Executive Movements — June 2017

  • Granite City Food & Brewery Ltd. Announces the Appointment of Richard H. Lynch as Chief Executive Officer

    May 11, 2017 09:15 AM Eastern Daylight Time
    MINNEAPOLIS--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Granite City Food & Brewery Ltd. (OTC Pink:GCFB) today announced that Richard H. Lynch (Dick), a member of its Board of Directors, has been appointed as the company’s Chief Executive Officer. Interim CEO, Rob Doran, will continue to serve as a member of Granite City’s Board of Directors.

    Lynch is a restaurant industry veteran who served as the Chief Brand Officer for Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen for the past nine years. Lynch architected the brand transformation that led to Popeyes’ resurgence in the QSR space, and ultimately, its acquisition by Restaurant Brands International, Inc. earlier this year. He brings with him a wealth of branding expertise and experience in leveraging brand differentiation to drive topline sales as well as a proven track record in assembling quality, results-oriented teams.

    During Lynch’s tenure Popeyes achieved:

    • 8 consecutive years of same-store sales growth
    • Market share increase from 13% to 27%
    • Annual unit volume (AUV) increase of 45%, from $1 million to $1.45 million
    • Restaurant level profitability increases from 17% to nearly 24%
    • Unit growth from 1,860 locations to nearly 2,700

    “Our search focused on identifying a leader with top-level branding expertise to unlock the potential for this dynamic concept and bring it into the future. We were fortunate that Dick’s expertise was already known to us as he has served on our board the past 15 months,” said Fouad Bashour, Chairman of the Board for Granite City Food & Brewery. “Dick has demonstrated an appreciation for the potential of our brand. That, together with his expertise, will be invaluable as we elevate the Granite City brand profile.”

    “I am honored to have the opportunity to unleash the untapped potential of this brand,” said Lynch. “Granite City is one of the originators of the craft brew trend, and one of the only places where you experience brew-culture at its most authentic coupled with a chef-created, made-from-scratch, distinctive menu. I believe the Granite City experience is unique in its space. I look forward to leveraging the brand to drive a differentiated employee and guest experience as well.”

    Granite City Food & Brewery features craft beers brewed onsite and distinctive menu items including Maple Pepper Bacon & Tomato Flatbread, one of its signature artisan flatbreads and its Pulled Pork Waffle that features braised pulled pork with BBQ sauce served on a roasted corn & jalapeno waffle.

    Lynch will take the helm of Granite City Food & Brewery on May 15th.

    About Granite City Food & Brewery
    Granite City Food & Brewery operates two casual dining concepts – 36 Granite City Food & Brewery restaurants across 14 states and 5 Cadillac Ranch All American Bar & Grill restaurants in 5 states. Granite City features scratch kitchens and a patented brewing process, “Fermentus Interruptus,” allowing each location to brew and serve fine and fresh handcrafted beer. Cadillac Ranch offers country-themed food, music and fun in a country casual atmosphere. Additional information about Granite City Food & Brewery can be found at www.gcfb.com. Follow Granite City Food & Brewery on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

    Coltrin & Associates (on behalf of Granite City)
    Jennifer Webb, 212-221-1616

  • Chipotle Names Scott Boatwright Chief Restaurant Officer

    Boatwright brings nearly 20 years of restaurant operations experience to Chipotle executive team

    May 11, 2017 11:00 AM Eastern Daylight Time
    DENVER--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Chipotle Mexican Grill (NYSE: CMG) announced that it has hired Scott Boatwright as chief restaurant officer, a position where he will work with the company’s senior restaurant leadership team to oversee restaurant operations for Chipotle’s nearly 2,300 North American restaurants. Boatwright comes to Chipotle from Arby’s Restaurant Group, where he served as senior vice president of operations. He joins Chipotle effective May 30.

    “Continuing to focus on providing the very best guest experience is one of our top priorities,” said Steve Ells, founder, chairman and CEO at Chipotle. “Scott’s proven accomplishments elevating the guest experience will help us accelerate the momentum we have seen so far in 2017.”

    Boatwright began his career at Arby’s in 1997 and held a variety of leadership and executive positions during his tenure with the company. Most recently, as senior vice president for Arby’s, he was responsible for the success and performance of nearly 2,000 franchised and company-owned restaurants across 22 states. Specifically, he was responsible for operational standards, building and developing teams, delivering an excellent guest experience, and strategic planning to support the company’s overall annual operating plan.

    “Chipotle is a remarkable brand and one that has redefined what a fast food experience can be,” said Boatwright. “The company has reshaped the category and paved the way for a new generation of restaurants. I’m thrilled to join Chipotle at a time when there is considerable opportunity ahead to impact food culture and improve the way people eat.”

    In his new position at Chipotle, Boatwright will work closely with Chipotle restaurant support officers Gretchen Selfridge and Mike Duffy to oversee restaurant operations, including enhancing the guest experience, developing and leading field leadership teams, developing strong teams inside the restaurants, and enhancing operational efficiency.

    Boatwright holds a Master’s Degree in Business Administration from the Robinson College of Business at Georgia State University.

    With his new role at Chipotle, Boatwright will work from the company’s Denver headquarters and will report directly to Ells.

    Steve Ells, Founder, Chairman and CEO, started Chipotle with the idea that food served fast did not have to be a typical fast food experience. Today, Chipotle continues to offer a focused menu of burritos, tacos, burrito bowls, and salads made from fresh, high-quality raw ingredients, prepared using classic cooking methods and served in an interactive style allowing people to get exactly what they want. Chipotle seeks out extraordinary ingredients that are not only fresh, but that are raised responsibly, with respect for the animals, land, and people who produce them. Chipotle prepares its food using only real, whole ingredients, and is the only national restaurant brand that uses absolutely no added colors, flavors or other industrial additives typically found in fast food. Chipotle opened with a single restaurant in Denver in 1993 and now operates more than 2,300 restaurants. For more information, visit Chipotle.com.


    Chipotle Mexican Grill
    Chris Arnold, 303-222-5912

  • Blaze Fast-Fire'd Pizza Promotes Jim Mizes to President and CEO

    LOS ANGELES, CA--(Marketwired - May 11, 2017) - Blaze Fast-Fire'd Pizza, the leading fast-casual artisanal pizza concept, today announced the promotion of Jim Mizes to President and CEO. Mizes, who has served as the company's President and Chief Operating Officer since 2013, will assume global responsibility for the brand, spearheading the continued growth of Blaze Pizza in the USA and internationally. 

    "Jim is uniquely suited to take over the CEO role at our organization," said Rick Wetzel, co-founder and Chairman of Blaze Pizza. "He combines a background in finance and restaurant operations with decades of experience helping start-up brands add systems and processes so they can scale smoothly and quickly. He is truly the entrepreneur's best friend!" Mr. Mizes has previously helped Noah's Bagels and Jamba Juice transition from start-up to high-growth organizations, building the infrastructure and support for each to rapidly add locations and grow sales. He joined Blaze Pizza as its COO in 2012 when the company had two restaurants.

    Under Mizes' leadership, Blaze Pizza has implemented guest-facing and infrastructure-building processes and procedures that have enabled the company to:

    • Achieve average unit volumes (AUVs) of $1.45 million in 2016 across 31 states and Canada. 
    • Grow system-wide sales to $185 million in 2016 with a 4-year system-wide sales CAGR of 210%.
    • Layer in systems, processes, training and technology ahead of the curve to support a 4-year new-unit CAGR of 205%.
    • Attract an outstanding group of franchise partners who bring experience, infrastructure, capital and creativity to fuel growth and brand performance.

    Prior to joining Blaze Pizza, Mizes served as President of Freebirds World Burrito, overseeing the brand's multi-state expansion and doubling its number of units. Mizes also served as VP of Brand Development and VP of Store Operations for Jamba Juice, leading its growth from 50 to 350 stores over 5 years. Prior to Jamba Juice, Mizes served as President of Noah's New York Bagels, where he led the company's development and growth until it was sold to Einstein Bros. Bagels. 

    "I'm looking forward to working with Rick, Elise and the Blaze Pizza Board to continue growing the Blaze brand both domestically and internationally," said Mizes. "By leveraging the infrastructure we've built over our first five years, we are now well-positioned to become a dominant category leader, with a goal of becoming a billion-dollar brand by 2022."

    About Blaze Pizza 
    The first Blaze Pizza® restaurant opened on Aug. 6, 2012, in Irvine, Calif., and quickly gained attention for its chef-driven recipes, thoughtful interior design, and a service culture that celebrates individuality. Now ranked as the overall #2 fast-casual brand in FastCasual.com's annual Top 100 list, Blaze Pizza is building momentum and developing a cult-like following as it expands across the country. The company currently operates 194 restaurants in 32 states and Canada, including the major metropolitan areas of Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Toronto, Dallas, Las Vegas, and Boston. Founded by Elise and Rick Wetzel (co-founder of Wetzel's Pretzels), the concept is backed by investors including LeBron James, Maria Shriver, Patrick Schwarzenegger, Boston Red Sox co-owner Tom Werner and movie producer John Davis. For more information, please visit blazepizza.com and facebook.com/blazepizza or click here to view a company video.

    Blaze Pizza®, Fast-Fire'd®, the horizontal logo design, and the proprietary names "Pizzasmith", "Intelligent Choices For Our Pizzas, People & Planet" and related trademarks are the property of Blaze Pizza LLC.


    Media Contact
    Joshua Levitt
    Press Relations

  • Pieology Pizzeria Welcomes New President Michael Nolan

    Pieology, the creator of personally-inspired pizzas, announces the hire of former Smashburger President and CEO Michael J. Nolan. Nolan joined the 2015 #1 Fastest Growing Chain by Technomic earlier this month.

    Nolan brings with him more than 25 years of experience in the restaurant industry, ranging from development strategy to executive-level management, with a reputation for growing national and international brands. Prior to his tenure at Smashburger, Nolan held executive-level positions at Corner Bakery Café, Bloomin’ Brands, Inc., and Panera Bread Company, where he spearheaded a 12-year expansion phase that grew the concept from 250 to more than 1,500 locations.

    “Michael has an unparalleled understanding of the fast-casual industry and I am excited to hand him the reins through our next growth phase,” said Pieology Founder Carl Chang. “Our priority at Pieology has always been to share great food at a great value, in an inviting and welcoming environment that allows everyone from all walks of life to enjoy. I’m confident that Michael’s expertise and leadership will continue to propel Pieology forward and as he rounds up the rest of his leadership team to take the business to the next level, while I will take on a more passive role from day to day activities as a board member.”

    Continuing to place an emphasis on advancing the customer experience at Pieology, the brand’s most recent innovation came with the announcement of their new PieRise Thick Crust earlier this year. The new thicker crust is optimized for takeout and delivery and is slated for national distribution this summer.

    Award-winning Pieology has been dishing out delicious hand-crafted pizzas since 2011, growing from a simple idea to bring creativity back to pizza that now encompasses 135 stores across the nation and more than 50 openings planned in 2017. To learn more about Pieology, visit http://www.Pieology.com or find them on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

    About Pieology Pizzeria 
    Using only the freshest ingredients along with signature sauces and crusts, award-winning Pieology offers hand-crafted, personally-inspired pizzas in unlimited flavor combinations that are stone oven fired in less than three minutes. Founded in 2011 by Carl Chang, Pieology was created from the simple idea to turn America’s most craveable food into an affordable and interactive experience. Pieology’s mission is to inspire individual creativity in a positive atmosphere where guests can gather with family and friends, while enjoying their delicious pizza creations. Along with providing great food and a memorable dining experience, Pieology is committed to making a positive difference in the communities it serves, one pie at a time. Named the 2015 #1 Fastest Growing Chain by Technomic, Pieology is steadily expanding its U.S. footprint, with commitments throughout the country in various stages of development. For more information, visit http://www.pieology.com, and follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

  • Chief Financial Officer W. Douglas Benn to Retire From The Cheesecake Factory Incorporated

    Company Names Matthew Clark CFO to Succeed Benn

    May 11, 2017 04:15 PM Eastern Daylight Time

    CALABASAS HILLS, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--The Cheesecake Factory Incorporated (NASDAQ: CAKE) today announced that Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer W. Douglas Benn will retire from the Company on July 7, 2017. He will be succeeded by Matthew Clark, who brings over 11 years of experience with the Company, most recently serving as Senior Vice President, Finance and Strategy.

    “On behalf of our Board of Directors, management team and all of our staff, I want to thank Doug for his numerous contributions to The Cheesecake Factory,” said David Overton, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer. “He has built a strong finance infrastructure and team, contributed to our significant growth over the past eight years, and effectively communicated our story to our investors. Doug has been a valued leader, colleague and friend, and we wish him well.”

    Overton continued, “Our finance organization will be in excellent hands under Matt Clark’s leadership. Matt possesses a deep understanding of our business, as well as the broader restaurant industry, and is a well-respected leader across the Company. Matt has a track record of driving sound strategic decisions, rigorous financial management and continuous process improvement. This appointment is part of our Board’s long-term senior management succession planning efforts, and we are confident that we will experience a smooth transition as Matt takes over as Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer.”

    Doug Benn, Chief Financial Officer, commented, “It has been an honor to help lead this great brand and work alongside people who are so passionate about serving others and upholding The Cheesecake Factory’s culture of excellence. Matt has been critical to The Cheesecake Factory’s strategy and success over the years so I am confident this will be a seamless transition. In turn, the time is right for me to pursue other interests, and I look forward to remaining active in the restaurant industry and beyond in my next chapter.”

    As Senior Vice President, Finance and Strategy, Matt Clark has overseen the strategy, planning, treasury and risk management functions at The Cheesecake Factory. He also supported investor relations as well as corporate governance during his tenure, and most recently led the Company’s minority investment in two external, high-growth restaurant brands. Earlier in his career, he held a number of finance positions of increasing responsibility at Groupe Danone, Kinko’s and The Walt Disney Company. Clark received an M.B.A. from the University of Southern California and a B.A. in Economics and Mathematics from the University of California, Santa Cruz.

    Doug Benn is a veteran of the restaurant industry having spent more than 25 years in management roles with restaurant companies. He joined The Cheesecake Factory as Chief Financial Officer in 2009 and helped grow the Company to over $2 billion in annual revenues while adjusted earnings per share more than tripled. Benn also contributed to the achievement of several milestones, including the Company’s international expansion and the initiation of the Company’s dividend. Prior to joining The Cheesecake Factory, he served as Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer of RARE Hospitality International, which owned LongHorn Steakhouse and The Capital Grille preceding that company’s sale to Darden Restaurants, Inc.

    About The Cheesecake Factory Incorporated
    The Cheesecake Factory Incorporated created the upscale casual dining segment in 1978 with the introduction of its namesake concept. The Company, through its subsidiaries, owns and operates 208 full-service, casual dining restaurants throughout the U.S.A. and Puerto Rico, including 194 restaurants under The Cheesecake Factory® mark; 13 restaurants under the Grand Lux Cafe® mark; and one restaurant under the Rock Sugar Pan Asian Kitchen® mark. Internationally, 16 The Cheesecake Factory® restaurants operate under licensing agreements. The Company’s bakery division operates two bakery production facilities, in Calabasas Hills, CA and Rocky Mount, NC, that produce quality cheesecakes and other baked products for its restaurants, international licensees and third-party bakery customers. In 2017, the Company was named to the FORTUNE Magazine “100 Best Companies to Work For®” list for the fourth consecutive year. To learn more about the Company, visit www.thecheesecakefactory.com.


    The Cheesecake Factory Incorporated
    Stacy Feit, 818-871-3000

  • Scott Davis joins CoreLife Eatery as President as the Brand Continues Rapid National Expansion By: CoreLife Eatery

    Fast Casual Pioneer Brings Impressive Resume And Experience To Build The Nation’s Next Leading Concept

    April 20, 2017 // Franchising.com // CoreLife Eatery has announced that they have brought on seasoned restaurant executive Scott Davis as President of the brand. In the two short years since CoreLife Eatery opened the doors of its first location in Syracuse, New York, the concept has exploded onto the restaurant scene. The company now has restaurants in New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania and is opening its tenth location this week in Ithaca, New York. With an aggressive national growth plan in place that features both corporate and franchise restaurants, CoreLife Eatery is making big moves at the executive level to position the company for success while maintaining superior quality while opening 60 stores per year over the next five years.

    Scott Davis is an executive and innovator in the fast-casual restaurant industry. Scott served as the Chief Concept Officer of Panera Bread from the brand’s inception in 1996 until December of 2015. In his role of Chief Concept Officer, Davis oversaw all food and bakery product development, category and menu management, restaurant design and sustainability. In addition, Davis was a member of the executive strategy team for Panera and confidant to industry icon and CEO Ron Shaich for over twenty years. Davis added, “I am forever indebted to Ron for his leadership, friendship and commitment to making a difference in the world. His influence has had a profound and lasting impact on me and the entire restaurant industry.”

    Davis was responsible for ushering in a number of favorites at Panera including the brand’s free Wi-Fi program, catering and a number of favorite menu items that fans of Panera have grown to love. Davis has also been a featured speaker at a number of large national conventions and conferences including the Food Tank Summit, Sustainable Brands Conference and Fast Casual Executive Summit to name a few.

    “We are extremely proud to announce Scott Davis as a critical part of our executive team to help CoreLife Eatery continue its growth trajectory and introduce the brand and its offering to new communities throughout the United States. Mr. Davis was a critical part of the inception, growth and success of Panera Bread and CoreLife Eatery will benefit tremendously from his wealth of industry knowledge, expertise and experience,” commented Larry Wilson, CEO of CoreLife Eatery.

    With greens, grains, and bone broth as basic building blocks, CoreLife Eatery focuses on food first through high-level customization of menu items. The single line service system and a narrowly defined menu structure allow for maximum interaction with guests, which virtually eliminates order error or surprise. Simultaneously, there is great profit potential because of the simplicity of their ingredients and the end-to-end use of all vegetables, proteins and add-ons. Dressings, broths and beverages are made from scratch every day in each location so there is a noticeable differentiation from other dining alternatives.

    Four essential pillars set CoreLife Eatery apart from competitors - quality of ingredients and freshly prepared recipes; the specialness of the eatery space driven by design and choice of materials; commitment to training before, during and after eatery openings; and, the connection to “audience of influencers” through social media and local outreach. CoreLife Eatery uses social media to reinforce its strong position with its customers, boasting an impressive level of audience satisfaction that is at the top of the industry.

    Led by CEO Larry Wilson, the CoreLife Eatery executive team brings individual successes and skill sets to help the restaurant grow to meet the needs of more communities lacking convenient access to healthy and affordable eating alternatives. CoreLife Eatery plans to expand to 300 total locations, including both corporate and franchise restaurants, over the next five years. For more information, please visit www.eatatcore.com.

    Media Contact:

    Stephen Donnelly
    CoreLife Eatery
    (719) 337-8238

  • Dunkin' Brands Appoints Linda Boff To Board Of Directors

    May, 23 2017
    Dunkin' Brands Group, Inc. (Nasdaq: DNKN), the parent company of Dunkin' Donuts and Baskin-Robbins, announced today the appointment of Linda Boff to the Dunkin' Brands Board of Directors. Ms. Boff, 55, is the Chief Marketing Officer for GE and is responsible for leading that company's global marketing strategies.

    "Linda is one of the pre-eminent marketers in the country, and we are delighted she has joined our board of directors," said Nigel Travis, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Dunkin' Brands Group, Inc. "Her extensive background in integrated marketing and digital media, as well as her global brand building expertise and reputation for innovation, should greatly assist us in our quest to position Dunkin' Donuts as the leading beverage-led, to-go brand."

    Ms. Boff joined GE in 2004 and was named to her current position in 2015. Her prior experience includes serving as CMO at NBC's iVillage as well as key marketing roles at Citigroup, the American Museum of Natural History, Times Mirror Company and several large marketing agencies.

    A graduate of Union College, Ms. Boff has received numerous accolades during her career, including the 2016 Women in Communications Matrix Award, Advertising Women of New York's Changing the Game award, CDO Club's 2016 US Chief Digital Officer of the Year, and inclusion as one of Fast Company's Most Creative People.

    Ms. Boff is on the Board of Partnership with Children, an NYC-based organization which provides social support to hard-to-reach school children. She is also Vice Chair of the Ad Council and on the Executive Committee of the Association of National Advertisers (ANA). 

  • Yum! Brands Announces Election of Chris Connor to Board

    May, 19 2017
    Mr. Connor, 61, served as Executive Chairman of The Sherwin-Williams Company, a global manufacturer of paint, architectural coatings, industrial finishes and associated supplies, until 2016.

    Yum! Brands, Inc. (NYSE: YUM) announced that Christopher M. Connor was elected to its Board of Directors at the Company’s annual meeting of shareholders today.

    “Chris’ executive leadership and global retail experience make him a strong addition to the Yum! Brands Board,” said Robert Walter, Non-Executive Chairman of Yum! Brands. “We are thrilled to have Chris join us during this exciting time for Yum! Brands, as we continue to evolve as the restaurant industry’s leading global franchisor.”

    Greg Creed, Chief Executive Officer of Yum! Brands said, “Chris is a talented and seasoned retail veteran who led Sherwin-Williams for many years. We look forward to the experience and insights he will bring as we execute our multi-year strategy to become a more focused, more franchised and more efficient company with a uniquely powerful and predictable free cash flow growth profile.”

    Mr. Connor, 61, served as Executive Chairman of The Sherwin-Williams Company, a global manufacturer of paint, architectural coatings, industrial finishes and associated supplies, until 2016. Mr. Connor held a number of executive positions at Sherwin-Williams beginning in 1983. He served as Chief Executive Officer from 1999 to 2015, Chairman from 2000 to 2015, and served as Executive Chairman during 2016. Mr. Connor is Chairman of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland and serves on the board of Eaton Corporation plc.

    2016 was a landmark year for Yum! Brands as it successfully completed the separation of Yum China as an independent and powerful growth company. In addition, Yum! Brands launched a new multi-year strategic transformation plan to become a more focused, more franchised and more efficient company in order to strengthen and grow its KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell brands around the world.

    Yum! Brands, Inc., based in Louisville, Kentucky, has over 43,500 restaurants in more than 135 countries and territories and is one of the Aon Hewitt Top Companies for Leaders in North America. 

  • Things Are Heating Up at Taco Bueno
    May 24, 2017

    Management Team Expands with New COO and CMO Hires

    Dallas, TX  (RestaurantNews.com)  The Taco Bueno family is rapidly growing as they welcome Chief Operating Officer Tony Darden and Chief Marketing Officer Sarah Beddoe to the fold. Both executives hail from distinguished industry positions and will bring innovation and processes to the table to expand Taco Bueno in reputation, brand and market share.

    “Our North Texas-based iconic Tex-Mex chain has seen a flurry of activity in the first half of 2017,” said Taco Bueno President and CEO Mike Roper. “These key additions are solidifying our intent to keep firmly rooted in the traditions that have supported our brand for the past 50 years while taking innovation seriously in an extremely competitive market. We are committed to strengthening our industry presence to attract and keep new customers.”

    Tony Darden comes to Taco Bueno from Panera Bread, where he served as vice president of operations. His decades of experience in the restaurant industry have prepared him for the task at hand at Taco Bueno: to create an industry-leading operations team and streamline processes and procedures for organizational efficiencies while keeping a keen eye on customer service. Darden’s tremendous industry and consumer knowledge will make him an integral member in Taco Bueno’s plans to transform their brand.

    Sarah Beddoe began her position in January 2017 and has already made strides to modernize the perception and offerings Taco Bueno brings to the market with successful campaigns such as the Wholotta Box. Her charge is to amplify the existing brand passion of Taco Bueno and increase advocacy for the award-winning Tex-Mex chain among a younger audience through social, experiential and digital marketing initiatives. The implementation of a unique product pipeline will also drive market growth. Beddoe came to Taco Bueno from Sonic, where she had served as vice president of national marketing since 2015. Prior to Sonic, she was director of digital experience and social engagement for Pizza Hut Corp.

    Taco Bueno has been rolling out proactive growth plans since the appointment of Roper as CEO in December of 2015. These hires come less than a year after the addition of Matt Stanton, formerly of SmashBurger, as senior vice president of development. Stanton, who steers both corporate and franchise development, expects to add 10 corporately-owned locations in 2017 and is eyeing a goal of 50-75 franchise sales per year subsequently.

    In April, Roper was featured on CBS Network’s Undercover Boss where he was immersed in the operations of the iconic chain he leads. “The lessons learned from that once-in-a-lifetime experience have already had a profound effect on how I lead this business. I can tell you from the heart that people are our business. Building a team, whether it’s at the corporate office, in the field, with suppliers and business partners, is what really defines the trajectory of success for any company. Having Tony and Sarah leading their charges is part of our overall and extended plan for success.”

    About Taco Bueno Restaurants L.P.
    Taco Bueno is committed to creating an authentic Tex-Mex experience. Taco Bueno is passionate about providing better tasting Tex-Mex, prepared daily with fresh ingredients. Founded in 1967 in Abilene, Texas, Taco Bueno operates 183 restaurants in Colorado, Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, Kansas and Louisiana. The company is privately owned by TPG Growth. Learn more about Taco Bueno by visiting www.tacobueno.com or www.facebook.com/buenoheadquarters.


    Dana Cobb
    TrizCom Public Relations

    Katie Mudd
    TrizCom Public Relations

  • Denny’s Names Michael Furlow CIO
    May 24, 2017

    Spartanburg, SC  (RestaurantNews.com)  Denny’s Corporation (NASDAQ:DENN) has announced the appointment of Michael Furlow as Senior Vice President of Information Technology and Chief Information Officer (CIO). Mr. Furlow is a seasoned restaurant executive with more than 30 years of restaurant and technology experience at several restaurant brands, including most recently as CIO at Red Robin Gourmet Burgers. In this role, Mr. Furlow will be responsible for leading all aspects of Denny’s IT functions, influencing the brand’s business performance through the implementation of technology.

    “Technology is critical to restaurants today and Michael will be a welcome and instrumental member of our team as we continue to develop new ways of leveraging technology to better serve our guests.  We look forward to having Michael’s deep knowledge of the restaurant industry coupled with his expertise in strategic technology development added to our capabilities. Michael’s track record in building solid, organized IT teams makes him an ideal fit for the role and we are excited to welcome him to the team,” said John Miller, Chief Executive Officer of Denny’s.

    Prior to joining Denny’s, Mr. Furlow served as CIO for Red Robin Gourmet Burgers from October 2015 to April 2017, where he helped improve the company’s business model and environments with effective technology tactics and execution. He previously spent four years as SVP of IT and CIO at CEC Entertainment. Before that, Mr. Furlow spent six years at Brinker International as Senior Vice President of Information Systems. He previously held CIO positions at both Dunkin Brands and Einstein Noah Restaurant Group.  Mr. Furlow received his Bachelor of Business Administration, Management Information Systems from Delta State University.

    “Having spent my career in the restaurant industry, I have always admired Denny’s for its ability to evolve and adapt to best serve customers both in the U.S. and around the world,” said Mr. Furlow. “I’m thrilled to join the dynamic team of leaders at the company and look forward to leveraging technology to help support the company’s strategic objectives.”

    About Denny’s Corp.

    Denny’s is one of America’s largest full-service family restaurant chains, currently operating over 1,700 franchised, licensed and company-owned restaurants across the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico, New Zealand, Mexico, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Honduras, Guam, the United Arab Emirates, Chile, Curaçao, El Salvador, Trinidad and Tobago, and the Philippines. For further information on Denny’s, including news releases, please visit the Denny’s website at www.dennys.com or the brand’s social channels via FacebookTwitterTumblrInstagram or YouTube.

    Media Contact:

    Christine Beggan, ICR

  • Dunkin’ Brands Announces Appointment Of Kate Jaspon As Chief Financial Officer
    May 31, 2017

    Canton, MA  (RestaurantNews.com)  Dunkin’ Brands Group, Inc. (Nasdaq: DNKN), the parent company of Dunkin’ Donuts (DD) and Baskin-Robbins (BR), today announced that Kate Jaspon, interim CFO, has been promoted to the position of Chief Financial Officer (CFO) effective June 5, 2017. She will serve on the Dunkin’ Brands Executive Leadership Team and will report directly to Dunkin’ Brands’ Chief Executive Officer Nigel Travis.

    “Several weeks ago, Kate seamlessly stepped into the role of CFO on an interim basis, and we are delighted to now officially offer her the position,” said Nigel Travis, Dunkin’ Brands’ Chairman and CEO. “Kate has made significant contributions to our organization and she has helped lead us through a number of important transactions, including our IPO and follow-on equity offerings, securitization and several debt restructurings, and has overseen the implementation of our enterprise risk management program. With her thorough knowledge of our business, her background in financial planning, analysis and reporting, as well as her accounting and treasury management skills, Kate will be critical to help us achieve both short- and long-term goals,” said Travis.

    In her role as Dunkin’ Brands CFO, Jaspon will have responsibility for accounting, corporate tax, investor relations and competitive intelligence in addition to her current responsibilities for global financial planning and analysis, business analytics, debt and cash management, electronic payments and insurance.

    Jaspon was appointed interim CFO in April and replaces Dunkin’ Brands CFO Paul Carbone, who left the company to take a new position as the Chief Operating Officer at a specialty retail chain.

    An eleven-year Dunkin’ Brands veteran, Ms. Jaspon joined Dunkin’ Brands as Assistant Controller in 2005. She was later promoted to Vice President, Controller and Corporate Treasurer, and since 2014 has held the title of Vice President, Finance and Treasury. Ms. Jaspon came to Dunkin’ Brands from KPMG LLP, the international financial services corporation, where she spent eight years supporting both public and private companies as an auditor. A certified public accountant, Ms. Jaspon is a graduate of Babson College.

    “I look forward to working with the company leadership and our franchisee community to execute against our six-part strategy designed to drive growth and long-term competitive differentiation by positioning Dunkin’ as a beverage-led, to-go brand,” said Kate Jaspon, Chief Financial Officer, Dunkin’ Brands.

    Dunkin’ Brands also announced that Dennis McCarthy, Vice President, Financial Management, has been appointed Vice President, Finance & Treasury, and will expand his responsibilities to oversee both the Finance and Treasury teams. He will continue to report to Kate Jaspon, Chief Financial Officer.

    About Dunkin’ Brands Group, Inc.
    With more than 20,000 points of distribution in more than 60 countries worldwide, Dunkin’ Brands Group, Inc. (Nasdaq: DNKN) is one of the world’s leading franchisors of quick service restaurants (QSR) serving hot and cold coffee and baked goods, as well as hard-serve ice cream. At the end of the first quarter 2017, Dunkin’ Brands’ 100 percent franchised business model included more than 12,200 Dunkin’ Donuts restaurants and more than 7,800 Baskin-Robbins restaurants. Dunkin’ Brands Group, Inc. is headquartered in Canton, Mass.

  • Cicis Names Billie Jo Waara Chief Marketing Officer
    May 31, 2017

    Billie Jo Waara brings 20 years’ experience to booming brand

    Irving, TX  (RestaurantNews.com)  Cicis, the nation’s top family-friendly pizza buffet restaurant company, known for its unlimited pizza, pasta, salad, soup and dessert offerings, has named brand marketing veteran Billie Jo Waara to the position of chief marketing officer.

    Waara most recently served as CMO at Cheyenne, Wyoming-based Taco John’s, leading the chain’s 400 restaurants through a comprehensive brand transformation that included large-scale digital initiatives and culinary innovation. She joins Cicis as it continues a successful brand renaissance set into motion four years ago by CEO Darin Harris.

    “Turning a brand around and getting it going in the right direction is only half the battle – you have to keep that momentum going with strong leadership,” said Harris. “Billie Jo has an outstanding track record of working with transforming brands and we are confident in her ability to keep the Cicis success story moving forward.”

    Cicis has experienced an industry trend-busting 16 quarters of same store sales growth as it has rebranded, improved food quality and guest satisfaction, updated restaurants, increased brand perception and introduced innovative menu items. At the same time, it has signed multiple new development agreements with franchise partners representing more than 70 new restaurant commitments in 12 states.

    “Cicis is alive and relevant again, and it’s a dynamic time to join the company,” said Waara, who relocated to the Dallas area this month. “I am becoming part of an incredible team and look forward to working with them to build upon their success and continue growing our brand.”

    About Cicis
    Founded in 1983, Irving, Texas-based Cicis invented the Unlimited Pizza Buffet concept, offering guests a wide variety pizzas, including, stuffed crust, deep-dish, and flatbreads, along with pastas, salads and desserts for dine-in, carry-out and catering. With nearly 430 restaurants in 32 states, Cicis has been ranked by Technomic as No. 1 in “most craveable pizza chains,” and Entrepreneur recognized Cicis on its Franchise 500 list in 2015. For more information about Cicis, visit cicis.com or Facebook.com/cicis.
    For franchising information, contact Michael Iglesias at miglesias@cicispizza.com or 972-745-9313 or visit franchise.cicis.com.

    Ryanne Dalton or Emily Smith

  • Pei Wei Names Brandon Solano CMO
    May 31, 2017

    Pan-Asian fast casual leader taps award-winning marketing exec Brandon Solano

    Scottsdale, AZ  (RestaurantNews.com)  Pei Wei, the leader in delivering a handcrafted, Pan-Asian culinary experience, has named Brandon Solano chief marketing officer after an extensive national search.

    Solano, an award-winning marketing and brand development executive, has vast experience within the restaurant industry. He most recently served as CMO for Papa Murphy’s Pizza, and held senior leadership positions with Wendy’s and Domino’s Pizza.

    “I know firsthand Brandon’s creativity, passion and ability to drive results through marketing strategies and brand development,” said Pei Wei CEO J. Hedrick. “Brandon will be a key asset to the Pei Wei leadership team as we continue to build and deliver on our brand promise.”

    “I joined Pei Wei because I believe in the vision and leadership of the executive team who is fiercely committed to winning and puts people first,” said Solano. “As a foodie, I love the brand and appreciate the unique space that Pei Wei occupies in the fast casual industry, particularly when it comes to Pei Wei’s dedication to quality food and handcrafted care.”

    In addition to his restaurant leadership experience, Solano experience marketing top brands including Hershey’s, Kellogg’s and Proctor & Gamble. He holds a bachelor’s degree in public relations from Grand Valley State University and an MBA from the University of Notre Dame.

    About Pei Wei

    Founded in 2000, Scottsdale, Arizona-based Pei Wei is a Pan-Asian, fast casual restaurant that offers guests a way to eat well, be well and live well. Pei Wei prepares each dish to order using freshly chopped ingredients, purposely chosen for nutrition as well as flavor, and in the tradition of ancient Asian cooking methods. Menu offerings include lettuce wraps, salads, sushi, quinoa bowls and Wok Classics that can be easily customized for any palate or diet, including gluten-free and vegetarian. Pei Wei owns and operates more than 200 restaurants in 21 states. For more information, visit www.peiwei.com, and the latest Pei Wei news is also on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

    Katie McKenzie or Loren Rutledge

  • Soupman Names Michael Wyse As Interim Chief Financial Officer And Chief Restructuring Officer
    May 31, 2017

    Soupman, Inc. (OTCQB:SOUP), makers of gourmet soup made famous on "Seinfeld", today announced that it has hired Michael Wyse as its Chief Restructuring Officer and Interim Chief Financial Officer, effective immediately. Mike is the Managing Partner of Wyse Advisors LLC, with more than 19 years of experience advising companies and other constituents through stressed, distressed and turnaround situations.

    "The Company has immediately filled the functions of the CFO position to manage our business and lead the efforts to explore all strategic funding alternatives. I am confident in Mike to spearhead this process," said Jamieson Karson, CEO.

    In 1984, The Original Soupman opened its doors at 55th Street & 8th Avenue in Manhattan and quickly became a worldwide destination. Rated #1 by Zagat and praised by the New York Times as "Art, not Soup," it set the standard for innovation and excellence long before the famous "Seinfeld" episode made it a cultural icon. 

  • Papa John's International Names Brandon Rhoten Global Chief Marketing Officer
    May, 31 2017

    Rhoten joins Papa John’s after most recently serving as Vice President of Advertising, Media and Digital/Social at Wendy’s International. Rhoten will oversee all domestic and international marketing efforts for the brand and report to Papa John’s President and Chief Operating Officer, Steve Ritchie.

    Papa John's International, Inc. (NASDAQ: PZZA) today announced Brandon Rhoten has joined the company as Global Chief Marketing Officer.

    Rhoten joins Papa John’s after most recently serving as Vice President of Advertising, Media and Digital/Social at Wendy’s International. Rhoten will oversee all domestic and international marketing efforts for the brand and report to Papa John’s President and Chief Operating Officer, Steve Ritchie.

    “Brandon was a key contributor in Wendy’s resurgence within the QSR Hamburger category, advancing their brand positioning, creative, media, digital marketing, and now renowned social media presence,” said Steve Ritchie, President and COO of Papa John’s. “He is a disruptor in the QSR industry, and we are excited for him to further enhance Papa John’s brand relevancy and quality positioning across our marketing channels globally.”

    For Wendy’s, Rhoten shaped his reputation as a disruptor with breakthrough, sales-driving work, helping the company grow same store sales for 17 consecutive quarters. He helped re-establish the brand’s positioning in traditional and digital creative channels, leading to dozens of headline-grabbing marketing successes like #NuggsforCarter, which eclipsed Ellen Degeneres’ Oscar selfie as the most retweeted tweet in history.

    Rhoten will be dedicated to enhancing Papa John’s advertising, digital marketing and social media efforts with a focus on quality. Additionally, Rhoten will explore new ways to amplify Papa John’s strong international growth.
    Rhoten joins Papa John’s at a time when the brand has strong momentum. Just last month, Papa John’s was selected as Pizza Brand of the Year in the 2017 Harris Poll Equitend Rankings and recently announced that 60 percent of Papa John’s domestic sales originate from digital channels.

    Prior to Wendy’s, Rhoten served as Digital Marketing Manager at Freedom Group. He also held positions at Internationally acclaimed agency Gyro, Advantech Automation, and the Nederlander Corporation.

  • Seasoned Restaurant Executive, Tony Wehner, Named COO of Bar Louie
    June 1, 2017

    Dallas-based executive takes over operations for national neighborhood bar and eatery collection

    Addison, TX  (RestaurantNews.com)  BL Restaurant Operations, LLC., is pleased to announce Tony Wehner as the new chief operating officer of Bar Louie. Wehner joins Bar Louie with a wealth of executive experience in restaurant leadership. Most recently, he served as the Senior Vice President of Operations for Logan’s Roadhouse. Prior to that, Wehner served as the Senior Vice President of Operations for On the Border Restaurants and held leadership positions within Brinker International’s Chili’s and Red Lobster.

    The announcement follows news that current and longtime executive, James “Smokey” Hughes will be retiring as chief operating officer in July. As COO of Bar Louie, Wehner will be responsible for leading operations for all Bar Louie company locations.

    As an award-winning collection of neighborhood bars with a lively, social atmosphere, Bar Louie has more than 125 locations in 29 states throughout the United States. Each location has its own local flavor, where patrons can linger, socialize and enjoy custom drinks, local craft beer and wine—as well as specialty burgers, shareable snacks and signature entrees.

    “Tony is an accomplished operations leader with a proven history of success,” said Bar Louie chief executive officer, John Neitzel. “We are very fortunate to have his experience and talents as part of our team.”

    “I’m elated to join a brand that has such momentum and unique positioning in the industry,” Wehner said. “This is my opportunity to help Bar Louie sustain growth, while protecting its one-of-a-kind culture. I’m a longtime fan and feel honored to be part of the Bar Louie family.”

    About Bar Louie
    Founded in downtown Chicago in 1990, and headquartered in Addison, Texas, Bar Louie is an award-winning collection of neighborhood bars with a lively, social atmosphere. With more than 125 locations across the United States, Bar Louie is growing through both franchise and corporate openings. Known for its signature handcrafted martinis and cocktails, Bar Louie also features a scratch menu of shareable plates, burgers, and sandwiches served every day until close. For more information on Bar Louie, visit www.barlouie.com. To learn about franchising opportunities with Bar Louie, go to www.barlouie.com/franchise.

    Media Contacts
    Aaron Blank or Traci Paulk
    The Fearey Group for Bar Louie

  • Togo’s Announces Glenn Lunde as New President
    June 1, 2017

    Executive Team Transition and Brand Transformation

    San Jose, CA  (RestaurantNews.com)  Glenn Lunde has assumed the role of President at Togo’s Holdings, LLC, reporting directly to the Board of Directors, following the retirement of Togo’s Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Tony Gioia. Lunde joined Togo’s as Chief Concept Officer in January as part of the succession planning process, and has been leading Togo’s brand transformation strategies, including the chain’s operating system and menu strategy.

    Under Lunde’s leadership, Togo’s is set to re-establish its 45-year leadership as the West Coast sandwich innovator with even higher quality ingredients, even larger portions, and even better customer service. Togo’s will be introducing comprehensive menu improvements for its loyal fans on June 7th.

    “Togo’s has a passionate customer base that goes back over 45 years and they are the reason we have invested in the dramatic ingredient and portion improvements to create our best sandwich experience ever,” said Lunde.

    Togo’s also announced the addition of Nader Garschi to its executive leadership team as Chief Operating Officer. Garschi will oversee Company and Franchise locations, as well as Restaurant Services & Training, Operations Innovation, and New Restaurant Openings. Garschi has more than thirty years of restaurant management experience for outstanding brands, including Lyon’s Restaurants, Taco Bell, and Panda Restaurant Group.

    Also joining Togo’s executive leadership team, as Senior Vice President of Marketing, is Anna Nero. Nero, who previously served as Executive Director of Marketing at Panda Restaurant Group, brings extensive brand marketing experience from her tenure during Panda’s growth from 38 restaurants to over 1,300. She will be responsible for Brand Creative, Marketing Promotions, Culinary Innovation, and all Media Communications.

    About Togo’s Eateries, LLC
    Togo’s was founded in 1971 by a young college student with a large appetite and little money looking to make sandwiches the way he liked them — big, fresh and meaty. Keeping in the spirit of the original location, Togo’s products are still made with only the highest quality ingredients; including fresh Artisan breads, hand sliced premium pastrami, turkey and roast beef, as well as Hass avocados hand-mashed in restaurant every day.

    With over 250 locations open and under development throughout the West, Togo’s is a franchise-based business that offers a terrific opportunity for those people that would like to own their own business.

    For more information visit www.togos.com.

    Brendan Wonnacott
    Wonnacott Strategies

  • Buffalo Wild Wings Announces Leadership Succession Plan

    June, 5 2017
    Sally J. Smith to Retire as President and CEO by End of Year - Board Initiates CEO Search Process

    Buffalo Wild Wings, Inc. (NASDAQ: BWLD) on Friday announced that Sally J. Smith has notified the Buffalo Wild Wings Board of Directors of her decision to retire before the end of the year. Ms. Smith will continue to serve as President and Chief Executive Officer until the end of the year or until such time as a successor has been named. The Buffalo Wild Wings Board has initiated a search process and will engage a leading executive search firm to assist in identifying a successor. Ms. Smith has also withdrawn her candidacy for election to the Board in connection with the 2017 Annual Meeting of Shareholders and the Board will not be nominating a replacement for Ms. Smith.

    “Sally has delivered countless contributions to Buffalo Wild Wings for more than two decades and much of our success to date is directly attributed to her leadership,” said Jerry R. Rose, Chairman of the Board of Buffalo Wild Wings. “Under her guidance and stewardship, Buffalo Wild Wings has transformed into an industry leader, and we look forward to continuing to work together to ensure a seamless transition of executive leadership.”

    “I am proud of Buffalo Wild Wings’ tremendous success. We have made great strides in executing our strategic plan and continuing to innovate to stay ahead of the competition,” said Ms. Smith. “I will focus on leading Buffalo Wild Wings and driving value-creating change until we are ready to make a smooth transition. I am confident that the company, including its excellent management and Board, are solidly positioned for its next phase of growth and development. I would like to thank the entire team at the home office, in the field and in the restaurants, as well as all of our franchisees, for their hard work and commitment over our more than 20 year history together and look forward to watching the company’s next chapter of growth.”

    Buffalo Wild Wings, Inc., founded in 1982 and headquartered in Minneapolis, is a growing owner, operator and franchisor of Buffalo Wild Wings(R) restaurants featuring a variety of boldly-flavored, made-to-order menu items including its namesake Buffalo, New York-style chicken wings. There are currently more than 1,220 Buffalo Wild Wings locations around the world.

  • Papa Murphy’s Names Weldon Spangler as Chief Executive Officer

    June 14, 2017

    Chief Financial Officer Mark Hutchens Promoted to Executive Vice President

    Vancouver, WA  (RestaurantNews.com)  Papa Murphy’s Holdings, Inc. (NASDAQ: FRSH) today announced that industry veteran Weldon Spangler has been named as Chief Executive Officer and Director, effective July 17, 2017. Jean Birch, interim Chief Executive Officer, will remain as Chair of the board of directors.

    “I am pleased to welcome Weldon to the Papa Murphy’s team. Weldon is a seasoned leader with over 30 years of restaurant industry experience, and his expertise in managing and developing franchise businesses makes him a great fit for our Company’s next chapter,” said Jean Birch.

    Mr. Spangler joins Papa Murphy’s after spending seven years with Dunkin’ Brands Group, having most recently served as Senior Vice President, Baskin-Robbins U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico, where he had complete oversight of the brand. Prior to this role, Mr. Spangler spent five years working on the Dunkin’ Donuts U.S. and Canada business, first as a Regional Vice President and then as Vice President of Operations. During his time at Dunkin Brands, Mr. Spangler worked closely with franchisee leaders and played an integral part in the launch of several successful Company initiatives. Prior to Dunkin Brands, Weldon held significant leadership roles at Starbucks Corporation and YUM Brands.

    “Papa Murphy’s offers a unique, high quality product that customers love,” said Weldon Spangler. “With a focus on the success of our franchisees, Papa Murphy’s has significant opportunity to grow and thrive, and I am excited to begin partnering with the entire organization to enhance long term shareholder value.”

    The Company also announced that Chief Financial Officer Mark Hutchens has been promoted to Executive Vice President.  He will retain his title of Chief Financial Officer. “Mark’s promotion to Executive Vice President reflects the key role he plays in our Company. He has proven himself a tireless leader and has made significant contributions to all facets of our business,” said Jean Birch.

    Birch concluded, “It’s been a tremendous experience leading this dedicated team and I look forward to working closely with Weldon and Mark as I continue in my role as Chair of the board.”

    About Papa Murphy’s

    Papa Murphy’s Holdings, Inc. (Nasdaq: FRSH) is a franchisor and operator of the largest Take ‘n’ Bake pizza brand in the United States, selling fresh, hand-crafted pizzas ready for customers to bake at home. The company was founded in 1981 and currently operates more than 1,500 franchised and corporate-owned fresh pizza stores in 39 states, Canada and United Arab Emirates. Papa Murphy’s core purpose is to bring all families together through food people love with a goal to create fun, convenient and fulfilling family dinners. In addition to scratch-made pizzas, the company offers a growing menu of grab ‘n’ go items, including salads, sides and desserts. Order online today at www.papamurphys.com.

    Media Contact:

    Christine Beggan, ICR

  • Major Franchise Player Now President of Jon Smith Subs

    June 14, 2017

    Already 25 Units Sold, and Plans for 25 More by End of 2017

    West Palm Beach, FL  (RestaurantNews.com)  It would be tough to find someone who hasn’t had his fingers in franchising more than Scott Stuck, president of Jon Smith Subs, a local (Palm Beach County) brand with nine open units, which was acquired by franchise industry giant United Franchise Group last year. United Franchise Group is known for its expertise in growing strong brands and ideas via franchising. Among the other brands are Signarama, Fully Promoted (formerly known as EmbroidMe), SuperGreen Solutions, Transworld Business Advisors, Experimac (technology and repair services) and new concept Venture X (shared office space).

    The franchise empire that launched those brands in the past three decades, consistently stretches for new opportunities and succeeds in expanding their family of brands with winning models from all sectors that are new to them.

    After acquiring Jon Smith Subs, the search was on for the best brand president possible. Let’s say they hit a “bingo”.  Scott Stuck, who also will be the brand’s first franchisee, opening his own store in Stuart Florida in August, has taken on the whole brand to grow.

    “I know this is rare, I may be the only one who has done this,” Stuck said excitedly, “but as I delved more into the brand while buying the Stuart location, and more into United Franchise Group, I was convinced I could really drive this brand forward.  And being the first franchisee gives me the unique experience of understanding exactly what franchisees will need to do to get open, operating and profiting straight away.”
    Clearly Ray Titus, CEO of the United Franchise Group agreed.

    Stuck started his career in hospitality at the ripe old age of 10, working at his father’s Big Boy franchise. After college and some job offers he turned down, Stuck went to work as the manager of a Bennigan’s wanting to learn even more about the industry. He then went on to work for Brinker International (Chili’s) managing then opening several restaurant locations for them.

    From there Stuck’s career consisted of a multitude of franchise experiences from partnering in Miller’s Ale House franchises, becoming President and equity partner in a multi-unit owner group overseeing several locations of Rock Bottom/Old Chicago throughout the Midwest, and then Einstein Bagels.

    “This brand can really grow”, Stuck offers about Jon Smith Subs. “It’s a premium quality product yet an affordable sandwich restaurant. “There is nothing else like the flavor profile in a Jon Smith’s sub.  We use only high-quality ingredients, cooked up fresh on the grill and served with an order of award winning French fries.”

    The first 25 franchised Jon Smith Subs locations have already been sold and will be opening throughout Florida, Connecticut, California, Nevada, Ohio and Virginia, including Stuck’s Stuart location. 25 more locations are expected to be sold by the end of the year in the United States, with plans to expand globally beyond that.

    “We have the systems and people in place to provide site research and set up assistance, marketing and on-going support”, Struck continues.

    The cost to open a unit ranges from $250,000 to $400,000,” said Stuck.  “In most cases we have financing available of 60%-75%, making your initial investment $125,000-$150,000.  We also offer area developer opportunities for multiple units from city, regional, to statewide and master licenses are available outside of the U.S.”

    For Jon Smith Subs franchise and Area Developer opportunities, please phone 888.978.3171 or visit www.jonsmithsubsfranchise.com.

    About Jon Smith Subs
    Founded in 1988, Jon Smith Subs was recently acquired by West Palm Beach based United Franchise Group. Currently there are nine locations in Palm Beach County, Florida with plans to expand the sandwich chain worldwide.

    About United Franchise Group
    Led by CEO Ray Titus, United Franchise Group houses a successful group of business-to-business franchise systems. The United Franchise Group specializes in personalized business services including signs, embroidery, business brokerage and outdoor advertising.  With nearly three decades in the franchising industry and more than 1400 franchisees throughout the world, United Franchise Group offers unprecedented leadership and solid business opportunities for entrepreneurs.

    Media Contact:

    Rhonda @ 847-612-9829
    Lana @ 847-727-8177

  • Taco John’s Recruits Jimmy Orr as Director of Digital Strategy

    June 15, 2017

    Former White House digital strategist set to lead social media and digital innovations

    Cheyenne, WY  (RestaurantNews.com)  Taco John’s® is known for delicious south-of-the-border spices, but their digital strategy is about to heat up! The brand that coined the term Taco Tuesday® just added Jimmy Orr as its Director of Digital Strategy.

    Orr will lead a team responsible for enriching Taco John’s online presence, creating digital campaigns and optimizing media mix.

    “We’re thrilled to welcome Jimmy to the Taco John’s team,” said Jim Creel, CEO of Taco John’s International. “His experience driving successful digital campaigns to create meaningful connections with key audiences will add another layer to our ability to connect with our guests.”

    Orr joins the brand with an impressive marketing background that ranges from directing digital strategy at the White House for President George W. Bush to driving digital campaigns for Arnold Schwarzenegger to leading the digital news effort at the Los Angeles Times.

    “Taco John’s is such a cool brand with a very loyal following – including me,” Orr said. “Now let’s build on that loyalty by connecting and engaging more creatively with our guests. We have better food and we have a better story to tell. Our job now is to more creatively tell our story and to create more shareable content that drives repeat visits.”

    With its fusion of distinctive flavors and south-of-the-border spices, the Taco John’s menu offers several signature items, including Meat and Potato Burritos, original Street Tacos and yes, those craveable Potato Olés®.

    Taco John’s features epic specials like Taco Tuesday® and discounted breakfast burritos on Wake Up Wednesday!®. Download the TJ® Rewards App and like Taco John’s Facebook page for exclusive deals.

    About Taco John’s®
    Taco John’s operates and franchises nearly 400 quick-service restaurants in 23 states. Privately owned, the business opened its first restaurant in 1969 in Cheyenne, WY. Taco John’s prides itself on serving generous portions, menu items prepared fresh to your order, high quality ingredients and special recipes, seasonings and sauces. For more information or to apply for a position, visit tacojohns.com.


    Ladd Biro
    Champion Management

  • Logan’s Roadhouse Further Stengthens Veteran Team with Newly Appointed Chief Operating Officer

    June 16, 2017

    David Catalano, Accomplished Senior-Level Restaurant Executive, Joins Leading Casual Steakhouse Restaurant

    Nashville, TN  (RestaurantNews.com)  David Catalano, a senior leadership executive with proven experience in both turnaround and high-growth restaurant companies, has joined Logan’s Roadhouse as Chief Operating Officer. In his role, Catalano will lead and oversee the entire operating team where he will be executing the current turnaround strategy.

    “In this newly created role, David’s broad and diverse restaurant background and his demonstrated leadership qualities make him an ideal leader for the Logan’s operation team now and into the future,” said Hazem Ouf, CEO of Logan’s Roadhouse. “He has repeatedly demonstrated skills in management and development to deliver strong, sustainable results.  Operations is the heart of our business, and I am delighted that he will be adding his proven experience and expertise to our high-level team of industry veterans.”

    Catalano has significant full service restaurant experience and has held numerous executive leadership positions with public and private restaurant companies such as TGI Friday’s, Al Copeland Restaurant Group, Rave Cinemas, LLC and Apple Gold, the large Applebee’s franchisee. In addition, he was the Chief Operating Officer of Hard Rock International and most recently served as the COO of Joe’s Crab Shack, and Brick House Tavern and Tap until July 2016.

    “I am proud to join the experienced and dynamic team at Logan’s as we continue to recruit and train the best of the best in the service industry while working together to create business-oriented and market-driven solutions,” said Catalano. “I look forward to working with the entire operations team as we implement efforts that drive Logan’s diverse business enterprise.”
    Catalano holds a B.A. in psychology from State University of New York at Brockport, NY.

    About Logan’s Roadhouse
    Logan’s Roadhouse is a leading mid-steakhouse headquartered in Nashville, TN.  Offering wood-fire grilled steaks, signature yeast roll and American-inspired signature favorites for 25 years, Logan’s has 221 corporate and franchise restaurants in 23 states. For more information, visit www.logansroadhouse.com. To become a fan of Logan’s Roadhouse on Facebook, visit www.facebook.com/Logans.Roadhouse.

    Karen Orne

  • Sonic Appoints New Chief Marketing Officer

    Company veteran appointed top marketer, joined by external talent for key marketing roles
    June 15, 2017 05:00 PM Eastern Daylight Time

    OKLAHOMA CITY--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Sonic Corp. (NASDAQ: SONC), the nation’s largest chain of drive-in restaurants, today announced the appointment of Lori Abou Habib as chief marketing officer. As CMO, she holds responsibility for leading brand strategy, product innovation, national marketing, brand management, media, digital strategy and marketing technology.

    Abou Habib is a 10-year veteran of SONIC, joining the company in 2007 as a product pipeline manager. Over the past decade, she has led local marketing, brand management, product pipeline and creative for the brand. Most recently serving as vice president of national marketing, her responsibilities included marketing strategy, brand management, marketing calendar and creative. Prior to joining SONIC, she served as regional marketing manager for CKE Restaurants, Inc. and as senior marketing manager for Eateries, Inc.

    With Abou Habib’s promotion to chief marketing officer, Darin Dugan will join SONIC as vice president of national marketing. Reporting directly to Dugan will be the brand management and creative teams. Dugan’s 20 years of experience in food and beverage marketing brings strength to this pivotal marketing role. Dugan held a series of progressive positions at Kraft for 16 years including leadership positions for key product categories and brands including Kraft Salad Dressings, Miracle Whip, and Oscar Mayer Foods. He most recently served as senior vice president of marketing and culinary for Applebee’s and was responsible for brand positioning, marketing campaigns and a culinary overhaul.

    Rounding out the marketing leadership is newly appointed vice president of digital strategies, Kim Lewis. With a 15-year career in digital and e-commerce, Lewis leads SONIC’s digital strategy, integrated marketing communications and customer relationship management (CRM). Lewis most recently served as consultant to a variety of brands on digital strategy and was previously head of marketing and e-commerce for Golfsmith International.

    “I am delighted to elevate Lori to chief marketing officer; she is a talented, strong leader who enjoys the respect of our franchisees and won the position through a highly competitive national search,” said Cliff Hudson, Sonic Corp. CEO. “We were very pleased with the caliber of candidates discovered during the search and are pleased for Darin and Kim to join the team. The decades of experience these three leaders share will propel the business and the brand forward for many years to come.”

    In addition to the marketing positions announced today, SONIC is currently recruiting for a chief brand officer. In the future, the marketing team will report to this new function as will SONIC’s ICE – Integrated Customer Engagement – strategy and the evolution of the brand concept. Designed to deliver the most personalized restaurant experience in the quick service industry, ICE utilizes the brand’s proprietary Point-Of-Personalized-Service (POPS) digital menu boards as well as mobile, social and other digital technology.

    About SONIC, America’s Drive-In
    SONIC, America's Drive-In is the nation's largest drive-in restaurant chain serving approximately 3 million customers every day. Nearly 94 percent of SONIC's 3,500 drive-in locations are owned and operated by local business men and women. For 64 years, SONIC has delighted guests with signature menu items, 1.3 million drink combinations and friendly service by iconic Carhops. Since the 2009 launch of SONIC's Limeades for Learning campaign in partnership with DonorsChoose.org, SONIC has donated $8.4 million to public school teacher’s classrooms nationwide to fund essential learning materials and innovative teaching resources to inspire creativity and learning in their students. To learn more about Sonic Corp. (NASDAQ/NM: SONC), please visit sonicdrivein.com and please visit or follow us on Facebook and Twitter. To learn about SONIC's Limeades for Learning initiative, please visit LimeadesforLearning.com.


    Sonic Corp.
    Christi Woodworth, 512-542-2804
    Vice President of Public Relations

  • Noodles & Co. taps Del Taco CEO to serve as executive chairman

    Dave Boennighausen also named permanent CEO after leading Broomfield-based chain on interim basis since July 2016


    The CEO of fast-food chain Del Taco is trading tacos for pasta and joining the leadership team at Noodles & Co.
    By EMILIE RUSCH | erusch@denverpost.com | The Denver Post
    June 14, 2017 at 5:42 pm

    The CEO of fast-food chain Del Taco is trading tacos for pasta and joining the leadership team at Noodles & Co.

    Paul Murphy has been appointed executive chairman of the struggling Broomfield-based fast-casual chain, board officials announced Wednesday.

    Murphy, who was CEO of Lakewood-based Einstein Noah Restaurant Group from 2003 to 2009 before joining Del Taco, will start in his new role July 10. Current board chairman Robert Hartnett will step down but remain a member of the company’s board.

    “The addition of Paul Murphy as executive chairman is outstanding for Noodles & Company,” said Andrew Taub, managing partner at L Catterton and Noodles board member, in a statement. “Paul has extensive knowledge of the restaurant industry, and brings with him many years of operational and executive leadership experience, in addition to a strong track record of enacting positive change.”

    Dave Boennighausen has also been named permanent CEO after leading the chain on an interim basis since July 2016. Boennighausen, Noodles’ chief financial officer since 2012, succeeds Kevin Reddy as CEO. Reddy, who had run Noodles since 2006, stepped down last summer.

    Sue Daggett, the company’s vice president of finance, will serve as interim CFO, the board said.

    In February, Noodles announced it would close 55 underperforming stores — more than a tenth of its locations —  and slow new store openings in hopes of reviving sluggish sales and improving its bottom line.
    “We have a unique brand and an experienced and passionate team, and I believe we are taking the necessary steps in order to activate the brand and improve momentum,” Boennighausen said in a statement. “I am thrilled at the opportunity to work alongside Paul and our entire board to help us fulfill our potential.”

  • Walk-On’s Welcomes Bruce Attinger As New VP Of People & Talent Development

    June 14, 2017

    ‘America’s Best Sports Bar’ recruits industry veteran to assist in brand’s nationwide growth

    Baton Rouge, LA  (RestaurantNews.com)  Walk-On’s Enterprises today announced the appointment of Bruce Attinger as vice president of people and talent development.

    Attinger, a 45-year restaurant industry veteran, will be responsible for recruiting and the continued development of the company’s management training program. He will also contribute to the leadership team’s on-going growth strategy.

    “We are really excited to welcome Bruce to our team,” said Scott Taylor, Walk-On’s Enterprises President & COO. “He is an extraordinary leader with a proven track record of people development in the industry.”

    Attinger served as chairman of the Louisiana Restaurant Association in 2014, served on its Board of Directors for 10 years and was president of the Baton Rouge Chapter of the LRA for two terms. He most recently worked with Texas-based Grub Burger, where he helped open new locations throughout Louisiana. He previously served in a variety of roles with Steak and Ale, Bennigan’s, Hooters, Grand American Fare and Outback Steakhouse.

    Walk-On’s Bistreaux & Bar now has 12 locations: four in Baton Rouge, two in New Orleans, one each in Lafayette, Houma, Shreveport, Lake Charles and Bossier City, La., and one in Lubbock, Texas. Other locations are coming soon in Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee and Texas, with several additional markets across the Southern U.S. likewise on the drawing board.

    To inquire about franchising opportunities, qualified applicants may contact Kelly Parker at franchise@walk-ons.com.

    For a complete menu and more information, visit walk-ons.com.

    About Walk-On’s Enterprises
    Based in Baton Rouge, La., Walk-On’s Enterprises is the creator of Walk-On’s Bistreaux & BarSM – voted ESPN’s “#1 Sports Bar in North America” in 2012. The company is expanding across the country thanks to its winning combination of delicious, affordable food and drinks presented in an uncommonly warm and friendly atmosphere. For more information, visit walkonsfranchising.com, or contact Ladd Biro at Champion Management at lbiro@championmgt.com or 972.930.9933.


    Ladd Biro
    Champion Management

  • Potbelly CEO leaving sandwich chain after nine years at helm

    May 31, 2017, 8:07am CDT
    Gina Hall Correspondent Chicago Business Journal


    Aylwin Lewis, the CEO of the Potbelly sandwich chain, will part ways with the company in August.

    The Chicago-based restaurant did not provide a reason behind the exit.

    Lewis, 63, who serves as both CEO and chairman, joined the company in 2008 and led the chain through an expansion and IPO.
    "We are grateful for Aylwin's leadership during his nine-year tenure at Potbelly. He is a world class restaurant leader and Potbelly benefited from his leadership," Peter Bassi, a Potbelly board member, said in a statement on Tuesday. “We have started the search process for a new CEO."
    Lewis’ departure appears to be amicable.

    "I have truly enjoyed my time and experience at Potbelly,” Lewis said in a statement. “I have had the opportunity to work with great people in an amazing business over the last nine years. Potbelly has a special place in the hearts of our customers and it will always have a special place in my heart as well."

    Potbelly currently owns and operates more than 400 restaurants in the U.S. and franchisees operate more than 40 locations in the U.S., Canada, Britain and the Middle East.

    The company delivered its first-quarter results earlier this month, reporting revenue growth of 6 percent and adjusted net income growth of approximately 17 percent. Unfortunately, the operating environment remained challenging for the company’s restaurants and comparable store sales saw a decline of 3.1 percent.

    “Our revised full year outlook contemplates a continuation of challenging industry trends, as well as the impact of the closure of our Chicago Midway Airport shop in May,” Lewis said in the earnings release. “Against these setbacks, we recognize that we need to continue exploring opportunities to drive growth and engage with our customers, while managing costs and optimizing investments."

  • Naf Naf Grill Names Paul Damico as New CEO

    Former FOCUS Brands, Moe’s Southwest Grill Leader Takes Helm at Middle Eastern Fast Casual Concept

    June 19, 2017 01:14 PM Eastern Daylight Time

    CHICAGO--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Naf Naf Grill, a rapidly growing Middle Eastern fast casual restaurant, announced today it has appointed Paul Damico as Chief Executive Officer. Damico most recently served as President of North America for FOCUS Brands, and as the former President of Moe’s Southwest Grill who led the brand through record growth over seven years.

    Naf Naf Grill has experienced recent extraordinary growth, expanding outside of its Chicago home base over the past two years with new locations in Philadelphia, New Jersey, Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan and Minnesota. The 29-unit fast-casual chain was named a 2016 Hot Concept by Nation’s Restaurant News, one of the industry’s most prestigious award programs recognizing rising star brands.

    With more than 30 years of operations and franchising experience with some of the most prominent brands in the foodservice industry, Damico is well-known in the sector as a transformational business leader. Under his leadership, Moe’s grew from 300 locations and will be opening its 700th location later this month, with a presence in 41 states.

    “Paul is a strong, experienced leader with a solid track record of growing high-performance restaurant brands,” said Gary Beisler, the former longtime President & CEO of Qdoba and Naf Naf Grill’s current Chairman. “His knowledge of franchising and restaurant operations will bode well for Naf Naf Grill, which is clearly emerging as a leader in the untapped Middle Eastern fast casual sector.”

    Former Naf Naf Grill co-CEOs David Sloan and Sahar Sander are passing the torch to Damico after successfully leading Naf Naf Grill for nine years. Sander will remain with the brand as Chief Culinary Officer, serving as the driving force behind the company’s exemplary and inventive culinary offerings. Sloan, who played a key role in building the brand from scratch in Chicago to expansion around the country, will serve as a senior advisor to Damico.

    “Naf Naf Grill is at a pivotal point in its growth phase. After building a loyal fan base in Chicago, consumers have heartily embraced the brand in each new market,” Damico said. “Clearly there’s something special about the food and the culture of Naf Naf Grill. I’m excited to build upon the foundation of the brand’s founders and look forward to impacting the next chapter of growth.”

    About Naf Naf Grill
    Naf Naf Grill, founded in 2009, is the premium destination for fresh, authentic Middle Eastern food. Oven baked pitas, hand cut salads and freshly prepared sauces all serve as an accompaniment to award-winning shawarma and falafel. Naf Naf Grill is a fast casual format with 29 units open and more under development in New Jersey, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Minnesota and Wisconsin. Naf Naf Grill has received industry acclaim, being named a 2016 Hot Concept by Nation’s Restaurant News and One to Watch by QSR Magazine. It has also received acclaim in its home market of Chicago with the Chicago Tribune naming its chicken shawarma one of the Top-10 dishes.

    From the most humble of beginnings to a high-growth restaurant company in a few years, the company is guided by an idea they now fondly call “The Naf Love.” For more information, please visit www.nafnafgrill.com.


    Fishman PR
    Debra Vilchis, 847-945-1300

  • Kat Cole Named Chief Operating Officer and President, North America

    FOCUS Brands 
    19 Jun, 2017, 14:17 ET

    ATLANTA, June 19, 2017 /PRNewswire/ -- FOCUS Brands, the franchisor of iconic brands Auntie Anne's®, Carvel®, Cinnabon®, McAlister's Deli®, Moe's Southwest Grill® and Schlotzsky's®, continues on the path of industry leading growth by today announcing that Kat Cole has been named Chief Operating Officer and President, North America. In this new position, Kat will lead the company's domestic franchise brands in addition to its licensing division.

    "Leveraging her deep industry experience and track record of achieving step-change in previous assignments at FOCUS Brands, Kat's thought leadership, broad executive experience and exceptional communication skills position her well to enable our brand leaders to drive our business with accelerated energy," said Steve DeSutter, CEO, FOCUS Brands. "Those who have ever met Kat know that she is a uniquely skilled leader. She's purpose-driven and has the demonstrated ability to bridge the worlds of franchising, large global brands, innovation and entrepreneurship with her collaborative management style."
    Paul Damico, who previously held the position of President, North America, has been named Chief Executive Officer of Naf Naf Grill. "Over the past nine years, in his role as President of Moe's Southwest Grill and most recently as the leader for all of our brands domestically, Paul had made a big impact on our business and helped us achieve impressive results," said DeSutter. "It has been a pleasure to work with him, and we truly wish him the best as he takes on this next new role."

    FOCUS Brands is poised for growth in the industry. As a leading developer of global multi-channel foodservice brands, FOCUS has more than 5,000 locations globally and is experiencing growth that is being driven by its focus on consumers, technology, and multichannel development to grow existing markets and bring its concepts to new markets in exciting and relevant ways.

    Cole joined FOCUS Brands seven years ago as President of Cinnabon and for the past three years has served as President of FOCUS Brands Global Channels group. Cole has had a central role working in partnership with DeSutter to design and deploy the company's multi-brand and multi-channel operating model designed to accelerate growth by leveraging the strength and collective power of the company's multiple brands.

    "There has never been a more dynamic time for our brands to stand out in their respective categories. Being bold, purpose driven, authentic and results oriented are central to optimizing our opportunities and impact," said Cole. "I'm thrilled to leverage the company's talent, technology and capabilities to connect with our fans, stand for something that's clear and connected through all we are and do, and drive growth of our amazing brands and businesses with our franchisees and licensees."

    Cole has a long leadership history within the industry, including on the Women's Foodservice Forum (WFF) Board of Directors since 2009, Executive Committee from 2012 to 2015, and Chair of the Board in 2015 and 2016. She has a deep connection to purpose and global impact through humanitarian work globally, serves as a member of the United Nations Global Entrepreneur's Council, and participates in organizations and initiatives in the U.S. and in Africa to help individuals and villages elevate themselves out of poverty.

    Recognized for her ongoing impact, Cole was named one of FORTUNE Magazine's "40 under 40", named to CNBC's top 25 Disruptors, Innovators and Leaders, and received the Distinguished Young Alumni award from Georgia State University J. Mack Robinson School of Business. She received her MBA from Georgia State University and honorary doctorate from Johnson and Wales University.

    About FOCUS Brands Inc.
    Atlanta-based FOCUS Brands Inc. is a leading developer of global multi-channel foodservice brands. FOCUS is the franchisor and operator of more than 5,000 ice cream shoppes, bakeries, restaurants and cafes in the United States, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and 60 foreign countries under the iconic brand names you know and love: Carvel®, Cinnabon®, Schlotzsky's®, Moe's Southwest Grill®, Auntie Anne's® and McAlister's Deli®, as well as Seattle's Best Coffee®on certain military bases and in certain international markets. FOCUS is also the sixth largest food and beverage licensor in the world, extending its brands into alternative channels through grocery, consumer products, foodservice and ecommerce. Please visit www.focusbrands.com for more information.

    FOCUS Brands
    Karlie Lahm

Back to top