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Executive Movements - July 2021

Dickey’s Barbecue Pit Sets Site on Expansive International Expansion

July 9, 2021

Promoting Jim Perkins to Executive Vice President of International Sales and Support

Dallas, TX  (rest)  In an effort to construct an international mindset and culture, Dickey’s Barbecue Pit has promoted Jim Perkins to Executive Vice President of International Sales and Support.

Perkins is tasked with not only continuing to develop Dickey’s global footprint but also to prepare and build out its global personality, structure, and work ethic through Single Thread Management. “Dickey’s is deeply focused on international and over the course of the past two years, with the number of global partnerships created, we’ve realized the need to educate and cultivate a global perspective towards partnership. I’m excited to lead this task for this family brand and be a minor component of the evolution and next step for this brand” says Jim Perkins, Executive Vice President of International Sales and Support.

Dickey’s Barbecue Pit currently has locations in five countries and plans to expand its international footprint to a total of 12 countries by the end of 2021.

“It’s an exciting time to be expanding globally and with Jim Perkins as Executive Vice President he is able to bolster our international presence,” says Roland Dickey, Jr., CEO of Dickey’s Capital Group. “Jim is an international thought leader and will continue to position our brand globally as the world reopens post-pandemic.” He adds, “Dickey’s offers a sustainable, proven model shown to provide responsible results, and Jim will help us open several new worldwide locations in the months to come. It’s an exciting time for growth for Dickey’s Barbecue Pit!”

Experienced in restaurant and convenience store executive management, Perkins has worked in operations, development, training, and financial disciplines in North and South America, Asia, and the Middle East. He serves on the board of the Global Restaurant Leadership Conference, and his involvement has been integral in driving C-Level connections across the F&B Industry in the Middle East.

“Perkins’s accomplishments in the past 30 months: 17 countries with Master deals signed during the pandemic in: Australia, Japan, Myanmar, Philippines and Taiwan and new stores open in: Singapore, UAE and Tokyo helped my family understand the vast opportunity in international but also the need to Internationalize the business,” says Roland Dickey Jr. CEO Dickey’s Capital Group.

Perkins believes the pandemic taught franchisors and partners important lessons on how to use time, space, and technology more efficiently. On the near horizon, Perkins plans to build the Dickey’s Barbecue Pit brand in Africa, followed by Asia and the Middle East later this year.

Throughout his career, Perkins has elevated the presence of several global companies, including The Exxon Mobil Corporation, 7-Eleven,, and MAM Food Co in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. He has also provided valuable counsel to Nestlé, Los Angeles County Department of Health, Petroleos de Venezuela, Citgo Petroleum.

Dickey’s Barbecue Pit is a family-owned and operated company celebrating its 80th Anniversary. Find the nearest Dickey’s Barbecue Pit location by clicking here. To learn more about Dickey’s franchise opportunities, click here.

About Dickey’s Barbecue Restaurants, Inc.

Dickey’s Barbecue Restaurants, Inc., the world’s largest barbecue concept, was founded in 1941 by Travis Dickey. For the past 80 years, Dickey’s Barbecue Pit has served millions of guests Legit. Texas. Barbecue.™ At Dickey’s, all our barbecued meats are smoked onsite in a hickory wood burning pit. Dickey’s proudly believes there’s no shortcut to true barbecue and it’s why they never say bbq. The Dallas-based, family-run barbecue franchise offers several slow-smoked meats and wholesome sides with ‘No B.S. (Bad Stuff)’ included. The fast-casual concept has expanded worldwide with international locations in the UAE and Japan. Dickey Family Restaurant brands have over 550 locations nationwide. In 2016, Dickey’s won first place on Fast Casual’s “Top 100 Movers and Shakers” list, was named a Top 500 Franchise by Entrepreneur in 2018 and was named to Hospitality Technology Industry Heroes in 2021. Led by CEO Laura Rea Dickey, who was named among the country’s 50 most influential women in foodservice in 2020 by Nation’s Restaurant News and& was recognized as one of the top 25 industry leaders on Fast Casual’s 2020 Top 100 Movers and Shakers list, Dickey’s Barbecue Pit has also been recognized by Fox News, Forbes Magazine, Franchise Times, The Wall Street Journal and QSR Magazine. For more information, visit

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Casey’s Announces Restaurant, Retail and Consumer Products Leader Greg Trojan Joins its Board of Directors

July 08, 2021 09:00 AM Eastern Daylight Time

ANKENY, Iowa--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Casey’s General Stores, Inc. (NASDAQ: CASY), the third largest convenience retailer and fifth largest pizza chain in the United States, today announced the appointment of Gregory A. Trojan to its Board of Directors, bringing the number of directors from nine to ten. Mr. Trojan has over 25 years of experience leading national restaurant, retail and consumer products companies.

“We are excited to welcome Greg to the Casey’s Board of Directors as he provides significant restaurant, food service and other expertise to complement our current board capabilities. Casey’s and its shareholders will benefit immensely from his diverse, consumer-focused experience over nearly three decades,” said Lynn Horak, Casey’s Board Chair.

Mr. Trojan currently serves as CEO and a director of BJ’s Restaurants, Inc. (NASDAQ: BJRI), the owner and operator of over 200 casual dining restaurants throughout the United States, where he also served as President from 2012 through 2018. Prior to BJ’s, Mr. Trojan served as COO and then CEO at Guitar Center, Inc., a top retailer of guitars and other musical instruments and equipment, from 2007 to 2012, and CEO of House of Blues Entertainment, Inc., a leading operator of restaurant and music venues, concerts and media properties, starting in 1998.

Earlier in his career, he also held leadership roles with PepsiCo, including service as CEO of California Pizza Kitchen when it was owned by PepsiCo, and was a consultant at Bain & Company, the Wharton Small Business Development Center and Arthur Andersen & Company. Mr. Trojan holds a Master of Business Administration from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, and a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Virginia.

“Adding Greg to the Casey’s Board of Directors adds strategic expertise in areas that fuel the growth of our business – focusing on the guest, leading an exceptional restaurant caliber foodservice program and being a retail leader. We look forward to leveraging Greg’s unique perspective and industry expertise to help continue Casey’s growth and success,” said Darren Rebelez, President and CEO, Casey’s.

About Casey’s

Casey’s is a Fortune 500 company (NASDAQ: CASY) operating over 2,300 convenience stores. Founded more than 50 years ago, the company has grown to become the third-largest convenience store retailer and the fifth-largest pizza chain in the United States. Casey’s provides freshly prepared foods, quality fuel and friendly service at its locations. Guests can enjoy pizza, donuts, other assorted bakery items, and a wide selection of beverages and snacks. Learn more and order online at, or in the mobile app.

View source version at Casey's General Stores

Walk-On's Sports Bistreaux Appoints Luke DeRouen as the Brand's First Chief Marketing Officer

Six additional promotions bolster Walk-On's Enterprises' leadership team and growth strategy

Jul 07, 2021, 09:00 ET

BATON ROUGE, La., July 7, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- Walk-On's Sports Bistreaux, a leading national franchise in the restaurant and casual dining space with over 50 locations across the U.S., announced today that industry veteran Luke DeRouen has been appointed as the brand's first Chief Marketing Officer (CMO).

"We are so excited to welcome Luke DeRouen as Walk-On's first Chief Marketing Officer," said Brandon Landry, CEO, co-founder and owner of Walk-On's Sports Bistreaux. "His wealth of knowledge and outstanding industry experience aligns with our Walk-On's Way mentality. We're confident that Luke will be a tremendous asset for our company."

In this newly created CMO role, Luke will oversee all of the marketing functions involved with the brand along with beverage innovation, new menu testing and consumer engagement.

Luke DeRouen added, "I'm ecstatic to return to my Louisiana roots and join the Walk-On's team. With a unique, quality-first menu, connection to sports and most of all the people and culture in place, we have an incredible story to tell and a massive opportunity to continue building this brand so consumers across the country can experience what sets Walk-On's apart. I look forward to helping the brand continue to reach new levels."

In addition, Walk-On's has promoted six in-house executives, inclusive of Tony Caballero, Senior Vice President of Operations; Bobby Fradella, Vice President of Training; Charlie Kelly, Vice President of Talent Acquisition; David Bruno, Director of New Partner Training; Keegan Lanier, Director of Core Training; and Chris Williams, Director of Brand Culture. With rapid brand growth, these strategic promotions will strengthen Walk-On's leadership team and deepen the brand's restaurant and retail expertise.

"Tony, Bobby, Charlie, David, Keegan, and Chris have all displayed tremendous leadership during their time at Walk-On's, and their collective knowledge brings value to our brand and our franchise partners," said Scott Taylor, president and COO of Walk-On's Sports Bistreaux. "Our purpose is to bring people together. Our vision is to be more than a restaurant inspiring a lifestyle that celebrates the underdog in all of us. These leaders exemplify this everyday with our team through their extraordinary performance."

This hiring announcement comes on the heels of a successful year for Walk-On's Sports Bistreaux, including a milestone achievement 50th restaurant opening, 18 new openings amid the pandemic, a growth equity investment from 10 Point Capital, and the introduction of Dallas Cowboys Quarterback Dak Prescott as co-owner of the brand's Dallas-Fort Worth and Waco restaurants.

To learn more about Walk-On's, visit

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 To inquire about franchise opportunities, please visit

View source version at Walk-On's

Shipley Do-Nuts Adds Chief Marketing Officer and Vice President of Technology

July 7, 2021

Industry veterans Donna Josephson and Kerry Leo join executive leadership team

Houston, TX  (  Shipley Do-Nuts continues building its senior leadership team with the addition of Chief Marketing Officer Donna Josephson and Vice President of Technology Kerry Leo.

Josephson previously held CMO titles at Corner Bakery, Fazoli’s and McAlister’s Deli. She also brings experience from Wendy’s International, Applebee’s International and Chick-fil-A.

Leo has more than a decade of technology and operational leadership experience and joins Shipley from Church’s Chicken/Texas Chicken, where he served as senior director of information technology. Prior to Church’s Chicken, Leo served as director, retail technology for Focus Brands and held several senior-level positions at Chick-fil-A.

“With the addition of Donna and Kerry, we’ve built an exceptionally well-rounded senior executive team that brings decades of valuable restaurant industry experience,” said Shipley Do-Nuts CEO Clifton Rutledge. “Their talents and expertise will help propel our iconic 85-year-old brand into a new era of growth and enhanced customer experience.”

“Shipley Do-Nuts is beloved in Houston and beyond as a brand that’s been rooted in its communities for generations,” said Josephson. “The opportunity to help define and grow the Shipley brand as it enters its next 85 years is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

“Shipley Do-Nuts has always been dedicated to bringing the best experience to customers, franchisees and employees,” said Leo. “I’m looking forward to implementing systemwide updates to further our commitment to excellence and accelerate our growth.”

Shipley is actively recruiting additional employees and franchisees. For more information, visit

About Shipley Do-Nuts

Founded in 1936, Houston-based Shipley Do-Nuts is a leading do-nut restaurant franchisor and manufacturer of specialty food products. Shipley franchises over 300 restaurants to a diverse group of operators across nine states and has served its do-nuts, kolaches and beverages to generations of guests. For information on franchising, visit

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Captain D’s Promotes Bindi Menon to Chief Marketing Officer

July 7, 2021

Leading Fast Casual Seafood Franchise Calls Former Vice President of National Marketing to the C-Suite

Nashville, TN  (  Captain D’s, the nation’s leading fast-casual seafood restaurant, announced today that Bindi Menon has been promoted to chief marketing officer. Throughout her 15-year career with the company, Menon has demonstrated significant leadership skills in several roles, including her most recent as vice president of national marketing. With this promotion, Menon will oversee all aspects of Captain D’s marketing, including product innovation, customer insights, digital and social initiatives aimed at capturing more guests as Captain D’s prepares for an aggressive expansion in key markets nationwide.

“We are thrilled to celebrate the growth of such an invaluable team member. Since her first introduction to the brand as a senior analyst in 2005, Bindi has steadily become an integral part of Captain D’s”, said Phil Greifeld, CEO and president of Captain D’s. “Her leadership in marketing promotions and overall dedication to the company has led to this well-deserved promotion. I look forward to working with Bindi directly and have full confidence her contributions will surpass our expectations.”

As chief marketing officer, Menon will use her extensive knowledge of Captain D’s and keen insight into its guests and the restaurant marketplace to develop marketing strategies and tactics to help support the brand’s growth and drive restaurant profitability. She will report directly to Greifeld.

“Being part of a successful and supportive company such as Captain D’s is incredibly rewarding, and I am excited for this opportunity to take our marketing to new heights,” said Menon.

Captain D’s has positioned itself for record success in 2021, achieving record sales and profits amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Menon’s breadth of experience leading successful product promotions is sure to accelerate the momentum Captain D’s has built as it expands its footprint across the country.

About Captain D’s

Headquartered in Nashville, Tenn., Captain D’s has more than 540 restaurants in 23 states. Captain D’s is the nation’s leading fast-casual seafood restaurant and was named the #1 seafood chain in the QSR 50, ranked by AUV. Founded in 1969, Captain D’s has been offering its customers high-quality seafood at reasonable prices in a welcoming atmosphere for more than 50 years. Captain D’s serves a wide variety of seafood that includes freshly prepared entrees and the company’s signature batter-dipped fish. The restaurants also offer premium-quality, grilled items such as shrimp, Tilapia, and Salmon, as well as hushpuppies, desserts, and freshly brewed, Southern-style sweet tea, a Captain D’s favorite. For more information, please visit

View source version at Captain D's

BJ’s Restaurants, Inc. Announces Upcoming Senior Management Transition

July 06, 2021 16:05 ET

CEO Gregory Trojan to Retire; President and CFO, Gregory Levin, to be Appointed CEO,

Vice President of Strategy and Financial Planning and Analysis, Thomas Houdek, to be Appointed CFO

HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif., July 06, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- BJ's Restaurants, Inc. (Nasdaq: BJRI) (“BJ’s” or the “Company”) announced today that Chief Executive Officer, Gregory A. Trojan, will retire effective September 1, 2021, at which time current President and Chief Financial Officer, Gregory S. Levin, will be appointed President and Chief Executive Officer. Mr. Trojan is expected to continue to serve on the Company’s Board of Directors following his retirement, and Mr. Levin is expected to be appointed to the Board of Directors. In addition, the Company’s Vice President of Strategy and Financial Planning and Analysis, Thomas A. Houdek, will be appointed Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer, also effective September 1, 2021.

Pete Bassi, the Company’s lead independent director, commented on the transition plans, “On behalf of our Board of Directors, we sincerely thank Greg Trojan for his nearly nine years of outstanding service to the Company as our CEO. During his tenure, Greg was instrumental in helping steer BJ’s through significant changes in our business, while implementing a number of menu enhancements and new operational practices. He also greatly strengthened our foundation, scale and geographic diversity, which we will continue to leverage for accelerated near- and long-term growth. We look forward to Greg continuing to serve on BJ’s Board as we will continue to benefit from his deep knowledge of the Company and the restaurant industry. We wish him the very best in his much deserved retirement.”

Greg Levin has served as the Company’s President, CFO and Secretary since January 2018 and as the Company’s CFO since joining BJ’s in September 2005. Prior to joining the Company, he served as Chief Financial Officer and Secretary of SB Restaurant Company, a privately held company that operated the Elephant Bar Restaurants, from February 2004 to August 2005. He also served in number of roles at California Pizza Kitchen from 1996 to 2004, most recently as Vice President, Chief Financial Officer and Secretary. Mr. Levin began his career in the audit department at Ernst & Young. He holds a Master of Business Administration degree from the Anderson School of Management at UCLA and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Business Economics from the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Jerry Deitchle, Chairman of BJ’s Restaurants, commented on Greg Levin’s appointment to CEO, “During his 16 years at BJ’s, Greg has consistently assumed additional leadership and operations support responsibilities while maintaining excellent stewardship of the Company’s financial affairs and capital markets interactions. Greg is highly respected by our stakeholders, both within and outside our Company, and possesses the experience and expertise that will help guide the next phase of BJ’s growth and prosperity. Given his long tenure, Greg knows BJ’s intimately and has helped to advocate for and foster the values and principles that we stand for as a restaurant concept and company. He is ideally suited to become our next CEO as we continue to build on a culture that prioritizes collaboration, inclusiveness, a commitment to excellence and gold standard levels of operating execution and hospitality. On behalf of the Board, we have the highest level of confidence in Greg’s ability to lead BJ’s forward.”

Mr. Levin commented on Mr. Houdek’s appointment, “Since joining BJ’s in 2019, Tom has proven to be an outstanding strategic finance executive. I look forward to continuing to work closely with him as our roles transition.” Mr. Houdek, age 40, previously served for five years in various finance and strategy positions at the Yum Brands corporate office and its Taco Bell and KFC concepts. Previously, he served as an investment banker with Deutsche Bank Securities and CIBC World Markets. He earned a Master of Business Administration degree from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business and a Bachelor of Science degree in Finance from DePaul University.

Greg Trojan added, “It has been a pleasure to serve as BJ’s CEO, working with the best team members in the industry for nearly nine years. I am so proud of how we consistently came together to overcome challenges, innovate new approaches to meet the evolving needs of our guests, thoughtfully integrate technology into our operations and guest interactions, and collectively help establish BJ’s as a leader in the casual dining industry. Under the leadership of Greg, Tom and the rest of BJ’s executive team, and with our great teams across the BJ’s platform, I am confident BJ’s will continue to successfully execute on our many growth initiatives and further enhance long-term shareholder value.”

About BJ’s Restaurants, Inc. BJ’s Restaurants, Inc. (“BJ’s”) is a national brand with brewhouse roots and a menu where craft matters. BJ’s broad menu has something for everyone: slow-roasted entrees, like prime rib, BJ’s EnLIGHTened Entrees® including Cherry Chipotle Glazed Salmon, signature deep dish pizza and the often imitated, but never replicated world-famous Pizookie® dessert. BJ’s has been a pioneer in the craft brewing world since 1996, and takes pride in serving BJ’s award-winning proprietary handcrafted beers, brewed at its brewing operations in five states and by independent third party craft brewers. The BJ’s experience offers high-quality ingredients, bold flavors, moderate prices, sincere service and a cool, contemporary atmosphere. Founded in 1978, BJ’s owns and operates 212 casual dining restaurants in 29 states: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and Washington. All restaurants offer dine-in, take-out, delivery and large party catering. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, one of our 212 restaurants remains temporarily closed, and the remaining 211 are serving guests in our dining rooms in accordance with local, state and national guidelines regarding hours, capacity and social distancing limitations. For more BJ’s information, visit

View source version at BJ's Restaurants

Red Lobster® Names Kelli Valade Next CEO

Jul 01, 2021, 12:00 ET

ORLANDO, Fla., July 1, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- Red Lobster® announced Kelli Valade will be the company's next CEO. Valade will take on her new role on August 2, succeeding Kim Lopdrup, who plans to retire after leading the iconic seafood restaurant brand for 14 years.

Valade comes to Red Lobster from Black Box Intelligence™ where she served as President and CEO since 2019. Prior to joining Black Box Intelligence, Kelli spent over 22 years at Brinker International, including most recently serving as Brand President for Chili's Grill & Bar. While at Brinker, she previously held leadership positions including Chief Operating Officer and Senior Vice President of Human Resources. As President, Valade was responsible for 80,000+ ChiliHeads and more than 1,600 restaurants. She established a clear vision and bold strategies and cultivated a purpose-driven culture, all with uncompromising dedication to the guest and her team members.

"When I announced my plan to retire, I promised our people we would recruit an outstanding new CEO to lead Red Lobster to even greater success over the next generation, and I absolutely believe Kelli is that person," said Lopdrup. "Her experience and deep industry insights coupled with her integrity and commitment to fostering a purpose-driven culture are the perfect fit as we begin this new chapter. I have never been more excited about Red Lobster's future."

Red Lobster Chairman Rittirong Boonmechote added, "We are delighted to welcome Kelli as Red Lobster's next CEO. She has proven that she can lead large casual dining companies very successfully, and she brings all the key skills that we were hoping to find. She is the ideal leader to help fulfill our vision of making Red Lobster 'Where the world goes for seafood, now and for generations.'"

Valade has been passionate about the restaurant industry since the age of 16, when she landed her first restaurant job as a hostess. It was there she found the same hospitality, the same love of great food and the same connection around the table she experienced her entire childhood, cooking and eating food around her grandmother's kitchen table in New York. Today, Valade continues to dedicate her career to living out that passion.

"I love the restaurant industry because it's about so much more than great food – it's about the great people who are truly heroes on the frontlines of the restaurants delivering a great experience to guests every day," said Valade. "Red Lobster has incredible people and an amazing culture in place, along with a solid business model and a strong foundation as an iconic and differentiated brand. My job as the brand's new leader is to inspire and develop our people while also leveraging the brand's strengths and finding ways to build on them for even greater success. I am looking forward to a very bright future together."

Valade currently serves on the boards of the National Restaurant Association Education Foundation (NRAEF) and Seasoned as well as on the executive committee of the board of the Women's Foodservice Forum (WFF). She also currently sits on the Board of Trustees for the Shelton School in Dallas.

Valade has also received several industry recognitions, including being named to the Nation's Restaurant News Top 50 Power List several times. In addition, The Western Foodservice and Hospitality Expo gave her the Beacon Award in 2016 and Dallas Business Journal named her a Woman Worth Watching in 2013. In 2020, she earned the "Distinguished Alumni" award from Binghamton University and was honored for her impact in business and in the restaurant industry.

About Red Lobster Seafood Co. Red Lobster is the world's largest and most-loved seafood restaurant company, headquartered in Orlando, Fla. With a proud heritage and an even brighter future, Red Lobster is focused on serving the highest quality, freshly prepared seafood that is traceable, sustainable and responsibly-sourced. To learn more about Red Lobster's sourcing standards and where the seafood we serve comes from, please visit In 2021, Red Lobster was named to Forbes magazine's list of America's Best Large Employers and Newsweek magazine's list of America's Best Loyalty Programs. To learn more about Red Lobster, including locations and menu options, please visit or find us on Facebook or Twitter.

View source version at Red Lobster

Wing Zone Taps Two Industry Veterans for Key Leadership Roles

June 23, 2021

Derek Roback and Dean Sasso Join Fast Casual Brand to Lead Operations and Marketing Departments

Las Vegas, NV  (  Wing Zone – a fast-casual brand serving made-to-order, flavor-packed chicken wings – today announced the hirings of Derek Roback as the Vice President of Operations and Dean Sasso as the new Director of Marketing. With more than 20 combined years of experience in their respective industries, Roback will lead the brand’s operations while Sasso will develop and reinvent ways of promoting the Wing Zone brand in the evolving marketplace.

No stranger to the food industry, Roback comes from The Wendy’s Company where he served as the Manager of Field Technology and Innovation. In that role, Roback was in charge of leading the company’s technology and innovation initiatives across 17 states in the Western U.S. Prior to Wendy’s, Roback joined Domino’s in their Executive Leadership Development Program immediately out of college and led business units on both the corporate and franchise sides. At Wing Zone, Roback is looking forward to partnering with his team, along with current and future Wing Zone franchisees to build a culture that will support the exponential growth of the franchise across the globe.

Sasso brings a diverse wealth of knowledge to Wing Zone after holding positions at multiple advertising agencies where he was responsible for conducting promotional campaigns for clients. He most recently served as the Director of Brand Marketing with Exeo Entertainment, Inc., and held four-plus year stints as the Digital Marketing Director at RogueWaveGroup, Associate Creative Director at Epsilon and a pair of advertising roles with Ryan Partnership prior to that. While he’s always had a passion for food, Sasso will apply his marketing and advertising acumen from his agency foundation toward improving and maintaining the marketing initiatives with Wing Zone’s consumer base.

“We are extremely excited to bring these two outstanding professionals into the Wing Zone family. Both Derek and Dean are highly skilled and have a lot of quality and unique experiences under their belts that make them well-equipped for the responsibilities they’re about to take on,” said David Bloom, Wing Zone’s Chief Development Officer. “Derek and Dean have been highly regarded in their respective fields and I have the utmost confidence in their abilities to thrive in their new roles within the Wing Zone organization.”

The duo has already begun work and are implementing their vision and strategies in their respective departments. The collective goal is to get 250 units producing $1 million per year by 2025, and establish a reputation for Wing Zone as a category leader in the restaurant franchise industry and as the wing shop that gets people the best wings the fastest.

For more information about a Wing Zone franchise opportunity, please visit

About Wing Zone

Founded in 1993, Wing Zone is an international fast-casual restaurant franchise known for its cooked-to-order, flavor-fused chicken wings and tenders. Wing Zone’s award-winning flavors are available at more than 31 locations in North America and its 30 restaurants internationally. The brand plans to grow to 200 profitable restaurants by 2025. For more information, visit Like Wing Zone on Facebook, follow on Twitter or Instagram.

View source version at Wing Zone

Krystal Appoints Industry Expert as New Chief Marketing Officer

Alice Crowder to Bring (Back) 25 Years of Innovative Expertise in Branding, Promotion and Engagement to Legendary Slider Brand

Jun 22, 2021, 14:44 ET

ATLANTA, June 22, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- In time for the iconic slider brand's 90-year anniversary next year, Krystal Restaurants LLC has named Alice Crowder as its new Chief Marketing Officer. Crowder previously served as the brand's Vice President of Marketing from 2014 to 2018 before leaving to head menu strategy and innovation at industry leader Tropical Smoothie Cafe.  She is returning to drive relevance and preference for Krystal and its famous square burgers under the brand's new ownership group and along with a completely new management team led by industry veteran, Tom Stager.

"We have an aggressive growth plan at Krystal, and Alice will be instrumental in ensuring we meet our goals," said brand President, Tom Stager. "Her restaurant industry insight, especially with Southern brands, and layered on top of her packaged-goods leadership foundation, makes her uniquely qualified to bring our message to our guests, and to connect with them in new and more relevant ways.  I know I speak for the whole team in saying we look forward to Alice's spot-on strategic direction, her creative vision and her ability to generate measurable bottom-line results as we bring the joy inherent in the Krystal brand to new and existing audiences."

In her previous role with the company, Crowder ran the marketing calendar and oversaw product innovation and promotions, sweepstakes contests, co-branding partnerships, a collaboration for the Peace Burger Sandwich, and even the brand's Guinness World Record of World's Largest Frozen Beverage. Crowder's extensive food & beverage expertise also includes multiple years with Denny's as their Sr. Director of New Product Marketing, and various senior leadership roles with Ovation Brands – the former parent company of buffet restaurant concepts such as Ryan's Buffet and Hometown Buffet. She transitioned to restaurant marketing after ten years of experience in packaged goods brand management with Royal Dutch Shell.  Crowder is a graduate of Duke University and holds an MBA from Clemson University.

"I am honored and delighted to be returning to Krystal, a brand which I've always associated with joy and fun in the places I've called home," shared Crowder. "It's a true privilege to work with a brand that has the kind of history Krystal enjoys, and one that means so much to literally generations of guests. Our guests are going to be seeing us and interacting with us in completely new ways – ways that they tell us are meaningful to them – and when they give us the opportunity to serve them, we'll make sure every bite brings a smile."

About Krystal Restaurants LLC Headquartered in Atlanta, GA, Krystal Restaurants LLC is the original quick-service restaurant chain in the South. Krystal hamburgers have been served fresh and hot off the grill on the iconic square bun since 1932. The company proudly sticks to the classics, but over the years, they've never been afraid to innovate.

Krystal has grown to be in 10 states with nearly 300 restaurants and continues to deliver a one-of-a-kind taste experience through their unique menu items that are offered at a great price. The company's Atlanta-based Restaurant Support Center serves a team of more than 3,500 employees. In 2019, the company was selected as USA Today's Top-10 Best Regional Fast Food List.

View source version at Krystal

Wingers Promotes Brandon Howard From COO to President

June 22, 2021

Fast-growing casual dining brand advances industry veteran to oversee its long-term vision and expansion efforts

Salt Lake City, UT  (  Wingers Restaurant & Alehouse announced today that the company has promoted Brandon Howard from chief operating officer to president.

In February 2018, Howard joined the Wingers team as director of franchise operations and was promoted the same year to chief operating officer. During his time at Wingers, Howard has implemented the Helix Management model at all ranks of the organization and cultivated an elite leadership team that has helped him take the brand to the next level. In addition, Howard has developed structured layers within operations to provide defined growth opportunities for hourly and salary employees. He also helped streamline the Wingers menu while enhancing its quality, image and execution, and advanced the brand’s overall digital capabilities.

“Brandon came to Wingers with an extensive track record of success, and since he’s been with us, he’s continued to prove that he has what it takes to progress a best-in-class brand,” said Founder and CEO Eric Slaymaker. “To say he’s deserving of this promotion would be an understatement. His talent and dedication have made an incredible impact on our company, and as president, we feel confident that he will continue to take Wingers to new heights.”

As president, Howard is responsible for the long-term vision and growth of the brand. Starting with building relationships with multi-concept franchise owners in the Midwest, as well as North and Central Texas, Howard’s primary goal is to add another 20 Wingers Restaurant & Alehouse locations over the next five to six years.

“I’m very honored and excited to take on this new role and to lead the brand in its expansion efforts,” Howard said. “Over the past three and half years at Wingers, I’ve worked diligently with our executive team to strategically elevate this brand. With incredible leaders by my side, I look forward to fueling aggressive franchise growth and making Wingers a well-established brand throughout new regions.”

Combining award-winning handmade wings, sticky fingers, burgers, salads, craft beers and great service, Wingers new Restaurant & Alehouse has perfected the art of giving guests the comfort of a family restaurant with the liveliness of a local bar. Renowned for being a fun and energetic gathering place for friends and family, Wingers is an outstanding local spot to socialize, watch a sports game, eat some amazing American food and drink a cold beer. For a complete menu, locations and more information, visit

About Wingers Restaurant & Alehouse

Founded in 1993, Wingers Restaurant & Alehouse is a fast-growing casual brand focused on delivering chef-driven, handcrafted food, including its award-winning wings and signature “sticky” fingers, burgers, salads, tacos, craft beers and drinks, all served in a lively atmosphere. Recently named No. 22 on’s “America’s Best Buffalo Wings” list, Wingers is well-known for its World Famous Original Amazing Sauce. The brand has 23 company and franchise locations in the Intermountain West with more in the pipeline to open in the Midwest. For more information, visit or follow Wingers on Facebook or Instagram. To learn about Wingers’ franchising, visit

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Dunkin' Appoints New Chief Marketing Officer

Rafael Acevedo brings two decades of transformative brand marketing for world's leading beverages to the company

Jun 21, 2021, 11:45 ET

BOSTON, June 21, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- Dunkin' today announced the appointment of marketing veteran Rafael Acevedo, 46, to the position of Dunkin' U.S. Chief Marketing Officer (CMO), effective immediately. Mr. Acevedo is a brand marketing leader with deep expertise in spearheading disruptive innovation and leading high-performing teams to deliver transformational growth for the world's leading beverages. Acevedo will report directly to Scott Murphy, Head of the Inspire Beverage-Snack Category and President of Dunkin', and will serve on the Dunkin' leadership team.

As Dunkin' U.S. CMO, Acevedo will lead marketing, product innovation, field marketing, advertising, as well as the brand's digital marketing initiatives. He will be responsible for developing and executing strategies that build Dunkin's position as a leading coffee and beverage brand for today's, on-the-go consumer, and will partner closely with the operations team to drive sales. "Rafael is a highly-experienced, talented, strong business leader with a proven track record of building and modernizing the world's most iconic and beloved beverage brands," said Murphy. "With his extensive brand transformation experience, consumer-centric approach to marketing, and ability to build and inspire teams, we're confident that he will propel Dunkin' to the next level."

Acevedo brings more than two decades of strategy, advertising and marketing experience to Dunkin' from Coca-Cola North America, where he has held various senior management positions leading global marketing, innovation, and brand transformation for many of the world's leading beverage brands. Most recently, he served as the Vice President, Marketing and General Manager for The Coca-Cola Company's expansive Tea Portfolio, and he led one of the biggest brand turnarounds in the company's history with the relaunch of Diet Coke in 2018. Prior to Coca-Cola, Acevedo served as a Strategic Planning Manager at Diageo, leading key strategic initiatives such as the expanded distribution partnership with Moet & Chandon. He also served as a corporate finance consultant focused on consumer products at KPMG Consulting.

"Dunkin' is part of the fabric of America, and I am thrilled to have the opportunity to join the esteemed team," said Rafael Acevedo. "I believe Dunkin's potential is unlimited, and I look forward to working with the entire Dunkin' team and franchise community to build and accelerate the brand's momentum in the months and years to come."

Mr. Acevedo earned an MBA from Emory University and B.A. from Universidad Metropolitana in Caracas, Venezuela.

About Dunkin' Founded in 1950, Dunkin' is America's favorite all-day, everyday stop for coffee and baked goods. Dunkin' is a market leader in the hot regular/decaf/flavored coffee, iced regular/decaf/flavored coffee, donut, bagel and muffin categories. Dunkin' has earned a No. 1 ranking for customer loyalty in the coffee category by Brand Keys for 15 years running. The company has more than 12,600 restaurants in 40 countries worldwide. Dunkin' is part of the Inspire Brands family of restaurants. For more information, visit

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Ruby Tuesday Appoints George Evans and Kathy Buckley to Executive Team

Seasoned industry leaders will expand best practices and help grow sales for the casual dining brand

Ruby Tuesday promotes George Evans to chief operating officer.

June 21, 2021 10:30 AM Eastern Daylight Time

MARYVILLE, Tenn.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Today, Ruby Tuesday will welcome two new members to the executive team with the promotion of George Evans to chief operating officer and the appointment of Kathy Buckley as chief financial officer. With a combined 55 years of retail and restaurant experience, Evans and Buckley will serve as instrumental leaders on the Ruby Tuesday team.

“We are pleased to announce the addition of George and Kathy to the Ruby Tuesday team,” said Shawn Lederman, chief executive officer for Ruby Tuesday. “They both have tremendous experience in the restaurant industry and will be invaluable assets as we continue to strengthen our operations and drive the long-term profitability of Ruby Tuesday.”

Evans brings 30 years of restaurant operations experience to his new role as chief operating officer where he will tap into his prior experience successfully driving same store sales and developing strong teams. Evans started with Ruby Tuesday in 1991 as a training manager before he grew into a multi-unit operator role, and later a regional director. In 2000, Evans left Ruby Tuesday to become a partner and vice president of operations for Specialty Restaurant Group, followed by time at P.F. Chang’s. Evans rejoined the Ruby Tuesday family in 2007, moving up the ranks to divisional vice president in 2014 and vice president of operations excellence in 2016. His years of experience in the industry make him a great addition to the executive team. Evans is a graduate of James Madison University’s College of Business.

Buckley brings more than 35 years of finance experience to Ruby Tuesday with the majority of her career in retail and restaurant industries, including Bruegger’s Bagels, The Rug Doctor and RadioShack. In her new role as chief financial officer at Ruby Tuesday, Buckley will utilize her passion for driving EBITDA results and provide direction on financial planning, analysis and treasury, in addition to managing all aspects of accounting. Buckley received her undergraduate degree from Saint Bonaventure University in New York and obtained her master’s degree in business administration from Michigan State University’s Eli Broad Graduate School of Management.

“The addition of these two industry veterans will ensure well executed plans and the knowledge to help Ruby Tuesday elevate above the casual dining category,” added Lederman.

About Ruby Tuesday Founded in 1972 in Knoxville, Tennessee, Ruby Tuesday, is dedicated to delighting guests with exceptional casual dining experiences that offer uncompromising quality paired with passionate service every time they visit. The company currently owns, operates and franchises casual dining restaurants in the United States, Guam, and five foreign countries under the Ruby Tuesday® brand. For more information, visit

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Bloomin’ Brands Promotes Mark Graff to Executive Leadership Team

June 21, 2021 08:29 AM Eastern Daylight Time

TAMPA, Fla.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Bloomin’ Brands, Inc. (Nasdaq:BLMN) today announced the promotion of Mark Graff to Senior Vice President of Business Development and Financial Planning for Bloomin’ Brands. Graff will lead the company’s business development team, including asset and franchise development, in addition to his existing financial planning responsibilities. He will also join the Executive Leadership Team.

Graff has held various finance and investor relations roles with Bloomin’ Brands during his nine years with the company. Previously, Graff held positions with Deloitte Consulting and Raymond James & Associates.

“Over the past 15 months, we discovered new opportunities which will serve as the foundation for the next phase of our growth,” said David Deno, CEO of Bloomin’ Brands. “As a member of the executive team, Mark will guide our thinking to capitalize on our progress and create long-term sustainable growth.”

About Bloomin’ Brands, Inc.

Bloomin' Brands, Inc. is one of the largest casual dining restaurant companies in the world with a portfolio of leading, differentiated restaurant concepts. The Company has four founder-inspired brands: Outback Steakhouse, Carrabba's Italian Grill, Bonefish Grill and Fleming's Prime Steakhouse and Wine Bar. The Company owns and operates more than 1,450 restaurants in 47 states, Guam and 20 countries, some of which are franchise locations. For more information, please visit

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Taffer’s Tavern Hires Veteran Franchise Operations Executive to Support Nationwide Growth

June 17, 2021

Restaurant industry expert brings decades of experience to Jon Taffer’s innovative franchise concept

Las Vegas, NV  (  Taffer’s Tavern, the innovative new full service tavern concept founded by industry leading hospitality expert and star of Paramount Network’s Bar RescueJon Taffer, today announced George Barton as the restaurant of the future’s new vice president of corporate operations. Barton is joining the Taffer’s Tavern team with nearly 40 years of leadership and consulting experience in restaurant and bar operations, sales and innovation.

“As we continue to secure multi-unit franchise development agreements and prepare to open multiple Taffer’s Tavern locations across the country, it is the right time to bring a leader with George’s extensive operations experience, unique perspective and diverse skillset to the organization,” said Jon Taffer. “Taffer’s Tavern delivers an experience unlike any other in the restaurant industry and George’s passion for delivering best-in-class results makes him a key part of the brand’s future. I’ve known George for years and trust he is the right addition to our growing team.”

In his new role, Barton will oversee day-to-day operations for Taffer’s Tavern while developing and implementing procedures that enhance efficient business practices. He will work closely with franchisees and their management teams to increase productivity and efficiencies, analyze profit and loss to streamline and increase revenue, and foster relationships with local and national vendors. Barton will also ensure that the Taffer’s Tavern brand and culture is consistently used and adopted throughout the company.

Barton spent nearly 30 years with TGI Friday’s, serving in several divisional vice president of operations roles before being selected by the CEO to lead the reengineering team overseeing food and beverage production and procurement. He was later promoted to vice president, bar and innovation where he revitalized the beverage program, significantly increased beverage sales and established essential relationships with vendors and distributors. During his tenure, he successfully opened more than 50 new restaurants while in multi-unit roles and achieved multiple accolades, including several Divisional Vice President of Operations of the Year and Presidential Diamond Gold Star awards for growing margins, sales, teamwork and retention.

Most recently, Barton served as senior operations and beverage consultant at a notable restaurant consulting firm enhancing the trajectory and profitability of businesses. A veteran, Barton served in the United States Air Force as an E5 staff sergeant.

Now open in Alpharetta, Georgia, Taffer’s Tavern has additional locations slated to open in Washington D.C., Las Vegas, Boston, Orlando and more. Inspired by the quintessential neighborhood pub, a regular gathering place for locals and visitors alike, Taffer’s Tavern is designed with traditional Old-World taverns in mind, its ambiance is inviting, warm and comfortable, distinguished by dark woods, soft leathers, copper accents and elevated tavern food and beverage offerings. The innovative restaurant concept, developed by Taffer, features the industry’s highest safety standards for both guests and staff. It is led by the kitchen and bar of the future and features the latest advancements in food prep/service technology.

Taffer’s Tavern is currently seeking experienced franchisees to continue bringing the Taffer’s Tavern concept to the 50 largest media markets throughout North America. For more information about Taffer’s Tavern franchising opportunities, watch this video or visit

To learn more about Taffer’s Tavern, visit

About Taffer’s Tavern

Jon Taffer, Bar Rescue star and award-winning hospitality expert, has launched his own innovative, full-service restaurant franchise concept, Taffer’s Tavern. Taffer’s Tavern is the quintessential pub, a place to gather with your old friends and make new ones along the way. The tavern features outstanding signature cocktails, elevated tavern food, a streamlined hoodless/ventless restaurant format with small footprint, and the latest advances in food preparation technology, with best-of-class industry partnerships including Shift4, Cuisine Solutions, Middleby Corporation, Krowne and Compeat. Taffer’s Tavern is now open in Alpharetta, Georgia, with additional locations planned for the Atlanta, Washington, D.C., Boston, Las Vegas and Orlando areas with more markets to follow. For more information, visit

About Jon Taffer

Jon Taffer is an award-winning hospitality expert, entrepreneur and thought leader with nearly 40 years of success in the entertainment, hospitality, and nightlife industries. Best known as Executive Producer and star of Paramount Network’s Bar Rescue, a non-scripted reality show that spotlights Jon as he saves failing bars from looming closure that is now in its eighth season. In 2019, Jon launched Taffer’s Mixologist, a line of craft, high-quality, pre-made cocktail mixes and hard seltzers available direct to consumers and in retail stores across the country. In the same year, Jon announced the launch of his own innovative, full-service restaurant franchise concept, Taffer’s Tavern, which launched in Atlanta in 2020. Taffer’s Tavern features outstanding signature cocktails, elevated pub-style food, and the latest advancements in food preparation technology. Concurrently, Jon runs Taffer Dynamics, his business consulting firm. Over the years, he has consulted for a range of well-known brands, including the NFL Network, Anheuser-Bush, Ritz-Carlton, TGI Fridays, Buffalo Wild Wings, Famous Dave’s Barbecue and Fortune 500 brands such as Hyatt Hotels and Marriott International. In addition, Jon is the author of the best-selling book “Raise the Bar: An Action-Based Method for Maximum Customer Reaction” and his newest book “Don’t Bulls*t Yourself.” For more information, visit

About Fransmart

Fransmart is the global leader in franchise development, selling over 5,000 franchises worldwide and turning emerging restaurant concepts into national and global brands for 20 years. Company Founder Dan Rowe identified and grew brands like Five Guys Burgers & Fries, QDOBA Mexican Grill, and The Halal Guys from 1-5 unit businesses to the powerhouse chains they are today. Fransmart’s current and past franchise development portfolio brands have opened thousands of restaurants globally. Fransmart and their partner brands are committed to franchise development growth. Follow Fransmart on FacebookLinkedInInstagramTwitter and YouTube. For more information, visit

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RAVE Restaurant Group Names Clint Fendley CFO

Parent Company of Pizza Inn and Pie Five Pizza Promotes VP of Finance

Jun 17, 2021, 08:30 ET

DALLAS, June 17, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- RAVE Restaurant Group, Inc. (NASDAQ: RAVE), the parent Company of Pizza Inn and Pie Five Pizza, announced today the promotion of RAVE's Vice President of Finance, Clint Fendley, to chief financial officer, effective July 5, 2021.

Fendley was hired in January 2020 as RAVE Restaurant Group's Vice President of Finance. During this time, Fendley led the finance team and helped guide the Company during the pandemic, with a focus on cost control and cash management. Fendley also led RAVE Restaurant Group's successful efforts to regain compliance with NASDAQ listing criteria, onboarded new auditors in 2020, and bolstered the Company's finance controls, forecasting, and analytical capabilities.

"RAVE has posted four consecutive profitable quarters while running a buffet during a pandemic. This is our most consistent quarterly earning streak in nearly a decade, thanks to our franchisees, team members, and relentless executive team, including Clint," said RAVE Restaurant Group's President and CEO, Brandon Solano. "The CFO title befits Clint's contributions to our business and the esteem in which he's held."

"Clint's leadership has helped put RAVE in a better financial position than we were pre-pandemic," says Mark Schwarz, Chairman of RAVE Restaurant Group. "Clint is a valued member of our organization and executive team. We are proud of his efforts and results, and he is deserving of this recognition."

Before joining RAVE, Fendley worked for 7-Eleven's finance and data analytics teams. Fendley began his finance career as an auditor for Price Waterhouse LLP. He also served as a senior research analyst at Davenport & Company, LLC, an investment advisory and wealth management firm, before becoming the company's first vice president in 2009. Fendley is a Certified Public Accountant, and received his MBA from Vanderbilt University and his Bachelor of Business Administration degree from Abilene Christian University.

"I am honored to serve as RAVE's Chief Financial Officer. As CFO my main objective will be to drive value for our franchisees and shareholders, while helping my team learn and thrive in this dynamic industry," says Fendley. "My time at RAVE has been nothing short of extraordinary. Despite the many obstacles we encountered during the Covid-19 pandemic, our team demonstrated innovation, resilience, and commitment to RAVE's long-term success. I'm excited to continue growing the financial performance of Pizza Inn and Pie Five Pizza in this new role."

For more information about RAVE Restaurant Group, please visit

About RAVE Restaurant Group, Inc. Dallas-based RAVE Restaurant Group RAVE=">RAVE</a>"> owns, operates, franchises and/or licenses more than 200 Pie Five Pizza Co. and Pizza Inn restaurants and Pizza Inn Express kiosks domestically and internationally. Pizza Inn is an international chain featuring freshly made pizzas, along with salads, pastas, and desserts. Pie Five Pizza Co. is a leader in the rapidly growing fast-casual pizza space. The Company's common stock is listed on the Nasdaq Capital Market under the symbol "RAVE". For more information, please visit

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Inspire Brands Names Kate Jaspon Chief Financial Officer

Jaspon fills role opened by retiring CFO David Pipes

June 16, 2021 01:10 PM Eastern Daylight Time

ATLANTA--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Inspire Brands, Inc. (“Inspire”) today announced changes within the Chief Financial Officer role. Kate Jaspon has been named Chief Financial Officer of Inspire following the announced retirement of David Pipes. Jaspon was previously CFO of recently acquired Dunkin’ Brands where she spent more than 15 years in Finance and Treasury roles.

Jaspon will transition into her new role this month and will oversee all accounting and reporting, tax, financial planning and analysis, internal audit, as well as manage Inspire’s relationships with lending institutions, investors, and the financial community.

“Working with Kate while Dunkin’ and Baskin-Robbins were joining the Inspire family, it became clear that she was an amazing fit with Inspire. Her financial acumen, leadership, and strong relationships with the investment community solidified that she’s ideal for this role,” said Paul Brown, Chief Executive Officer, Inspire.

“I’m honored and humbled to take on this leadership position,” Jaspon said. “I’ve been absolutely enamored with what Inspire is building from day one. This is an incredible opportunity and I’m so excited to take this world-class organization and team to the next level.”

Jaspon joined Dunkin’ Brands in December 2005 as Assistant Controller. She was later promoted to Vice President, Finance and Treasury and Corporate Controller, and was appointed Chief Financial Officer in June 2017. She has led Dunkin' through a number of transactions, including the Company's IPO in 2011 and follow-on equity offerings, securitization and numerous other debt transactions, the divestiture of the Togo’s brand, and the sale to Inspire. Jaspon will be based in Atlanta. Her full biography may be found on the Inspire executive leadership page.

After a 40-year career, nearly half of that with Arby’s and Inspire, David Pipes announced his retirement. Pipes started in 2003 with Arby’s franchisee RTM. He held key leadership positions in finance and accounting at RTM and then at Arby’s during an incredible time of change and growth. He played an instrumental role in Arby’s 2005 acquisition of RTM, as well as Arby’s subsequent merger with Wendy’s International in 2008, which resulted in the formation of the Wendy’s/Arby’s Group. Pipes remained with Arby’s when Roark purchased the brand in 2011 when he was also named CFO.

Pipes played a leading role in four multi-billion-dollar acquisitions over a span of just three years. He led the company’s financial team through the Arby’s acquisition of Buffalo Wild Wings and the creation of Inspire in 2018 to the largest take private deal in restaurant history when Dunkin’ and Baskin-Robbins joined the family late last year.

Throughout his time with the company, David has grown his leadership in Finance, culminating in his most recent role as CFO of Inspire. Previously, he worked for Yum! Brands, Inc. and PepsiCo, and he began his career in public accounting at Coopers and Lybrand.

“David has been through thick and thin with this company and throughout has been one of the most capable, steadfast, driven people with deep knowledge and expertise in finance with whom I have worked,” Brown said. “While I’m certainly sad to see him leave the company, I’m also pleased to know that he can look back on his career and legacy at Arby’s and Inspire with an immense sense of pride for all that he has accomplished and the team he has built.”

“I’m incredibly thankful for the experiences and opportunities I’ve had at Arby’s and Inspire,” Pipes said. “This has been a career journey that far exceeded my early expectations. I’ve gotten to know some amazing people and helped foster their careers while along the way playing a critical role in the creation of a restaurant company unlike any other. I’ll be watching Inspire’s continued growth closely and know that the company is in strong hands with Kate.”

About Inspire Brands

Inspire Brands is a multi-brand restaurant company whose current portfolio includes nearly 32,000 Arby’s, Baskin-Robbins, Buffalo Wild Wings, Dunkin’, Jimmy John’s, Rusty Taco, and SONIC Drive-In locations worldwide. The company was founded in 2018 and is headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia. For more information, visit

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Mercato Partners Appoints James Park as Operating Partner for Savory Funds

Award-winning restaurant and retail executive set to bolster operational excellence for Savory portfolio companies

June 15, 2021 07:00 AM Eastern Daylight Time

SALT LAKE CITY--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Mercato Partners, a leading private equity firm that provides capital and guidance to brands in periods of high growth, today announced that serial innovator and well-respected restaurateur, James Park, has joined the firm’s Savory Fund Practice (“Savory”) as an operating partner.

This appointment follows the recent closing of Savory Fund II, a $100 million investment vehicle devoted to backing emerging and profitable restaurant concepts. Park will utilize his well-curated network, deep understanding of operations within the F&B industry, technology and invaluable experience to partner with the fund’s investment professionals to maximize operational implementations and margins within the Savory portfolio.

Park brings two decades of restaurant and retail operating experience – both as a franchisee owner/operator and in the C-suite – to Savory and has received multiple accolades for his accomplishments. Most recently, he led Garbanzo Mediterranean Fresh, a leading Denver-based Mediterranean fast-casual brand, as Chief Executive Officer from 2015 through its sale to Centre Lane Partners in 2020.

During his tenure at GARBANZO, Park led the company to 4 years of consecutive same store sales growth, grew the company to 26 locations across 13 states, and added topline revenue to each unit. Fast Casual magazine recognized GARBANZO as its #4 Movers & Shakers brand in 2019, while QSR Magazine named the restaurant its 40/40 List, which featured 40 brands under 40 units that are “ready to make their mark on fast casual.”

Park also received several personal accolades for his leadership, including being named one of Nation’s Restaurant News Power 40 executives each year from 2016 through 2019, and as one of Fast Casual’s Top 25 Most Influential Executives from 2017 through 2019. Denver Business Journal also named Park its Most Admired CEO in 2018.

Prior to GARBANZO, Park held executive operating roles at fast-casual chains Which Wich Superior SandwichesCharley’s Grilled Subs, and Penn Station East Coast Subs, as well as a global marketing role at 7-ELEVEN. He began his career at IBM Global Services designing and implementing advanced Customer Relationship Management tools for Fortune 500 companies.

“We are fortunate to welcome to Savory one of the best operators in the restaurant industry, James Park,” said Andrew K. Smith and Greg Warnock, Managing Partners of the Savory Funds. “From the beginning of our discussions, it was clear that we view the industry similarly and that our combined ideas and philosophy of unlocking maximum value in exciting new brands are completely aligned. James’ track record of success will be a tremendous resource to our team as we continue to grow our current portfolio and add new and exciting brands in Fund II.”

“I am thrilled to be joining Savory, who is fast becoming the leading financial sponsor for early stage emerging brands in the food and beverage industry,” said Park. “In just a few years, they have built an enviable track record with five incredible companies, and I am excited to support the firm’s existing portfolio brands, identify new brands and help build out many more.”

“The Savory team and I are strongly aligned in the execution of our strategy – everything from financing, design, operations, customer experience and most importantly, how to treat employees. Savory was able to navigate through the pandemic without laying off or furloughing a single team member, which speaks volumes to their priorities. I am a big believer in the Savory playbook for growth and operational excellence, and I look forward to hitting the ground running,” added Park.

In addition to his executive roles, Park is a leader in his community and wants to see others succeed in the industry and benefit from his expertise. Park is the founder of Korean American Retail Executives (K.A.R.E.), a professional organization. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from St. Louis University and is fluent in Korean and Spanish.

About Savory Funds

The Savory Funds, managed by Mercato Partners, focus 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. For more Information, visit

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