Dec 10, 2018

A View From the Summit – VISION 2020

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b4 summit 2019

b4 summit 2019

December 19th, 2018   |   By Don Billings

This past fall, in the Mix magazine (ITM) had the great pleasure of hosting the fourth B4 Summit, held this year at The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, Colorado. It was a tremendous pleasure to host this prestigious gathering of leading hospitality operators, beverage brand suppliers and allied partners.

“B4” is an acronym for “Building Better Beverage Business ™,” and the idea of holding summits was conceived in recognition of a need to address the “disruption” taking place in our industry – disruption in beverage consumer behavior, route to market, external influencers (e.g., cannabis) along with beverage product selection, service and delivery models. All this is going on today, so we addressed what our business models need to look like by 2020.

At this summit, we took a look at some of the ways the on-premise national chain operators and beverage brands can take positive action to grow their beverage businesses. To accomplish this, ITM in conjunction with IMI Agency, brought together a group of speakers who are experts in their fields, to share their knowledge. Throughout the summit, participants were exposed to an expanded spectrum of services emerging from IMI. The ultimate take-aways were valuable actionable ideas and resources to bring back to their respective companies for implementation.

Additionally, the summit provided numerous networking opportunities and events for shared goals, intelligence, competencies and experiences, while offering participants occasions to build relationships with the other B4 guests and sponsors.

in the Mix magazine has grown into a national media business solutions business that includes print, digital, video, web, event and mobile service applications. We use a rifled approach to reach our audience of national hospitality buyers, F&B managers, unit general managers and executive chefs. Our subscribers include approximately 6,785 restaurant units, 2,038 hotels, 393 concession and casino venues, as well as 400 corporate headquarters. This is extraordinary for a niche-market B2B publication that is exclusive to the on-premise national accounts segment of the hospitality business.


don billing - b4 summit

Welcome to the B4 Summit
Don Billings
Publisher, in the Mix Magazine
Chairman and Founding Partner, IMI

Don Billings opens as co-host and Publisher of ITM by setting the stage with a look back at some of the disruptive
topics the B4 Summit has addressed over the past 12-years.

Some of the disruptive topics we have addressed over the last 12 years are:

2006    Jamaica

Mixology – Staff Engagement – Distributor Roles

2012    Sea Island

Technology in Operations – Data Management – Media Platforms

2015    Sea Island

Social Intelligence – Virtual Reality – Trade Practice

2018    Colorado Springs

Disruptive Environments – Vision 2020


larry mcginn - b4 summit

Larry McGinn
President, IMI

Larry McGinn, co-host of the B4 Summit and President of IMI, welcomes the B4 attendees and introduces the
theme of the Summit – Vision 2020. As Don mentioned in his remarks, IMI and ITM convene this client and
sponsor VIP event every three years to examine, plot and plan strategic and tactical moves to embrace or overcome disruptors facing the beverage business. In addition to best-in-class speakers, the B4 attendees were treated to a glimpse of IMI technology and innovation as well as ITM media tools to succeed in Building Better Beverage Business™ in 2020 and beyond.


Master of Ceremoniesbrian yost - b4 summit
Brian Yost
Founder of Meliora Consulting

Brian Yost’s hospitality industry background is deep. He has been in executive management positions with Euro Disney, Marriott International, Harrah’s Entertainment and, most recently, as President with Onsite Products at Live Nation.


Keynote Speaker
Jack Maxwell
Global Drinks & Disruptors

Jack Maxwell - b4 summitJack Maxwell is the host of “Booze Traveler” on the Travel Channel. In “Booze Traveler,” Jack ventures out around the globe to not only get a taste of a country’s alcohol but also to quench his curiosity about what people drink, why they drink it and the stories they tell when they do. At each stop, he connects with locals, immerses himself in regional activities, learns about the country’s unique relationship with liquor and sometimes even participates in the alcohol-making process. Jack also co-hosted Travel Channel’s “The Trip: 2016,” which showcased the distinct cultures, cuisines and luxuries of five Caribbean islands. In addition, he has made guest appearances on hit broadcast television shows including “24”, Lost,” Without a Trace” and Beverly Hills 90210.”

Jack became a lifetime member of the Actors Studio in 2003; he won “Best Actor in a Lead Role” at the 2012 Pan Pacific Film Festival and was presented with both the Emerald Star award and Golden Halo award from the Southern California Motion Picture Council.

Additionally, he has shared stage time with Al Pacino and Jessica Chastain in Oscar Wilde’s “Saloméas well as the movie, “Wilde Salomé,” about the making of the play.


b4 summit 2019

Who Will Be Drinking What in 2020?
Colleen McClellan
Director, Datassential

Colleen McClellan has over 18 years of experience in marketing, insights and innovation for both retail and foodservice markets. Throughout her career, she has worked to translate trends and insights into profitable actions across all food and beverage categories. Colleen is a certified Sommelier, holds an MBA in international business, an M.S. in management information systems, and a B.S. in neurobiology and physiology.

Colleen’s presentation focused on adapting to the trends, the story of people and how the beverage industry needs to adapt to their wants and needs. She walked through the alphabet soup of each of our generational types – Baby Boomers and Gens X, Y, and Z – laying out their lifestyles, patterns and how each influences how, what and where we go to market to reach them. She also covered how to deliver the right product and service targeting gender, generation, ethnicity, region, foodie and income.


b4 summit 2019

Consumers Retail Behaviors Transferring to Hospitality
Doug Stephens
Founder, Retail Prophet

Doug Stephens is one of the world’s foremost retail industry futurists. His intellectual work and thinking have influenced many of the world’s best-known retailers, agencies and brands. Doug is also a syndicated retail columnist and is featured in many of the world’s leading publications and media outlets. He is the author of two groundbreaking books: The Retail Revival: Re-Imagining Business for the New Age of Consumerism, and Reengineering Retail: The Future of Selling in a Post-Digital World.

This was a massive presentation, so we can only offer these few general highlights.

Doug Stephens addressed the mega-trends shaping a new era of retailing and consumerism. Those who don’t may soon find themselves on the outside looking in at a data-centric economy that has moved on without them. Everyone wants our consumer data – more comprehensive, substantive or complex pieces of information for research.

From economics and demographics to media and technology, disruption came at retailers from all directions. With the declining need for, and escalating value of, human service, technology has been steadily reducing the number of human service interactions we require in an average day. For at least the last decade, the list of what we as consumers can do for ourselves has grown rapidly.

Doug talked about the emerging location-based marketing channel and its impact on brands and retail. Social media isn’t the culprit – it may be our marketing strategies.

And finally, Doug pointed out that the pace and volume of change is exponential. We are witness to massive shifts in consumerism, technology, economics and sociology.


b4 summit 2019

What’s Up With IMI?
Larry McGinn, President, IMI Agency
IMI Tech & Innovation Products
Rachel Morgan, Director, Technology & Innovation

Tuesday morning, Larry McGinn, President of IMI, and Rachel Morgan, Director of Technology and Innovation, took the B4 stage to update IMI’s clients and sponsors on “What’s Up with IMI.” Larry began with highlighting advancements in creativity and award-winning successes of the IMI CSD (Creative Services) Group.

Rachel then introduced the audience to the multiple sales-driving and incentive technology platforms that her team has implemented with the likes of Hilton, Applebee’s, IHOP, Hard Rock and Aramark. Staying on innovative technology, Rachel then went into the new apps her team has brought to market – an RFP Blind Tasting platform, as well as IMI Special Events tools for F&B/GM conferences. The IMI Events app, used by all in attendance this week, is an example of the cutting-edge interactive technology being created.

Larry combined IMI’s creativity with its technology as he walked everyone through the IMI training and education platform developed with the P.F. Chang’s China Bistro teams. Using the vision of Mary Melton, Director of Beverage for P.F. Chang’s, IMI worked with Mary, the PFC Training Team and their LMS partner to digitize PFC’s printed beverage training guide, bringing the content to life in Spiked University with digital host and spokesman, Jackson Sour.

In the two-month period since introducing Spiked University, beverage sales at P.F. Chang’s rose 4 percent over the prior year’s period, the beverage alcohol sales mix jumped a full point and service scores in guest satisfaction surveys were the highest in years!

Next was a PODS (Portable Opportunities for Distribution and Sales) update. This in-market equipment advertising and lease program was launched at the last B4 Summit, three years ago, and now has over 130 activations across the U.S. Larry highlighted success stories along with the research showing that an advertiser’s ROI is generally <9 months on a two-year agreement and a licensee’s lease ROI is <1 month.

Larry closed “What’s Up” with confirming to the audience that IMI is NOT for sale, and then he led into a presentation by Don Billings, of a check for CORE from ITM and IMI Agency.


Digital Reality for 2020b4 summit 2019
Duncan Freer
Founder & CEO, Freer Technology

Paul DiBenedetto
Co-Founder, Freer Technology

Tony Pereyra
Spirits in Motion

Freer Technology founders Paul DiBenedetto and Duncan Freer were honored to have the opportunity to speak at IMI’s prestigious B4 Summit in Colorado Springs. The topic of discussion: the future of augmented reality in the beverage industry. Freer Technology was founded in 2016 with the sole focus on bringing augmented reality marketing to the hospitality industry. During their presentation, Paul and Duncan highlighted the trends of the industry, demonstrated examples of their recent work and discussed the future of augmented reality in the hospitality space. Paul stated, “Augmented reality is the future. Our focus has been on developing engaging, cutting-edge technologies to enhance customer experiences, with applications in beverage hospitality and beyond, such as interactive menus. There is no better opportunity to truly bring brands to life and engage with customers in a new, experiential way.” To learn more about recently launched live AR examples, contact


mary melton b4 summit 2019

ABOVE RIGHT: In the end, the winning team was “E7” and included Brent Berkowitz from Sage Restaurant Group, Catherine Stanton- Schiff from Edrington, Linda Martinez from Disaronno, Mark Reveles with Grand Sierra Resorts, Eric Lake with Deutsch Family Wine & Spirits, Colleen McClellan with Datassential, and Don Billings with IMI. Each winning team member received a golden bottle of Moet & Chandon Imperial!

Sensory Perspective
Mary Melton
Director of Beverage, P.F. Chang’s

Mary Melton, Director of Beverage for P.F. Chang’s, led the group through a Sensory Perspective. Nine teams competed in a battle of the senses using sight, smell and taste, through three different sensory challenges. The first challenge had everyone taking a wine that a was poured in a black Riedel glass and trying to determine if it was a white or red wine, based on smell alone. The group had to discuss the aromas and come up with one team answer.

The second challenge was set with individual vials of wine aroma oils underneath upside-down wine glasses. Choosing one vial, each person had to determine what aroma their oil was. Each oil was completely different with the only hint being it was an aroma that could be found in a white or red wine – that could mean anything from melon or pear to tobacco or hawthorn.

The third challenge was multi-faceted and included a pairing of one white wine with one small bite, and one red wine with another small bite, with both bites having been created by The Broadmoor’s chef and based on the corresponding wine. The team had to determine both the varietal and appellation of both wines, as well as the main flavor profile of the paired bite. This challenge proved to be the most difficult for the teams, with no one team getting all flavor profiles, varietal or appellations correct, although one or two came close.

In the end, the winning team was “E7” and included Brent Berkowitz from Sage Restaurant Group, Catherine Stanton-Schiff from Edrington, Linda Martinez from Disaronno, Mark Reveles with Grand Sierra Resorts, Eric Lake with Deutsch Family Wine & Spirits, Colleen McClellan with Datassentials, and Don Billings with IMI. Each winning team member received a golden bottle of Moet & Chandon Imperial!


Low ABV, Calories and Moreb4 summit 2019
Patrick McGinn
Director, Account Management, IMI

Patrick McGinn is celebrating his 10-year anniversary with IMI Agency. Patrick has worked in all aspects of chain hospitality beverage marketing and has managed some of IMI’s largest operator accounts. In the past 10 years, Patrick has worked his way from Project Manager to Account Manager, then to Senior Account Manager and he is currently the Director of Account Management for IMI.

Patrick walked B4 attendees through the LOW presentation, which was focused on low ABV (alcohol by volume), low calories and low environmental disruptions. These three buzz-worthy industry topics were discussed at a detailed level on how they apply to the hospitality industry. Low alcohol by volume is not only a responsible service application, but it also allows for great menu activation like spritzes, apéritifs, as well as low alcohol beer (Heineken 0.0) and spirits (Seedlip). The low-calorie topic addressed the current caloric content laws as well as the spiked seltzer craze. The low environmental disruptors discussion focused upon the hospitality industry and their decisions on straws, ugly fruit, garnishes and spirit production that can help the environment.


b4 summit 2019Cannabis
Keith Villa
Brewmaster and Co-Founder, Ceria Beverages

Keith Villa’s higher education began with an undergraduate degree in molecular, cellular and developmental biology. His first job was conducting molecular biology research on yeast for Coors Brewing Company. He then traveled to Belgium to pursue a Ph.D. in brewing science and fermentation biochemistry, a degree held by only a handful of people in the world.

Keith created Blue Moon Brewing Company as an operating unit of Coors, which later became MillerCoors. Now retired – well, sort of – his new career is the creation of non-alcoholic brews infused with THC that offer consumers a socially acceptable and responsible way to enjoy cannabis.


Smoke Wallin
President, Vertical Companies

Smoke Wallin is a highly accomplished CEO, entrepreneur, thought leader and board member, with more than 25 years of success across the consumer products, alcohol beverage, distribution and technology industries. His broad areas of expertise include start-ups, branding, marketing innovation, distribution, transformational leadership, sales and business growth. Smoke also has extensive experience in regulated industries at the local, state and federal level. After studying the legal medical cannabis industry and recognizing the eventual convergence between legal cannabis and the alcohol beverage industry, he joined Vertical as a partner and President, overseeing distribution, sales and marketing.

Both gentlemen spoke to the overlapping synergies and differences between cannabis and the adult beverage businesses, including federal and state regulations.

Keith talked about the brewing sciences, and building a new non-alcoholic beer infused with THC, as well as the challenges the industry faces in the brave new world of cannabinoids.

Smoke laid out the big picture covering everything from consumer products and brand development to production, distribution and sales. He also shared the legal and political landscape as cannabis moves to critical mass legalization by 2020.

As states continue to legalize different forms of cannabis, more hotels and resorts plan to offer cannabis-based menu items and wellness treatments, as well as the use of cannabidiol (CBD)-based edible cocktails and desserts. The on-premise restaurant, bar and lounge segment will certainly join in.


b4 summit 2019

The RFP Revolution
Adam Billings
Founder of PayBev (a subsidiary of IMI)

Rachel Morgan
Director, Technology & Innovation

Adam Billings is a Director and shareholder in IMI Agency and has worked with the National Account Chain Hospitality clients of iMi for the past 14 years. Adam’s expertise in Technology and Innovation has led the growth and service capabilities in managing the beverage alcohol categories for iMi hospitality chains across dining, lodging, casinos, clubs and Concessionaries.

Rachel Morgan is Director of Technology and Innovation at IMI Agency. She has had 13 years working in various industries from banking to beverage creating and innovating technologies. For the past six years, she has been utilizing her expertise to grow our iManage Suite of products and provide industry-leading technologies to iMi clients.

Adam and Rachel discussed the challenges of beverage proposals for the hospitality industry, from the supplier to operator issues, and they presented a new approach to managing the orchestration of RFPs. Rachel also introduced a new IMI tasting app that creates a rating system and presents the results in real time to the moderator and the tasters.


core b4 summit 2019

CORE Check Presentation

Group shot of all current and past board members and supporters present at the Summit.

The B4 Summit, on behalf of in the Mix magazine, IMI and all the B4 sponsors, has selected CORE as our nonprofit charity for the 13th year. A check for $5,000 was presented to CORE at the Summit.

Children of Restaurant Employees, or CORE, is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization funded by donations from the food and beverage industry and individual donations. One hundred percent of the funds raised are used towards CORE’s mission of providing support to children and families of restaurant employees who are experiencing or afflicted by life-altering circumstances.

You can visit to see what awesome work is being done.


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