Meet the Team

We’re a passionate and experienced investment and operating team whose partners have been investing, analyzing, advising and leading food & beverage, retail and other brand-based businesses for decades. We’re also big fans of good food and cold beer – an occupational requirement and perk.

Jeff has almost 25 years of experience as a successful investor and banking professional. He’s played a role in executing more than $2 billion of debt financing across restaurant and beverage, diversified industries and multinational platforms at JPMorgan Securities, First Union Corporation, Bank of America and GE Capital Franchise Finance.

While a partner at Morehead Capital – a private investment firm focused on investing in emerging restaurants – Jeff led the firm’s business development efforts resulting in acquisitions of multiple, well-respected concepts.

Prior to joining Morehead Capital, Jeff was a Director at GE Capital Franchise Finance where he held many roles, including large cap originations for dozens of franchised systems. Ultimately, Jeff helped launch GE’s “Brand Management” group where he was responsible for the corporate relationship for franchised systems headquartered east of the Mississippi that represented more than $3 billion of total system-wide debt exposure.

Jeff currently serves on the North Carolina State Poole College of Management’s Board of Advisors. He holds a BA from NC State University’s College of Management and an MBA from the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill.

When Jeff isn’t working, he’s spending time relaxing at home or the beach with his wonderful family, and making repeated (and failed) attempts to recreate his grandma Tiny Stilley’s crab stew. One of these years, it will happen.

Brian has spent his career investing in and operating food and beverage companies.  While serving as President and Chief Financial Officer of Southern Season, Brian helped the specialty food market, restaurant and cooking school operation grow from a one-store retailer to a multi-state brand opening over 110,000 square feet of retail space and growing to over 800 employees.   As a partner with private equity firm Carrboro Capital, Brian led the group’s strategy of owning and operating companies in the food and beverage and consumer retail space.

Prior to Carrboro Capital, Brian was with Falfurrias Capital Partners, a middle market private equity firm founded by Hugh McColl and Marc Oken, former CEO and CFO of Bank of America.  There he managed investments in companies totaling over $275M in enterprise value including Bojangles’, an operator and franchisor of quick service restaurants currently generating over $1 billion in annual system-wide sales.

Mr. Fauver co-founded the Share the Food Foundation in 2012, a non-profit with a mission to fight hunger and hunger related issues.  He’s spoken at food industry conferences such as the Specialty Food Association’s Fancy Food Show.  Brian began his career in investment banking with SunTrust Robinson Humphrey and received both his Bachelor’s and MBA degrees from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Brian is extremely proud of his family, including his wife and two daughters.  While an active athlete in his youth, the only trophy he still displays for all to see is the one he received in 2013 as champion of his neighborhood’s chili cook-off.

James began his career in restaurants, working for his family business at their local southern-inspired South Carolina-based chain.  After college, James received a fellowship form Princeton’s Alumni Corps and went to work in the disability employment space as a business development director for a federal contracting organization in Washington, DC.  He was accepted into the United States Peace Corps in Costa Rica, where he focused on micro-finance with Grameen Bank. Upon his return to the US, James started business school, during which he worked in the M&A practices at Moelis & Company in New York, as well as Jacob’s Capital in Chapel Hill, NC.

James earned his BS in Accounting and Business Administration from Washington and Lee University, where he was a varsity wrestler, and his MBA from Duke’s Fuqua School of Business, where he was named a Fellow by the Coach K Center on Leadership and Ethics.

In his free time, James enjoys being a full-time father to his black lab, Penelope, taking road trips back to South Carolina for big Italian family dinners and finding any excuse to go adventuring outside. He also firmly believes that his chili is better than Brian’s.

Holden joins Hargett Hunter from Regions Securities, where he spent over two years as an investment banking analyst executing numerous debt transactions in addition to strategic advisory engagements. Prior to Regions, Holden spent time in the food and beverage sector working for Anheuser-Busch as well as for his family’s Eastern North Carolina-based convenience store business.

Holden received his BS in Business Administration with a concentration in Finance from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (Kenan-Flagler Business School).

In his free time, Holden enjoys spending time with family and friends and will look for almost any reason to get out on the water – whether it be at the lake or beach. Since Holden believes that no gathering by the water can be complete without a proper feast, he can typically be found leading the charge by the grill or in the kitchen. His specialty is his baked grouper.

Davis joins Hargett Hunter from PJ Solomon, where he was an Associate in its Telecommunications practice executing advisory work for clients. Prior to PJ Solomon, Davis began his investment banking career as an Analyst at TD Securities in its Communications, Media and Technology practice, where he advised clients on buy- and sell-side M&A and debt financings.

Davis graduated with a BS in Business Administration with a concentration in Finance and minors in Accounting and Chinese Studies from North Carolina State University.

In his free time, Davis enjoys spending it with his family and friends or trying his hand at home projects. Having spent the last four years in New York, Davis has become somewhat of an expert on Seamless delivery in the Midtown area, but as a consequence, his culinary skills are lacking. His goal is to perfect smoked turkey this year.

Jillian Clay

Administrative Services Manager

Jillian grew up learning about the restaurant industry in her family’s cafeteria, Balentine’s, located in Raleigh, NC. It was there that she learned generosity and hospitality are the foundation of strong relationships. She watched her father and grandfather put hospitality at the forefront of their business and has spent her career trying to do the same.

Jillian spent six years with the YMCA of the Triangle, overseeing their Welcome Center while developing impactful relationships with each member that walked through the door. As Welcome Center Director, Jillian offered administrative support to five departments, was responsible for all bill collection and money transfers, and helped lead a team of volunteers for the YMCA’s We Build People Campaign.

She earned her BS in Communications with a concentration in Public Relations from NC State University.

Jillian spends her free time with her husband, daughter, and their chocolate lab. You can catch her in the car singing every word to a Taylor Swift song or rapping to Eminem, and you can count on her to bring her almost famous buffalo chicken dip to any gathering.

Sean has spent the better part of a decade working with emerging growth and established restaurant businesses. While serving as Director of Investment Banking at Geraty Investments, a boutique investment firm with a niche focus on the restaurant/food retail sectors, Sean drove new business development and executed numerous restaurant M&A, equity, and debt transactions.

Sean received his BS in Business Administration with an emphasis on Music Business from Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee.

When the Minnesota weather allows it, Sean enjoys hiking with his wife and daughter and can’t wait for his son to join them Spring 2021.

Hargett Operating Services Team (HOST)

Known as HOST, we have a dedicated team of proven, highly talented restaurant operators with diverse functional expertise utilizing time-tested playbooks for executing key elements of restaurant chain growth plans on an as-needed basis.

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Ben Blankenship

Concept Development & Operations

  • 26+ years of hands-on and strategy experience with business planning & scaling, finance & administration, project management, & new market expansion
  • CEO, COO, & CFO experience across multiple industries
  • Chef, Restaurant Chain Operator, & CIA graduate
  • Founding leadership team member with Qdoba.
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David Gonzalez

Real Estate & Franchising

  • HOST Liaison to Hargett Hunter Investment Team
  • VP of Franchising at First Watch Restaurants and The Egg & I
  • VP of Franchising at Le Duff America (La Madeleine & Bruegger’s Bagels)
  • VP of Development at Bennigan’s as part of a major brand redevelopment effort
First Watch La Madeleine French Bakery & Cafe
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Mark Brezinski

Concept Development

  • Co-created Pei Wei Asian Diner, Velvet Taco, Banh Shop
  • Founded Tin Star Restaurants, and dozens more successful concepts across multiple service formats and food categories
  • New concept development for YUM! Brands (NYSE: YUM)
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Brian Pearson


  • CTO of Stacked and lead creator of proprietary restaurant operating system
  • CTO of BJ’s Restaurant and Brewhouse (NASDAQ: BJRI)
  • 2nd in command in IT department at Cheesecake Factory (NASDAQ: CAKE)
The Cheesecake Factory
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Kenny Avery

Operations and QSR

  • COO of Bojangles’, taking brand from 380 stores and $500 million in sales to over 720 stores and over $1.2 billion in sales
  • SVP of Franchise Operations for CKE Restaurants (Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr.)
Hargett Hunter's experience includes working with Bojangles Hardees
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Sam Kaufman

Finance / Accounting

  • Former CFO of Sprinkles
  • Former VP of Finance at LeDuff
  • Former VP of Finance at Le Madeleine
  • Former Director of Finance at Fuddruckers
La Madeleine French Bakery & Cafe

Combined Experience

Below is just a glimpse of the companies and systems with which we have worked and financed throughout our careers.