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MEET OUR PEOPLE

Mike Karns

Founder and Chief Executive Officer

Local Favorite Restaurants®

Mike Karns is owner and CEO of Local Favorite Restaurants. He has extensive expertise in real estate and also directs the operations of Local Favorite Restaurants' sister companies, Triton Commercial Real Estate, LLC and Karns Commercial Real Estate, Inc. His real estate and hospitality experience began with his time as Director of Real Estate for CiCi’s Pizza. Beginning with 12 local restaurants, Karns expanded CiCi’s Pizza into a national brand with close to 400 locations.  

In 1993, he formed Karns Commercial Real Estate (KCRE), focusing on the acquisition and development of retail and office properties that span multiple states, and has developed and invested in real estate for more than two decades. He purchased El Fenix Corporation in 2008 as part of his “real estate driven restaurant operation company” vision, and added Snuffer’s Restaurant & Bar to his restaurant portfolio in 2013 and another local favorite, Village Burger Bar in 2017. Karns also created original restaurant concepts Meso Maya, Taqueria La Ventana, TorTaco and Tulum and has grown to over 40 locations in DFW.

Karns is an active member of the World Presidents’ Organization as well as other elite groups including Stagen Leadership Institute, Tiger 21 and is a long time student of Strategic Coach and its masters program. He was recognized as an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year in 2015. Karns has also been inducted into the Richardson High School Hall of Fame and recognized as a distinguished alumni at his alma mater, Stephen F. Austin University.

 

In addition to being a recognized leader in the real estate and restaurant industries, Karns and his companies and employees have been long-time supporters of local and national non-profit groups, including The North Texas Food Bank, The Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, JDRF Dallas, American Heart Association, The United Way of Metropolitan Dallas and charity: water. His dynamic contributions have made a significant difference throughout the Dallas community and worldwide.

David Romano

President

David’s career began at a very young age as he worked in his family restaurant concepts such as Fuddruckers and Romano’s Macaroni Grill.  Since that time, he has continued working in and around the retail industry for most of his life, as his professional career spans over thirty years of management experience in the restaurant, retail, consulting, training, and recruiting industries.

His former companies, Romano Consulting Group and Benchmarkinc have provided consulting, benchmarking, and recruiting services for nearly two decades to thousands of clients in the retail, restoration, and home improvement industries.  The major focus being working with family-owned companies in the transition of ownership from holding a job to owning a successful company.  His team’s unique approach to consulting was instrumental in clients achieving a sustainable increase in  profits, productivity, employee motivation, and business independence.

 

His recruiting company sourced and placed countless management, sales, business development, project management, estimating, and technician candidates for multiple industries.  He also developed a University offering live camps and online training for sales associates, managers, business development reps, and owners.  His organizations have trained thousands of professionals who have become the top performers in their respective industries.

 

David received a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration from Cornell University and an MBA from Southern Methodist University.

Martin Adler

Chief Legal Officer

Martin Adler is a licensed Attorney and CPA. Adler has extensive experience in the restaurant industry, franchising, real estate development, financial reporting, tax planning, compliance, risk management and asset management both domestically and internationally. He is responsible for successfully transitioning the then largest single International House of Pancakes restaurant franchisee to private equity group owners while exponentially growing their number of units and revenues. Adler has also served as Chairman of the Board with Collin Bank in Frisco, Texas and received his Bachelor of BA at University of Texas at Austin and his Juris Doctor at American University in Washington D.C.

Steve Chambers

Chief Restaurant Officer

Steve Chambers is a dedicated, successful senior manager who trains and develops teams that remain impressed with his strong leadership and interpersonal skills long after their initial hiring date. Prior to joining Local Favorite Restaurants, his skills delivered tangible bottom-line results at On The Border and T.G.I. Friday’s where he was recognized for outstanding sales, staff retention, and exemplary guest satisfaction.

Doug Hipskind

Chief Financial Officer

Doug Hipskind has a diverse financial background that spans investment companies, real estate development, and hospitality. Prior to joining Local Favorite Restaurants, Doug served as the Chief Financial Officer of Houston-based Mexican Restaurants, Inc., where he helped drive the development and growth of several of the company’s restaurant concepts.  Doug served on the Board of Directors of Kona Grill, where he was Audit Committee Chairman and a member of the Real Estate Committee. He has helped launch several companies including a boutique investment bank and an equipment leasing company.  He also developed the Four Seasons Resort in Vail, Colorado. Doug received a BA in Economics from the University of Colorado and a BS in Accounting from the University of Minnesota.  Doug is a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants.

Nico Sanchez

Executive Chef

Chef Nico’s love for the culinary arts started at age nine, when he started working at a bakery making deliveries and assisting in the kitchen. Nico later honed his skills at several restaurants and regions throughout Mexico, where he learned about seafood, dried chilies, making sauces from scratch and perfecting tamale-making techniques. He moved to Dallas in 1996 to pursue his goal of becoming a renowned chef. Chef Nico earned his reputation within the Dallas restaurant scene by working at Cuba Libre, The Porch, Hibiscus, and Meso Maya. His food is celebrated for its complexity, unique presentation, and fresh flavors.

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Sandra Banks

Director of Human Resources & Training

Sandra has over 22 years of experience in the restaurant industry.  She is known as a person that is passionate about people and believes in creating opportunities where others can learn, grow, and thrive. She began her career as a restaurant manager for Ford Restaurant Group/Chili’s Grill & Bar. Sandra became the Franchise Training Contact before leaving to join Dave & Buster’s Inc in 2006. During her time with Dave & Buster’s, she built the new store opening training program from the ground up and was personally responsible for over 40 new restaurant locations. Sandra is also an experienced instructional designer, having designed 32 full programs, over 50 online courses, and is skilled at facilitating remote learning. In 2019, Sandra joined the Local Favorite team as the Director of Training and more recently, took on the role of Human Resources Director. She is currently pursuing her certification as a Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR) and is a member of Dallas HR, Council of Hotel and Restaurant Trainers (CHART), and the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).

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Blythe Grates, MA

Senior Marketing Director

Blythe has over twenty years of experience in both advertising agencies and client side marketing. She began her career in advertising and public relations at Temerlin McLain. She has also worked in retail with Blockbuster in direct marketing, Pizza Hut as national and Hispanic advertising manager and with Sleep Experts as marketing director. She currently serves on the boards for Greater Dallas Restaurant Association and for Medical City’s KidsFit. During her tenure with Local Favorite Restaurants, Blythe has developed fully-integrated marketing and media campaigns generating double digit sales growth with the relaunch of El Fenix’s Enchilada Wednesday campaigns and Snuffer’s $5 Cheeseburger Tuesday. She also partnered with her PR agency to generate 25MM impressions for El Fenix’s Centennial Campaign and launched marketing campaigns for two new brand concepts.

Sara Wilson

Catering and Private Events Director

Sara grew up watching her father in the industry as an executive and decided that was the path she wanted to take as well. After attending the University of North Texas she went on to manage several different restaurant chains including Texas Roadhouse, Pluckers, and la Madeleine. Always having a passion for increasing sales catering soon became her main focus. Before joining Local Favorite Restaurants she was the General Manager of la Madeleine focused on driving top line sales to profitability and with that became a lot of catering centric planning. After joining Local Favorite Sara innovatively developed on and off premise menus for all our brands, increased on and off premise sales annually, and negotiated with top third party delivery partners to maintain profitability in that market. 

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