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Executive Movements - January 2023

Modern Restaurant Concepts Appoints John Cywinski as Chief Executive Officer and Board Member

January 12, 2023 09:00 AM Eastern Standard Time

LOS ANGELES--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Modern Restaurant Concepts (“MRC”), a leading fast casual restaurant platform comprising the QDOBA, Modern Market Eatery, and Lemonade brands, announced today that veteran restaurant executive John Cywinski has joined the company as Chief Executive Officer, effective immediately.

Mr. Cywinski is a sought out, seasoned and accomplished restaurant executive with leadership experience from some of the industry's most recognized and successful brands including Applebee's, Chili’s, KFC, McDonald's, and Burger King.

Prior to joining Modern Restaurant Concepts, Mr. Cywinski served as the President of Applebee’s Grill & Bar for six years, where he led a dramatic transformation and resurgence of the iconic $4.4B business. Before his role at Applebee’s, Mr. Cywinski also served as the President of KFC where he led the successful turnaround of the $4.5B U.S. business from 2010 to 2014 while at Yum! Brands. Prior to joining Yum!, Mr. Cywinski spent four years as a franchisee, owning and operating a number of successful Dunkin’ Donuts and Sonic restaurants in Chicago, which he has since sold. Earlier in his career, John also served as President of Buena Vista Pictures Marketing for the Motion Picture Group of the Walt Disney Studios. He currently serves on the Board of Directors of the National Restaurant Association and is a recipient of IFMA’s Silver Plate Award, one of the most prestigious awards in the restaurant industry.

“The Butterfly team has a compelling and ambitious vision within the restaurant industry that holds great appeal for me,” said John Cywinski, CEO of Modern Restaurant Concepts. “QDOBA is exceptionally well-positioned, as the number two brand in the Mexican fast casual category, with positive comp sales for 11 of the past 13 years, very attractive restaurant-level margins, broad consumer appeal, and the capacity to double in size over the next decade.”

Mr. Cywinski continued: “Modern Market and Lemonade represent contemporary growth engines uniquely positioned in the made-from-scratch, better-for-you, fast casual space. They offer truly elite sales volumes and margins, with a remarkably passionate and loyal guest following in their initial geographies of Colorado, Texas, Arizona, and California. All three brands provide best-in-class opportunities for distinguished, proven, and culture-driven franchise partners to expand their portfolios.”

Adam Waglay, Co-Founder and Co-CEO of Butterfly, majority owner of Modern Restaurant Concepts, added: “John is an exceptional operator and executive with a track record of success in the restaurant space. His expertise and leadership will be invaluable as we accelerate the company's growth, and we’re incredibly honored to have someone of his caliber join the team.”

Keith Guilbault, prior Co-CEO of Modern Restaurant Concepts, is departing to pursue other opportunities. “We would like to thank Keith Guilbault for the seven years he spent at the helm of QDOBA stewarding the company through two transactions as well as the COVID crisis,” said Butterfly Principal Francesco D’Arcangelo. “We believe that the business is well-positioned for success, in large part due to Keith’s leadership. We wish him all the best in his future endeavors.”

Rob McColgan, prior Co-CEO of MRC, will remain with the company as President of Modern Market and Lemonade.

About Modern Restaurant Concepts

Modern Restaurant Concepts is one of the largest fast casual restaurant platforms in North America with nearly 800 units across three brands, QDOBA, Modern Market Eatery and Lemonade. The system operates corporate-owned and franchised units across nearly every U.S. state as well as Canada and Puerto Rico.

QDOBA is a fast casual Mexican restaurant with nearly 750 locations in the U.S. and Canada. Committed to delivering 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 four 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, TikTok and YouTube.

Modern Market Eatery is a food forward, sustainable fast casual restaurant concept that operates in Colorado, Texas, Arizona, and Indiana. Delivering the freshness and flavors of the market in a modern dining format and environment, Modern Market Eatery's menu of protein-centric bowls, garden fresh salads, toasted sandwiches and brick oven pizzas redefine what it means to eat well at a reasonable price. For additional information about Modern Market Eatery, please visit

Lemonade is a California-based modern fast casual concept serving colorful, seasonal and healthy lunch and dinner options as diverse as California itself. Raising the standard of quality and freshness in the industry, Lemonade entices time-crunched but food-savvy individuals with the simple allure of beautifully prepared salads, hearty braised meats, satisfying sandwiches, decadent desserts, and thirst-quenching, handcrafted lemonades. For additional information about Lemonade, please visit

About Butterfly

Butterfly Equity ("Butterfly") is a Los Angeles, California-based private equity firm specializing in the food sector, spanning the entire food value chain from "seed to fork" via four target verticals: agriculture & aquaculture, food & beverage products, food distribution and foodservice. Butterfly aims to generate attractive investment returns through deep industry specialization, a unique approach to sourcing transactions, and leveraging an operations-focused and technology-driven approach to value creation. For additional information about Butterfly, please visit its website at

View source version at Modern Restaurant Concepts

Patrick (Pat) O'Toole Appointed Chief Marketing Officer of Burger King® U.S. & Canada

Company Release - 1/10/2023 8:00 AM ET

Miami, FL – Jan. 10, 2023 – Today, Burger King® announced Patrick (Pat) O’Toole will join the brand as Chief Marketing Officer, beginning Feb. 6. O’Toole will be accountable for leading marketing efforts to help grow traffic, accelerate sales growth and amplify the fundamental advancements the brand is making to the Guest experience — in support of the brand’s existing Reclaim the Flame plan shared in 2022 — and supported by more than 96% of Burger King Franchisees nationwide.

“We are excited to welcome Pat to the Burger King leadership team and broader BK family,” said Tom Curtis, President of Burger King North America. “Pat joins us at a milestone moment for the brand, and brings the right combination of perspective, experience and expertise to position BK for success in 2023 and beyond. We have an incredible plan that has been built with and endorsed by our Franchisees. Pat is joining this team to strengthen and build on our existing plans in collaboration with our Franchisees, leveraging his impressive background and past experiences.”

O’Toole joins the brand following 14 years with PepsiCo, where he most recently served as CMO for Mountain Dew. Prior to that, he held key roles at GE and Black & Decker.


Founded in 1954, the Burger King® brand is a global fast-food hamburger chain known for food quality and value as the only place guests can get the iconic flame-grilled Whopper® sandwich. The Burger King system operates more than 18,700 locations in more than 100 countries and U.S. territories. Almost 100 percent of Burger King restaurants are owned and operated by independent franchisees, many of them family-owned operations that have been in business for decades. To learn more about the Burger King brand, please visit the Burger King brand website at or follow us on FacebookTwitterInstagram and TikTok.

View source version at Burger King

Zaxby’s Welcomes Carl Mount as New Chief Supply Chain Officer

January 10, 2023

KFC veteran to optimize Zaxby’s partnerships between suppliers and franchisees

Athens, GA  (  Saucy chicken chain Zaxby’s welcomes Carl Mount as chief supply chain officer effective January 17. With 25 years of experience, Mount comes to Zaxby’s most recently from Starbucks, where he served as senior vice president for supply chain operations. Prior to his Starbucks tenure, Mount was head of supply chain for KFC Global. At Zaxby’s, Mount will manage partnerships across the supply chain industry to maximize the investments of franchisees.

“Having served in roles both in supply chain and procurement for global brands, Carl will help us optimize solutions that better serve our franchisees, team members and guests for maximum resiliency to supply chain challenges now and in the future,” said Bernard Acoca, Zaxby’s CEO. “I am excited to partner with Carl again and begin the new year with a strong leadership team that can continue executing our ambitious goals for growing Zaxby’s in the QSR space.”

Mount represents the latest addition to Zaxby’s executive leadership team, which has been completely revamped since Acoca’s arrival in January 2022.

Mount has spent his career in the food and beverage industry, providing exceptional contributions across general management, manufacturing, logistics, and procurement functions for multibillion dollar companies, including PepsiCo, Coca-Cola, Yum! Brands and Starbucks in Asia, Europe and the Americas. Mount was paramount in implementing processes and tools at Starbucks to generate real-time action, identifying and minimizing supply chain disruptions during the pandemic.

While at Yum! Brands, serving as the head of supply chain for KFC Global, he focused heavily on margin improvement for the company’s three international brands, utilizing a playbook of collaborative tools between suppliers, franchisees and franchisor, ultimately improving margins by several hundred million dollars. Mount is well known in the industry for his ability to build teams and grow people capability. He and Acoca previously worked together at Starbucks.

Mount received his business degree at the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business and holds an MBA in finance from the Santa Clara University Leavey School of Business. He serves as board chair for The USC Marshall Randall R. Kendrick Global Supply Chain Institute.

“I am thrilled to be joining Zaxby’s at this point in its growth journey,” Mount said. “I met with motivated franchisees and strong experienced leaders which ignited my passion for this brand. Having an opportunity to work with Bernard again was the icing on the cake. Supply chains are volatile and delicate; I look forward to bringing my experience to this team.”

About Zaxby’s

Founded in 1990, Zaxby’s is committed to serving delicious chicken fingers, wings, sandwiches and salads with Southern hospitality and a modern twist. Zaxby’s iconic Signature Sandwich received Thrillist’s Fasties Award for Best Fried Chicken Sandwich in both 2021 and 2022. Zaxby’s has grown to more than 900 locations in 17 states and is headquartered in Athens, Georgia. For more information, visit or

View source version at Zaxby's

Texas Roadhouse, Inc. Appoints Gina Tobin President

January 09, 2023 17:00 ET

LOUISVILLE, Ky., Jan. 09, 2023 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Texas Roadhouse, Inc. (Nasdaq: TXRH), announced today that its Chief Learning and Culture Officer, Gina Tobin, has been promoted to President, a post which has been held by CEO Jerry Morgan since 2021.

Ms. Tobin, a 27-year veteran of Texas Roadhouse, has served in a variety of roles throughout her career at Texas Roadhouse, including as a Managing Partner, Market Partner, Vice President of Training, and most recently as Chief Learning and Culture Officer.

In addition to her current duties overseeing Food, Service, Training, Research & Development, and Diversity & Inclusion, Tobin will take on more day-to-day responsibilities at all levels throughout the Support Center.

“This promotion creates a clear line of succession, which the Board of Directors and I have been working on for more than a year. With Gina as President, along with our phenomenal leadership team, I will be able to spend more time in the field supporting operations for all three concepts,” said Morgan.

About the Company

Texas Roadhouse, Inc. is a growing restaurant company operating predominantly in the casual dining segment that first opened in 1993 and today has grown to over 690 restaurants system-wide in 49 states and ten foreign countries. For more information, please visit the Company’s Web site at

View source version at Texas Roadhouse

Denny's Welcomes Celebrated Industry Leader Sherri Landry as Chief Marketing Officer

Jan 09, 2023, 14:15 ET

Additional Updates to Leadership Team Announced

SPARTANBURG, S.C., Jan. 9, 2023 /PRNewswire/ -- Denny's Corporation (NASDAQ: DENN) today announced the appointment of Sherri Landry as Senior Vice President, Chief Marketing Officer (CMO). Landry will lead the marketing team and report to President of Denny's Inc., John Dillon.

Landry brings more than 25 years of deep expertise in the restaurant industry and a proven track record of delivering innovation and sales growth across restaurant brands. She joins Denny's from CEC Entertainment where she served as Chief Marketing Officer overseeing multiple brands, including Chuck E. Cheese and Peter Piper Pizza. Prior to CEC Entertainment, she served in marketing leadership roles at Pizza Hut, T.G.I. Fridays, Main Event Entertainment, Sara Lee and Procter and Gamble, among others.

"Denny's is one of the most iconic American brands in the restaurant industry and beyond. I am truly honored and looking forward to joining the Denny's brand team and leading our marketing efforts at such a pivotal time," said Landry.

This year marks Denny's 70th anniversary and Landry will spearhead the historic brand's next phase of growth, with a focus on increasing sales and delivering meaningful guest experiences that amplify Denny's cultural relevance and position as America's Diner.

"Sherri has the perfect blend of leadership experience and business savvy that we need to propel us through the next chapter of Denny's brand evolution while honoring our brand purpose, feeding people's bodies, minds and souls," said Dillon. "Having worked with Sherri in the past, I know she will inspire our team members and franchisees with creativity and a strategic vision that will continue to fuel our growth in 2023. I could not be more thrilled to welcome Sherri to the Denny's family."

Landry is based in Dallas and will assume the position effective January 30, 2023. Denny's started its search for CMO in the fall of 2022, after Dillon, who previously held the position of Executive Vice President and Chief Brand Officer, was named President of Denny's Inc.

"Sherri is a proven change-maker, and her experience and leadership will make an instant impact on our brand, leadership team and franchisees," said Kelli Valade, CEO, Denny's Corp. "Her ability to translate consumer insights into increased brand relevance is world-class and we look forward to working with her to drive growth and deepen connections with our guests."

Along with Landry's hiring, two Denny's executives, Fasika Melaku and Laurie Curtis, will step into expanded roles to support Denny's and its franchisees during this transformative time for the brand.

Melaku will oversee all human resources functions as Vice President, Human Resources and Chief Learning Officer while Curtis will oversee corporate communications, public relations, and strategic partnerships in her new role as Vice President, Communications & Brand Integration. Both will report to Dillon.

For more information, please visit

About Denny's Corp 

Denny's Corporation is the franchisor and operator of the Denny's brand, of one of America's largest franchised full-service restaurant chains, based on the number of restaurants. As of June 29, 2022, Denny's had 1,631 franchised, licensed, and company restaurants around the world including 154 restaurants in Canada, Puerto Rico, Mexico, the Philippines, New Zealand, Honduras, the United Arab Emirates, Costa Rica, Guam, Guatemala, El Salvador, Indonesia, and the United Kingdom. For further information on Denny's, including news releases, please visit the Denny's website at or the brand's social channel via FacebookTwitterInstagramTikTokLinkedIn or YouTube.

View source version at Denny's

Texas Roadhouse, Inc. CFO Announces Retirement Following 24-Year Career

January 06, 2023 09:00 ET

LOUISVILLE, Ky., Jan. 06, 2023 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Texas Roadhouse, Inc. (Nasdaq: TXRH), announced today that after more than two decades at the Company, its Chief Financial Officer, Tonya Robinson, has retired effective January 4, 2023.

“Tonya has provided tremendous value throughout her 24-year career at Texas Roadhouse, rising from Staff Accountant to CFO,” said Jerry Morgan, CEO and President of Texas Roadhouse. “We wish Tonya the best as she begins her next chapter in life,” Morgan added.

Ms. Robinson joined Texas Roadhouse in 1998 and has served in a variety of roles in her career, including Controller, Director of Financial Reporting and Vice President of Finance and Investor Relations. Robinson was named Chief Financial Officer in May of 2018.

The Company’s Board of Directors has appointed Keith Humpich, Vice President of Finance, as interim CFO until a permanent successor has been identified.

Mr. Humpich, who has over 30 years of accounting, audit and finance experience, joined Texas Roadhouse in February 2005 as the Director and then Senior Director of Internal Audit. In 2021, he was promoted to Vice President of Finance, where he oversees Financial Reporting, Tax, Treasury, Internal Audit, and Financial Analysis. He also serves as co-chair of the Company’s Enterprise Risk Management function and Compliance Officer for FCPA-related matters. Prior to joining Texas Roadhouse, he held finance and/or audit positions at Lexmark International and Ernst & Young.

The Company has retained an executive search firm to assist in a formal search for a permanent successor.

About the Company

Texas Roadhouse, Inc. is a growing restaurant company operating predominantly in the casual dining segment that first opened in 1993 and today has grown to over 690 restaurants system-wide in 49 states and ten foreign countries. For more information, please visit the Company’s Web site at

View source version at Texas Roadhouse

Dine Brands Global Announces Executive Leadership Changes

John Cywinski to Depart Company Tony Moralejo Named Applebee’s President Scott Gladstone Named President of International and Corporate Development

January 04, 2023 05:05 PM Eastern Standard Time

GLENDALE, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Dine Brands Global, Inc. (NYSE: DIN), the parent company of Applebee’s Neighborhood Grill & Bar®, IHOP®, and Fuzzy’s Taco Shop® restaurants, today announces key leadership moves, each effective on January 6, 2023. John Cywinski, Applebee’s President, is leaving the company for a CEO position at another restaurant company. Tony Moralejo, who is currently President, Dine Brands International and Global Development, has been appointed President, Applebee’s U.S. Scott Gladstone, Senior Vice President of Strategy and Innovation, will step into the role of President, International and Corporate Development.

Dine Brands CEO John Peyton said, “John and I share a love and respect for the DNA of Applebee’s, and we are all grateful for his contributions to this great brand over many years. Under John’s leadership, Applebee’s has become the vibrant category-leading brand that it is today. John has built a terrific team, delivered unprecedented sales, revitalized marketing and menus, and has strengthened franchisee relationships. I’m confident that Tony and the exceptional franchisees and leadership team at Applebee’s will continue to drive industry-leading growth.”

“It’s been an absolute honor and privilege to serve as President of this very special brand. I’ve truly enjoyed every moment leading this remarkable group of franchise partners and this equally remarkable team over the past six years. I’ll look on with great pride, knowing the brand is stronger than it’s ever been and poised to continue its extraordinary success moving forward,” John Cywinski said about today’s announcement.

Moralejo, a career restaurant veteran who joined Dine Brands in 2020, steps into the Applebee’s leadership role with a proven track record in operations, development and franchisee relations. Prior to Dine, he served as Executive Vice President for International Business and Global Development at Church’s Chicken and its international brand, Texas Chicken. Earlier in his career, Tony worked for more than 18 years for Burger King in various leadership roles.

Gladstone, who joined Dine Brands in 2016, currently leads Corporate Strategy and Innovation. Gladstone brings strategic expertise and an eye for innovation to this expanded role. His early career experience includes The Boston Consulting Group where he advised Fortune 100 companies, working across practices and industries.

“We have a deep bench of talented leaders at Dine. As a result of our succession planning, today’s announcement demonstrates our ability to tap into the great talent of our management team and ensure a smooth and seamless transition. Both Tony and Scott have deep institutional knowledge about Applebee’s, IHOP, and the industry, and they are the ideal leaders to take us to the next level of growth,” added Peyton.

Tony Moralejo said about the appointment, “Applebee’s is an iconic brand. I’m proud to take on the president role and eager to build on the brand’s great legacy. I’m looking forward to leading Applebee’s through its next chapter and providing guests even more reasons for Eatin’ Good in the Neighborhood.”

About Dine Brands Global, Inc.

Based in Glendale, California, Dine Brands Global, Inc. (NYSE: DIN), through its subsidiaries, franchises restaurants under Applebee's Neighborhood Grill + Bar®, IHOP® and Fuzzy's Taco Shop® brands. With over 3,500 restaurants combined in 18 countries and 388 franchisees as of December 5, 2022, Dine Brands is one of the largest full-service restaurant companies in the world. For more information on Dine Brands, visit the Company's website at

View source version at Dine Brands

Culver’s Names Julie Fussner CMO

The six-year company veteran becomes the first C-level marketing chief in the burger chain’s history.

By Jonathan Maze on Jan. 04, 2023

Culver's CMOJulie Fussner is the first CMO for Culver's in its 38-year history. / Photo courtesy of Culver's

Culver’s is getting a chief marketing officer.

The fast-food burger chain, based in the small Wisconsin town of Prairie du Sac, on Wednesday named Julie Fussner the first CMO in its 38-year history.

Fussner had been VP of marketing and has worked with the company since 2017. She had nearly two decades of sales and marketing experience before her arrival.

Culver’s, which operates nearly 900 locations, credited Fussner for several key marketing initiatives, notably the release of the CurderBurger in 2021. She was also behind the Welcome to Delicious marketing campaign launched last year.

Since her arrival, the company said, Culver’s has increased its locations by about one-third.

View source version at Culver's

Marco’s Pizza Appoints Kristin Corcoran to Vice President – Corporate Counsel

January 4, 2023

30-Year Industry Veteran Brings Legal Expertise to Growing Pizza Brand’s Sophisticated Executive Team

Toledo, OH  (  Marco’s Pizza, the nation’s fastest-growing pizza brand*, appoints Kristin Corcoran to Vice President – Corporate Counsel. This news comes on the heels of the recent appointments of Gerardo Flores – Chief Development OfficerDavid Gladstone – VP of Construction, and Paul Williams – VP of Real Estate as Marco’s strengthens its executive team while preparing for its next era of growth.

As a highly experienced legal professional, Corcoran has held top-level leadership roles in the industry for more than 30 years. Most recently, she served Of Counsel to DLA Piper, and previously was a Partner in Appleby & Corcoran, LLC, providing counsel to franchisor clients. Prior to her move to private practice, she was the Senior Associate General Counsel at Subway for 25 years. Corcoran brings a wealth of franchise and general business expertise to Marco’s. In her new position, Corcoran provides valuable support to the Marco’s legal team in day-to-day activities and works closely with the business units in her role serving as a legal advisor to the company.

“I am so pleased to have Kristin join our legal team. She is a highly accomplished attorney whose leadership, expertise, and business contributions have had a substantial, positive impact on the brands she’s advised,” said Marco’s Pizza Sr. Vice President and Chief Legal Officer Todd Watson. “Her experience navigating franchise law in previous positions makes her highly qualified for this new role. She is the right person to support our franchise regulatory and compliance functions as we dive into new and exciting strategic initiatives.”

Marco’s franchise expansion continues to accelerate with more than 200 stores in various stages of development and more than 350 agreements signed. Company leadership is prioritizing investments in enhancing the franchise development program, new technology, personnel, strategic vendor partnerships, multi-channel national advertising, and more – all with an eye on maximizing franchisee profits while meeting the needs of today’s modern customer.

“It’s an exciting time to join the Marco’s team,” said Corcoran. “With multiple projects in development, franchise expansion surging, and new partnerships being formed, it’s my goal to provide the legal advice needed to keep up with new trends, challenges, and opportunities, as Marco’s continues on the fast track to pizza royalty.”

The brand continues to rise in the ranks as Nation’s Restaurant News Top 500 Report shows Marco’s achieved the highest percent year-over-year sales change (+18.2%) when compared to the nation’s top 4 pizza brands**, making Marco’s the No. 5 pizza brand in systemwide sales in America.

With strong growth and performance, Marco’s now sets its sights on becoming the No. 4 brand in pizza as it experienced a 12.8% increase in year-over-year Average Unit Volume (AUV), and the Top 50% of Marco’s franchised stores generated $1,198,201 AUV for 2021***.

For more information on Marco’s Pizza franchise opportunities, visit or call 866-731-8209 to speak with Shannon Iverson, Vice President of Franchise Sales.

About Marco’s Pizza

Marco’s Pizza is America’s Most Loved and Most Trusted Pizza Brand, according to the 2019 Harris Poll EquiTrend® Study. Headquartered in Toledo, Ohio, Marco’s Pizza is the fastest-growing pizza brand in the United States*. Marco’s was founded in 1978 by Italian-born Pasquale (“Pat”) Giammarco and thrives to deliver a high-quality pizza experience, known for its dough made from scratch and its three fresh signature cheeses. The company has grown from its roots as a beloved Ohio brand to operate over 1,100 stores in 34 states with locations in Puerto Rico and the Bahamas. Most recently, Marco’s Pizza was ranked No. 2 in the Pizza category on Entrepreneur Magazine’s 2022 “Franchise 500” ranking, and No. 4 in the Fastest Growing category on Restaurant Business’ 2021 “Top 10 Fastest Growing Chains” ranking. Other recent accolades include a high ranking on Newsweek’s 2023 “America’s Best Customer Service” in pizza chains list, ranked No. 40 on QSR’s Top 50 and has been featured five consecutive years on Nation’s Restaurant News’ prestigious “Top 500” ranking.

View source version at Marco's Pizza

Focus Brands President Beto Guajardo Named CEO of Blaze Pizza

Guajardo replaces Mandy Shaw, who led the fast-casual chain through the pandemic.

By Lisa Jennings on Jan. 04, 2023

Blaze Pizza signBlaze Pizza celebrated its 10th anniversary in November 2022. /Photograph courtesy of Shutterstock.

Beto Guajardo, the former president of Focus Brands International, was named CEO of Blaze Pizza on Wednesday.

Mandy Shaw this week announced her departure after five years in the CEO seat at Blaze Pizza, confirming earlier rumors, though she did not reveal her plans.

Shaw in a LinkedIn post said she was moving on to her next journey, after five “wild and fulfilling” years with the Pasadena, Calif.-based chain. After moving across the country as a single mom, Shaw said she wanted to spend more time with her family on the East Coast.

Guajardo spent more than three years with Atlanta-based Focus Brands, which is the franchisor and operator of more than 6,400 restaurants and snack shops under brands such as Auntie Anne’s, Carvel, Cinnabon, Jamba, Moe’s Southwest Grill, McAlister’s Deli and Schlotzsky’s. He first joined as president of Schlotzsky’s in 2019 and later took on the parent company’s international business.

Before joining Focus Brands, he was a senior vice president, global strategy for Starbucks, and he worked previously with Levi Stauss & Co. and Avon.

According to sister brand Technomic’s Top 500 Chain Restaurant Report, Blaze had systemwide sales of $347 million in fiscal 2021, up 20% year over year. Blaze ended that year with 313 units and average unit volumes of $1.1 million.

Founded by Rick Wetzel, who also co-founded Wetzel’s Pretzels, and his wife Elise Wetzel, Blaze attracted big name celebrity backers early on, including NBA Star LeBron James, Boston Red Sox chairman Tom Werner and former California First Lady Maria Shriver.

View source version at Blaze Pizza

Walk-On’s Sports Bistreaux Announces CEO Transition as Brand Approaches 20th Anniversary

January 4, 2023

Founder Brandon Landry appoints Scott Taylor CEO

Baton Rouge, LA  (  Walk-On’s Sports Bistreaux announced today that Founder Brandon Landry has appointed Scott Taylor to the Chief Executive Officer role. Landry will transition to Chairman of the Board of Directors. Taylor has served as Walk-On’s President and COO since joining the company in 2010.

Together, Landry and Taylor have evolved Walk-On’s from the original sports bar concept to a juggernaut in the casual dining space, offering Louisiana cuisine, elevated sports bar fare and American classics. The brand has more than 75 restaurants open across 13 states, a franchise pipeline of 100 more in various stages of development and expects to open 20 additional locations in 2023. Supported by strong systems and operations, the brand boasts systemwide average unit volumes of over $5 million.

“Over the past 12 years, Scott and I have built a culture and team that is focused on delivering best-in-class support and results for our franchise partners,” said Landry. “He is the natural choice to assume the CEO reins as the brand enters its 20th year.”

Walk-On’s has earned multiple local and national accolades, mostly recently being named Entrepreneur magazine’s #1 Sports Bar Franchise for the third year in a row. In 2015, football legend Drew Brees became a co-owner of the brand, and in 2020, private equity firm 10 Point Capital invested. Several current and former professional sports figures – including Dak Prescott, Dabo Swinney, Devon White and Derrick Brooks – are franchisees of the brand.

“It has been an honor to work alongside such a passionate founder to build this incredible brand,” commented Taylor.  “I look forward to leading the continued growth of our team and franchise family, and bringing the Walk-On’s experience to more guests across the country.”

Taylor sits on a number of advisory boards in recognition of his deep restaurant expertise. Notably he is on advisory boards for the Louisiana Restaurant Association and the Restaurant Leadership Conference and he is the incoming Chair for the college of Tourism, Hospitality and Event Management at the University of Florida.

For a complete menu, locations and more information, visit To inquire about franchise opportunities, please visit or contact CFE Kelly Parker at 225.330.4533.

About Walk-On’s Sports Bistreaux

Based in Baton Rouge, Walk-On’s Sports Bistreaux was founded in 2003 by Brandon Landry, a former walk-on basketball player at LSU. Leaning on the true spirit of a walk-on and building a winning culture, the brand is rapidly expanding across the United States. Its Louisiana-inspired menu features food and drinks made from scratch daily. Walk-On’s All-American Team serves up a game-day experience in a fun, family-friendly atmosphere that ensures every guest is a winner. For more information, visit

View source version at Walk-On's

Donatos to Start New Year with Leadership Additions

December 20, 2022

Internal promotions and opportunities for professional growth highlight changes

Columbus, OH  (  Since its beginning in 1963, Donatos has prided itself on being a business that cares about its people as much as the premium pizza that it serves.  To that end, the soon-to-be 60-year-old family company recently announced several leadership promotions and the creation of a pathway for more internal growth for restaurant leadership and training personnel that will all take effect on January 3.

“Our people are our most valuable resource and we are really excited about this announcement of internal promotions and growth opportunities,” said Kevin King, President of Donatos.  “This gives our associates a clearer look at the steps they can take to continue to move up in our company.  We have such talented people and this is a great way for them to find a career with us that both challenges them and best utilizes their skills.”

Headlining the promotions is the selection of Tony Capuano for the role of Vice President of Franchise Operations.  A third-generation member of the Donatos founding family, Capuano has spent the past three years in Ops Development and District Manager roles within the company serving most recently as a District Manager for five company restaurants.  Capuano also has 10 years of entrepreneurial experience through his ownership of several local SNAP Fitness gyms.

“Tony has already made an impact in his time at Donatos,” said King.  “In his new role, he will have the opportunity to work directly with our franchise partners to help them build their sales and profitability.  We are excited for him to be in this role and are confident he will continue our great relationship with our franchise partners.”

The next new leadership position is the creation of the new role of Vice President of Field Training and Ops Excellence that will be filled by Cheryl Bergsman.  Bergsman brings over 32 years of Donatos field operations experience to the role and a passion for supporting operations through training and development.  Most recently, she has spent the past three years as the Vice President of Company Operations where she led the Columbus company restaurants through the challenges they faced during the pandemic.

“Cheryl’s leadership in our company restaurants the past three years has been incredible,” said King.  “She helped guide our associates through unprecedented times.  We are really excited for her to be able to put her passion for people and training to great use in this important new role that is essential as our brand continues to grow.”

The third leadership addition is the hiring of Brian Thompson to serve as the Vice President of Company Operations.  Thompson is no stranger to Donatos as he has over 30 years of field restaurant experience that began in 1992 when he started his career with Donatos.  He has been both a general manager and a district manager in Columbus, and for the past 12 years he has served as the Vice President for Restaurant Operations for Titan Restaurant Group, a Donatos franchise partner, during which he oversaw 40 restaurants across three states.

“Brian is a results-oriented leader with a track record for driving sales, improving profitability, and growing people,” said King.  “He possesses a leadership lens from within and outside the Columbus market that can enhance our open-minded culture and inspire even greater innovation.”

One additional promotion is elevating Brie Williams into the role of Manager of People Experience and Culture.  Another third-generation member of the Donatos founding family, Williams has quickly established herself as a key part of the People Services team.

“Brie has a proven track record of talent acquisition and associate onboarding success,” said King.  “She has a passion for developing and executing strategies to attract, onboard, engage, and retain talent as well as enhance our ‘Every piece is important’ associate brand.”

Besides these new leadership appointments, additional positions have been created to allow for internal professional development to prepare the next group of operations and training leaders in the company.  Two Senior District Manager positions and two Area Coach positions will be filled from within as well as a Field Training Manager position for both franchise and Columbus operations.  A Director of Organizational Development will be added to the People Services Department through internal promotion and a Columbus Recruiter will be hired.  Additionally, six new associates are being added to the IT team to bring more of the technology expertise in-house to help provide an industry-leading omni-channel guest experience.

“As we head into 2023, we are really excited about the team that we have in place to continue our growth,” said King.  “Big things are on the horizon as we continue to fulfill our promise to serve the best pizza and make your day a little better.”

About Donatos

Donatos features the Edge to Edge® pizza, created by Jim Grote who founded Donatos in 1963.  With 431 locations in 27 states, Donatos and its franchise partners operate 173 traditional restaurants in Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, Virginia, West Virginia, South Carolina, Alabama, Tennessee, Georgia, Pennsylvania, and Florida.  Donatos’ products are also proudly served in 258 non-traditional locations (248 locations with Red Robin, nine sports and entertainment venues, and one REEF Kitchen).  For more information about Donatos, visit, like on Facebook or follow on Twitter and Instagram.

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