Synergy is a team of experienced restaurant professionals with the financial, operations and culinary expertise to reduce costs, drive sales and grow guest counts. 25 years of unparalleled experience is the cornerstone of our company’s success and the reason over 200 nationally recognized restaurant organizations call on Synergy. Our guarantee is to reduce expenses, improve operating efficiencies and lead our clients to immediate and long-term profitable growth. With Synergy on your team, our hands-on managing partners are always by your side.
Restaurant companies of all sizes can confidently add the seasoned Synergy professionals to their team to support key sales and profit-building initiatives.
Dean Small and Danny Bendas, Managing Partners
Dean & Danny have worked on the front lines leading profit-generating changes in over 200 of the country’s top restaurant companies from all dining segments. With over 60 years combined experience in hundreds of kitchens, they are trusted authorities on creating cutting-edge culinary programs and efficiency strategies for today’s competitive environment. Widely recognized as authorities on operations efficiencies, both are graduates of the internationally acclaimed Culinary Institute of America, and individually hold advanced business degrees from Hofstra and Penn State University, respectively.
In 1988 they launched Synergy Restaurant Consultants, and in 1991 they started Dean & Danny’s Custom Foods, a line of distinctive seasonings for home and commercial use.
Dean Small is the Founder and a Managing Partner of Synergy Restaurant Consultants. Dean has over thirty-five years of hands-on food service experience. In addition to his two decades leading Synergy he has owned and operated restaurants, bakeries, juice bars and retail specialty food concepts. Dean holds an AOS from the Culinary Institute Of America.
Upon graduating from the Culinary Institute Of America Dean completed a two-year culinary apprenticeship at Window’s On The World located atop the former World Trade Center in New York City. This restaurant was the #1 sales volume restaurant worldwide. During his apprenticeship Dean also served as personal Executive Chef to former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and former Vice President Nelson Rockefeller. In 1985 Dean joined El Torito Restaurants as Director of Culinary Development and Purchasing Manager. El Torito operated over two hundred and twenty units, twelve restaurant concepts and its operations grossed over $420 million.
In 1988 Dean founded Synergy Restaurant Consultants to provide innovation and efficiency strategies to restaurants and food manufacturers. Since 1988 Synergy has been a food, beverage and operations resource to over two hundred national restaurant chains and independent operators.
Dean was awarded a Bachelor’s Degree from Hofstra University and an AOS from the Culinary Institute Of America.
Danny Bendas is a Managing Partner of Synergy Restaurant Consultants. He has over 30 years of practical food service experience, having worked for numerous restaurant operations ranging from quick service to fine dining establishments.
Following his culinary education Danny became opening chef at Houlihan’s Old Place in Kansas City, MO; this was followed by rapid promotion to the position of the company’s first regional/corporate chef. Danny’s experience also includes numerous positions with a variety of restaurant operations; he was Chef at the acclaimed American Restaurant in Kansas City; Director Of Operations for American Food Service Enterprises (food service division of Hallmark Cards) in Kansas City, Missouri, and Vice President, Food & Beverage for Nanco Enterprises Santa Barbara, CA, operator of a nationwide chain of casual theme and steak house restaurants.
Since 1989 Mr. Bendas has been a Managing Partner at Synergy where he has partnered with over 200 clients with services ranging from new concept development, menu innovation, operations assessments, strategic planning, management development and the development of restaurant operating systems.
Danny was awarded a Bachelor’s degree from Penn State University, an AAS degree from Bucks County Community College and an AOS from the Culinary Institute Of America where he was the recipient of the Waldorf Astoria Scholastic Achievement Award.
Phil Ratner, Managing Director
Phil Ratner is a veteran restaurant executive, who served as a CEO for more than twenty years in the casual-full service segment.
His record of successful turnarounds began at Acapulco Restaurants in 1984, where he served as President and CEO for nearly ten years, taking the nearly bankrupt company and doubling its size to $90 million in sales with a 10 percent EBITDA. He moved onto Spaghetti Warehouse in 1994, where he reduced debt from $19 million to $6 million in less than four years and improved earnings per share, from a low of $.04 to a high of $.34 when the company was sold in 1998. Most recently, he served as CEO of Marie Callender’s Restaurants where he improved both sales and profits and successfully merged the company with Perkins Family Restaurants.
In 2008, Phil formed Bicoastal Restaurant Partners, a Five Guys franchise group. We are currently operating 7 restaurants in the Orange County and have three in development with the rights to 23 additional units.
Phil has both a Bachelors Degree and an M.B.A from Cornell University in Ithaca, NY and has served on the boards of five publicly traded restaurant companies
Charlie Candelas, Special Projects
Charlie Candelas’ 25-year career in the food service industry has incorporated a vast diversity of skillsets and achievements. But the professional traits that most define him and have enabled success after success are strategic thinking and tenacity. Charlie continually evaluates and refines goals and achievements, then stays in place until the results exceed expectations.
As Senior Vice President of Operations for Darden/Olive Garden, Charlie was responsible for creating and leading the team that grew a 38-unit brand into a 400-unit mega-brand. His influence was not limited to restaurant roll-outs, however. His team ideated and implemented new satellite training center programs for management and hourly personnel which drastically reduced employee turnover and subsequently increased efficiency throughout the chain.
With Wolfgang Puck, Charlie turned around his 20-unit chain that had lain dormant for 5 years and achieved turbo charged profitability in 18 months. The last 7 years were spent rebranding an existing restaurant chain, but this time his role was elevated to Director/Operating Partner. At Harry’s Pacific Grill all Charlie’s prior experiences combined to shape the restaurant’s marketing positioning, help design a new streamlined kitchen and to develop innovative and satisfying recipes.
Charlie attended the prestigious Culinary Institute of America as well as participated in Central Florida University’s Executive Development Program.
Mark Ladisky, Senior Operations Associate
Mark is a graduate of Johnson & Wales University and brings 17 years of honed culinary, resort skills and resort and restaurant management experience to the Synergy team. Having held such wide ranging positions as Director of Food and Beverage, Executive Chef and General Manager, Mark brings creative food and beverage strategies, high-standard service training programs, and a disciplined approach to controlling costs.
Tim Green, Resident Pizza Expert
Tim has been extensively involved in the art of Stone Hearth Cooking, specifically for pizza, since 2001. His focus has been different styles of pizza, from traditional Neapolitan to the classic American style. He is well versed in all things pizza, from the dough to the fuel. Due to the differences in cooking on a stone hearth oven using wood, gas, coal, or a combination has the pizza, Tim has been brought in by pizza restaurateurs looking to better understand their pizza.
Tim has worked with hundreds of pizza concepts, from QSR and institutions to corporate cafeterias, VPN Certified Pizza, full service dining, casual pizzerias, and fine dining restaurants. His primary areas of work have been dough development, production, and the managing of dough. At the centerpiece of this work is oven operations: the understanding oven technicalities and temperature management is critical in ensuring a consistent product. The final step in a successful pizza operation is the continued training and development of staff to understand all aspects of building a great pizza.
In the realm of Coal-Fired Pizza, Tim has worked with more than a dozen concepts. The first part of this journey is managing the fuel with regards to different temperatures and understanding how that affects the pizza and the safety of the end product. Because Coal-Fired Pizza requires a unique dough style, managing the dough for building pizza, time and oven management, and product flow are all very important. Executing these intricacies properly is the best way to capture and emphasize the Coal-Fired aspect of the restaurant
Tim’s experience stems from 25 years in the hospitality industry working in various resort hotels around the country. He is a 1981 graduate of Johnson & Wales College (Providence, RI) with an Associate Degree in Hospitality. He defines himself as a goal-orientated individual who puts the customers’ needs for first as well as someone with a great work ethic and genuinely enjoys his work.
Morreen Rukin Bayles, Senior Training and Management Development Associate
Morreen specializes in leadership development and the management of front-of-the-house operations. Her training expertise spans all aspects of hourly, management and executive positions. She is instrumental in developing user-friendly and customized training materials, operations manuals and management development programs that work within each client’s culture. Training programs can be developed for classroom facilitation or customized interactive CD Rom training and Web based training. Morreen has a Masters Degree from Pennsylvania State University in Instructional Design and Training.
Margee Drews, Senior Design Associate
Margee Drews is a Senior Associate and a graduate from California State University, Long Beach where she received her Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree in Interior Design with a Minor in Industrial Design.
Margee was the Director of Design for Acapulco Restaurants, Long Beach CA and Senior Interior Designer at Beckham Eisenman Commercial Design in Irvine CA and In–house Interior Designer for El Torito Restaurants located in Irvine Ca.
With experience that extends over two decades Margee has brought her distinctive design, creativity and extensive resources to restaurant organizations such as California Pizza Kitchen, Marie Callender’s, Impresario Restaurant at the Los Angeles Music Center, Amazing Jake’s Food and Fun, Chevy’s Restaurants, Crazy Horse Saloon, Mozambique Restaurant in Laguna Beach CA and dozens of other high profile restaurants throughout the country.
Margee is an Allied Member of American Society of Interior Designers (ASID), Network of Executive Women in Hospitality (NEWH) and Illuminating Engineers Society (IES)
Karen A. Brennan, Marketing & Branding Strategy
Karen Brennan is an accomplished, results-oriented restaurant marketing executive who brings a broad knowledge of the restaurant industry, a deep understanding of consumer behavior, the expertise of 25 years of restaurant marketing leadership and a record of award winning marketing initiatives for more than 30 restaurant brands including executive positions with the Bravo Br