founded after 2018, are:
Founded: 2020
Locations: 4 in New Haven, Orange, Norwalk and North Haven, Connecticut
From the restaurant founders: Haven Hot Chicken brings Nashville-style Hot Chicken and Not Chicken to Connecticut as one of the first fully dedicated Nashville-style Hot Chicken concepts in New England. Serving chicken and its “not chicken” vegetarian option ranging from not spicy to very spicy, the menu is rounded out by traditional southern sides and seasonal limited-time offerings.
Founded: 2019
Locations: 7 in Brandon and Stuart, Florida; Toms River, New Jersey; Fargo, North Dakota; Idaho Falls, Idaho, Atlanta and Charlotte.
From the restaurant founders:Offers a large selection of make-your-own or chef-curated healthful bowls that tap into global flavors. Each bowl consists of a base that can meet any lifestyle choice such as lower-carb cauliflower rice, veggies such as honey Sriracha Brussel sprouts or garlicky cilantro green beans as well as a selection of proteins like ahi tuna. The bowls are finished with house-made sauce with diverse flavor profiles that range from creamy wasabi to newly added Mediterranean-influenced tzatziki.
Locations: 4 in Michigan and Illinois and India; a fifth will open in Ohio and a sixth in New Jersey by the end of the year.
From the restaurant founders: While we predominantly focus on fusion pizzas, we do offer classics such as cheese, pepperoni and margarita. Our crust line-up includes Pizzawala’s Original, and we’ve recently launched New York-style and Detroit-style pizza crust options to bring our flavors to our customers in more ways than one. We also sell a variety of wings, both traditional American-style as well as fusion, Indian-inspired flavors. To round out our menu, we offer a range of breads, including veggie puffs, a savory puff pastry made with a potato-based filling. A good majority of the menu can be vegetarian and/or vegan-friendly as well.
Locations: 1 in Ontario Canada
From the restaurant founders: With the increasing interest in ethnic cuisine, we believe that an upgrade is needed to the Italian segment of the foodservice industry, especially with regards to fast casual. The essence of most Italian cuisine is rooted in the peasant experience. Therefore, by emphasizing made-in-house products and utilizing traditional recipes that are quick and easy to reproduce, Pucci Brothers is trying to give our guests a more authentic dining experience, without the pom and circumstance of an upscale, full-service dining establishment.
Founded: 2022
Locations: 2, in Dunwoody and Atlanta, Georgia
From the restaurant founders: The menu boasts curry bowls, kathi rolls, pulao, kabobs, traditional appetizers like samosas, salads and desserts inspired by both the northern and southern regions of India. Protein options include classics like tikka chicken, malai chicken and lamb. Vegetarian options such as paneer tikka masala and mixed vegetable kurma also are available.

Who’s doing the grilling

Advisers include:

  • Matt Friedman, CEO, Franchise Founders.
  • Zack Oates, founder and CEI, Ovation.
  • Rick Timmons, founding partner, Flake Pie Company/ROCTACO and winner of the 2022 Perfect Pitch.

Register here for the Fast Casual Executive Summit.

About Networld Media Group

Founded in 2000, Networld Media Group is a leading media communications company specializing in digital media, events and associations in the technology, restaurant, banking, and retail industries. It’s media brands include,,,,, and Events under the Networld umbrella include the Fast Casual Executive Summit, the Restaurant Franchising & Innovation Summit and the Self-Service Innovation Summit.

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