A quarterly discussion about the industries and businesses that have contributed to the growth of Charlotte and the marketing strategies behind them. 

The next topic:

Restaurant Industry Growth in Charlotte

Join us for our second Thrive Talks quarterly panel as we discuss the rapid growth of the restaurant industry in Charlotte, NC. With the abundance of new restaurants opening in the last few years in the Queen City, capturing the attention of potential guests is becoming increasingly difficult.

During the event, we’ll talk with restaurateurs and those involved in the Charlotte media to learn more about this quickly-changing landscape and their strategy to stay relevant in an extremely competitive industry.

Thursday, june 13 from 6 to 8 p.m.

8.2.0 Pizzeria & Bar

THRIVE Talks Moderator:

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Sarah Crosland

Book author and food writer

For more than a decade Sarah Crosland has been covering what to do, where to go, and what to eat in Charlotte. She's worked as an editor at The Charlotte Observer and Charlotte Magazine, and is the author of several books about the city including 100 Things to Do in Charlotte Before You Die, Secret Charlotte: A Guide to the Weird, Wonderful, and Obscure, and Food Lovers’ Guide to Charlotte.

She’s also covered the city and its dining scene for notable national publications like Travel and Leisure, American Way magazine, Thrillist, Forbes Travel Guide, and Food Republic. She’s convinced that it’s only a matter of time before someone figures out that getting paid to eat and drink isn’t a real job, so in the meantime she’s trying to squeeze in as much as possible of both.

On the Thrive Talks Panel:

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Kristen Wile

Founder of Unpretentious Palate

Kristen Wile is the editor and founder of Unpretentious Palate, a digital publication covering food and drink in Charlotte. The former editor and food editor of Charlottemagazine, she felt traditional media outlets were cutting costs too much to provide the ethical and consistent food journalism readers crave.

Unpretentious Palate is old-school reporting and restaurant criticism on a new platform. Before her time at Charlotte, she worked at The Washington Post.

She lives in Plaza Midwood with her husband Jon, two rescue pit bulls, and a tortoise. Find her at, or on social media @uppalate (Twitter) or @unpretentiouspalate (Instagram and Facebook).

Kara Taddeo

Co-Founder of VBGB Beer Hall and Garden & 8.2.0 Pizzeria and Bar

After moving to Charlotte in 2010, Kara & Tom Taddeo opened VBGB Beer Hall & Garden in April, 2011 (celebrating 8 years of business last week!). They were moving to Charlotte, from New York City, to slow down the pace of life with two children under the age of 2 in 2010 - famous last words! After closing on a house they Googled a beer garden to celebrate the closing, and that’s where the story begins….there were no beer gardens.

Kara had spent over 15 years in the hospitality industry in NYC before opening VBGB. Her biggest accomplishment in NYC was converting a 2-star low grade hotel to a 3.5 star boutique hotel in the heart of the Upper West Side (someday a great book with a lot of crazy stories).

The VBGB journey has been fascinating and filled with lots of ups and downs. A classic entrepreneurial tale, that led them to business #2, 820 Pizzeria, Event Space and Bar. She looks forward to sharing the real truth, the do’s and don’ts of owning your own business, and a couple laughs

Remy Thurston

Marketing Manager, FS Food Group (Mama Ricotta’s, Midwood Smokehouse, YAFO, Paco’s Tacos and Tequila)

Rémy Thurston is a commercial photographer and marketing director. He manages the media efforts for FS Food Group, parent company to Paco’s Taco’s and Tequila, Mama Ricotta’s, Midwood Smokehouse, Yafo Kitchen and Plate Perfect Catering. He has photographed the likes of Futo Buta Ramen, Haymaker, Inizio Pizza, Omaggio Pizzeria, Lincoln’s Haberdashery, La Belle Helene, Dilworth Tasting Room, Shake Shack, Hello Sailor, Heirloom Restaurant, Kindred and Haberdish among other restaurants. He mostly takes cell phone pictures of his fiancée and dog, however, and wishes people would stop using the term flavor profile.

Nikki Wolfe

Yelp Charlotte Community Manager

Nikki Wolfe is the Community & Marketing Director for Yelp Charlotte. When she’s not submerged in connecting people with great local businesses, you can find her doing yoga, watching football, drinking pumpkin beer, or writing about herself in the third person.

Andrew Wilen

Co-Founder of Chef Alyssa’s Kitchen

Andrew Wilen grew up in Baltimore, MD and moved to Charlotte shortly after he graduated from Elon University in 2008. Following graduation, he worked for the Carolina Panthers, LivingSocial Adventures, Charlotte Center City Partners. Amongst other localized events in South End, Andrew organized Small Business Saturday and the Craft Beer Crawl for three years.

In 2013, he opened Chef Alyssa’s Kitchen, with his now-wife Alyssa, inside of Atherton Market in South End. Focusing on using healthy, local and sustainable ingredients they hold hands-on cooking classes covering a variety of cuisines and ability levels.

In 2016, Charlotte Agenda named him as one of the Top 30 under 30 professionals. In 2017, Charlotte Business Journal named Andrew one of the Top 40 under 40 award honorees. In 2017 and 2018, Entrepreneur Magazine, named him and Alyssa as one of the top 360 Entrepreneurial companies in the country. Moving up to #125 from #270.

Chef Alyssa's Kitchen was named Best Cooking Class (consecutively 2015 - 2018) and Best Culinary Camp by Charlotte Magazine. Additionally, Top 9 in the United States by

For more information on Chef Alyssa please visit and follow @chefalyssaclt.

Event Schedule

6:00-6:30 - Grab a Drink/Networking

6:30-7:30 - Panel Discussion

7:30-7:45 - Q&A

7:45-8:00 - More Networking