Milford, CT (RestaurantNews.com) Subway® restaurants announced today that Taylor Bennett has joined the company as Vice President of Non-Traditional Development. Bennett will oversee the strategic growth and innovation of Subway’s non-traditional locations, such as in airports, hospitals and gas and convenience stores, to deliver the convenience, accessibility and value our guests crave.
Bennett comes to Subway with a diverse professional background in franchisee development, sales, and legal. Prior to joining Subway, Bennett served as the Chief Development Officer at HOA Brands where he oversaw global development for the company’s multi-brand restaurant portfolio. He also served as Vice President of Franchise Sales and Development at Focus Brands where he led the sales and development teams and was responsible for growth across seven brands in Focus’ portfolio.
“Taylor brings a wealth of experience to Subway, from his background in law to working alongside franchisees to develop and grow their businesses,” said Mike Kappitt, Subway’s Chief Operating and Insights Officer. “As Subway continues on its transformation journey, Taylor’s understanding of franchising and how to meet guests’ needs will help solidify Subway as a leader in non-traditional innovation and drive profitability for the brand and our network of franchisees.”
“I am thrilled to be joining team Subway and continuing the great work started by the non-traditional team, such as piloting Grab & Go and unattended retail solutions,” said Bennett. “I look forward to bringing to life new, exciting and unexpected ways for guests to get their favorite Subway sandwiches.”
Bennett is graduated from the Georgia Institute of Technology with a degree in international affairs and received his J.D. from John Marshall Law School.
About Subway ® Restaurants
As one of the world’s largest quick service restaurant brands, Subway serves freshly made-to-order sandwiches, wraps, salads and bowls to millions of guests, across more than 100 countries in more than 37,000 restaurants every day. Subway restaurants are owned and operated by Subway franchisees – a network that includes more than 20,000 dedicated entrepreneurs and small business owners – who are committed to delivering the best guest experience possible in their local communities.
Holding Company of Better-For-You Restaurant Concepts Fills New Leadership Role with Former WOWorks Chief People Officer
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla., May 3, 2022 /PRNewswire/ — WOWorks, the holding company of better-for-you restaurant brands, Saladworks, Frutta Bowls, Garbanzo Mediterranean Fresh and The Simple Greek, announced that Jean Boland has been appointed as the company’s Chief People and Culture Officer, effective April 11, 2022. Boland has more than 30 years of experience in multiple service-focused industries in a Human Resources and Leadership Development capacity and served as Chief People Officer and Vice President of Human Resources for WOWorks from 2019-2021. Most recently she served as Chief People Officer for OMS360.
“We created our new Chief People and Culture Officer role because culture is such an important part of every great company,” said Kelly Roddy, CEO of WOWorks. “It is so important to have an experienced officer in the company responsible for bringing it to life every single day, and Jean is the best person for the job. She was instrumental in developing the mission, vision, and values that would create the foundation for the WOWorks family of brands. She had also established the Culture Committee and helped the organization transition to fully remote work when the pandemic changed the way the world does business.”
Boland will report to Roddy and oversee all four of WOWorks’ restaurants’ culture development and growth; leadership development; talent acquisition; employee engagement and retention; human resources policies and HRIS systems. Boland has previously spent eleven years at FOCUS Brands, the franchisor of Carvel Ice Cream, Cinnabon, Schltozsky’s, Moe’s, Auntie Anne’s and other quick service brands. She has also worked in multiple positions at RARE Hospitality International, prior owners of Longhorn Steakhouse, Bugaboo Creek Steakhouse, and The Capital Grille.
“I’m looking forward to further developing the WOWorks’ culture and tailoring each department’s goals and strategies to unify their engagement,” said Boland. “Infusing our values into everything we do and stand for is at the top of my mind. I want to reconnect with our mission and vision and realign our strategic efforts with those values for our restaurant franchise partners, employees and vendors.”
WOWorks franchise owners come from different backgrounds, including existing franchise owners of different brands; varied business ownership backgrounds, such as construction, hotels, and fitness; former professional athletes; and military veterans. The company has franchising opportunities available in 49 states (all states excluding Hawaii) and offers 25 percent off franchise fees for veterans.
WOWorks was formed in 2020 with a mission to help guests pursue their passions and live their best lives by serving healthy, nutritious and flavorful meals along with its Vow to “WOW!” guest hospitality. Fully owned by Centre Lane Partners, LLC, WOWorks’ portfolio consists of: Saladworks, the nation’s leading fast-casual salad brand; Frutta Bowls, a unique restaurant franchise serving a variety of superfood bowls, fresh fruit smoothies, protein bites and more; Garbanzo Mediterranean Fresh, a popular Mediterranean restaurant concept; and most recently, The Simple Greek, which offers a fresh and healthy take on traditional Greek recipes in a fast-casual setting. WOWorks seeks to drive explosive growth across all of its brands through a variety of channels, both traditional and non-traditional, including ghost kitchens, food trucks, grocery retail and more.
ST. LOUIS–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Today, Panera announces the appointment of Marlene M. Gordon as Senior Vice President, Chief Legal Officer & Secretary effective May 2.
With over 20 years of industry experience, Gordon joins Panera from Fresh Del Monte Produce Inc., where she most recently served as Senior Vice President, Chief Administrative Officer, General Counsel and Secretary. During her tenure at Fresh Del Monte Produce, Inc., the global food company, Marlene was a member of the company’s Global Leadership Team, where she led legal, corporate communications and people strategies to best support the company’s short and long-term business objectives. Gordon was also instrumental in the redesign and deployment of the company’s new vision, values, five-year strategic objectives, global operational priorities and go to market plan.
Gordon’s career spans multiple industries and includes high-level roles at Bacardi, Burger King Corporation, Republic Industries Inc. and Blockbuster Entertainment Group. She holds a B.A. in Economics with honors from the University of Chicago, a JD from Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law and is also a Harvard Business School Certified Organizational Leader.
“We are thrilled to extend a warm welcome to Marlene as she joins the executive team as Senior Vice President, Chief Legal Officer & Secretary for both Panera Brands and Panera Bread,” said Niren Chaudhary, Chief Executive Officer, Panera Brands and Panera Bread. “Having a leader of Marlene’s caliber on board will support us during this exciting time for our portfolio of brands and expand our best-in-class executive team.”
“I’m excited to join Panera Brands at a such a transformational time. There are countless opportunities where I can dive in and add value, between Panera’s growth strategy for its complementary and iconic brands, the company’s focus on innovation and its people-first culture,” Gordon said. “I am thrilled to start working alongside Niren, the leadership team, and all of our associates in achieving the company’s business objectives and taking the company to the next level.”
Gordon’s hire is the latest addition to Panera’s leadership team, which has expanded to bring on industry veterans from world-class companies including Kraft, Yum! Brands, sweetgreen, Unilever, Pepsi, CVS, Accenture and Coca-Cola. For more information, visit www.PaneraBread.com.
About Panera Bread
30 years ago, at a time when quick service meant low quality, Panera set out to challenge this expectation. We believed that food that was good and that you could feel good about, served in a warm and welcoming environment by people who cared, could bring out the best in all of us. To us, that is food as it should be and that is why we exist.
So, we began with a simple commitment: to bake bread fresh every day in our bakery-cafes. No short cuts, just bakers with simple ingredients and hot ovens. Each night, any unsold bread and baked goods were shared with neighbors in need.
These traditions carry on today, as we have continued to find ways to be an ally for wellness to our guests. That means crafting a menu of soups, salads and sandwiches that we are proud to feed our families. Like poultry and pork raised without antibiotics on our salads and sandwiches. A commitment to transparency and options that empower our guests to eat the way they want. Seasonal flavors and whole grains. And a commitment to food that does not contain the artificial preservatives, sweeteners, flavors, and colors from artificial sources set forth on our No-No list in the food in our U.S. bakery-cafes. Why? Because we think that simpler is better and we believe in serving food as it should be. Because when you don’t have to compromise to eat well, all that is left is the joy of eating.
We’re also focused on improving quality and convenience. With investments in technology and operations, we now offer new ways to enjoy your Panera favorites – like mobile ordering and Rapid Pick-Up® for to-go orders and delivery – all designed to make things easier for our guests.
As of March 29, 2022, there were 2,117 bakery-cafes in 48 states and in Ontario, Canada, operating under the Panera Bread® or Saint Louis Bread Co.® names. Panera Bread is part of Panera Brands, one of the largest fast casual restaurant companies in the U.S., comprised of Panera Bread®, Caribou Coffee® and Einstein Bros.® Bagels. For more information, visit panerabread.com or find us on Twitter (@panerabread), Facebook (facebook.com/panerabread) or Instagram (@panerabread).
ATLANTA–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Papa John’s International, Inc. (NASDAQ: PZZA) (“Papa Johns”) today announced the retirement of Chief Operating Officer, International, Jack Swaysland. Amanda Clark was promoted to Chief International and Development Officer and will now oversee international strategy in addition to her global development responsibilities. Liz Williams was also named Chief International Operations Officer, reporting to Ms. Clark. She will assume Mr. Swaysland’s role and will be responsible for Papa Johns international markets and international team.
Ms. Clark joined Papa Johns in 2020 as Chief Development Officer, after eight years at Taco Bell where she led restaurant experience, North America development and also served as General Manager of Canada during her time there. During her two years with Papa Johns, the Company has reinvigorated development, achieving one of its best years ever of net new restaurants opened in 2021. In addition, under Ms. Clark’s leadership Papa Johns has forged its largest domestic and international development deals in the Company’s history. Among these, the agreement with FountainVest Partners to open over 1,350 new stores across South China by 2040 is the largest development deal ever announced in the pizza industry and alone will grow Papa Johns global unit count by 25 percent.
“Amanda and her team have been a significant driver of the growth of Papa Johns over the past year,” said Papa John’s President and CEO Rob Lynch. “There’s no doubt that our international business is becoming more and more important as we continue to take advantage of the vast whitespace available to us outside of North America. In addition, Amanda will enhance the integration between our North American and International businesses, which will be critical as we look to accelerate growth and create more efficiencies globally.
“I also want to thank Jack for his leadership during his 16 years with the Company. Papa Johns would not be the global brand it is today without his many contributions.”
Liz Williams joined Papa Johns in 2018 as the Managing Director of Papa Johns United Kingdom, overseeing the Company’s largest market outside of the U.S. She was later promoted to Managing Director of the UK and Major Markets, leading some of the Company’s largest and best-performing countries including China, Chile and Korea. Ms. Williams has more than 25 years’ experience in various operations roles in the QSR, casual dining and fine dining industries.
“Liz is a great asset to Papa Johns and has led our largest international markets as well our UK Quality Control Center during one of the most challenging operating environments in history, managing through a global pandemic and now unprecedented economic and geopolitical pressures,” said Mr. Lynch. “There’s nothing that gives me more pride than developing our best talent from within and providing them with new growth opportunities. I welcome Liz to our Executive Leadership Team.”
Ms. Clark and Ms. Williams’ appointments are effective May 2, 2022. Mr. Swaysland will continue to support the transition through the end of the year.
About Papa Johns
Papa John’s International, Inc. (NASDAQ: PZZA) opened its doors in 1984 with one goal in mind: BETTER INGREDIENTS. BETTER PIZZA.® Papa Johns believes that using high-quality ingredients leads to superior quality pizzas. Its original dough is made of only six ingredients and is fresh, never frozen. Papa Johns tops its pizzas with real cheese made from mozzarella, pizza sauce made with vine-ripened tomatoes that go from vine to can in the same day and meat free of fillers. It was the first national pizza delivery chain to announce the removal of artificial flavors and synthetic colors from its entire food menu. Papa Johns is co-headquartered in Atlanta, Ga. and Louisville, Ky. and is the world’s third-largest pizza delivery company. For more information about the company or to order pizza online, visit www.PapaJohns.com or download the Papa Johns mobile app for iOS or Android.
ATLANTA, April 28, 2022 /PRNewswire/ — Today Moe’s Southwest Grill® announced the hiring of two new senior leaders: Annica Conrad, Vice President of Marketing and Mike Smith, Vice President of Operations.
“Moe’s is currently in the middle of a transformation, and we are committed to revitalizing the brand through improved operations and brand positioning in the marketplace,” said Tory Bartlett, Chief Brand Officer of Moe’s Southwest Grill. “Annica and Mike have a combined 40+ years of restaurant operations and consumer marketing experience, and with their expertise and leadership, I am confident in the brand’s forward momentum.”
Annica Conrad joins Moe’s from FAT Brands where she most recently served as the Chief Marketing Officer of the QSR Division. Annica brings a strong understanding of consumer marketing, having worked at the enterprise level at FAT Brands, supporting an international portfolio of five brands with over 1,400 locations.
Mike Smith served as the COO of Taziki’s for the past two years, successfully overseeing in-restaurant technology, training, supply chain and purchasing and store support teams. Working at Hooters and Taziki’s throughout his career, Mike has over 20 years of experience in restaurant operations.
In March 2022, Moe’s Southwest Grill announced Tory Bartlett as Chief Brand Officer. Most recently, Tory served as the Schlotzsky’s Chief Brand Officer, leading the brand to a record growth year in 2021. The addition of these two new vice presidents completes the Moe’s Southwest Grill leadership team. Both Annica and Mike report directly to Tory and will lead all marketing and operations functions for Moe’s Southwest Grill.
About Moe’s Southwest Grill®
Welcome to Moe’s!® Founded in 2000 and based in Atlanta, GA, Moe’s Southwest Grill is a fast-casual restaurant franchise that serves high quality and fresh southwestern food. Moe’s has an extensive variety of menu items to please the entire family – from burritos to specialty items like quesadillas, nachos and stacks. Whether you visit one of the 650+ franchised locations across 38 states or have us cater your next event, free chips and salsa come with every order. Check us out online at www.moes.com to find a store near you, and then connect with us on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.
About Focus Brands
Atlanta-based Focus Brands® is a leading developer of global multi-channel foodservice brands. Focus Brands, through its affiliate brands, is the franchisor and operator of more than 6,400 restaurants, cafes, ice cream shoppes, and bakeries in the United States, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam and over 55 foreign countries under the Auntie Anne’s®, Carvel®, Cinnabon®, Jamba®, Moe’s Southwest Grill®, McAlister’s Deli®, and Schlotzsky’s® brand names, as well as the Seattle’s Best Coffee® brand on certain military bases and in certain international markets. Please visit www.focusbrands.com to learn more.
CHARLOTTE, N.C.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Bojangles has named senior restaurant executive David Whitaker as its new Chief Operating Officer, overseeing company and franchise operations to drive systemwide sales and growth.
Whitaker will join Bojangles on May 2, succeeding Brian Unger, who is retiring after three years at Bojangles and a career in the restaurant business that spans four decades.
“I can’t say enough about Brian’s contributions to Bojangles,” said Jose Armario, CEO of the Southern food chain known for its chicken, biscuits and legendary tea. “He represents the very best in our industry and has helped our company navigate the past few years with outstanding leadership and dedication. We wish him all the best in his retirement.”
Whitaker brings over 35 years of experience as a strategic operator and systems implementation expert for major industry players, including Bloomin’ Brands, Wendy’s, and Arby’s. He began his career as an hourly team member working for local fast casual chain Papa Gino’s based in Dedham, Massachusetts, and worked through the ranks into executive leadership roles. Prior to Bojangles, Whitaker spent seven years at Inspire Brands, most recently as Senior Vice President for Arby’s largest division, supporting 300 corporate locations and more than 1,000 franchise units spanning the Southeast to Northwestern Continental U.S.
“We are thrilled to welcome David to Bojangles. His leadership experience, extensive operational knowledge and successful track record working with franchisees are all substantial assets for our team and the Bojangles brand,” Armario said. “David brings a wide base of experience leading Operations and Ops Services functions for multiple brands – inside and outside of the QSR category that will be essential to ensuring Bojangles is keeping up with our customers’ expectations and making excellent operations a priority in all our restaurants.”
“I am very excited to join Bojangles as COO. I can’t think of a better time to be part of this impressive team and help build on all the great work Bojangles is doing today,” said Whitaker. “With such an iconic brand and passionate fanbase, Bojangles has a strong foundation to grow in the years to come, and I look forward to working closely with our Ops leaders, franchisees and executive leadership as we endeavor to bring Bojangles to a much wider audience with a sharp focus on providing exceptional service to our guests and great environments for our team members across the system.”
About Bojangles, Inc.
Bojangles, Inc. is a highly differentiated and growing restaurant operator and franchisor dedicated to serving customers high-quality, craveable food made from our Southern recipes, including breakfast served All Day, Every Day. Founded in 1977 in Charlotte, N.C., Bojangles® serves menu items such as made-from-scratch biscuit breakfast sandwiches, delicious hand-breaded bone-in chicken, flavorful fixins (sides) and Legendary Iced Tea®. Currently, Bojangles has approximately 760 system-wide restaurants in 14 states. For more information, visit www.bojangles.com or follow Bojangles on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
“Focus Brands is undergoing a major transformation in the digital and technology space, so it is critical to have a strong leader to help drive change across the business,” said Jim Holthouser, CEO of Focus Brands. “Having the right technology in place will add value to our franchisees and provide a greater experience for our guests. With Tim’s proven track record for driving tech and digital evolution, we are set up for continued success.”
As Chief Technology Officer, Tim will oversee the technology piece of all digital channels, with the primary goal of leveraging technology to create more user-friendly ecommerce and loyalty platforms and programs. There will be a continued focus on retail IT, store POS systems and data security. That will be led by Focus Brands Chief Information Officer, Steve Roach, who will report directly to Tim.
Tim joins Focus Brands from Gem Shopping Network where he served as Chief Technology Officer, overseeing all operations, technology, and the company’s digital transformation. He has also led digital transformations and consulted with some of the world’s most recognized brands such as Estée Lauder, Citigroup, Reuters and Wyndham Worldwide. Additionally, he has served on advisory boards for Fortune 500 IT companies such as Cisco, Symantec, Lenovo and HCL.
About Focus Brands
Atlanta-based Focus Brands is a leading developer of global multi-channel foodservice brands. Focus Brands, through its affiliate brands, is the franchisor and operator of more than 6,000 restaurants, cafes, ice cream shoppes, and bakeries in the United States, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and over 50 foreign countries under the brand names Auntie Anne’s®, Carvel®, Cinnabon®, Jamba®, Moe’s Southwest Grill®, McAlister’s Deli®, and Schlotzsky’s®, as well as Seattle’s Best Coffee® on certain military bases and in certain international markets. Please visit www.focusbrands.com to learn more.
SAN ANTONIO, April 19, 2022 /PRNewswire/ — Whataburger has hired Peggy Rubenzer as its new Senior Vice President and Chief People Officer. Rubenzer is a seasoned executive with more than 30 years in the human resources industry, building people teams at True Food Kitchen, Shake Shack Enterprises, PF Chang’s China Bistro Inc., Southwest Airlines and more.
During her time at True Food Kitchen as their Chief People Officer, Rubenzer oversaw all HR-related functions, from leadership development to compensation, benefits, performance management and training. Prior to joining True Food in 2019, Rubenzer held the Senior Vice President and Chief People Officer role and led the entire People and HR function at Shake Shack between 2011 and 2019 – leading the HR strategy and developing the people model during the company’s explosive growth phase both pre- and post-IPO. In addition, during Rubenzer’s tenure, Shake Shack was recognized for its innovation in employee engagement and training.
Prior to Shake Shack, from 2002 to 2011, Rubenzer held the VP of People Services, Training and Development for P.F. Chang’s China Bistro, Inc. (which included P.F. Chang’s, Pei Wei and their global licensed partner companies).
“Peggy has designed, developed and executed people models and training programs for some top-notch brands,” says Whataburger CEO Ed Nelson. “Her experience shaping HR and Training functions will be extremely valuable as Whataburger continues its growth into new markets and new states – and expands its 51,000+ employee workforce. Our people are the heart of our brand.”
Rubenzer hails from Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, Illinois, and completed the Executive HR Program at Stanford University for seasoned HR professionals. Her first career role out of college was with Southwest Airlines, where she grew up in the ‘Herb Kelleher school of people management.’ She started in customer relations and eventually led and supported all People and Recruitment efforts for the Southwest Airlines Midwest People Department as the brand spread its wings to open its Midwest and East Coast operations.
“Whataburger is a 72-year-old company with a unique family-like culture and a growth mindset,” Rubenzer says. “I’m excited to join this brand and help build on the strategy and vision to achieve long-term success by strengthening engagement, retention and leadership opportunities for all employees. It really all boils down to people – people in the guest-facing positions on the front lines who deliver the brand hospitality to customers; and people behind the scenes who work so hard to support and help to drive those successes.”
Rubenzer’s first day on the job at Whataburger is Monday, April 25, 2022. She will work in Whataburger’s San Antonio-based Home Office.
Whataburger has focused on its fresh, made-to-order burgers and friendly customer service since 1950 when Harmon Dobson opened the first Whataburger as a small roadside burger stand in Corpus Christi, Texas. Today, the company is headquartered in San Antonio with more than 884 locations across its 14-state footprint, and sales of more than $3 billion annually. Whataburger is recognized as a Top Workplaces 2021 Employer by the San Antonio Express-News Top Workplaces and placed No. 2 for Newsweek’s “Fast-Food Restaurant Chains” in its annual “America’s Best Customer Service” rankings. Whataburger has also been named among the “Best Regional Fast Food Restaurants” on the USA Today’s 10Best Readers’ Choice Awards consecutively since 2019. Whataburger has more than 50,000 Family Members (employees) and more than 60 million customers who like to customize their Whataburgers just the way they like it. Visit whataburger.com for more information. To apply for Whataburger jobs, visit whataburger.com/careers.
20-year restaurant and pizza industry veteran to lead restaurant operations and operations excellence
Louisville, KY (RestaurantNews.com) Papa John’s International, Inc. (NASDAQ: PZZA) (“Papa Johns”) today announced the appointment of Joe Sieve as the Company’s new Chief Restaurant Officer. Mr. Sieve, who will begin his new position on May 2nd, will oversee the operations of Papa Johns corporate and franchise restaurants in North America, reporting to Max Wetzel, EVP, Chief Commercial Officer.
Mr. Sieve brings broad-based experienced as a strategic operator and development leader for major industry players, including Domino’s and Inspire Brands. He began his career out of college as a franchisee and later built a portfolio of 58 Domino’s restaurants. Most recently, Mr. Sieve spent six years at Inspire Brands as Vice President of Franchise Development, where he was involved in the creation and growth of the multi-brand organization. Prior to his time at Inspire and as a Domino’s franchisee, Mr. Sieve was Director of Strategic Market Growth at Domino’s Pizza, Inc., where he and his team developed and executed the company’s fortressing strategy, among other contributions.
“We are thrilled to welcome Joe to Papa Johns. His leadership experience, extensive operational knowledge and successful track record working with franchisees and as a franchisee himself are all substantial assets for our team and brand,” said Mr. Wetzel. “I’m particularly excited about Joe’s deep background in the pizza industry, which will help accelerate the progress we’re already making to create a winning culture in our restaurants, deliver fantastic customer service and run the most efficient operations possible.”
“I can’t think of a better time to join this impressive team and help build on all the great work Papa Johns is doing today,” said Mr. Sieve. “The work and investments in technology and operations have created a unique platform for long-term growth, and I look forward to contributing my experience, as we strive to build the best pizza company in the world.”
As Chief Restaurant Officer, Mr. Sieve will lead the Company’s franchise operations support team, company-owned restaurants, and operations excellence team. Along with his team, he will be responsible for driving continuous operations improvements through innovation and delivering customer satisfaction growth for the brand across both its corporate and franchise restaurants.
About Papa Johns
Papa John’s International, Inc. (NASDAQ: PZZA) opened its doors in 1984 with one goal in mind: BETTER INGREDIENTS. BETTER PIZZA.® Papa Johns believes that using high-quality ingredients leads to superior quality pizzas. Its original dough is made of only six ingredients and is fresh, never frozen. Papa Johns tops its pizzas with real cheese made from mozzarella, pizza sauce made with vine-ripened tomatoes that go from vine to can in the same day and meat free of fillers. It was the first national pizza delivery chain to announce the removal of artificial flavors and synthetic colors from its entire food menu. Papa Johns is co-headquartered in Atlanta, Ga. and Louisville, Ky. and is the world’s third-largest pizza delivery company with more than 5,600 restaurants in 50 countries and territories as of Dec. 26, 2021. For more information about the company or to order pizza online, visit www.PapaJohns.com or download the Papa Johns mobile app for iOS or Android.
Restaurant veteran Sharlene Smith named to the position
Athens, GA (RestaurantNews.com) Zaxby’s, a Georgia-based premium quick-service restaurant franchise known for its Signature Sandwich, Chicken Fingerz™ and flavorful signature sauces, announced today that Sharlene Smith will serve as chief operating officer effective April 25, 2022. With more than 30 years of experience at some of the nation’s leading restaurant concepts, Smith will be instrumental in driving the company’s national expansion through operational effectiveness, system improvements and people development.
“Given that culture and quality have always been hallmarks of our brand, we needed an exceptional leader who has demonstrated capabilities for operational excellence as well as a passion for people,” said Bernard Acoca, Zaxby’s CEO. “Sharlene is an executive who balances vision with execution, and that makes her ideally suited to help accelerate our growth.”
With over three decades of operational experience within the restaurant industry and franchising, Smith is a proven leader of teams as well as growth strategies. Most recently, Smith served as vice president of operations excellence, North America for Papa John’s International, responsible for operations execution across 3,000 locations. There, she worked closely with a franchisee advisory council to ensure alignment on vision, strategic growth plans and system-wide initiatives.
“Our industry is experiencing rapid off-premise growth and the digitalization of practically every aspect of our business,” said Acoca. “Sharlene’s vast foundational experience with iconic brands in the areas of drive-thru and delivery, along with her abilities to build strong teams while scaling for growth will prove vital in the evolution of Zaxby’s.”
Before joining Papa John’s, Smith spent the bulk of her career in field leadership positions at McDonald’s Corporation where she led one of the largest, high-growth regions in the system with more than 850 company and franchised locations. She consistently exceeded year-over-year income growth and guest counts by improving performance metrics and adding new restaurants annually. Smith’s ability to lead and train cross-functional teams and her commitment to developing top talent garnered her recognition as a “National People Leader” through her work with the McDonald’s Corporation.
“Helping organizations develop talent, grow revenue and create systems for excellent service are my passion,” said Smith. “Zaxby’s is a company I am proud to join and has teams that I am honored to lead. I am particularly excited to be part of Zaxby’s during its next phase of growth.”
Founded in 1990, Zaxby’s is committed to serving delicious chicken fingers, wings, sandwiches and salads in a fun, offbeat atmosphere where customers are considered friends. Zaxby’s iconic Signature Sandwich won Thrillist’s 2021 Fasties Award for Best Fried Chicken Sandwich. Zaxby’s has grown to more than 900 locations in 17 states and is headquartered in Athens, Georgia. For more information, visit zaxbys.com or zaxbysfranchising.com.