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Executive Movements - December 2020

Starbucks Announces the Appointment of Mellody Hobson as Non-Executive Chair of the Board

Currently serving as vice chair of the Starbucks board of directors, Hobson will succeed current chair, Myron E. Ullman, III upon his retirement in March 2021

December 09, 2020 09:05 AM Eastern Standard Time

SEATTLE--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Starbucks Corporation (NASDAQ: SBUX) today announced that Mellody Hobson will serve as the company’s next non-executive chair of its board of directors starting in March 2021. Hobson, who first joined the board as an independent director in 2005 and was appointed as the board’s independent vice chair in 2018, will succeed Myron (Mike) E. Ullman, III. Ullman, who has served on the board since 2003 and has served as its chair since 2018, will retire from the board in March 2021, and Hobson will assume the role of chair in connection with the Starbucks Annual Meeting of Shareholders in March 2021.

“I am thrilled and honored to take on the role of chair”

“It has been remarkable to be a part of the Starbucks board for nearly 18 years as this enduring company has grown with a mindset of prioritizing its people and its customers,” said Ullman. “It also has been an honor to serve as the chair of the Starbucks board, and to support and oversee the relationships of trust built with our stakeholders. With its Mission and Values as its guide, I am confident in the future of the company."

“From the very beginning, I set out to build a different kind of company- one in which all decisions were to be made through the lens of humanity,” said Howard Schultz, Starbucks modern day founder and chairman emeritus. “As a member of the board for the last 18 years and board chair since my departure, Mike has been instrumental in ensuring Starbucks answers its higher calling to be a different kind of public company. I am grateful to him for all his contributions and his enduring partnership to me and to Starbucks. Mellody has been a trusted advisor to me and the company for more than 20 years. She is a fearless leader defined by her grace and wisdom. She has long embraced the purpose of Starbucks and, along with the leadership team, will continue to reimagine Starbucks future through the foundation of its past. My heart is full and thankful that Starbucks will have Mellody’s leadership as chair.”

In addition to serving over 15 years on the Starbucks board of directors, Hobson is the co-CEO of Ariel Investments, LLC, a global value-based asset management firm. In this role, she is responsible for management, strategic planning and growth for all areas of Ariel Investments outside of research and portfolio management. Additionally, she serves as Chairman of the Board of the company’s publicly traded mutual funds. Prior to being named Co-CEO, Hobson spent nearly two decades as the firm’s President. Beyond Starbucks, she has brought invaluable experience to boardrooms across the nation. She currently serves as a director of JPMorgan Chase. Hobson is also a past director of Estée Lauder Companies and served as Chairman of the Board of DreamWorks Animation until the company’s sale.

“I am thrilled and honored to take on the role of chair,” said Hobson. “Over nearly two decades, I have seen the company continue to elevate and transform its business – adapting to various market environments and evolving consumer trends. I look forward to working with the board and talented leadership team on accelerating our strategy, supporting our valued partners, and continuing to create significant value for all of our stakeholders.” Hobson continued, “On behalf of the board, I would also like to thank Mike for his strong leadership, and all of his invaluable contributions.”

Hobson also serves as Chairman of After School Matters, a Chicago non-profit that provides area teens with high-quality after school and summer programs. Additionally, she is vice chair of World Business Chicago; co-chair of the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art; and a board member of the George Lucas Education Foundation and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). She is a member of The Rockefeller Foundation Board of Trustees and serves on the executive committee of the Investment Company Institute.

Hobson earned her AB from Princeton University’s School of Public and International Affairs. In 2019, she was awarded the University’s highest honor, the Woodrow Wilson Award, presented annually to a Princeton graduate whose career embodies a commitment to national service. She has also received honorary doctorate degrees from Howard University, Johns Hopkins University, St. Mary’s College, and the University of Southern California. In 2015, Time Magazine named her one of the “100 Most Influential People” in the world.

Other members of the Starbucks Board of Directors include: Richard Allison, Roz Brewer, Andy Campion, Mary Dillon, Isabel Ge Mahe, Kevin Johnson, Jørgen Vig Knudstorp, Satya Nadella, Joshua Cooper Ramo, Clara Shih and Javier Teruel.

About Starbucks

Since 1971, Starbucks Coffee Company has been committed to ethically sourcing and roasting high-quality arabica coffee. Today, with more than 32,000 stores around the globe, the company is the premier roaster and retailer of specialty coffee in the world. Through our unwavering commitment to excellence and our guiding principles, we bring the unique Starbucks Experience to life for every customer through every cup. To share in the experience, please visit us in our stores or online at or

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Focus Brands Announces Departure of Industry Veteran

Chief Operating Officer and President Kat Cole Expected to Depart by Year End

Dec 09, 2020, 10:58 ET

ATLANTA, Dec. 9, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- Focus Brands®, parent company of iconic brands Auntie Anne's®, Carvel®, Cinnabon®, Jamba®, Moe's Southwest Grill®, McAlister's Deli® and Schlotzsky's®, today announced that Kat Cole, chief operating officer and president, has decided to leave the company. Cole will continue in her capacity at the company until her departure, which is expected at the end of 2020.

"Focus Brands has seen a strategic transformation in the ten years Kat has been with the company," said Jim Holthouser, who joined Focus Brands as CEO in February. "In my time as CEO, we've managed through unprecedented times in our industry and Kat's leadership and knowledge have helped us pave the way for an exciting 2021 and beyond. She has built a deep bench of diverse leaders and has helped to position the company and its brands for continued future growth. I am grateful for her partnership and wish her the best as she moves to this next chapter."

Cole joined Focus Brands in 2010 as the president of Cinnabon where she led the turnaround of the franchise business and growth of the global, multi-channel retail brand to more than $1 billion in global branded product sales. In 2017, she was named COO and president, North America for Focus Brands, where she was involved in various brand management, franchising and licensing operations for the company. She has impacted the industry beyond the company through her work and leadership with various restaurant associations, the Women's Foodservice Forum and more.

In the immediate future, Kat will continue her extensive board and advisory work in various industries, including wellness and food technology, while also continuing her speaking, mentoring, start-up investing and community impact work.

"Spending the last decade working with iconic brands and exceptional teams and franchisees, while learning from dynamic CEOs, as well as the company's owners, has been a great privilege," said Cole. "With the growth we have experienced and the incredible leaders we have put in place, there is no better time to make the transition to my next chapter. I couldn't be more excited about the direction of Focus Brands or prouder of the great teams that will carry on and pursue our vision of continued expansion."

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.

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Mark Lohmann, formerly Rego Restaurant Group’s chief brand officer, will now oversee marketing and operations as the company prepares for strategic acquisitions.

By Heather Lalley on Dec. 07, 2020

Rego Restaurant Group, the parent of Quiznos and Taco Del Mar, has promoted its chief brand officer to president as the operator looks to potentially acquire new brands, the company announced Monday.

Mark Lohmann joined the Denver-based company early last year.

As part of his new role, Lohmann will continue to lead marketing for Rego’s brands, while adding operations to his duties.

“Mark has been an integral part of Rego’s success over the past two years and, in this new role, will continue to help lead our growth, Rego CEO Tim Casey said in a statement. “Instituting Mark as president will help to further optimize our team so that we are able to best integrate and add new brands to our portfolio, bolstering our shared service model and driving efficiencies.”

Rego Restaurant Group, which is backed by private-equity firm High Bluff Capital Partners, oversees nearly 800 restaurants in 32 countries.

“As Rego eyes continued expansion through strategic acquisitions, I am honored to step into the role of president and work to spearhead this growth and continue driving forward efficiencies across all our brands,” Lohmann said in a statement. “It is a privilege to be a part of a dynamic and ever-growing platform and the team that makes it happen.”

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QDOBA Mexican Eats Appoints Leviathan Winn as Chief Financial Officer

Former Taco Bell Executive to Help Drive Leading Fast-Casual Restaurant Chain's Growth

Dec 07, 2020, 08:01 ET

SAN DIEGO, Dec. 7, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- QDOBA, the Mexican restaurant chain voted best fast-casual restaurant in 2019 and 2020 by USA Today 10Best, today announced the appointment of Leviathan Winn to Chief Financial Officer. In this role, he will help drive the QDOBA brand's continued growth.

"Leviathan's impressive track record of proven success in private equity, financial restructuring and corporate transformation will be valuable in his new role at QDOBA," said Keith Guilbault, CEO of QDOBA. "Throughout his career, Leviathan has executed a broad range of transactions including IPOs, corporate debt offerings, mergers and acquisitions, and has led strategic growth initiatives — driving strong returns on investment. I'm confident he will be a strong cultural fit and be instrumental in accelerating QDOBA's positioning for strategic growth and profitability."

Most recently, Leviathan served as the Global Chief Financial Officer for Taco Bell Corporation, a division of Yum! Brands, Inc. Prior to that, he worked in various financial and strategic capacities, including serving as the Head of Strategic Development for the Consumer Bank at JP Morgan Chase, and serving as a strategy, restructuring and transformation consultant at McKinsey & Company. He began his career in an investment banking franchise of Citi in New York, NY. Additionally, he currently serves on the Board of Directors for Smart & Final Holdings, Inc. He received his undergraduate degree in Finance from Texas A&M University, and his MBA from The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.

"I am honored to be a part of the QDOBA team and know my previous financial and strategy experience will be extremely beneficial in taking QDOBA to new financial heights. I look forward to joining the company's experienced leadership team at its San Diego headquarters," adds Winn.

For more information on QDOBA, please visit

About QDOBA Mexican Eats QDOBA is a fast-casual Mexican restaurant with more than 730 locations in the U.S. and Canada. Committed to bringing flavor to people's lives, QDOBA uses ingredients prepared in-house, by hand, and fresh throughout the day, to create delicious menu options. Guests can experience QDOBA's delicious flavors by enjoying one of its signature menu options that are chef-crafted for convenience and ease or by customizing their burritos, tacos, burrito bowls, salads, quesadillas, and nachos to fit their personal tastes. For two years running, QDOBA has been voted the "Best Fast Casual Restaurant" as part of the USA Today 10Best Readers' Choice Awards. Discover more at or on the QDOBA app, which is available for download on the iTunes App Store or Google Play. Fans can also connect with QDOBA on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.

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Subway® Amps Up Its Culinary and Menu Innovation Strategy With World-Trained Chef Leadership

Chef Paul Fabre Appointed Senior Vice President of Culinary and Innovation

Dec 07, 2020, 11:22 ET

MILFORD, Conn., Dec. 7, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- Subway® restaurants announced today that Chef Paul Fabre has joined its culinary and innovation team, naming him Senior Vice President of Culinary and Innovation. Fabre brings impressive culinary expertise and QSR experience to Subway. He will focus on menu improvement and innovation and the introduction of new and craveable offerings.

With more than 20 years in the quick-service, fast casual restaurant industry, Fabre hails from well-known brands like Papa John's, BJ's Restaurants Inc., Trader Vic's Inc. and Bloomin' Brands. Over the course of his career he's helped these companies craft unique flavors and new offerings via menu strategy, product innovation and research & development (R&D).

"I am thrilled to come on board to such an iconic brand and am looking forward to working with the Subway team to create new favorites for our fans," said Fabre. "Culinary innovation is my passion and our guests can expect to see new and craveable items hitting restaurants soon."

"Paul brings years of deep experience across the industry. As a company obsessed with our guests, we're rethinking the entire brand experience at Subway. That means not only honoring some of the fan favorites on our menu, but offering new and better culinary experiences and flavors that our guests crave," said Subway CMO Carrie Walsh. "Chef Paul's role is all about bringing innovation to our menu that complements the other bold moves we're making across the brand."

Most recently Fabre served as SVP of Menu Strategy and Product Innovation at Papa John's, where he drove menu innovation and brand loyalty by executing new strategies including putting an emphasis on food quality and new product innovation while elevating the culinary experience. During his time at Papa John's, he was also co-Chair of the Operations & Product Sub Committee where he drove alignment on upcoming promotions, products and initiatives with franchise communities.

Before working with Papa John's, he served as Vice President of R&D and Innovation at Bloomin' Brands where he led all culinary initiatives for Outback Steakhouse. Fabre also held a culinary R&D position at BJ's Restaurants Inc. and served as Global Corporate Executive Chef at Trader Vic's Inc.

About Subway ® Restaurants The Subway restaurant chain continues to evolve the dining experience, offering guests in more than 100 countries quality ingredients, as well as robust flavor combinations while serving over 6 million made-to-order sandwiches created each day. All Subway restaurants are owned and operated by more than 20,000 Franchise Owners, who employ many people in their communities. The Subway experience is also delivered online at, through, and the Subway® App.

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Kura Sushi USA Names Steven Benrubi as Chief Financial Officer

November 30, 2020 16:05 ET

IRVINE, Calif., Nov. 30, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Kura Sushi USA, Inc. (“Kura Sushi” or the “Company”), (NASDAQ: KRUS), a technology-enabled Japanese restaurant concept, today announced that Steven H. Benrubi has been named the Company’s Chief Financial Officer, effective December 1st, 2020. Mr. Benrubi will succeed Koji Shinohara, who is leaving the Company to pursue other opportunities.

“We are excited to welcome Steve to the Kura team,” said Hajime Uba, President and Chief Executive Officer of Kura Sushi. “Steve brings to Kura more than 25 years of leadership experience from well-established restaurant and retail companies, and has demonstrated strong financial acumen, industry knowledge, and public company experience throughout his career. We believe Steve is well qualified to provide financial leadership and strategic vision to Kura Sushi as we execute our long-term growth plans.”

Mr. Uba added, “On behalf of the entire team, I would also like to thank Koji for his many contributions to Kura Sushi, including his involvement during our IPO process in 2019. We wish him the best in his future endeavors.”

Most recently, Mr. Benrubi served for five years as Chief Financial Officer for Drybar Holdings, a lifestyle salon and prestige consumer products brand that rapidly grew to operate over 100 company- and franchised-owned locations and to sell haircare products online and through retail partners with over 2000 outlets throughout the United States. Mr. Benrubi led aspects of the successful sale of Drybar’s products business to Helen of Troy in January 2020, and then joined Helen of Troy’s new Drybar Products division as Interim Head of Finance to support business integration. Prior to Drybar, he was Executive Vice President and CFO of The Wet Seal, Inc. for seven years, where he rebuilt the company’s finance organization and led numerous operations functions. Previously, he held the Vice President and Corporate Controller roles for CKE Restaurants, Inc., the owner of Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s restaurant brands, and for Domino’s Pizza, Inc. Mr. Benrubi started his career at the public accounting firm Arthur Andersen.

About Kura Sushi USA, Inc. Kura Sushi USA, Inc. is a technology-enabled Japanese restaurant concept with 28 locations in six states. The Company offers guests a distinctive dining experience built on authentic Japanese cuisine and an engaging revolving sushi service model. Kura Sushi USA, Inc. was established in 2008 as a subsidiary of Kura Sushi, Inc., a Japan-based revolving sushi chain with over 450 restaurants and 35 years of brand history. For more information, please visit

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Shauna Smith Named CEO of Mercato Partners' Savory Management Group

Smith to continue $100M food and beverage fund's remarkable growth and expand the current portfolio of category-leading brands

Nov 19, 2020, 08:00 ET

SALT LAKE CITY, Nov. 19, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- Savory Management Group announced Shauna Smith's promotion to Chief Executive Officer. Smith previously served as president and will continue to utilize her deep background and expertise to grow Savory's portfolio of thriving restaurant brands. The unique, $100 million fund invests in compelling, up-and-coming restaurant concepts, and provides access to capital along with a team of experienced industry professionals to propel growth and operations.

With over a decade of executive management experience in the food and beverage industry, Smith leads Savory's team of industry veterans and supports all Savory portfolio companies in their pursuit for brand efficiency, revenue growth, and site replication. Prior to Savory, she co-founded Four Foods Group, a multi-brand restaurant operations and investment company that built and operated 170 restaurants across the US, and surpassed $1.2B in food and beverage sales. Under her guidance, Four Foods was also an 8-time honoree of the Inc. 500 program.

"Shauna is an incredibly talented and respected leader with a proven track record of success across a variety of restaurant brands and businesses," said Greg Warnock, co-founder and managing director of Mercato Partners Savory Fund. "She has continued that success at Savory as the fund has closed new deals and substantially grown the footprint and revenue of its current portfolio companies, even amidst the pandemic. We're thrilled to have her leading the Savory Management value add team into its extraordinarily bright future."

Smith was a recipient of Utah Business' 30 Women to Watch in 2019, and Executive of the Year in the 2020 spring edition of BusinessQ Magazine. She was recently awarded CXO of the Year in 2020 by Utah Business Magazine.

"I am beyond excited to continue to lead and grow Savory's unmatched team of industry experts and brands from this new position," said Smith. "Our brands continue to innovate and thrive despite the challenges that the restaurant industry is facing across the country, and I owe that success to my team's determination and expertise. We've got major plans on the horizon and are just getting started here at Savory."

By pairing its team of award-winning industry veterans with access to growth capital, Savory fills a major gap in the food and beverage industry. Savory's current portfolio of highly popular restaurant concepts includes Via 313 (Austin, TX), The Crack Shack (San Diego, CA), Mo' Bettahs (Bountiful, UT), R&R BBQ (SLC, UT), and Swig (St. George, UT). The fund's portfolio of brands has seen incredible growth since its inception in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, adding 16 new locations in 2020 alone. Pursuing an aggressive growth plan, Savory brands plan to add more than 45 locations in 4 new markets throughout the western US in 2021.

For information about how Savory helps restaurant concepts sustainably grow and thrive, contact the team at or visit

About Savory

Savory, a Mercato Partners Fund, is focused on delivering outsized returns through strategic investments in the food and beverage industry. Savory partners with high-potential, profitable, emerging restaurant brands, to deliver financial capital, industry expertise, revenue opportunities, profitability enhancements, and new location development. The Savory team contributes directly to all aspects of growth and replication by using a proven playbook and methodology. Founder involvement in the expansion of a brand is a central theme of the Savory approach as founders carry the tribal knowledge around the uniqueness that has energized early success and is essential to future growth.

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Fuzzy’s Taco Shop Announces Jessica Wescott as Chief Operating Officer & Chief Financial Officer

November 19, 2020

Appointed as CFO in September 2019, Wescott Now Serves as Both CFO & COO

Irving, TX  (  Fuzzy’s Taco Shop announces Jessica Wescott as Chief Operating Officer, in addition to her role as Chief Financial Officer. Wescott was appointed as CFO in September 2019, and after a year of cross functionally working within the company and playing an integral role in the success of the brand in the face of the pandemic, the taco shop has added COO to her title. The Texas-based restaurant group is recognized for their Baja-style fare with nearly 150 franchise- and corporate-owned locations in 16 states.

Prior to Fuzzy’s Taco Shop, Wescott’s experience included franchising and client-facing relationships where she focused on data-driven insights. She started her career in private wealth management, serving as the Director of Client Relations for an investment advisory firm where she honed her skills for management of client relationships and true servant leadership. Her journey into the franchise world began when she joined MOOYAH Burgers, Fries, & Shakes. During this time, she served across many verticals of the business, ending her tenure with the brand as the Vice-President of Development & Finance, leading the brand’s growth strategy.

Wescott’s career with Fuzzy’s Taco Shop began in January of 2018 as the Executive Vice President of Finance, where her responsibilities included strategic planning, finance, technology, and marketing.

Drawing on her experience working collaboratively with all departments to implement brand-wide programs and processes, she streamlined how the Fuzzy’s team worked to be more effective and to drive results with a more analytical approach. Additionally, Wescott has added an enhanced level of accountability to the corporate-franchisee relationship by developing an annual strategic plan that is reported against quarterly to the Franchise Advisory Council.

“Since she joined the team in 2018 it’s become incredibly clear what an important asset Jessica is to the team and the future of Fuzzy’s Taco Shop,” says Mel Knight, President of Fuzzy’s Taco Shop.

“Her analytical approach to our overall strategy and growth goals has resulted in increased sales and profitability for our franchisees. Our franchisees trust in her ability and look to her for guidance, which made the decision to expand her role to include Chief Operating Officer a very easy one.”

Wescott’s job doesn’t end at the corporate level. She sees herself in a leadership support role, and it doesn’t go unnoticed by franchisees. Since joining the Fuzzy’s Taco Shop team, she is touted for her open dialogue with individual franchisees. She estimates 30% of her day typically is spent talking to franchisees and believes this is one of the keys to success for the brand and its operators.

“As a franchisee, the role of CFO doesn’t necessarily affect us day-to-day, but the COO is extremely important because they deal with things that we touch and feel on a daily basis,” says North Texas Fuzzy’s Taco Shop franchisee Eddie White. “One of the biggest benefits Jessica brings to the table is she has a very thoughtful way of processing things and coming up with the right answer. It’s clear to us she is someone who can help us grow and innovate and make sure we are making decisions to keep us relevant 10 years from now.”

Fuzzy’s Tampa Bay, Florida franchisee Ian Lieberman also believes Wescott’s approach to her new role is positive for the brand. “Since Jessica stepped into these roles, we’ve enjoyed her openness to feedback as well as the value she’s created simply from a transparency standpoint,” he says. “Jessica is a believer in communication on all topics, whether that’s good or bad, she’s not afraid to be the bearer of the news, and from that standpoint it’s a lot easier to operate in a partnership.”

For more information on Fuzzy’s Taco Shop please visit

About Fuzzy’s Taco Shop

Founded in 2003 near the Texas Christian University campus in Fort Worth, Fuzzy’s Taco Shop® is a fast casual restaurant serving Mexican favorites with a splash of Baja. The laid-back atmosphere pairs perfectly with signature Baja-style tacos, famous chips and queso and icy-cold beverages always served at a chill price. With nearly 150 franchise- and corporate-owned locations in 16 states, Fuzzy’s Taco Shop was named Nation’s Restaurant News’ #10 “Fastest Growing Chains” of 2018, was included on Franchise Business Review’s “Top Franchises” list in 2017 and was one of QSR magazine’s Top 6 “Best Franchise Deals by Franchisee Satisfaction” in 2016. For franchising information, visit

View source version at Fuzzy's Taco Shop

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