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Executive Movements - June 2018

Wahlburgers CEO stepping down after leading group for more than six years

CFO Patrick Renna Accepts Interim CEO Role June 11, 2018--(Wahlburgers) Wahlburgers, a Boston-area based restaurant corporation, announced today that CEO, Rick Vanzura, has resigned his position to accept a CEO position with another restaurant chain. Vanzura will remain with the company through June 15. Patrick Renna, the company’s CFO, has been named interim CEO. The company has begun a search for Vanzura’s successor. “On behalf of Mark, Paul and our entire family, we are grateful for Rick’s years of tireless dedication to this company and being a key part of our brand growth and franchise development,” said Donnie Wahlberg. “We understand and support his decision to step down and appreciate all of the years he worked with us and wish him and his family the very best.” Vanzura said, “It has been an extraordinary gift to be able to build this phenomenal business with the Wahlbergs the last six and a half years.  Mark, Donnie and Paul have been more than I could ever ask for in terms of the commitment and heart they’ve put into Wahlburgers.  I’d also like to thank our staff, franchisees, vendors and our incredible group of managers and crew that bring this awesome brand to life every day in our restaurants. I will always be available to help them any way I can, and I know the business is in very good hands with Patrick.” Renna has experience as both CFO and CEO within the restaurant space, currently serving in the CFO role with Wahlburgers and Chef Paul Wahlberg’s fine dining restaurant, Alma Nove; and in the same position and CEO with Boloco, a family of New England based fast casual restaurants. “I’m incredibly excited when I think about the future of Wahlburgers and our evolution as a company,” Renna said.  “From the expansion of our restaurants domestically and internationally, to food trucks and our recently launched at-home retail beef program, I think the sky is the limit.” About Wahlburgers Founded by Executive Chef Paul Wahlberg and celebrity brothers Mark and Donnie Wahlberg; Wahlburgers, the subject of an A&E reality show, offers a fun, casual music-filled atmosphere where guests, like family, share great food, a few laughs and lots of love.  While its interior decor is filled with photos and memories celebrating the brothers' life journeys from Dorchester neighborhood kids to rising chef and international superstars, Wahlburgers makes food the real star. Guests enjoy delicious fresh ground beef burgers, pure beef hot dogs, crispy fries, onion rings, tater tots, signature salads, specialty frappes, beer and cocktails - all served with heartfelt hospitality.  Dedicated to giving back, Wahlburgers is active in every community it serves. Wahlburgers currently has 26 locations throughout North America.  In the spring of 2018, Wahlburgers launched a Boston-based food truck and an at-home retail beef product, which is sold in hundreds of stores throughout the US.  Learn more at and follow along on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Media Contact: Ken Langdon, Allied Integrated Marketing |

Potbelly Strengthens Leadership Team to Execute Turnaround June 11, 2018--(BusinessWire) Potbelly Corporation (NASDAQ: PBPB) today announced the latest in a series of recent key appointments to strengthen its leadership team, with the appointment of Brandon Rhoten as Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer. The addition of Rhoten builds on Potbelly’s focused effort to assemble a world-class leadership team as the Company executes its turnaround strategy. With more than 15 years of restaurant industry and agency experience, Rhoten brings a wealth of knowledge and insight from his previous marketing and branding roles. He will report directly to Alan Johnson, President and Chief Executive Officer of Potbelly. Rhoten will have oversight of all aspects of Potbelly’s marketing, including brand strategy, digital marketing, social media, research, loyalty, direct marketing and advertising. Rhoten joins Potbelly from Papa John’s International, Inc., where he served as Global Chief Marketing Officer. Prior to Papa John’s, Rhoten was Vice President of Advertising, Media and Digital/Social at Wendy’s International, where his team received industrywide recognition for its highly successful digital/social media campaigns, which helped lead the brand turnaround. Rhoten started his career in marketing at the advertising agency Gyro. Johnson said, “The kind of marketer who would have Boyz II Men sing to a cheeseburger and give a year of chicken nuggets to a high schooler for earning the most retweets in history will definitely bring the quirky fun back to Potbelly. Brandon’s experience and approach are perfectly aligned with the direction we are setting to expand our brand presence in a world where social and digital drive the conversation. We look forward to leveraging his many years of creativity, brand strategy, bold and disruptive marketing, and success with other well-known consumer brands. This is an exciting time for Potbelly.” “The second you walk through the door of a Potbelly, it’s clear this place is like no other sandwich restaurant,” Rhoten said. “Potbelly is THE brand in the space that can truly be interesting. I’m excited to join the team so we can make the sandwich category irresistible for consumers again.” Johnson continued, “The addition of Brandon is just the most recent action that we have taken to build out the right leadership team required to execute our strategy to turn around the business. Over the past few months, we have added talented and experienced leaders to drive our franchise development, our off-premise business, our menu innovation and now our brand marketing to the next level.” Potbelly has successfully recruited several highly accomplished restaurant executives with deep expertise in franchise, off-premise, culinary and marketing. Key additions include:

  1. Jeff Welch, Senior Vice President of Franchise Development, brings to Potbelly over 30 years of franchise, real estate and operations experience across organizations such as Krispy Kreme, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell and KFC. Welch has full responsibility for franchising, including developing and executing the vision, strategy and tactical plan to deliver long-term profitable and sustainable growth. His efforts will build a stronger foundation for franchise expansion, allowing for accelerated growth and an increased mix of franchised units.

  2. Debbie White, Vice President of Off-Premise, joins Potbelly with over 25 years of sales and marketing leadership roles across PepsiCo, Taco Bell and Domino’s Pizza. With a craveable product that travels well and is perfect for many occasions, Potbelly is vastly underpenetrated in its off-premise business. White’s primary focus will be to capture the significant growth potential across all dayparts in catering, delivery, grab & go, and curbside pickup.

  3. Chef Ryan LaRoche, Vice President of Culinary Innovation, is a Michelin-starred chef with over 20 years of success in culinary production from fine dining to fast casual. He served as Executive Chef at Park Hyatt Washington, was Executive Sous Chef to legendary chef Joël Robuchon and most recently was Vice President of Culinary Operations at Mariano’s. LaRoche brings a chef-inspired perspective to menu design and product innovation that will let Potbelly embrace its unique, quirky nature through fun and interesting new ways to excite its customers and make Potbelly’s menu even more craveable. Johnson concluded, “We are excited to have Brandon, Jeff, Debbie and Chef Ryan join the Potbelly team. We remain focused on building the right team to establish the foundation to reposition Potbelly for sustainable profitable growth over the long term. I am confident that our best days are ahead of us.” About Potbelly Sandwich Shop Potbelly Corporation is a fast-growing neighborhood sandwich concept that has been feeding customers’ smiles with warm, toasty sandwiches, signature salads, hand-dipped shakes and other fresh menu items, customized just the way customers want them, for more than 40 years. Potbelly promises Fresh, Fast & Friendly service in an environment that reflects the local neighborhood. Since opening its first shop in Chicago in 1977, Potbelly has expanded to neighborhoods across the country – with more than 450 company-owned shops in the United States. Additionally, Potbelly franchisees operate more than 50 shops domestically, in Canada, the Middle East, the United Kingdom and India. For more information, please visit our website at Contacts Jacobson/Rost Samantha Flynn, 312-274-3349 or Potbelly Corporation Investor Relations, 312-428-2950

Roy Rogers Names Mark Jenkins Senior Director of Marketing

Veteran with More Than 25 Years in QSR Operations Will Lead Efforts to Elevate The Legacy Brand and Build Loyalty Among New Generation of Diners June 11, 2018--( Roy Rogers® Restaurants announced today that it has appointed Mark Jenkins to the position of Senior Director of Marketing. Reporting to Executive Vice President Jeremy Biser, he will be based in the company’s Frederick, Md., headquarters and will lead a newly formed team in developing and implementing strategic marketing efforts for both company-owned and franchised Roy Rogers locations. Jenkins joins Roy Rogers, most recently from CKE Restaurants, the parent of Hardee’s® and Carl’s Jr.®, where he spent 16 years rising from senior product manager to director of product marketing and finally serving as director of brand marketing. In earlier positions, he handled brand management, franchise business consulting and other operations and marketing responsibilities. He is also a past chair member of the International Foodservice Manufacturers Association’s (IFMA’s) Chain Operators Exchange (COEX) and served as a Field Artillery officer in the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne Division. Jenkins holds a B.S. in Public Administration from the University of Tennessee, an M.B.A. from Texas Tech University, and is currently pursuing a doctorate in business administration with an emphasis on marketing. “We’re excited for Mark to come on board,” says Biser. “His level of experience in brand marketing and product development with large QSR organizations will be immensely valuable in helping us advance our menu strategy and positioning Roy Rogers for future growth.” Roy Rogers is currently in the midst of its 50th anniversary celebration, a milestone marked by a yearlong campaign featuring baseball great Cal Ripken Jr. and a variety of thematic pricing and product promotions and special events. In addition to overseeing the successful ongoing implementation of that campaign, Jenkins will help establish a new brand position and menu strategy for the legendary quick-service chain. “Since its earliest days, Roy Rogers has been known for serving up great-tasting, high-quality food, a cut above typical fast food,” says Biser. “Delivering consistently on that brand promise has helped us build a fiercely loyal base of devoted fans. Mark will be responsible for enhancing our menu strategy so that we can retain that base while creating an appeal to new customers.” “Roy Rogers is an iconic restaurant brand with a rich history of serving amazing food in a welcoming atmosphere. It is an honor to join the organization,” says Jenkins. “I am thrilled to lead the marketing team and look forward to working with everyone here to bring exciting new innovation, events and experiences to our guests and markets.” Roy Rogers opened 10 new locations in the past three years, bringing its crowd-pleasing menu of USDA choice top round roast beef, hand-breaded, fresh fried chicken and great-tasting burgers to guests in Maryland, Virginia, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania. The company is now seeking to enter select additional markets. Information on the Roy Rogers franchise opportunity can be obtained at or by contacting the Roy Rogers franchising department at or (301) 695-1534. About Roy Rogers® Restaurants Based in Frederick, Md., Roy Rogers® is a chain of western-themed quick-service restaurants offering broad appeal across multiple dayparts and generations. The company is famous for serving up a “Triple Threat” – three popular main dishes including USDA choice top round roast beef, hand-breaded, fresh fried chicken and great-tasting burgers. Roy Rogers is also known for its famous Fixin’s Bar®, where guests can customize their orders with a variety of fresh produce, condiments signature sauces. Additional information on the company, its menu and current promotions is available at and on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Roy Rogers Restaurants was founded in 1968, and the system currently consists of 24 company-owned restaurants and 29 franchise restaurants in six states. Roy Rogers franchise opportunities are now available in select markets to qualified candidates. Information about existing opportunities can be found at or obtained by contacting the Roy Rogers franchising department at or (301) 695-1534. Contacts: Greg Pitkoff GRiP Communications LLC (718) 404-9277 Katrina Wyand-Yurish Roy Rogers® Restaurants (301) 695-5051, Ext. 121

First Watch Restaurants Announces CEO Transition

Chris Tomasso to succeed Ken Pendery June 11, 2018--(RestaurantNews) First Watch Restaurants, Inc., the popular nationwide breakfast, brunch and lunch concept, today announced that current President Chris Tomasso will take on the additional role and title of Chief Executive Officer, succeeding Ken Pendery, who will become Executive Chairman of the Board. The move is effective immediately. “Back in 1984, I helped our founder John Sullivan open the second restaurant in San Mateo, California, and I officially joined the First Watch team in 1986. Our goals back then were simple: create a unique breakfast, brunch and lunch offering while providing for our families, play a little golf in the afternoons and create opportunities in our community,” said Pendery. “During the past 32 years, I have had the tremendous honor to work alongside some incredible people, and I am so proud of the company we have built. Chris and I have worked together for more than a decade, and he has played an integral role in the success of First Watch during that time. I am confident that he will approach this new role with the same passion and commitment to our culture that he has demonstrated these past 12 years, and I believe he is the ideal person to maintain our success and culture during this period of accelerated and aggressive growth.” Tomasso joined First Watch in August of 2006 as its first Chief Marketing Officer when the company had about 60 restaurants in 9 states. In 2015, he was named President and took on additional responsibilities including overseeing all aspects of the company’s operations while also joining the company’s Board of Directors. Prior to joining First Watch, Tomasso served as Vice President of Marketing for Cracker Barrel Old Country Store and also previously served as Vice President of Worldwide Marketing for Hard Rock Café International. “I am both humbled and excited by the opportunity to lead First Watch as CEO. I look forward to continuing to work with our passionate management team to build upon the solid foundation that Ken so carefully created and to realize the opportunities we have going forward,” said Tomasso. “I am focused on continuing our legacy of building significant customer relationships while accelerating the innovation and execution that our customers now expect from First Watch. I appreciate Ken’s guidance and partnership and will continue to rely upon him for strategic counsel and to provide historical perspective – both of which have high value in our organization.” In Pendery’s new role as Executive Chairman, he will work as a liaison between First Watch’s management, Board of Directors and its private equity partner. In late 2017, Advent International made a majority investment in the growing restaurant company. First Watch plans to open an additional 30 locations in 2018, through a combination of company-owned and franchise growth and restaurant conversions. First Watch serves its entire menu seven days a week from 7 a.m. until 2:30 p.m. and offers customers complimentary newspapers and free Wi-Fi Internet access. About First Watch First Watch specializes in award-winning, made-to-order Breakfast, Brunch and Lunch. A recipient of more than 200 “Best Breakfast” and “Best Brunch” accolades, First Watch offers traditional favorites, such as omelets, pancakes, sandwiches and salads, and unique specialty items like Quinoa Power Bowls, Avocado Toast and the Chickichanga. First Watch was recognized as one of Business Intelligence Group’s Best Places to Work in 2018 and as one of Nation’s Restaurant News’ 2017 Second 100 restaurant brands. First Watch is the largest and fastest-growing daytime-only restaurant concept in the United States with more than 330 restaurants in 29 states, including more than 250 First Watch restaurants, 75 The Egg & I restaurants and one Bread & Company restaurant in Nashville. For more information, visit Contact: Eleni Kouvatsos 941-907-9800 ext. 218

Wingstop Appoints Maurice Cooper Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer June 11, 2018--(GlobeNewswire) Wingstop Restaurants Inc. (NASDAQ:WING), the award-winning wing concept with more than 1,100 locations globally, today announced that Maurice Cooper has been appointed to the role of Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer. Maurice will be responsible for overseeing the chain’s global marketing strategy and execution, and will report to Charlie Morrison, Chairman and CEO of Wingstop. With more than 15 years of experience, Maurice joins Wingstop as a consumer marketing veteran, and proven leader of some of the world’s most admired brands. Most recently, he served as global vice president of the $12B Holiday Inn Brand Family. Maurice’s previous background in building brands extends to The Coca-Cola Company where he was a Venture Leader, driving the development and scale of emerging brands such as Honest Tea, Illy Coffee and Zico. He led the Coke Zero brand through one of its most substantial periods of growth, and also served as brand manager for several of the company’s multi-billion dollar, flagship brands including Coca-Cola and Sprite. “Maurice has a strong track record of success as an award-winning marketer, as well as a business leader dedicated to consumer and franchisee satisfaction,” said Mr. Morrison. “As we continue to rapidly expand our footprint, Maurice will have an instrumental role in building and promoting the Wingstop brand globally.” “I am thrilled to be joining the Wingstop team at a pivotal time in the company’s growth and to focus on a brand that is well respected for quality, service and flavor around the world,” said Mr. Cooper. “I look forward to collaborating with our leadership, partners and dedicated customer base to help Wingstop become a top ten global restaurant brand.” Maurice holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Morehouse College and an MBA from the Darden School at the University of Virginia. About Wingstop

Founded in 1994 and headquartered in Dallas, Texas, Wingstop Inc. (NASDAQ:WING) operates and franchises more than 1,100 locations across the United States, Mexico, Singapore, the Philippines, Indonesia, the United Arab Emirates, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia and Colombia. The Wing Experts’ menu features classic and boneless wings with 11 bold, distinctive flavors including Original Hot, Cajun, Atomic, Mild, Spicy Korean Q, Lemon Pepper, Hawaiian, Garlic Parmesan, Hickory Smoked BBQ, Louisiana Rub, and Mango Habanero. Wingstop’s wings are always cooked to order, hand-sauced and tossed and served with a variety of house-made sides including fresh-cut, seasoned fries. Having grown its domestic same store sales for 14 consecutive years, the Company has been ranked #3 on the “Top 100 Fastest Growing Restaurant Chains” by Nation’s Restaurant News (2016), #7 on the “Top 40 Fast Casual Chains” by Restaurant Business (2016), and was named “Best Franchise Deal in North America” by QSR magazine (2014). Wingstop was ranked #88 on Fortune’s 100 Best Medium Workplaces list in October 2016. Follow us on and Twitter @Wingstop.

Aspen Creek Grill Names Bern Rehberg as President June 7, 2018--(RestaurantNews) Aspen Creek Grill, with eight locations in three states, is pleased to announce that Bern Rehberg was named President of the full service, comfort casual restaurant and bar concept. As President of Aspen Creek Grill, Rehberg will drive the overall brand strategy and performance of the business with a continued focus on guest experience, operational efficiency, and growth of the brand. After nearly 30 years of restaurant operations, senior management expertise and leadership, Rehberg takes the helm of the Aspen Creek Grill restaurant concept, known for comfort fresh food made-from-scratch daily and bar fresh cocktails. “Bern has a collaborative, entrepreneurial spirit and exceptional brand leadership expertise that made him a natural fit for Aspen Creek Grill’s strategic growth plan,” said Steve Madinger, CEO of Aspen Creek Grill. “He has a value-driven philosophy and a proven track record for successfully developing brands that rise to the top of the casual dining industry.” Prior to his role at Aspen Creek Grill, Rehberg was instrumental in the steady growth of Outback Steakhouse, Bonefish Grill, and Metro Diner in key leadership positions, including his work as the Vice President of Operations at Bonefish Grill. Rehberg most recently brought the Florida-based Metro Diner brand to the Midwest, opening six new restaurants in Indiana and Kentucky in two years. Rehberg is an Indiana native and currently resides with his family in Westfield. He has served on the Board of Directors for The Boys and Girls Club, as well as the boards for both the Kentucky and Indiana Restaurant Associations. For more information, visit About Aspen Creek Grill Aspen Creek Grill ( is a full service, comfort casual dining restaurant concept. The restaurant features made-from-scratch fare with a variety of choices, from hand-cut family farm raised premium black angus steaks, freshly-chopped salads, house-smoked ribs, creamy pastas and hand-crafted burgers, to a full bar featuring freshly-squeezed lime margaritas, specialty drinks and local craft pints on tap. Aspen Creek Grill offers a warm and inviting atmosphere with the relaxing comfort of a mountain lodge for family-friendly dining and a great destination for a lively night out with friends. Eight locations are found in Louisville, Ky.; Noblesville, Ind.; Irving, Amarillo, Lubbock, San Antonio, and Tyler, Texas. Media Contact: Chuck McAulay Director of Marketing 813-523-9596

B.Good Appoints Chris Fuqua as New CEO

Co-Founder Anthony Ackil Passes Torch to Board Member and Former Dunkin' Brands Executive June 6, 2018--(PRNewswire) B.GOOD, the industry pioneer in providing great tasting, locally sourced burgers, bowls, salads and smoothies, today announced the appointment of Chris Fuqua as the company's new Chief Executive Officer. He assumes day-to-day leadership of the company following more than eight years at Dunkin' Brands, where he served in a variety of leadership roles including Marketing, Operations, Supply Chain and Strategy. After 15 amazing years, B.GOOD's co-founder Anthony Ackil has decided to step down as CEO to focus on his next entrepreneurial venture and the next chapter in his life and career and to spend time with his young family. Anthony will maintain a large position with the company as a member of its Board of Directors and as a continued investor. "It has been a tremendous ride since I opened our first restaurant almost 15 years ago with my best friend Jon. We watched our vision grow to almost 70 locations and we made an impact across so many communities with so many of our employees and their families.  It is an amazing feeling and I am so proud of what we have accomplished," said Ackil. "But, it is time for me to pass the torch to Chris, whom I know will bring great energy and life to our business. Chris is the right person to bring our company to its next level and was my very first choice to succeed me as CEO.  I know he will maintain the company's vision and build on its authentic roots and the unique culture we've established over the years. Chris will put his own stamp on B.GOOD, and I know he will take us to amazing new heights.  I can't wait to see how our little company continues to grow." As a seasoned industry veteran, Fuqua will bring a strong strategic vision and operational background to the company as it continues to expand in new and existing markets. "There are very few companies with the authenticity, mission-driven focus, and brand identity that B.GOOD has developed over the years.  That's what makes this opportunity so thrilling for me personally," said Fuqua. "I have so much admiration for what Anthony and Jon and the team developed at B.GOOD.  Since joining the company's board, I have felt the passion our people have for great tasting, locally sourced food that makes you feel good and I have witnessed the impact our mission has on so many communities. I am both humbled and incredibly enthusiastic to lead the company, scale this amazing, authentic culture and implement new ideas as we continue to expand.  The future for B.GOOD is incredibly bright and I look forward to leading us through the next phase of growth." About B.GOOD

Founded in 2003, B.GOOD is an innovative, fast casual, farm-to-table restaurant chain serving "Food with Roots" – sustainably-grown, fresh and wholesome food that is prepared fresh in-house. With 70 locations across the U.S., Canada, Switzerland and Germany, B.GOOD serves a diverse and delicious menu inspired by the heritage of back to basics simplicity including kale & grain bowls, salads, all-natural local burgers, sides of crisp veggies and oven-finished fries, smoothies and kids' meals. By sourcing as much as possible from local, independent farmers and being genuinely committed to social and environmental impact, B.GOOD has a unique connection to the communities the brand calls home. Visit for more information.

Jayson Tipp Named CEO of Pincho Factory

Pincho Co-Founder and CMO Otto Othman Appointed Executive Chairman June 6, 2018--(BusinessWire) Pincho Factory (“Pincho” or the “Company”), the family owned Latin American fast-casual concept known for pioneering the combination of premium hamburgers and grilled kebabs (“pinchos”) with a Latin-twist, announced today that it has appointed industry veteran Jayson Tipp Chief Executive Officer, effective immediately. Mr. Tipp previously held the role of President at Pincho Factory. A nationally recognized restaurant leader considered an expert in consumer analytics, market strategy and development, Mr. Tipp has a track record of translating insights into results. He joined Pincho earlier this year from Papa Murphy’s International (PMI), where he served as Chief Development Officer overseeing the brand’s growth across franchise sales, real estate and technology. In addition to continuing in his role as Chief Marketing Officer, co-founder Otto Othman will also assume the role of Executive Chairman. Co-founder Nedal Ahmad will transition from the role of Chief Executive Officer into a consulting role with the Company before opening restaurants in his new role as a Pincho Factory franchise partner. “Jayson is a seasoned executive with a broad range of experience leading teams in the restaurant industry. He is a critical thinker and in just a short period of time, has already played a role in shaping the future of our company. We are fortunate to have him as our next CEO at a very exciting time for our brand,” said Nedal Ahmad. “I am honored and humbled by the confidence and support offered to me by Otto, Nedal and the Pincho Factory team, and the opportunity to take on this leadership role for the Pincho brand,” said Jayson Tipp, Chief Executive Officer at Pincho. “I am proud of the great brand already built by our team and the success we have built and will continue to build as a business.” Prior to being named Chief Development Officer at PMI, Mr. Tipp served as PMI’s Senior Vice President of Marketing, helping the organization post 14 consecutive quarters of sales growth. Mr. Tipp has also held leadership roles in marketing, development, finance, and strategy roles at Redbox, Potbelly Sandwich Works and Starbucks. “As a member of the Pincho team, I look forward to having Jayson lead our brand together with Otto," said Nelson Cabrera, Pincho Factory franchise partner. "Bringing someone like Jayson on board is just the next step in achieving the goals Otto and Nedal had for building an iconic brand.” Pincho Factory, who was recently selected by as one of the Top 100 Movers and Shakers of 2018, currently has 5 company owned and 5 franchised locations throughout South Florida, and recently announced plans to open 10 locations in the Washington D.C. market with plans to expand to 100 locations nationwide over the next 5 years. The Company opened its first location in Miami in 2010. About Pincho Factory Based in Miami, Florida, Pincho Factory was founded during a 4th of July family BBQ in 2010 by three cousins Nedal Ahmad, Otto Othman and Nizar Ahmad. The brand quickly transpired into a successful collection of 10 restaurants throughout Florida. The rapidly expanding fast-casual food chain serves up pinchos, also known as kebabs, along with mouthwatering, premium hamburgers and a variety of other quality hormone-free food. For more information about Pincho Factory please visit Pincho Contacts ICR Jim Furrer, 646-677-1808

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Iron Hill Brewery and Restaurant Names Kim Boerema Chief Executive Officer

Kevin Finn appointed chairman of the board June 5, 2018--(PRNewswire) WILMINGTON, DE -- Iron Hill Brewery and Restaurant ("Iron Hill" or the "company"), a globally acclaimed and award-winning scratch kitchen and craft brewery, today announced a management and Board-level transition that will accelerate the company's growth trajectory throughout the Mid-Atlantic region. Culinary veteran Kim Boerema has been named chief executive officer following the appointment of Kevin Finn to chairman of the board. Mr. Finn, a co-founder of the company, has spent more than 20 years at the helm of Iron Hill.  Under his leadership and that of co-founders Mark Edelson and Kevin Davies, Iron Hill employs more than 1400 staff members, has operations in 14 locations, and is poised for further expansion. The three founders remain active in every aspect of the business, ensuring a fully integrated and authentic food and beer experience – from Tap to Table. "I'm honored that our Board has entrusted me with the great responsibilities of chairmanship," said Mr. Finn, who will also lead the company's real estate ventures.  "My time as president has been incredibly rewarding, but this is both the next logical step for me, and the right time to take it. Our foundation is strong, our processes and protocols sound, and our staff is the best in the business. I am genuinely proud of them and pleased to turn over day-to-day command to Kim, an outstanding leader whose business acumen, drive and operational knowledge foster success at every turn." Mr. Boerema comes to Iron Hill from The California Pizza Kitchen ("CPK"), where he served as chief operating officer.  Prior to his seven years at CPK, Mr. Boerema was a vice president of Texas Roadhouse, a regional vice president of Brinker International, and a general manager of Bennigan's.  He is a seasoned executive with 32 years of leadership experience in the culinary industry.  During that time he opened more than 200 restaurants across the country. "I am privileged to become the CEO of Iron Hill," said Mr. Boerema.  "For years I have been a fan of the brewery and restaurant, seeing firsthand the pride, artistry, effort and raw talent of its staff. There is attention to detail in every meal and beer, all made from scratch using the finest ingredients; care and precision with every plating and pour; and an insistence that absolute freshness is not an optional luxury, but a self-imposed demand by the men and women of Iron Hill so that every guest receives the best. "As we move forward and continue our strategic expansion, I see great things ahead for our guests, staff and this company." Iron Hill serves local communities, brews its own craft beers on-site, and offers a full food menu made from scratch daily. It prides itself on excellent service and direct engagement with the guest throughout the entire experience.  Demonstrative of the company's aggressive expansion plans, Iron Hill opened its newest location in Delaware's Rehoboth Beach on May 24. This followed the award-winning group's Greenville, South Carolina opening on May 1. About Iron HillNamed after the historic Revolutionary War landmark in Delaware, where General George Washington battled the British, Iron Hill is among the most enduringly successful craft brewers in the United States. Its 21-year consecutive medal-winning streak at national and international competitions is the longest by any independent craft brewery. Founded by home brewers Kevin Finn, Mark Edelson and restaurateur Kevin Davies in Newark, DE in 1996, Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant has blossomed from one restaurant and brewery to 14 locations up and down the East Coast, including Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey and South Carolina. Each brewery/restaurant has their own scratch kitchen and craft brewery, allowing individual chefs and brewers the creativity to pair the freshest ingredients with the highest quality grains and hops. For 21 years, Iron Hill has incorporated beer in everything they do. As a result, Finn, Edelson and Davies are viewed as innovative business leaders in their home state of Delaware and in the Mid-Atlantic region. They started Iron Hill at a time when small breweries were just beginning to gain mass appeal around the country and their entrepreneurial, forward thinking helped build them into what they are to date. Each individual location has its own head brewer. Each location dedicates itself to the freshest ingredients and friendly atmosphere for all age groups – helping change overall perceptions about brewpubs one meal, one pint, one community at a time. Locations 

  1. Newark, DE(147 East Main Street, 302-266-9000)

  2. Wilmington, DE(620 Justison Street, 302-472-2739)

  3. Media, PA(30 East State Street, 610-627-9000)

  4. West Chester, PA(3 West Gay Street, 610-738-9600)

  5. North Wales, PA(1460 Bethlehem Pike, 267-708-2000)

  6. Phoenixville, PA(130 East Bridge Street, 610-983-9333)

  7. Lancaster, PA(781 Harrisburg Pike, 717-291-9800)

  8. Maple Shade, NJ(124 East Kings Highway, 856-273-0300)

  9. Voorhees, NJ(13107 Town Center Boulevard, 856-545-9009)

  10. Chestnut Hill, PA(8400 Germantown Avenue, 215-948-5600)

  11. Ardmore, PA(60 Greenfield Avenue, 610-228-2280)

  12. Huntingdon Valley, PA(785 Huntingdon Pike, 610-602-9255)

  13. Greenville, SC(741 Haywood Rd. 864-568-7009)

  14. Rehoboth, DE(19815 Coastal Highway. 302-260-8000)

  15. and two new locations opening in 2018, including: Philadelphia, PA and Hershey, PA. 14 locations in PA, DE, NJ and SC Twitter @ironhillbrewery Instagram @ironhillbrewery Contact: Michael Hand Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant 2502 W. Sixth Street | Wilmington, DE 19805 Phone: 302.660.4978 | email: Lorraine Gimblett Food Shelter PR 917.523.2327

Iconic Leader and Visionary Entrepreneur Howard Schultz to Bid Farewell to Starbucks after 40 Years

Schultz, who reimagined the Italian coffeehouse tradition in America and redefined the role and responsibility of a publicly-held company, announces his departure as executive chairman of Starbucks

Schultz, who will be honored as chairman emeritus, tells over 2 million past and present partners (employees), “We did it together, by balancing profitability and social conscience”

Schultz’s stewardship of the Starbucks brand and business delivers 21,000% price appreciation for shareholders since its 1992 Initial Public Offering

Myron E. Ullman appointed as next chair of Starbucks Board of Directors; Mellody Hobson appointed vice chair June 4, 2018--(Starbucks) Starbucks Corporation (NASDAQ: SBUX) today announced that Howard Schultz is stepping down as executive chairman and member of the Board of Directors and will be honored with the title of chairman emeritus effective June 26, 2018. During his four decades as ceo and chairman, Schultz grew Starbucks from 11 stores to more than 28,000 stores in 77 countries, while demonstrating that a business can simultaneously deliver best-in-class financial performance and share success with its people and the communities it serves. Under Schultz’s leadership, Starbucks has delivered a 21,000% gain in the value of its stock price since its initial public offering in 1992. The company’s growth was fueled by his decisions to provide uncommon benefits for those who work for Starbucks, including comprehensive healthcare, stock ownership and free college tuition, even for those working part-time. “I set out to build a company that my father, a blue-collar worker and World War II veteran, never had a chance to work for,” Schultz wrote in a letter addressed today to past and present Starbucks partners. “Together we’ve done that, and so much more, by balancing profitability and social conscience, compassion and rigor, and love and responsibility.” Schultz’s journey began in 1981, when he walked into the first Starbucks store, located in Seattle’s iconic Pike Place Market. The following year, he moved with his wife, Sheri, from New York to assume the role of director of operations and marketing. Schultz’s passion for the highest quality coffee heightened on a business trip to Italy, where he was captivated by the sense of community, romance and theater found in Italian coffee bars. In the years following his return to Seattle, Schultz purchased Starbucks with the support of local investors and dedicated his career to bringing his vision of a modern coffee house to life in America and around the world. Schultz elevated the concept of Starbucks as the third place between home and work: a comfortable, welcoming environment that provides uplifting experiences, community and human connection. Among his many accolades, Schultz has been named as one of The World's Most Influential People by Time magazine as well as Business Person of the Year by Fortune.  Most recently, Schultz has received the Robert F. Kennedy Ripple of Hope Award and has been presented with the Atlantic Council’s Distinguished Business Leadership award and the NAACP LDF (Legal Defense and Education Fund) National Equal Justice award. This year, Starbucks was named the fifth most admired company in the world by Fortune, marking the 16th year in a row that the company has appeared on the global list. Starbucks was also named one of the World’s Most Ethical Companies by the Ethisphere Institute for the 12th consecutive year and was ranked as one of 2018’s Most Innovative Companies by Fast Company, most notably for its social-impact work. On April 3, 2017, Schultz transitioned from ceo to executive chairman, shifting his full-time focus to the company’s social impact initiatives as well as innovation and global development of the company’s premium Reserve brand, including Starbucks Reserve Roasteries, Reserve stores and the Company’s partnership with renowned artisanal Italian bakery, Princi. Following his transition off the Starbucks board at the end of June, Schultz will oversee the opening of the Starbucks Reserve Roastery in Milan on Sept. 6 – marking the company’s long-awaited entry into Italy – and the New York Roastery in late October. Starbucks also announced today that its Board of Directors has appointed Myron E. “Mike” Ullman as its new chair of the Board and Mellody Hobson as vice chair of the Board effective upon Schultz’s retirement. Starbucks world-class, values-based board is comprised of accomplished leaders representing diversity and excellence in global technology, retail, consumer experience and other relevant skill sets. “There are no words to fully express our gratitude to Howard for the extraordinary company he has built,” said ceo and member of the Board of Directors Kevin Johnson. “He’s helped Starbucks earn the respect of millions around the world by always being true to a higher calling, and always being bold in creating a better future. He’s taught all of us that it’s possible to be a very different kind of public company. That must, and will, continue on my watch.” In Schultz’s letter to partners, he thanked them for their collective efforts to build a different kind of company. “Because of your creativity, your hard work, and the love that you have poured into the company, Starbucks today is widely embraced and respected. As I prepare to step away, I’d like to humbly remind you not to lose sight of what matters most: your fellow partners and our customers.” He also expressed deep confidence in the team that will continue to lead the company. “Kevin Johnson is a true servant leader, and he will lead Starbucks as this great company enters its next journey. It’s our duty as leaders to constantly reimagine Starbucks. I am honored to call Kevin my friend and partner. And Starbucks is fortunate to have him. This leadership team is extraordinarily capable. They, too, believe that Starbucks has a responsibility to use our scale for good.” Schultz is looking forward to spending more time with his family this summer. He is also writing a book about Starbucks social impact work and the efforts to redefine the role and responsibility of a public company in an ever-changing society. To the more than 330,000 partners who wear the green apron today, and the millions before them, Schultz will forever represent Starbucks mission to inspire and nurture the human spirit one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time. About Starbucks Since 1971, Starbucks Coffee Company has been committed to ethically sourcing and roasting high-quality arabica coffee. Today, with more than 28,000 stores around the globe, the company is the premier roaster and retailer of specialty coffee in the world. Through our unwavering commitment to excellence and our guiding principles, we bring the unique Starbucks Experience to life for every customer through every cup. To share in the experience, please visit us in our stores or online at or

Ruth’s Chris Parent Names Cheryl Henry CEO

Mike O’Donnell will cede his duties as CEO of Ruth’s Hospitality Group on August 10 June 4, 2018--(RestaurantBusiness) Mike O’Donnell will cede his duties as CEO of Ruth’s Hospitality Group to Cheryl Henry on Aug. 10, the parent of the Ruth’s Chris Steak House chain said today. Henry is currently president and COO of the upscale operation. O’Donnell will move up to executive chairman and remain on Ruth’s board. "Cheryl’s appointment as chief executive officer is the culmination of a multiyear succession planning process,” said O’Donnell, who engineered Ruth’s bounce back from a steep downturn during the Great Recession. “Her experience and success managing virtually all aspects of our business over the last decade uniquely qualifies her for the position.” Henry joined Ruth’s in 2007. The company says she has overseen all aspects of the single-chain company’s operations at various points during her tenure, including HR, IT, development and culinary. “We have the team in place and a winning strategy, so our goal from here is continued operational execution,” Henry said in a statement announcing her appointment. The release included a pledge of support from Ruth’s franchise community.

O’Donnell, an alumnus of Outback Steakhouse, had served as leader of Ruth’s for about a decade.

Dana Wagner Named Chief Legal Officer for Impossible Foods

Former Square General Counsel and senior counsel with Google and the Justice Department joins the growing startup team as Chief Legal Officer May 31, 2018--(RestaurantNewsResource) Impossible Foods has hired Dana Wagner as its Chief Legal Officer. He will oversee the food technology company's legal affairs and government relations as it continues to expand. Areas of focus will include guiding Impossible Foods into new markets and managing the startup's growing portfolio of intellectual property. Prior to joining Impossible Foods, Wagner served as General Counsel at Square Inc., where he built and led the legal, government relations, compliance, and safety teams from 2011-2016. He helped lead the financial technology company's international growth, its development of new products in highly regulated sectors, and its 2015 initial public offering. Prior to joining Square, Wagner led antitrust and competition matters at Google from 2007 to 2011. Before that he was an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Northern District of California and a Trial Attorney in the Antitrust Division of the U.S. Department of Justice. Wagner has taught and lectured at Harvard Law School, Stanford Law School, Berkeley Law, Northwestern University, U.C. Hastings College of the Law, and many other universities on the topics of law, business, and technology. He received his undergraduate degree at the University of California-Berkeley and received his J.D. at Yale Law School.

Wagner is the latest hire to join the expanding senior team at Impossible Foods. In March, Sasha Markova joined as the company's first Executive Creative Director, running the in-house creative team. Stephanie Lind was hired as the Senior Vice President of Global Sales, responsible for leading the growing startup's sales team, in December 2017. In September 2017, Marcella Butler became Impossible Foods' first Chief People Officer, and Dr. David J. Lipman, M.D., joined the company in June 2017 to take on the newly created role of Chief Science Officer.

Taziki’s Mediterranean Café Names Rachel Layton VP – Marketing & Growth

Layton Will Focus on Future Growth Initiatives for Taziki’s May 31, 2018--(RestaurantNews) Taziki’s Mediterranean Café has named Rachel Layton Vice President of Marketing & Growth. Prior to joining Taziki’s, Layton most recently served as the Director of Marketing for A. Marshall Hospitality from 2014-2018 in Nashville, which included Puckett’s Gro. & Restaurants, Puckett’s Boat House, Homestead Manor, Scout’s Pub, Hattie Jane’s Creamery and Deacon’s New South. There she was responsible for identifying and creating revenue opportunities through advertising, sponsorships, partnerships, campaign creation and digital strategy. She was also responsible for philanthropic campaigns, event management and promotion. She will be instrumental in the growth of the Taziki’s restaurant brand in the 17 states where the chain has a presence. Taziki’s recently opened its 84th restaurant in Eagle, Idaho last week.Layton is being tasked with building a memorable brand and growing profitable sales by leading the marketing team. She will also be developing the off-premise and catering program as well as spearheading growth initiatives. “Rachel is a trained marketing professional with experience and a vision that will help further our team’s desire to deliver an environment that combines extraordinary food with meaningful human connection,” said Dan Simpson, CEO, Taziki’s Mediterranean Cafe. “She will be responsible for marketing-related strategy decisions at both a corporate level and local level for our franchisees.” In 2017, the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce named Layton a Nashville Emerging Leader in the Hospitality and Tourism Category. She also won the 2017 Women of Influence Award given by the Nashville Business Journal. She was also named a Nashville Champion of the Year by Best Buddies Tennessee in 2017. Layton grew up in the media industry, becoming a professional radio talent at the age of 16 where she won a state championship in news. Her broadcasting career led her to Ball State University where she earned her BA in Telecommunications. Layton also earned her MBA from Belmont University. Born in rural Indiana, Layton currently lives in Nashville, Tenn. and currently serves as the President of the Belmont University Massey Alumni Board. She also serves on the board for the Safe Haven Family Shelter. About Taziki’s Mediterranean Café

Taziki’s Mediterranean Café is headquartered in Birmingham, AL and currently has 84 locations in 17 states. The recipes are all made fresh and inspired by Mediterranean cuisine. The menu features freshly grilled meats, original sauces, and healthy side dishes. Taziki’s is open for lunch and dinner, and offers take-out as well as catering for events large and small.

The Lost Cajun Appoints COO, CDO May 30, 2018--(FastCasual) The Lost Cajun, based in Louisiana, has appointed two executives, with nearly 60 years of combined experience, to help grow the brand. Richard Berns is now the brand's COO, and Richard Leveille is the chief development officer, a news release said. Berns began his career franchising with Schlotzsky's Deli and eventually worked with Del Taco and the Tilted Kilt Pub & Eatery, where he spent 10 years in various executive positions. Leveille previously spent 25 years as the executive vice president of franchise development for Smoothie King and four years as vice president of development for Floor Coverings International.

"I have the utmost confidence in these gentlemen based upon their previous accomplishments and demonstrated performance in our industry," The Lost Cajun founder Raymond Griffin said in the release.

Torchy’s Tacos Taps Restaurant Industry Vets for Executive Roles

The fast-casual chain pushes for growth by adding finance and operations officers. May 30, 2018--(RestaurantBusiness) Torchy’s Tacos has appointed two industry veterans to C-level posts in finance and operations. Ryan Moore, formerly vice president of finance for Taco Bell, has become the Austin, Texas-based fast-casual chain’s chief financial officer. Joel Ross, formerly president of Texas Roadhouse and Little Caesars franchisee Ultra Steak, was named chief operations officer. “I am excited that both Ryan and Joel are joining the team and looking forward to having their ideal combination of skills, knowledge and experience in place as we execute our strategy for long-term growth,” G.J. Hart, Torchy’s CEO, said in a statement. Hart, the former head of California Pizza Kitchen and Texas Roadhouse, became the company’s first CEO earlier this year.

Torchy’s, which was founded in 2006 as a food truck, now has more than 50 units in Texas, Colorado and Oklahoma.

Brad Blum Named CEO of FoodFirst, Parent Company of Bravo, Brio

The two casual Italian brands will be the nucleus for a new company run by the former Olive Garden chief, with financial backing from Brazil-based GP Investments. May 29, 2018--(RestaurantBusiness) Former Olive Garden and Burger King chief Brad Blum has been named CEO of the new parent of the Brio Tuscan Grille and Bravo Cucina Italiana casual chains, with plans to use those holdings as the nucleus of a new multibrand operation. The new company, FoodFirst Global Restaurants, is a partnership with Brazil-based GP Investments, a private-equity company that says it has raised $5 billion in capital. FoodFirst intends to acquire other brands that fit what the company set as a five-point philosophy combining environmental and nutritional concerns with economic principles. The announcement of Blum’s appointment noted that GP is the principal owner of Leon Naturally Fast Food, a European chain that plans to enter the U.S. market. Joining Blum at FoodFirst is another alumnus of Darden Restaurants, Bob Mock, who will serve as COO. Mock, who spent much of his career in operations, created the Smokey Bones Bar & Fire Grill concept for Darden, the parent of Olive Garden and the longtime employer of Blum. Blum would eventually rise to vice chairman of the company before leaving to become CEO Of Burger King. He subsequently served as CEO of Romano’s Macaroni Grill, a late bidder for Bravo and Brio, and was one of the directors that a Darden dissident investor hoped to put on that company’s board. The first order of business will be rejuvenating Bravo and Brio, Blum said. “We will do this by relentlessly focusing on the quality of the food, improving the menu, sharpening the operations, remodeling the restaurants and delivering a highly differentiated guest experience,” he indicated in the statement from FoodFirst. “We took the company private, so we could invest in the company.” GP closed on Brio Bravo Restaurant Group on May 24. It acquired the public company from shareholders for roughly $100 million in an all-cash deal. GP’s partner in the bidding was identified as Spice Equity Group, described as a Swiss private-equity group. Blum was based in Switzerland while working for General Mills, onetime parent of Olive Garden. “Brad has a proven track record with multiple restaurant companies. That is why we are making this investment,” said Antonio Bonchristiano, CEO of GP and vice chairman of FoodFirst. “As owner-partners, we place our confidence in his leadership and that of his team. We expect a long, profitable relationship.” Blum assumes responsibility for Bravo and Brio from Brian O'Malley, who took the chains through the acquisition. About FoodFirst Global Restaurants, Inc.™

FoodFirst Global Restaurants is a collaboration between American restaurateur/owner-partner Brad Blum and Brazilian-based investment firm GP Investments, Ltd. At FoodFirst Global Restaurants, we are passionate about good food, know good food, enjoy good food, and are dedicated to always improving upon and consistently providing good food.

Jimmy John’s Shakes Up Executive Team

Taco Bell, Gatorade vets join the growing sandwich chain May 22, 2018--(QSRMagazine) Jimmy John’s announced two C-Suite changes this week, including the hire of Taco Bell vet Stephen Piacentini as chief development officer. The more than 2,700-unit sandwich chain also tapped John Shea, who headed global markets at Gatorade, to lead its marketing department as CMO. Piacentini spent 13 years with YUM! Brands’ Taco Bell. Most recently, he served as senior director of restaurant development and facilities, developing and overseeing the chain’s growth from 6,000–8,000 locations and directing the Taco Bell Cantina project—Taco Bell’s hip, new design that serves alcohol and expects to bring 300–350 additional stores to urban markets by 2022. He was also tasked with maximizing traditional trade areas and creating financial incentives for franchise owners. “It’s no surprise that Jimmy John’s is seeing such explosive growth,” Piacentini said, as reported by the Chicago Business Journal. “From young people wanting to start their first businesses by opening a Jimmy John’s, to veterans with more than 20 stores, people know that it’s a reliable brand that offers high-quality, fresh ingredients and that we care deeply about the success of each and every one of our franchises." Shea’s previous job at Gatorade—a unit of PepsiCo—involved growing the beverage brand on a global scale. Before, he led the company’s sports marketing and was responsible for Gatorade’s corporate relationships with the NFL, NBA, MLB, college teams, and other sports organizations. Shea also oversaw Gatorade’s deals with high-profile athletes like Peyton Manning, Usain Bolt, Michael Jordan, and others. Additionally, Shea’s career included the launch of the G Series of Gatorade products. “I’m motivated by building and growing brands, and I’ve been fortunate to work with some of the best in the world,” he said. “Today’s consumers want their food fresh and fast, and Jimmy John’s serves the freshest product with the highest-quality ingredients, and we do it freaky fast. We have a tremendous runway for growth."

Jimmy John’s grew its unit count by 242 restaurants from 2015 to 2016—the most of any chain in the QSR 50 sandwich category. The company had average-unit volumes of $841,700 and systemwide sales (in millions) of $2,146.60. At the time, 2,584 of the 2,647 locations were franchised.

Former CKE Restaurant VP of Franchise Development, Michael D’Arezzo, Joins Fransmart

The Global Franchise Development Professional Will Focus on Growing the World’s Next Great Chains May 22, 2018--(RestaurantNews) Fransmart, the leading global franchise developer behind the explosive growth of The Halal Guys and Five Guys Burgers & Fries, has brought on industry veteran Michael D’Arezzo. As part of the Fransmart team, D’Arezzo will assist Fransmart’s Founder and President, Dan Rowe, in developing and growing the company’s existing portfolio of emerging restaurant brands. D’Arezzo brings with him more than 30 years of experience growing successful franchised brands like Carl’s Jr/ Hardee’s, Burger King, Mrs. Field’s, and Baskin Robbins to markets across the globe. In his new endeavor with Fransmart, D’Arezzo will apply his past experiences, skills, and knowledge of the franchise industry to grow some of the newest, and most compelling emerging brands that exist throughout the U.S. and international markets. His excitement to join Fransmart stems from the company’s diverse portfolio, which includes an artisan bakery, nitrogen-infused ice cream, authentic New York pizza, and global cuisines like Mediterranean, Indian, and German fusion. “It is refreshing to represent a portfolio of brands that are so greatly differentiated from the market’s current offerings and status quo,” says D’Arezzo. “I feel privileged to join Fransmart and its founders, and to play a part in growing the world’s next great chains. It’s the strongest portfolio of emerging concepts I’ve seen, all of which have strong ROIs and are highly desirable to any franchisee, developer, and investor looking for their next opportunity.” “To work with some of the best franchise restaurant brands, we need the top franchise development professionals, like Michael, on our team,” said Dan Rowe. “His global franchise development experience working with some of the largest franchise restaurant brands in the world, and personal track record for aiding to their growth, is a gift to our portfolio and we are expecting great things from this addition.” About Fransmart

Fransmart is the global leader in franchise development, turning emerging restaurant concepts into national and global brands for over 10 years. Company founder Dan Rowe identified and grew brands like Five Guys Burgers & Fries, The Halal Guys, and Qdoba Mexican Grill from 1-5 unit businesses to the powerhouse chains they are today. Fransmart’s current and past franchise development portfolio brands have opened more than 3,000 restaurants in 45 states and 35 countries. Fransmart and their partner brands are committed to franchise development growth—as of 2017, more than 1,000 new restaurants are in development across their current portfolio.

Moe's Picks NYC's Kate Munoz as Chief Taco Officer May 21, 2018--(QSRMagazine) Moe’s Southwest Grill continues the celebration of its newest menu item, Three Amigos Tacos, by naming Kate Munoz as the brand’s Chief Taco Officer. Kate, who hails from New York City, will lead the charge of spreading Southwest flavor across the country with Moe’s first-ever Taco Tour—a traveling, multi-city food truck tour where Moe’s will give lucky fans more than 10,000 free Three Amigos tacos. “I’ve been training to be Moe’s Chief Taco Officer my entire life and earning this title is one of my biggest accomplishments,” says Kate Munoz, Moe’s Chief Taco Officer. “As a taco-fanatic, expert and connoisseur, there is nothing wrong with eating tacos for breakfast, lunch, dinner and after dinner, and that’s exactly what I plan on doing during the Moe’s Taco Tour.” Moe’s Southwest Grill conducted the search for a Chief Taco Officer on social media via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. The brand received entries from fans across the country that included videos, raps, photo collages, poems and resumes. The competition was intense and Moe’s selected the top three entries, dubbed The Three Amigos. Fans voted for their favorite candidate on Moe’s social channels and after more than 5,000 total votes, the fans selected Kate Munoz as Moe’s Chief Taco Officer. “The mission for the newly named CTO and the Taco Tour she will be leading this summer is to bring tacos to the people and let our fans experience firsthand how delicious new Three Amigos tacos are,” says Bruce Schroder, Moe’s President. “We are confident that Kate, Chief Taco Officer, is the ideal taco professional to help spread the word about tacos across the country. We hope that fans come out to meet the CTO, be part of the tour and indulge in Moe’s newest menu item.” The CTO will be kicking off the Moe's Taco Tour on June 1 in Atlanta, Georgia. This national, 12 city food truck tour will introduce Moe’s fans to the new menu item, Three Amigos Tacos, which are authentic Southwestern street-style tacos. The Taco Tour dates and locations include:

  1. June 1: Atlanta, GA & Athens, GA

  2. June 2: Columbia, SC & Durham, NC

  3. June 3: Greensboro, NC & Roanoke, VA

  4. June 4: Richmond, VA

  5. June 6: Washington, DC & Baltimore, MD

  6. June 7: Philadelphia, PA

  7. June 8: Pittsburgh, PA

  8. June 9: Cleveland, OH

Fans will be able to follow the Taco Tour and find out when and where the food truck will be stopping in your city to give out free Three Amigos Tacos via #CTOTacoTour and website.

CraftWorks CEO Resigns, Company Names Fred Beilstein Interim Leader May 17, 2018--(QSRMagazine) CraftWorks Restaurants & Breweries Group, Inc. announced that it has accepted the resignation of Srinivas Kumar who became CEO of the company in 2014. Fred Beilstein III will serve as interim CEO as he continues Mr. Kumar’s work to grow all the CraftWorks brands. Old Chicago opened eight new locations in 2016 growing their presence in Texas, North Carolina, Missouri, and Colorado. 2017 added an additional eight restaurants including locations in Colorado, South Carolina, Kansas, Arkansas, Tennessee, and Wyoming. The company anticipates opening 10 additional franchise restaurants in 2018. CraftWorks opened two new Rock Bottom Brewery locations this year including Highlands Ranch, Colorado and Daytona, Florida. Gordon Biersch licensed operations will also see additional growth in 2018. Additional growth initiatives include the expansion of delivery with Grub Hub recently and new menu launches this month. “I am very optimistic with the increased traffic and sales we are seeing this Spring, especially with our loyalty guests,” says Mr. Beilstein. “Despite what have been difficult times for many in casual dining, the CraftWorks family of brands represent enduring concepts that have resonated with our guests over many decades. I do not see that changing as we provide guests with great craft beer and craveable food.” “Despite what have been difficult times for many in casual dining, the CraftWorks family of brands represent enduring concepts that have resonated with our guests over many decades. I do not see that changing as we provide guests with great craft beer and craveable food.” CraftWorks Restaurants & Breweries, Inc. is the largest craft brewery restaurant operator in the country with nearly 200 franchised and company-owned restaurants primarily operating under the Old Chicago Pizza & Taproom, Gordon Biersch Brewery Restaurants and Rock Bottom Restaurants & Breweries brands. As a leader in the craft beer focused casual dining segment, CraftWorks also operates strong regional brands and employs more than 9,000 people throughout the U.S. All of CraftWorks restaurant brands have innovative menus with made-from-scratch food and a vast selection of unique craft beer providing unbeatable service. Its loyalty programs have over a half million active members.

Based in Broomfield, Colo., CraftWorks is not only committed to serving its loyal guests, but also the communities in which its restaurants operate. The CraftWorks Foundation has contributed millions of dollars, positively impacting communities throughout the country.

Dunkin’ Donuts U.S. Names Drayton Martin, Vice President, Brand Stewardship May 17, 2018--(RestaurantNews) Dunkin’ Donuts today announced Drayton Martin as the company’s new Vice President, Brand Stewardship. In this role, Ms. Martin will lead the development and implementation of Dunkin’ Donuts’ brand messaging across all channels including advertising, packaging, in-store and digital while overseeing the company’s internal brand marketing team and external creative agency partners. She will report directly to Tony Weisman, Chief Marketing Officer, Dunkin’ Donuts U.S. Ms. Martin brings more than two decades of advertising and marketing experience and expertise to Dunkin’ Donuts. During the past 14 yea,rs in leadership roles at MullenLowe, she directed transformative identity and positioning campaigns for several iconic brands such as JetBlue, Century21, Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts and many more. Previously, Ms. Martin also worked at several top advertising agencies throughout the country. She is a graduate of Wellesley College. “Drayton has a long and successful track record in creating compelling creative work and leading strong teams that have helped transform leading global consumer companies,” said Tony Weisman. “Her extensive experience makes her well-positioned to lead and advance our creative vision and long-term strategic plans to drive engagement and excitement for the Dunkin’ Donuts brand, and strengthen our position as the leading on-the-go, beverage-led brand.” About Dunkin’ Donuts

Founded in 1950, Dunkin’ Donuts is America’s favorite all-day, everyday stop for coffee and baked goods. Dunkin’ Donuts is a market leader in the hot regular/decaf/flavored coffee, iced regular/decaf/flavored coffee, donut, bagel and muffin categories. Dunkin’ Donuts has earned a No. 1 ranking for customer loyalty in the coffee category by Brand Keys for 12 years running. The company has more than 12,500 restaurants in 46 countries worldwide. Based in Canton, Mass., Dunkin’ Donuts is part of the Dunkin’ Brands Group, Inc. (Nasdaq: DNKN) family of companies.

Main Event Appoints Les Lehner As Chief Development Officer May 17, 2018--(RestaurantNews) Main Event Entertainment, LP, a subsidiary of Ardent Leisure Group (ASX: AAD) (Ardent), is pleased to announce that Les Lehner has been appointed as Chief Development Officer of Main Event Entertainment. Lehner brings more than 20 years of professional retail development, procurement and finance experience, with over 15 years in the family entertainment space. He has been responsible for driving long-term strategic growth in addition to managing and developing numerous high-visibility areas of the company, including corporate real estate development, construction management, architecture and design, real estate, legal, facilities management, supply chain purchasing and overall procurement strategy. “Les is a dynamic development executive with extensive leadership experience that will be invaluable as we move forward with our expansion plans,” said Chris Morris, President and CEO of Main Event Entertainment, LP. “We’re thrilled to have him on the team leading such a crucial part of the business.” Prior to joining Main Event, Lehner served as SVP, Chief Development Officer and Chief Procurement Officer for Red Robin Gourmet Burgers (RRGB), a popular casual dining restaurant chain with over 35,000 employees. During his tenure at RRGB, Lehner increased the company’s corporate portfolio by over 100 restaurant locations through new restaurant growth and acquisitions. He additionally executed a corporate brand transformation program, remodeling more than 350 restaurants in three years. Before RRGB, Lehner held executive and senior positions with CEC Entertainment (owners of Chuck E. Cheese and Peter Piper Pizza). CEC is a nationally recognized family dining and entertainment concept with over 700 restaurants domestic and internationally. While Lehner was with CEC, he more than doubled its size with new corporate, franchise and international restaurants. “I’m honored to have the opportunity to work for an extraordinary brand like Main Event,” said Lehner. “I believe the business has tremendous growth potential and I am confident we can build on the company’s established foundation of success.” About Main Event Entertainment

Founded in 1998, Dallas-based Main Event Entertainment is rapidly growing, with 40 centers across the United States serving more than 20 million guests annually. Main Event features a unique “Eat. Bowl. Play.” experience, making it the perfect place for families, young adults and groups of all ages.

Doherty Enterprises Names Tim Doherty President and COO May 16, 2018--(FoodNewsFeed) Doherty Enterprises, Inc. announced that Tim Doherty has been promoted to President and Chief Operating Officer. Doherty Enterprises operates over 150 restaurants in northern, southern and central New Jersey, on Long Island, as well as locations throughout Queens, Brooklyn, Staten Island and sections of Florida and Georgia. In his new role as President and Chief Operating Officer, Tim will develop and lead strategic plans across all departments, direct internal operations to achieve budgeted results and objectives, appraise and evaluate results of overall operations for all restaurant concepts and coordinate efforts with the Chief Financial Officer, Jerry Marcopoulos, to ensure the growth of the business.  He joined Doherty Enterprises in 2003 as the Real Estate Manager and was subsequently promoted through the ranks to Director of Real Estate, Vice President of Real Estate and Construction in 2006 and Vice President of Development in 2010.  Tim was a key leader in the growth of Doherty Enterprises through a number of varied duties, including site selection, lease negotiations, acquisitions, and procurement of construction approvals and permits while overseeing construction.  In addition to new development, Tim has also been instrumental in leading the remodels of restaurants across the Doherty Enterprises’ portfolio. In 2017, Tim was named successor for the role of President and Chief Operating Officer and has concentrated on implementing a seamless transition plan over the last year, taking on the leadership role for the executive team, and is now officially assuming full responsibility of the role.  A graduate of Lehigh University in Bethlehem, PA, with a Bachelor of Science degree in finance, Mr. Doherty resides in New York, NY with his wife. “We are pleased to announce the promotion of Tim Doherty to President and Chief Operating Officer at Doherty Enterprises,” says Ed Doherty, Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of Doherty Enterprises.  “Tim has been a valued member of our team for a number of years and has played an important role that has been vital in our development and success.  We look forward to Tim’s continued contribution and overall leadership to grow the Doherty Enterprises brand.”

Family owned and operated, Doherty Enterprises operates seven restaurant concepts in four states, including Applebee's Neighborhood Grill & Bar, Panera Bread, Chevys Fresh Mex, Quaker Steak & Lube, Noodles & Company and its own specialty concepts, The Shannon Rose Irish Pub and Spuntino Wine Bar & Italian Tapas.

Velvet Taco Names Allyn Taylor New Chief Development Officer

Growing fast casual adds restaurant industry veteran to senior leadership role May 15, 2018--(RestaurantNews) Velvet Taco, the one-of-a-kind taco concept, today announced Allyn Taylor has joined the company as Chief Development Officer to lead real estate development for the growing company. “With over 20 years of senior leadership experience, Allyn will add tremendous value to our team,” said Clay Dover, President of Velvet Taco. “His extensive background in driving development strategy will be key in expanding our brand across the country. The timing couldn’t be better and we welcome Allyn to the team.” Prior to joining Velvet Taco, Taylor served as Chief Development Officer for Zoës Kitchen where he lead real estate, design and construction for over 250 restaurants. He also previously held senior development roles with Panera Bread, P.F. Changs China Bistro, Pappas Restaurants, Ruby Tuesday and Brinker International. “It’s an exciting time join the Velvet Taco team,” said Taylor. “They have incredible plans for continued growth and development, I look forward to being part of this amazing brand.” The incomparable experience that comes with serving up liberated tacos, made from scratch using the freshest ingredients available, is the formula that has propelled Velvet Taco from four locations in 2017 to 10 now open or under construction, with even more in the pipeline. Velvet Taco’s all-day menu features scratch-made everything, including handmade corn tortillas, slowly roasted rotisserie meats, fresh-made, kick-ass margaritas and homemade red velvet cake for dessert. The restaurant has a one-of-a-kind, funky, fast-casual setting that perfectly complements its eclectic menu featuring unique, international flavors made from only the freshest ingredients.

With the opening of Houston’s second location last week, and this Uptown development, Velvet Taco – the 2016 Nation’s Restaurant News “Hot Concept” Winner – now has 10 restaurants open or under construction in Dallas, Fort Worth, Austin, Houston and Chicago.

QDOBA Mexican Eats® Names Keith Guilbault as CEO and Susan Daggett as CFO May 14, 2018--(BusinessWire) QDOBA Mexican Eats® (“QDOBA” or the “Company”) today named Keith Guilbault as Chief Executive Officer and restaurant industry veteran Susan Daggett as Chief Financial Officer, following its March 2018 acquisition by funds managed by affiliates of Apollo Global Management, LLC (together with its consolidated subsidiaries, "Apollo") (NYSE:APO) from Jack in the Box Inc. (NASDAQ:JACK). Mr. Guilbault previously served as QDOBA’s Brand President and Chief Operating Officer since 2016 under Jack in the Box’s ownership, overseeing approximately 740 restaurants. Prior to leading the QDOBA Brand, Mr. Guilbault held a series of executive leadership positions at Jack in the Box, rising to Senior Vice President & Chief Marketing Officer in charge of branding, traditional and digital communications, product development, menu management, social engagement, and public relations. “Keith has been instrumental in helping to guide QDOBA through the Brand’s sale and transition into an independent company,” said Lance Milken, Senior Partner at Apollo. “We look forward to working with Keith, and believe he is ideally suited to lead QDOBA’s outstanding management team, employee base, and group of franchises as the Company continues to bolster its position as a market-leading Brand.” Ms. Daggett, QDOBA’s new Chief Financial Officer, has more than two decades of financial experience in the restaurant industry, most recently at Noodles & Company, where she served as interim Chief Financial Officer since June 2017 and Vice President of Finance since August 2016. She also held executive roles at Pinnacle Restaurant Group, Inc., Einstein Noah Restaurant Group, Inc., and Arby’s Inc. “Susan brings a wealth of knowledge and technical expertise that will greatly benefit QDOBA as we move forward,” Mr. Guilbault said. “I believe her proven track record as a visionary leader who successfully guided the financial and accounting operations of other large restaurant organizations makes Susan a natural fit for the role.” Mr. Guilbault’s appointment as Chief Executive Officer is effective immediately. Ms. Daggett is expected to join QDOBA on May 23, 2018. The Company continues to build out internal roles that it previously shared with Jack in the Box Inc., and is expected to add roughly 100 full-time positions to its corporate team in the coming months. About QDOBA

At QDOBA, everyone is invited to live a more flavorful life. The QDOBA experience comes to life through its multi-dimensional approach to flavor, which encompasses its people, its restaurants and, of course, its fresh, craveable food. Through the Brand’s vision, guests and team members alike are encouraged to celebrate individuality and boldly craft a meal that’s packed full of flavors like 3-Cheese Queso and hand-smashed guacamole. Getting its start in 1995, QDOBA now has more than 740 restaurants in 47 states, the District of Columbia and Canada.

The Cheesecake Factory Announces Senior Leadership Appointments May 11, 2018--(BusinessWire) The Cheesecake Factory Incorporated (NASDAQ: CAKE) today announced the appointment of Scarlett May as Executive Vice President, General Counsel and Secretary of the Company, effective May 14, 2018. She will succeed Debby R. Zurzolo, who announced earlier this year her plan to retire. In addition, the Company named Keith T. Carango as President of The Cheesecake Factory Bakery Incorporated. He succeeds Max S. Byfuglin, who retired from the Company in April. “Scarlett is an accomplished legal executive with significant restaurant industry experience, which will be an asset to The Cheesecake Factory,” said David Overton, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer. “During Keith’s 22-year career with the bakery, he has provided strategic direction, operational excellence and financial stewardship, while working closely with sales and marketing, which positioned him to be the clear choice to lead the division forward. Both Scarlett and Keith will be valued additions to our executive leadership team.” Overton concluded, “On behalf of our Board of Directors, management team and all of our staff, I want to thank Max and Debby for their dedication, leadership and contributions throughout their tenures with the Company. Joining The Cheesecake Factory 36 years ago, Max has played an integral role in growing our bakery from its humble beginning to its global position today. Nearly 20 years ago, Debby was named as our first General Counsel and has been a trusted advisor ever since. She will continue to sit on the board of The Cheesecake Factory Oscar and Evelyn Overton Charitable Foundation. We wish them both the best in their next chapters.” Scarlett May joins The Cheesecake Factory Incorporated from Brinker International, Inc. (NYSE: EAT), where she served as Senior Vice President, General Counsel and Secretary. Prior, she was Senior Vice President, Chief Legal Officer and Secretary for Ruby Tuesday, Inc. following her earlier career in private practice. May received a J.D. and B.A. from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Keith Carango joined The Cheesecake Factory Bakery Incorporated in 1996 to lead manufacturing, and provide innovative solutions and continuous improvement to the bakery operation. In his most recent role of Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, he oversaw strategic planning, supply chain and procurement, manufacturing, distribution, human resources, quality assurance and finance. Prior, he held manufacturing and finance roles at Frito-Lay, Inc. and Prince Foods. Carango received a B.S. from Penn State University. About The Cheesecake Factory Incorporated

The Cheesecake Factory Incorporated created the upscale casual dining segment in 1978 with the introduction of its namesake concept. The Company, through its subsidiaries, owns and operates 214 full-service, casual dining restaurants throughout the U.S.A., including Puerto Rico, and Canada, comprised of 199 restaurants under The Cheesecake Factory® mark; 13 restaurants under the Grand Lux Cafe® mark; and two restaurants under the RockSugar Southeast Asian Kitchen® mark (formerly known as Rock Sugar Pan Asian Kitchen®). Internationally, 21 The Cheesecake Factory® restaurants operate under licensing agreements. The Company’s bakery division operates two bakery production facilities, in Calabasas Hills, CA and Rocky Mount, NC, that produce quality cheesecakes and other baked products for its restaurants, international licensees and third-party bakery customers. In 2018, the Company was named to the FORTUNE Magazine “100 Best Companies to Work For®” list for the fifth consecutive year.

Chuy’s Appoints Steve Hislop as Chairman and Jon Howie as a Director May 10, 2018--(BusinessWire) Chuy’s Holdings, Inc. (Nasdaq:CHUY) (the “Company”) today announced that the Company’s Board of Directors has appointed Steve Hislop as Chairman of the Board. Mr. Hislop will also continue as the Company’s President and Chief Executive Officer. Mr. Hislop replaces John Zapp as Chairman of the Board. Mr. Zapp resigned from the Board on May 9, 2018. The Company also announced that the Board appointed Jon Howie, the Company’s Vice President and Chief Financial Officer, as a member of the Board to fill the existing vacancy. Steve Hislop, Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer, stated “We are excited to welcome Jon to the Board. Jon has been a key contributor to the success of our business and his addition to the Board recognizes his importance to the future success of our Company. I believe the Board will greatly benefit from Jon’s valuable leadership and experience.” The Company further announced that the Board intends to appoint a lead independent director in the near future. About Chuy’s

Founded in Austin, Texas in 1982, Chuy’s owns and operates 95 full-service restaurants across 19 states serving a distinct menu of authentic, made from scratch Tex-Mex inspired dishes. Chuy’s highly flavorful and freshly prepared fare is served in a fun, eclectic and irreverent atmosphere, while each location offers a unique, “unchained” look and feel, as expressed by the concept’s motto “If you’ve seen one Chuy’s, you’ve seen one Chuy’s!”.

Retail Food Group Hires New President to Oversee U.S. Business

Sam Ferreira brings more than 25 years in coffee, retail, fintech and franchising to new role May 9, 2018--(RestaurantNews) Retail Food Group, Australia’s largest multi-brand retail food franchisor and a global food and beverage company, recently announced the hiring of Sam Ferreira as president of the U.S. business. Ferreira will be focused on developing new innovative brand initiatives and building on the strong legacy the brand has established in the states through Gloria Jean’s Coffees and It’s A Grind Coffee House. Ferreira’s most recent role was Senior Director of Retail Operations/Sales & Service at Oportun, where he was responsible for the rapid expansion of the business. He also brings experience overseeing large chains and franchises through senior roles at Peet’s Coffee and Tea, Blockbuster and Subway. “We are thrilled to welcome Sam to the Retail Food Group leadership team to drive the growth of our U.S. business,” said Mike Gilbert, Chief Executive – International, Retail Food Group. “Sam’s passion for delivering positive results with a focus on process, people and innovation, paired with his 25 years of experience driving results across multiple retail disciplines, will position our brands to compete in the ever-growing coffee segment.” Retail Food Group’s U.S. brand portfolio includes Gloria Jean’s Coffees, with 57 locations in 20 states, and It’s A Grind Coffee House, with 17 locations. In 2018, Retail Food Group announced plans to introduce the highly successful Australian concepts including Crust Gourmet Pizza Bar, Donut King and Brumby’s Bakery to the U.S. market, as well as a strategic plan to expand Gloria Jean’s Coffees on a global scale, announcing a 40-store development initiative planned for Germany. This planned expansion is coming at a time when the coffee industry is as hot as ever. According to industry research firm Technomic, among the Top 500 coffee chains in the United States in 2016, sales reached $24.8 billion, a 9.7 percent increase from the previous year. The corresponding U.S. unit count increase, up 4.8 percent from the year prior to 24,391 total units, made the sector the second largest cuisine segment behind burgers. “I am looking forward to working with our franchisees partners to grow our brands and increase our Average Unit Volume,” said Ferreira. “The potential in the brands is there to capture the growing coffee segment and showcase a handcrafted, small batch roasted story with unique flavor profiles allowing us to excite the US marketplace.” In 2017 alone, Gloria Jean’s opened eight new U.S. locations. The momentum did not stop in 2018, with six openings scheduled before mid-2018, including two It’s A Grind locations opening in Northern California. The brand’s commitment to quality-sourced beans and a legacy of unique flavor innovation, sourcing 100 percent of its coffees directly from exotic locations across the globe and then roasting every bean at its facility in California, has competitors of Gloria Jean’s and It’s A Grind in hot water. But while the rest of the coffee industry catches up to the flavor revolution, Gloria Jean’s plans to improve upon its own legacy of innovation at the brand’s in-house roastery in Los Angeles and It’s a Grind continues to drive its Coffee Forward flavor profile to the masses. About Gloria Jean’s Coffees Gloria Jean’s Coffees is an innovator in the specialty coffee segment, providing customers fresh, premium blends and award-winning roasts. Gloria Jean’s Coffees was founded in 1979 in a small town outside Chicago by the company’s namesake, Gloria Jean Kvetko. What began as a small gift shop soon became a nationwide and later international franchise concept, and the brand now boasts nearly 900 stores worldwide. Gloria Jean’s delectable menu also offers ice-blended chillers, mochas, lattes, hot cocoa, a variety of baked goods and pastries, whole beans and retail merchandise. It’s A Grind Coffee House

It’s A Grind Coffee House is a neighborhood destination serving high-quality signature coffee in a comfortable, relaxed atmosphere. Founded in 1994, It’s A Grind Coffee House serves several different blends of specialty coffee, roasted in Southern California and brewed fresh each day. Each location also serves espresso beverages, iced blended coffee creations, freshly made breakfast sandwiches and a variety of foods at all times throughout the day. Retail Food Group Ltd. (RFG), one of the world’s largest multi-brand retail food franchisors and leading wholesale coffee roasters, acquired It’s A Grind Coffee House in 2014 with plans to grow the brand through franchising. The brand currently has 18 locations in the U.S. and eight internationally.

Abe Ruiz Promoted to CEO of Babalu Tapas & Tacos

The industry vet had previously worked as an executive with Famous Dave’s. May 8, 2018--(RestaurantBusinessOnline) The chief operating officer of the growing Babalu Tapas & Tacos full-service concept has been promoted to CEO. Abe Ruiz, formerly the chief operating officer of Famous Dave’s, takes over the top post from Babalu co-founder Bill Latham. Latham will remain on the board and will assist with day-to-day operations as needed, the company said in a statement. Ruiz became COO at the end of last year. “Abe likes to kid about his mediocrity on the golf course, but it’s impossible to imagine him and mediocrity belonging in a sentence together,” Latham said. “From the moment Abe took on the role as COO, he began demonstrating his deep understanding of every aspect of the business. His passion is contagious.” Ruiz also served as chief operating officer of Colon Gerena Restaurant Group—the parent franchisee for numerous brands, including Famous Dave’s, Applebee’s, Olive Garden, Sizzler and LongHorn Steakhouse, as well as Wendy’s units in Puerto Rico.

Parent company Eat Here Brands oversees Babalu Tapas & Tacos, a shared-plates concept that currently has nine units and is expanding in the Southeastern U.S.

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