The AQA Team

The brightest minds and most experienced leaders from the food science, restaurant, and technology industries have come together to create the only food safety and quality assurance mangement platform designed specifically for the restaurant industry.

 

Eric Graves

Eric Graves

Founder & CEO

Eric graduated from Northwestern University in 1986 and earned his MBA from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business in 1989. He has owned several successful business ventures that served clients primarily in the southeastern US.

The idea for Actionable Quality Assurance was developed while he was the owner and CEO of ABC Research Laboratories, a food testing laboratory in Gainesville, Florida, where he recognized the need for a comprehensive solution to the fragmented state of most quality assurance programs.

In 2015, Eric sold ABC Research Laboratories in order to concentrate fully on bringing Actionable Quality Assurance to market.

He lives in Gainesville with his wife Kristine and their dogs. When he’s not working on the big picture, he’s running, cooking, or boating.

John King

John King

Chief Operating Officer

John King joined AQA in 2016 after mentoring the company in the UF affiliated start-up incubator, Innovation Hub.

John is a seasoned business executive experienced in information technology, business operations and entrepreneurial start-ups, who spent many years with IBM as a National Manager of Public Sector. He also managed the operations of BDM Technologies as the Vice-President for Business Development in the State and Local Government business unit.

John has served as the President and CEO of Water & Air Research, an environmental engineering company providing biological services for projects as encompassing as the Deep Water Horizon oil spill, and has led or operated at the founding level in five information technology-based companies, such as MarCon Global (now Clinipace) as the founding CEO, Quantitative Medicine, a big data analytics company using predictive analytics for early stage drug discovery as CEO, and Senior VP of Marketing for Perth Leadership Institute, which applies behavioral economics to corporate leadership assessment.

John created Mach 2 Leak Detection LLC to apply wave propagation principles to leak detection on manufacturing lines for soft packaging of food and beverages, and is the Board Chairman for AzPure, a company applying plasma energy to sanitize and disinfect surfaces.

Bruce Perkin

Bruce Perkin

Strategy Consultant

Bruce is a Strategy Consultant for AQA. He comes to us from Yum! Brands, where he was the Chief R&D Officer for Pizza Hut. With post-graduate qualifications in Nutrition, and a Bachelors of Science with majors in Pharmacology and Biochemistry from the University of Melbourne, where he graduated in 1978. Needless to say, he brings an extraordinary skill set to AQA.

Bruce has worked with many of the world’s largest food companies, starting with H.J. Heinz as a Chemist, and moving on to Uncle Ben’s Inc., MasterFoods Pty Ltd., Mars Corporation, and Yum! Brands. His roles included Department Head Quality Assurance, Product Development Manager, Brand Manager, Production Manager, Research and Development Director, Marketing Director, and Chief Technical Officer. He has been a professional member of IFT for over 20 years, and is a Certified Food Scientist.

His career has taken him around the world, and his work has influenced the development of various food products that are made and sold in many different countries. He has also led the global long-term research program for MasterFoods, where he established and coordinated technology platform development in the USA, Europe, UK and Australia.

As expected, he has a passion for great food, as well as a gift for understanding, sharing, and leveraging the science that underpins what makes great food organoleptically satisfying and safe to eat.

Bruce is married with 3 children, and lives in Texas. In his spare time he enjoys running, traveling the world, cooking, eating, pursuing the ideal espresso coffee, live sports and performances, and playing baseball with his son.

Jim Lawrence

Strategy Consultant

Jim Lawrence was most recently Chief Supply Chain Officer for Darden Restaurants where he led a team of supply professionals in the sourcing, distribution and quality assurance efforts for over $3 billion in capital and food product expenditures on an annualized basis.

Jim began his career at Darden in 1995, holding progressively responsible positions in Transportation, Seafood Inventory Management and Distribution and Restaurant Distribution Services. He was promoted to Vice President of Supply Management in 2000. Jim was named a Senior Vice President in 2005 when he was appointed to lead Darden’s supply management and food purchasing teams. While in this role, he was also responsible for overseeing the design and development of the state-of-the-art Restaurant Support Center that opened in September 2009.

Before joining Darden, Jim held sales and distribution positions with Mobil Corporation and RJR Nabisco, Inc. He holds a Bachelor of Business Administration in Marketing from the University of Georgia. He earned an MBA from the Crummer Graduate School of Business at Rollins College.

As a supply chain leader within the foodservice industry, Jim has served on numerous boards and has been a frequent speaker and academic instructor, most notably with the Cornell School of Hotel Administration at Cornell University. In addition, Jim has been a contributor of several textbooks such as Marketing: Real People, Real Choices, Fifth Edition and Principles of Operations Management, Seventh Edition.

Jim is a former member of the Board of Overseer’s for the Crummer School of Business at Rollins College. He is also a past executive board member of the Orlando Festival of Orchestras and a past board member of Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida.

John Caron

Manager, Board of Managers

Over a nearly 30-year Fortune 500 career John has served in numerous domestic and international senior leadership roles including President of Olive Garden, Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer at Darden Restaurants and Vice President and General Manager – Lipton Beverages - North America for Unilever.

As President of Olive Garden John was a member of Darden Restaurants’ Executive and Operating Teams and led a company with more than 820 restaurants, 90,000 employees and $3.7 billion in annual sales

 John is currently active on several boards of innovative, early-stage companies.  He is an Independent Director on the board of IZEA a NASDAQ listed company.  He is the independent Director on the Board of Tijuana Flats a private equity owned, fast casual restaurant concept, and an independent Director on the Board of Thrive Frozen Nutrition.  John is also a Board member for venVelo, a Central Florida early-stage venture fund.

Yuly Virviescas

Yuly Virviescas

Customer Success Director

Yuly has 5 years of experience developing and managing successful client business relationships. She began her professional career at ABC Research Laboratories as a Client Services Representative before being promoted to Business Development Specialist and later to Program Manager with the burgeoning AQA development team.

Yuly’s background in laboratory food testing proved advantageous in understanding the extraordinary challenges quality assurance departments face, as well as the limitations of existing laboratory data management systems.

Yuly worked with scientists and industry professionals to gather important information that served as the groundwork for the Actionable Quality Assurance software, and was an integral liaison between scientists and AQA’s web developers.

After ABC’s successful sale, Yuly followed her entrepreneurial spirit and joined Actionable Quality Assurance as the Business Development Director. She is particularly excited about innovating food science through emerging technology in a company that shares the same vision and is determined to help solve the problems our clients face, creating a safer food supply chain for all.

Yuly received a bachelor’s degree in Food Science and Human Nutrition from the University of Florida. She is working toward an MBA from Chapman Graduate School of Business at Florida International University and specializing in negotiation strategy.

Yuly is fluent in Spanish, English, and Quality Assurance. When she’s not busy solving her clients’ dilemmas or studying, you can find her skating by the beach in Miami, Florida with her husband.

Headshot of Jacob Rabb

Jacob Rabb

IT Manager

Jacob Rabb is an expert in leading edge technology. His skills in programming and communicating, along with his excellent flexibility, make him well suited for a startup environment.

Jacob has four years experience working on web programming, big data, and digital marketing. At the University of Florida, Jacob spent countless hours doing complicated programming projects for his courses, such as modifying an operating system and creating a compiler from scratch.

Prior to joining AQA, Jacob received his Master’s degree from the University of Florida. He also worked for Gator Information Systems, a startup concerned with gathering semi-structured and unstructured data on the web.

Jacob lives in Gainesville, Florida and teaches a programming class at the University of Florida.

James Altmann

Marketing Manager

James has a background in Microbiology and Cellular Science. As an undergrad, he was highly involved in the laboratory, assisting in research within the Conservation Genetics Department at the University of Florida. Upon completion of his Bachelor’s in Microbiology, James went to work as a Food Microbiologist for Deibel Laboratories in Gainesville, FL.

As a microbiologist, James performed shelf-life, process validation, and preservative efficacy studies. He also ran pathogen confirmation testing, toxin testing, and other microbiological and chemical tests using FDA-BAM and USDA approved methods for many food manufacturers and restaurant chains. Here, James gained a solid understanding of Food Safety and Quality Assurance at the laboratory level.

James later returned to the University of Florida to earn his Master’s in Business Management. While earning his Master’s, James met the AQA Team and came on part-time as an intern before joining full-time upon completion of his degree. James’ unique combination of food science and business knowledge brought a unique perspective to the AQA Team enabling him to connect with clients within the food industry ranging from QA Analysts to VPs of Supply Chain.

When James isn’t in the office, he is most likely found on his skiff, catching redfish along the Big Bend of Florida’s Gulf Coast, accompanied by his loving wife, Ashley.

John Laxson

Director Business Development

John E. Laxson is a restaurant industry food safety and quality assurance specialist who provides a world class solution to his clients. He partners with restaurant quality assurance personnel to provide them a complete solution to leverage time and to gain total control of all aspects of quality assurance and food safety execution through predictive analytics. After spending 25 years in the financial services industry with emphasis on biotechnology investments, John concentrated his efforts on food laboratory testing services. At ABC Research Labs, John was responsible for all meat and poultry clients and has extensive knowledge of suppliers to the restaurant industry. John oversaw testing for many of the largest poultry producers and restaurant suppliers in the U.S. to ensure that specifications were met.

John has taken his laboratory experience from ABC Research, Merieux NutriSciences(Silliker) and Microbac Labs and has joined Gainesville, Florida based Actionable Quality Assurance. Restaurant quality assurance and food safety personnel are overwhelmed with many tasks including supplier compliance and spec management. John is passionate about helping the restaurant industry to gain total control of all aspects of quality assurance and food safety. The time has come to put quality assurance and food safety managers in a position to be proactive.

John holds a BBA from Georgia State University.

Kathleen Byars

Marketing Consultant

Kathleen Byars is a corporate marketing executive experienced in new market entry and high growth strategies. She began her career as an account strategist for Pepsi and Quaker State before finding her passion working with trailblazing brands.

As Vice President of International Marketing for Mary Kay Cosmetics, Kate led new market entry and marketing strategies for thirty-one international countries and her work includes award-winning honors for best content marketing practices as profiled by the Content Marketing Institute for an innovative dive gear manufacturer case study.

Kate specializes in helping start ups go from customer acquisition to adoption to advocacy with optimal marketing practices. When she’s not marketing, she’s usually playing Minecraft or Legos with her sons or walking her French Bulldog, Mr. Peabody.

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