Education Sessions Schedule

Private Equity and Restaurants: What You Need to Know

In April 2020, one month into the pandemic, Austin-based Via 313 signed a deal with Savory Management to grow their popular “Detroit-style pizza” restaurant locations outside of Texas. As more Private Equity (PE) firms make big investments in foodservice, you might be wondering how your brand stacks up, and if you even want PE involvement. Learn from the co-founders of Via 313 and representatives from Savory in a lively conversation with TRA’s President and CEO.


Monday, July 12, 2021


1:00pm - 2:00pm


Big Bend Big Ideas Stage, sponsored by Texas Mutual


Emily Williams Knight, Texas Restaurant Association
Zane and Brandon Hunt, Via 313
Andrew K Smith, Savory Management


Emily Williams Knight

Emily Williams Knight

Knight has more than 20 years of experience and success in national and global leadership positions and is the newly appointed CEO of the Texas Restaurant Association. Most recently, she was the Managing Director of Higher Education North America at Study Group, a leading provider of international education. Her career includes senior leadership roles at Laureate Education and serving as President of Kendall College, a leader in hospitality and culinary arts education. During her time as Kendall’s president, Knight expanded access to culinary education throughout the Midwest, Latin America and the Middle East. She worked closely with the Illinois legislature to advance the industry and partnered with the Mayor of Chicago, Choose Chicago, and the Illinois Restaurant Association to drive Chicago visitors to a record 50 million per year.

Knight has extensive experience working with industry, workforce investment boards, and community colleges to create skills training programs designed to fill the growing number of restaurant and hospitality job openings. Early in her career, Knight held several leadership roles at Pearson, including head of marketing for teacher education and head of sales for the west region. Out of undergraduate studies, she was recruited into Pizza Hut’s Management Training Program and also served as a Catering Sales and Event Manager for Marriott’s Key West Resorts.

Knight holds a Doctorate in Higher Education Leadership from Walden University; an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Newbury College; a Master of Science in Management from Troy University in Alabama; a B.S. in Hospitality Administration from Boston University, where she was a Trustee Scholar and an A.S. in Hotel and Restaurant Administration from Newbury College where she was a Presidential Scholar and captain of the women’s basketball team.

Additionally, Dr. Knight is a member of several boards, including the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation (NRAEF), where she serves on the executive committee. 

Zane and Brandon Hunt

Zane and Brandon Hunt are the Co-Founders of Via 313. On December 8, 2011, these two brothers from a hard-working, blue-collar area of Detroit opened Via 313 Pizza out of a small and nondescript trailer on East 6th and Waller with the dream of turning the city of Austin on to a different kind of pizza experience.

Andrew K Smith

Andrew began his career as an entrepreneur at the age of 23 as a tech CEO. Between 1998 and 2009, he co-founded 3 tech companies and exited each of them via private and public exists.

Since his first successful venture over two decades ago, Smith has raised over $520 million in funding, generated over $1.7B in sales and created over 32,000 jobs which remains his #1 focus. His passion for creating jobs and opportunities for as many as possible continues to be his main driver.

In 2008, Andrew co-founded Four Foods Group, a multi-brand restaurant operations and investment company that built and operated 170 restaurants across the U.S. Four Foods surpassed $1.2B in food and beverage sales since inception. In 2017, FFG was named one of the fastest growing restaurant operations companies in the nation 2 years in a row by Restaurant Monitor.

Andrew co-founded the Savory Fund F&B practice with Greg Warnock, founder of Mercato Partners in the fall of 2018. The first inaugural fund of $100M was closed in the fall of 2020, right in the middle of Covid.

Andrew was a recipient of the 2017 EY Entrepreneur of the Year® award in his category. He served as an EY Judge for the 2018, 2019 and 2020 EY Entrepreneur of the Year program. He was also awarded the KPMG QuantumShift Entrepreneur of the Year award in 2018. Four Foods was also an 8-time honoree of the Inc. 500 program between 2011 and 2019. Andrew appeared on the cover of the November 2018 issue of Franchise Times with his partner and wife, Shauna K. Smith (co-Founder of Four Foods Group and currently the CEO of Savory Management).

Andrew received a B.S. in Finance and Marketing. He is an avid car collector, races GT4 Porsche and Audi whenever humanly possible, and also enjoys a good float down a river with a fly rod in his hands. Born and raised in Chicago, Illinois, Andrew currently resides in Utah with his wife and two sons, 21 and 15.