WE ARE A TEAM OF CREATIVE STRATEGISTS & PASSIONATE STORYTELLERS.
Food, beverage, restaurants, hotels, destinations
and other immersive experiences are our specialty.
THE WORLD IS A CLUTTERED PLACE
with a lot of competition for a spot in people’s hearts and minds. We translate insights and creative vision into brand strategies that drive revenue. We help our clients cut through the noise and rise to the top.
Prior to launching as an independent company, Carbonate was a division of San Francisco-based af&co., a hospitality consulting firm that specializes in lifestyle marketing & media relations.
CO-FOUNDER, CARBONATE + FOUNDER, AF&CO.
Named as one of the Top 25 Most Extraordinary Minds in Sales and Marketing by the Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International, Andrew brings a combination of experience, passion and creativity to every endeavor. Andrew is a New Jersey native with a Marketing Degree from Montclair State University. He learned the restaurant business by working through the ranks at several legendary New York venues including Windows on the World, the Russian Tea Room and the Rainbow Room. Andrew was Vice President of Public Relations and Strategic Partnerships for Kimpton Hotels and Restaurants for 10 years, helping to launch over 40 hotels and restaurants as well as the global brand. In 2005 Andrew launched his own agency, af&co., and with his amazing team of professionals, the agency has developed and launched concepts, created unique culinary events, provided ongoing marketing, public relations and operations consulting for over 300 restaurants and hotels. In 2019, Andrew co-founded Carbonate to offer expanded creative strategy and brand communications services. Andrew is a contributor to numerous industry magazines and blogs and guest speaker at industry conferences both in the USA and internationally. The af&co./Carbonate annual trend report is highly regarded and has garnered tremendous worldwide coverage.
CO-FOUNDER & MANAGING DIRECTOR
A brand strategist with over 15 years of experience, Candace has worked for a range of clients from large corporations to multi-concept operators to Silicon Valley start-ups. Prior to launching Carbonate, Candace was Managing Director of Consulting Services at af&co., one of the country’s leading hospitality consulting firms. In this role, she led a team in creating, launching and refining brand identities for over 40 different restaurants and culinary experiences. Her team authored the publication of af&co.’s highly regarded annual hospitality trend report. With experience across a wide range of channels, Candace is a results oriented marketer, experienced at translating creative vision into communications programs that build brands and generate revenue. Candace holds a B.S. in Communications from Northwestern University and an M.S in Integrated Marketing Communications from Northwestern University’s Medill School.
An enthusiastic champion of enlightened hospitality, Johnna brings nearly 15 years of experience in brand strategy and creative direction with a specific focus on the food and beverage industry. With a passion for helping brands create meaningful experiences, she works closely with clients to craft design solutions that are rooted in strategic storytelling and clear vision. Johnna has helped multiple restaurant groups build inspired in-house creative and marketing teams, in addition to creating and refining over 30 brand identities. Prior to joining Carbonate, Johnna was the Creative Designer for Charleston-based hospitality group, The Indigo Road, where she brought print and digital design for 26 locations in-house in addition to leading several rebrand initiatives. Before that, she spent 10 years in NYC where she served as Creative Director for The Meatball Shop, a multi-location restaurant group, before pursuing an extensive freelance career working with a variety of clients. Her work has included brand identity development, menu & collateral design, packaging, and web development, in addition to product design and development for major retailers such as Urban Outfitters, Target, and West Elm. She holds a B.F.A. from Arizona State University, has completed the Digital Branding program from Pratt Institute, and is dying to know what your Myers–Briggs personality type is.
DIRECTOR of BRAND COMMUNICATIONS
Lib brings nearly 15 years of integrated marketing communications experience across hotels, food, beverage and tech. Throughout her career, she has focused on leveraging longstanding media relationships and strategic partnerships to develop communications strategies that not only result in high-profile media placements, but also drive brand awareness and sales. After earning a B.A. from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2008, Lib spent five years in New York City, where she gained agency and in-house experience overseeing media relations and high-profile events for several boutique hotels including Gramercy Park, Soho Grand and The Surrey. In 2013, she moved to San Francisco and joined the team at af&co. There, she developed public relations and marketing programs for restaurant and hospitality clients throughout the Bay Area. In 2016, New York called her again to return to the east coast. She worked with af&co’s Consulting Services team for the next 4 years, focusing her efforts on media outreach, expansion and launch strategy for several national brands, before joining Carbonate in 2020 as Director of Brand Communications.
A New York native, Rachel Walensky is a brand strategist and integrated marketing communications professional with over a decade of experience working with, and building, award-winning brands in the food, beverage, travel, lifestyle, and tech sectors. After graduating from Northwestern University, she decided to forgo a planned career in law and follow her passion for hospitality. She got her start at the hospitality-focused PR agency Wagstaff Media & Marketing, where she spearheaded campaigns for over 25 high-profile accounts. Rachel then moved in-house as the Director of Communications & Marketing for Michelin-starred Chef George Mendes, where she drove all aspects of media relations, branding, social media, direct marketing, and strategic partnerships for the chef and restaurants. She went on to become the first Director of Communications & Marketing for The Bastion Collection, helping grow the hospitality investment firm (in less than two years) from one to eight brands, with 10 properties across New York, Miami, and Houston. Most recently, Rachel launched her own consulting firm before joining the team at Carbonate in Spring 2021 as Senior Strategist.
Perhaps not a surprise given that her name was inspired by a restaurant, Leith entered the culinary realm upon graduating Cornell University and spent the next five years in restaurant kitchens in the US and Europe, picking up a Culinary Arts degree along the way. She joined af&co. as the fourth employee where she managed many notable restaurant accounts and orchestrated a number of opening public relations programs, securing press in a wide range of outlets from main food features in the San Francisco Chronicle to recipes in Saveur and Food & Wine. Before joining Carbonate, she lived in Italy for six years, managing marketing for a luxury real estate agent in Chianti, helping open and run a boutique eight room airbnb in Florence and leading private food & wine tours in Chianti. With over 15 years in the eno-gastronomic industry Leith brings a depth of perspective that allows her to easily translate serious culinary concepts into ideas that resonate with a wide variety of audiences. When she’s not exploring San Francisco’s restaurant scene or behind the stove, she might be off on her next world adventure. Leith was proud to achieve her goal of 30 countries by her 30th birthday.
A Minnesota native, Hannah’s design portfolio is as diverse as her favorite cuisines. She has been fortunate enough to have designed for megaliths like BP and Bacardi but has a soft spot for start-ups and local up-and-comers. After graduating as Taylor University’s Designer of the Year, she was an adjunct professor teaching Adobe Illustrator. Hannah has worked in various realms of the art and design world with a focus on brand identity development, illustration, and brand management. Hannah first flirted with the idea of working in the hospitality industry as Creative Director for a restaurant in the Chicagoland area. It was there that she whet her appetite for hospitality branding, menu layout, and product sourcing. Constantly on the lookout for food and design trends, Hannah brings to each project fresh ideas for each client’s visual language. When she’s not sketching ideas for brand concepts, she can be found experimenting with new recipes in the kitchen.
JUNIOR GRAPHIC DESIGNER
With a degree in Communication Design from the University of Cincinnati’s college of Design, Architecture, Art and Planning, Mariel participated in the professional practice program where she worked with several leading businesses in the art and design industry. Through these various university programs, Mariel worked for clients like Toyota, Christie’s, and LAX, and in doing so she had the opportunity to live and work in several major cities including Dallas, New York City, Los Angeles, and Florence, Italy. Her love of travel translated into her passion for the hospitality industry as she began documenting the food she was enjoying while traveling, on her Instagram account “foodieforthought.” When not designing you can find Mariel reading a Dan Brown novel, drinking lots of coffee, traveling, and of course enjoying some good food.