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Executive Movements - May 2024




Marco's Pizza® Promotes 30 Plus-Year Industry Veteran Kristin Corcoran to Chief Legal Counsel


May 14, 2024, 09:48 ET


One of the Nation's Fastest-Growing Pizza Brands Appoints New Head of the Legal Department

TOLEDO, Ohio, May 14, 2024 /PRNewswire/ -- Marco's Pizza, one of the nation's fastest-growing pizza brands, appoints franchising law veteran, Kristin Corcoran, to Chief Legal Counsel. This news comes on the heels of another C-Suite promotion with John Meyers as Chief Operating Officer as well as several significant appointments on the marketing team.


Corcoran boasts an impressive 30-plus-year history of providing legal counsel specifically within the franchising industry, handling both domestic and international legal matters at leading organizations such as DLA Piper N.A. and the franchisor of Subway restaurants. She was also the co-founding partner of Appleby & Corcoran, LLC, which provided legal counsel to franchisor clients.


"The opportunity to serve at a leading franchise such as Marco's – a brand with an outstanding culture and a rapidly expanding footprint – has been a unique and exciting experience," said Corcoran. "Since I joined Marco's, the brand has made significant strides in furthering its growth, and I look forward to continuing our momentum for years to come."

Prior to her appointment to Chief Legal Counsel, Corcoran served as Marco's Vice President of Corporate Counsel. In her new role, she will serve as the primary legal advisor to the company, providing day-to-day direction to her team and working closely with the leadership team and various department heads. Using her decades of knowledge in both the restaurant and franchising space, Corcoran delivers strategic legal advice to keep Marco's moving on an upward trajectory.

"Kristin's legal expertise has made a profound impact on Marco's throughout her time with the brand," said Tony Libardi, Co-CEO & President of Marco's Pizza. "Her leadership, knowledge, and contributions have been instrumental as we roll out new initiatives that benefit both our franchisees and customers. She has been a tremendous asset and addition to our executive team, and I look forward to seeing her continue to bring invaluable experience and perspective as we embark on our next era of growth."

This appointment comes at a pivotal time for the leadership team as they strengthen their strong development support system, which includes technology and tools to help identify territories for expansion, plus support in real estate, construction management, field operations, and information related to financing. FRANdata, a leading research and advisory firm that analyzes the franchise market, reports Marco's 2023 FUND Score of 895 is in the top 1% of all evaluated franchise systems and is among the top three scores for all QSR brands.

The brand's impressive performance has earned multiple awards and recognition: Ranking in Newsweek's 2023 America's Best Customer Service in the pizza chains category, earning a spot on QSR's Top 50, appearing on Nation's Restaurant News' prestigious Top 500 ranking, and most recently claiming the No. 48 spot on Entrepreneur's 2024 Franchise 500® ranking.

For more information on Marco's Pizza franchise opportunities, visit marcos.com/franchising or contact Jamie Cecil at jcecil@marcos.com or 866-731-8209.


ABOUT MARCO'S PIZZA  Headquartered in Toledo, Ohio, Marco's Pizza is one of the fastest-growing pizza brands in the United States. Marco's was founded in 1978 by Italian-born Pasquale ("Pat") Giammarco and thrives to deliver a high-quality pizza experience, known for its dough made from scratch and its three fresh signature cheeses. The company has grown from its roots as a beloved Ohio brand to operate over 1,200 stores in 34 states with locations in Puerto Rico and the Bahamas. Most recently, Marco's Pizza was ranked No. 48 on Entrepreneur Magazine's 2024 "Franchise 500" ranking. Other recent accolades include a high ranking on Newsweek's 2023 "America's Best Customer Service" in pizza chains list, earning a spot on QSR's Top 50, and being featured on Nation's Restaurant News' prestigious "Top 500" ranking.


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Bloomin’ Brands CEO David Deno Retiring


Board of Directors Leading Search for Successor


TAMPA, Fla.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Bloomin’ Brands, Inc. (NASDAQ: BLMN) announced that David Deno, Chief Executive Officer, will be retiring after 12 years with the company, including the last five years as CEO and a member of the Board of Directors. Deno will continue in his current role until a successor is named and a successful transition period is completed. The company’s Board of Directors will conduct a search for Deno’s successor.

“David has strengthened the financial foundation at Bloomin’ Brands through better profitability and a stronger balance sheet, which is especially impressive given nearly half of his CEO tenure was during COVID,” said Michael Mohan, Chairman of the Bloomin’ Brands Board of Directors. “He is also credited with optimizing our international presence, especially in Brazil.”

“Conversations regarding the timing of this transition began in 2023 as a normal course of succession planning,” added Mohan. “The Board is searching for a leader who will build upon David’s commitment and dedication to all 87,000 employees of these great brands.”

Deno joined Bloomin’ Brands in 2012 as Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer (CFO) and has served on the company’s Board of Directors since 2019 when he was named CEO. He joined the company from Best Buy where he served as President of Asia and Chief Financial Officer for the International Division. Deno also spent 15 years with Pizza Hut and YUM Brands serving as CFO for Pizza Hut, YUM Restaurants International and YUM Brands; he also served as Chief Operating Officer of YUM Brands. This, coupled with roles at Burger King, have resulted in a 40-year tenure primarily in the hospitality industry. Last year, Deno was honored with the International Foodservice Manufacturers Association (IFMA) Silver Plate Award in recognition for his outstanding contribution to the foodservice industry.

“It has been an honor to lead this great company of restaurants,” said Deno. “I was very fortunate to be offered an opportunity to work in this dynamic and rewarding industry. I have enjoyed the challenge and thank all of those along the way who helped guide my career. I love this company and plan to stay until we find our next CEO.”

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 throughout 46 states, Guam and 13 countries, some of which are franchise locations. For more information, please visit bloominbrands.com.


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The Wendy's Company Adds U.S. Chief Marketing Officer Lindsay Radkoski to Senior Leadership Team



DUBLIN, Ohio, May 6, 2024 /PRNewswire/ -- The Wendy's Company (Nasdaq: WEN) announced that Lindsay Radkoski, U.S. Chief Marketing Officer, will join the Company's Senior Leadership Team and report to President and Chief Executive Officer Kirk Tanner. In addition to continuing to direct all Marketing efforts for the U.S. business, she will now assume additional reporting responsibility for the Global Marketing Centers of Excellence, including Culinary Innovation, Digital Marketing, Customer Experience, Creative Strategy & Storytelling, and Partnerships and Social, following Global Chief Marketing Officer Carl Loredo's decision to depart the Company to pursue a different leadership opportunity. Radkoski joined the Company in 2011 in the Investor Relations function and worked in roles of increasing responsibility in Finance and Marketing, including Vice President of National Marketing before being appointed U.S. Chief Marketing Officer in March 2023.

"Breakthrough marketing and building personalized relationships with our customers through digital are key ingredients in our efforts to accelerate profitable sales growth and generate customer loyalty across our system," said President and CEO Kirk Tanner. "Under Lindsay's leadership of our U.S. Marketing efforts, Wendy's® has built consistent year-over-year growth and a thriving digital business. I'm excited to bring her expertise to the Senior Leadership Team with a focus on ensuring that every interaction we have with our customers is brand-building."

"I believe there's never been a better time to be at Wendy's," said Radkoski. "Our brand has so much opportunity for future growth and I'm eager to tap into our full potential, continuing to grow our U.S. business, while also partnering with our International team to bring a one-brand mindset to Wendy's presence around the globe across Marketing, Digital and Culinary."

About Wendy's

Wendy's® was founded in 1969 by Dave Thomas in Columbus, Ohio. Dave built his business on the premise, "Quality is our Recipe®," which remains the guidepost of the Wendy's system. Wendy's is best known for its made-to-order square hamburgers, using fresh, never frozen beef*, freshly-prepared salads, and other signature items like chili, baked potatoes and the Frosty® dessert. The Wendy's Company (Nasdaq: WEN) is committed to doing the right thing and making a positive difference in the lives of others. This is most visible through the Company's support of the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption® and its signature Wendy's Wonderful Kids® program, which seeks to find a loving, forever home for every child waiting to be adopted from the North American foster care system. Today, Wendy's and its franchisees employ hundreds of thousands of people across over 7,000 restaurants worldwide with a vision of becoming the world's most thriving and beloved restaurant brand. For details on franchising, connect with us at www.wendys.com/franchising.

Visit www.wendys.com and www.squaredealblog.com for more information and connect with us on X and Instagram using @wendys, and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/wendys.


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Pizza Hut Announces Carl Loredo President of Pizza Hut U.S.


New Appointment Supports Pizza Hut’s Ambitious Growth Agenda

Today, Pizza Hut announced that Juan Carlos “Carl” Loredo will join the company as the President of Pizza Hut U.S., reporting to Pizza Hut Division Chief Executive Officer Aaron Powell, effective June 3. In this role, Loredo will assume responsibility for driving overall performance of the brand’s U.S. business.

PLANO, Texas--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Today, Pizza Hut announced that Juan Carlos “Carl” Loredo will join the company as the President of Pizza Hut U.S., reporting to Pizza Hut Division Chief Executive Officer Aaron Powell, effective June 3. In this role, Loredo will assume responsibility for driving overall performance of the brand’s U.S. business.

“Carl comes to Pizza Hut with a strong track record of positioning brands for success and delivering results in highly competitive markets. He is adept at helping brands show up in novel and authentic ways at the right intersection of customer need and culture,” shared Powell. “The Pizza Hut team is delighted to welcome Carl, who will bring a passion and focus that will take us forward to the brand’s next bright chapter.”

Loredo most recently served as the Global Chief Marketing Officer for The Wendy’s Company, where he – during his more than eight years with the brand – was integral in driving results, including growing the digital sales business, launching and scaling new occasions and producing best-in-class marketing and content campaigns. Previously, Loredo served as the Vice President of Account Services at The Marketing Arm (a part of Omnicom Media Group) and oversaw the agency’s multicultural practice with a focus on digital and shopper marketing strategies.

“I love a good story, and Pizza Hut’s journey from one restaurant in Wichita, Kansas, to global cultural icon status is tremendously inspiring,” said Loredo. “It is an honor to lead Pizza Hut’s U.S. business and be a part of taking this beloved brand forward for the next generation of customers. I am eager to partner with Aaron and the leadership team, our best-in-class franchisees and our talented team members around the country to unlock growth for this powerhouse brand.”

About Pizza Hut®

Pizza Hut, a subsidiary of Yum! Brands, Inc. (NYSE: YUM), was founded in 1958 in Wichita, Kansas and since then has earned a reputation as a trailblazer in innovation with the creation of icons like Original® Pan and Original® Stuffed Crust pizzas. In 1994, Pizza Hut pizza was the very first online food order. Today, Pizza Hut continues leading the way in the digital and technology space with over half of transactions worldwide coming from digital orders. Pizza Hut is committed to providing an easy pizza experience – from order to delivery – and has Hut Rewards®, the Pizza Hut loyalty program that offers points for every dollar spent on food any way you order. Hut Rewards is open to U.S. residents 16+. See applicable terms at https://hutrewards.pizzahut.com/terms/. A global leader in the pizza category, Pizza Hut operates more than 19,500 restaurants in 110 markets and territories. Through its enormous presence, Pizza Hut works to unlock opportunity for its team members and communities around the world.


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Portillo’s Strengthens Leadership Team with first Chief Information Officer and Chief Marketing Officer Appointments


Restaurant industry veteran Keith Correia named CIO, Nick Scarpino promoted to CMO as brand furthers growth strategy


CHICAGO, May 06, 2024 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Portillo’s (NASDAQ: PTLO), the fast-casual restaurant concept known for its menu of unrivaled Chicago-style street food, today announced the appointments of Keith Correia as Chief Information Officer (CIO) and Nick Scarpino as Chief Marketing Officer (CMO). Both leaders will play key roles for the business as Portillo’s expands and scales nationwide.

“I’m thrilled to welcome Keith and Nick into their new roles as we drive Portillo’s continued growth,” said Michael Osanloo, CEO and President. “Keith brings invaluable expertise with a track record of enabling technology to amplify iconic restaurant brands, while Nick’s creativity and passion have long been instrumental in amplifying our beloved brand. With their proven leadership, we are well-positioned to strengthen our infrastructure, innovate the team member and guest experience, and strategically expand our footprint nationwide while preserving Portillo’s authentic Chicago roots and commitment to quality.”

Mr. Correia joins Portillo’s after serving as Chief Information Officer at Steak ‘n Shake, where he led a comprehensive technology revitalization for the nearly 90-year-old American brand. Prior to that, he held various leadership roles at American Dairy Queen Corporation, including Vice President of Technology Innovation, Vice President of Concept Support, and Vice President of Operations. As Portillo’s first CIO, Mr. Correia will oversee the expansion of the company’s IT platform and guide the team to modernize and improve efficiencies across Portillo’s tech platforms to benefit both team members and guests.

After serving as a Portillo’s cashier while on summer and winter breaks in high school and college, Mr. Scarpino re-joined the company in 2015, and brings a proven track record of innovative marketing strategies to his new role as the company’s first CMO. With previous leadership experience in digital advertising at Google, over the past decade Mr. Scarpino assembled Portillo’s first dedicated marketing team and continues to raise brand awareness through creative initiatives such as digital marketing campaigns, interstate tours with the iconic Portillo’s Beef Bus, and curated events to celebrate new restaurant openings and menu items. In his new role, Mr. Scarpino’s vision and expertise will remain instrumental in continuing to elevate the beloved Chicago brand’s profile as it expands nationwide, while staying true to Portillo’s rich heritage and commitment to quality.

With these new C-suite appointments, Portillo’s continues to purposefully build and strengthen its executive leadership team as the company executes its long-term strategy. Currently operating more than 80 restaurants, the company is confident in its ability to scale at an annual growth rate of at least 10% and bring its concept to new markets across the U.S. In the years ahead, Portillo’s has a target of opening at least 920 locations, including 800 full-scale restaurants and 120 smaller units, such as Portillo’s Pick Up locations and other alternate formats.

About Portillo’s In 1963, Dick Portillo invested $1,100 into a small trailer to open the first Portillo’s hot dog stand in Villa Park, Ill., which he called “The Dog House.” Years later, Portillo’s has grown to include more than 80 restaurants across 10 states. Portillo’s is best known for its Chicago-style hot dogs, Italian beef sandwiches, char-grilled burgers, fresh salads and famous chocolate cake. Portillo’s ships food to all 50 states via Portillos.com. Portillo’s Home Kitchen is the company’s fast-growing catering business.


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Donatos Pizza CEO Announces Retirement



Tom Krouse to Retire in October after Twenty-Four Years of Transformation and Growth

COLUMBUS, Ohio, May 1, 2024 /PRNewswire/ -- Donatos Pizza today announced the upcoming retirement in October of its Chief Executive Officer, Tom Krouse. Kevin King, who has served as President of Donatos Pizza for the past two years, will assume the role of CEO and President upon Krouse's retirement. This well-planned succession ensures a smooth handover and continued success for the brand, built on the strong foundation of family values.

A Family Affair: Honoring Tradition & Building on Success

Donatos Pizza CEO Announces Retirement


Krouse joined Donatos Pizza in 2000 after 18 years at Wendy's. Before becoming President and CEO in 2010, Krouse oversaw Donatos Pizza's franchise expansion and development of the brand's retail division, Jane's Dough Premium Foods. Throughout his career, his decisions transcended strategy; they were deeply rooted in the ideals established by the founder of Donatos Pizza, Jim Grote. Krouse ensured these core values – a commitment to community, fostering a family atmosphere within the company, and delivering exceptional customer service – were all key parts of the Donatos Pizza experience.

"I feel like the luckiest guy alive to have had the opportunity to lead a company with amazing people and an awesome mission," said Tom. "I'm truly honored. I am so happy for Kevin and Donatos because he is the perfect choice to take this company into the future."

Beyond Krouse's unwavering commitment to the brand's values, he will also be remembered for his remarkable leadership in expanding the Donatos Pizza footprint. Under his guidance, Donatos Pizza has achieved the following:

  • Company has doubled in size.

  • Franchise system has grown from 10 partners to 45 partners.

  • Chain named one of five innovative restaurant brands recognized by Nation's Restaurant News with a 2023 CREATORS Award.

  • Average unit sales 60% higher than pizza industry average.

  • Franchise satisfaction rating 13 points higher than franchise benchmark.

"When Jane and I promoted Tom to President and CEO, we knew we were about to embark on a new chapter of growth and innovation," said Jim Grote, Founder of Donatos Pizza. "Tom's leadership and passion have had a profound impact on our family business. He has been a living example of our philosophy of Agape Capitalism by leading with love, living the Golden Rule, and always striving to do the right thing. He believes in the possible and clearly sets strategy and vision for the future. Tom's creative approach to growth is deep-rooted in his belief of 'saying yes until there is a reason to say no.' He has built a solid foundation for a prosperous future."

"I have had the distinct advantage and privilege of witnessing firsthand Tom's drive, innovative thinking, and unwavering passion for our people-first culture from the personal side as his wife and from the business side as his colleague," said Jane Grote Abell, Donatos Pizza Chief Purpose Officer and Chairwoman of the Board. "Family has been the heart and soul of our business since 1963, and Tom has embodied this throughout his tenure. He has not only been a remarkable leader, but also a loving husband, father, and grandfather. Tom's impact will continue to resonate, shaping the foundation of our company for generations to come."

A Familiar Face Takes the Helm Succeeding Krouse is Kevin King, a longtime friend of the family who has a rich history with the Donatos Pizza brand, having served as VP of Development from 1990 to 2003. King's early career was spent at Domino's Pizza, serving in operations, then multi-unit supervision, and finally in international operations in Australia. Prior to rejoining Donatos Pizza as President in 2022, King solidified his expertise in the pizza industry at Papa Murphy's. While serving as Senior Vice President of Operations and as Chief Development Officer, he led the strategic and tactical aspects of the successful expansion of the world's largest take-n-bake pizza chain. King then served as Chief Development Officer at Smoothie King International for almost six years, expanding the fast-growing chain throughout the US and internationally.

"Tom's leadership and counsel since rejoining Donatos has been nothing short of exceptional," said Kevin King. "He's been a phenomenal mentor and a true friend. I'm incredibly grateful for the opportunity to learn from him and build upon his legacy. Together, with our talented and diverse leadership team, I'm excited to continue to elevate Donatos' reputation for delicious food, strong community ties, and an unwavering commitment to our values."

Building on a Solid Family Foundation for Continued Growth

King's vision for the future prioritizes growth and innovation. He plans to leverage the brand's robust foundation and core values to expand its reach while remaining true to its heritage. Furthermore, King and Krouse have proactively cultivated a talented leadership team, ensuring a well-rounded perspective as Donatos Pizza embarks on its next chapter.

"Jim and I have complete confidence in Kevin as the perfect leader for Donatos in our next chapter of growth," said Jane Grote Abell. "Kevin has demonstrated a genuine commitment to fostering our people-first culture, upholding our mission and core values as his first priority. His extensive expertise in operations and growth within the franchise industry, paired with his deep understanding of our company mission and values, make him the ideal person to continue building upon the legacy that Tom has built."

About Donatos Pizza

Donatos Pizza, founded by Jim Grote in 1963, is known for their famous thin crust pizzas loaded with toppings spread Edge to Edge®. With 468 locations in 28 states, Donatos and its franchise partners operate 178 traditional restaurants in Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, Virginia, South Carolina, Alabama, Tennessee, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Florida and Oklahoma. Donatos' products are also proudly served in 290 non-traditional locations (276 locations with Red Robin, nine sports and entertainment venues, and five REEF Kitchens). For more information, visit www.donatosfranchise.com.


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Smalls Sliders® Welcomes Donald Crocker as Chief Development Officer


Apr 29, 2024, 06:00 ET


Esteemed Development Executive Joins One of QSR's Fastest Growing Brands to Accelerate Nationwide Expansion

ATLANTA, April 29, 2024 /PRNewswire/ -- Smalls Sliders has appointed 30-year industry veteran Donald "Don" Crocker as its new Chief Development Officer. In his new role, Crocker will spearhead all development strategy including identifying opportunities for expansion, partnership, and enhanced market penetration as the brand is focused on disciplined growth.


With proven track records of driving growth and innovation on a global scale, Crocker's expertise has made him one of the most sought-after C-Suite executives in the restaurant industry. Most recently, Crocker served as the Chief Development Officer for Inspire Brands where he led the development strategy for new company and franchise openings, capital reinvestment, and real property assets for the company, which has more than 32,000 restaurants worldwide. Prior to that, Crocker spent nearly 20 years at Chick-fil-A, where he pioneered the brand's explosive nationwide growth into more than 65 new DMA's alongside having a hand in one third of the brand's total store portfolio with "go/no go" decisions.


"I've been fortunate to work alongside some of the most high-profile, exciting brands this industry has to offer, so I can recognize a brand built for global growth when I see it," said Crocker. "With how crowded the restaurant space has become in recent years, it's rare to see a brand really break through the way that Smalls Sliders has in such a short amount of time. I'm eager to truly bring Smalls Sliders and its distinctive product to more communities across our national footprint."

Crocker's immediate focus lies on leading initiatives to strengthen Smalls Sliders' market position and foster strategic alliances that propel the brand toward large-scale growth targets.

"I am excited to have Don join our growing Executive Leadership Team," said Maria Rivera, CEO of Smalls Sliders. "His experience, insights, and leadership will be invaluable assets as we progress our vision, mission, and purpose. As we move toward our vision to shake up the big burger industry, no one is more prepared to support our growth in the QSR space than Don."

In March 2024, Smalls Sliders announced it had reached over 200 Cans open or under development, just ten short months after the brand reopened its doors to franchising. Smalls Sliders currently has Cans open across Louisiana and Mississippi, with a robust pipeline of growth set across 16 states in the Southeast and the Midwest. Likewise, Smalls Sliders has expanded its target growth markets to Utah, Colorado, Kentucky and more, ramping up to officially paint the nation its signature 'Smorange™' color.

Smalls Sliders opened its first Can in 2019. Since its inception, Smalls Sliders has disrupted the QSR industry with its modular build, simplistic menu, and robust development pipeline. The brand continues to garner high-level industry recognition, with Nation's Restaurant News featuring Smalls Sliders in its "Breakout Brands of 2023", and QSR Magazine ranking the brand in its annual QSR 50 Contenders list. Other accolades include ranking on Entrepreneur magazine's "Top New & Emerging Franchises" list in 2023.

For more information on Smalls Sliders, slide thru to www.smallssliders.com.

About Smalls Sliders

Smalls Sliders is one of the fastest-growing brands in the QSR industry, specializing exclusively in fresh, cooked-to-order cheeseburger sliders that are small in size but big in taste. Equipped with a streamlined drive-thru, walk-up window and unique modular buildout, the Atlanta-based brand is headed towards nationwide growth with locations opening across the Southeast, Southwest, Midwest, and West Coast. Smalls Sliders is the brainchild of restauranteur and visionary Brandon Landry, led by CEO and brand-building expert Maria Rivera, and is backed by industry veterans, 10 Point Capital, and former NFL star Drew Brees, as investors. For more information on how Smalls Sliders is the biggest thing to happen to burgers since buns, visit www.smallsliders.com.


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Ruby Slipper Restaurant Group Welcomes Veteran Duo as Regional Vice Presidents of Operations


April 25, 2024


New executive hires will spearhead the optimization of strategy to drive operational performance and growth

New Orleans, LA  (RestaurantNews.comRuby Slipper Restaurant Group, the home of the New Orleans-style brunch, has welcomed Derek Kamarata and Michael McBride as regional VP of Operations in respective territories. With more than 30 cumulative years of specialized restaurant industry experience, the expert duo will drive operational performance for the brand, focusing on providing effective solutions, generating growth and enhancing customer satisfaction for guests.

Kamarata has been with Ruby since 2021 and served as Director of Operations before stepping into the new role. His background includes a variety of brands such as P.F. Chang’s China Bistro, Cracker Barrel and CAVA, where he has overseen operations for more than a decade. In an ever-changing industry, Kamarata is known for fostering a strong team of empowered individuals, nurturing a team that prioritizes internal cohesion and empowers its members to excel. Derek will oversee operations for Ruby Slipper Restaurant Group in the northern region, including Tennessee, Birmingham and the Carolinas.

“At Ruby Slipper Restaurant Group, we pride ourselves on being an exciting, growing company that truly values quality and hospitality,” said Kamarata. “I’m thrilled to step into this new role and advance my journey with the brand, where I’ll continue to prioritize connecting with even more communities and team members as we continue to grow. Michael and I aim to continue elevating every Ruby experience, reinforcing our commitment to excellence.”


Michael McBride, a seasoned restaurant operations leader with two decades of experience, has a proven track record of driving success. From his early days at TGI Fridays to his long-standing tenure at Granite City Food & Brewery, Michael’s strategic vision and operational expertise led to numerous accolades and significant company growth. Stepping into the Regional Vice President role with Ruby Slipper, Michael brings a wealth of experience and deep-rooted ties to New Orleans, poised to lead the company’s expansion alongside Kamarata. Michael will oversee operations for Ruby Slipper spanning from New Orleans to the Gulf Coast of Alabama and Florida.

“Joining Ruby Slipper Restaurant Group and relocating with my family to the vibrant city of New Orleans was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up,” said McBride. “I’m eager to immerse myself fully in a community I hold dear and work alongside Derek to continue growing both Ruby Slipper and Ruby Sunshine.”

Ruby Slipper is a unique concept specializing in all-day “boozy brunch,” with award-winning cocktails and mimosas, as well as sweet and savory breakfast and lunch options. Born from the undeniable spirit and soul of New Orleans, it’s a place where the good times roll all day, every day.

Ruby Slipper has been a staple of New Orleans neighborhoods for over 15 years and has since expanded with locations across Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee. To learn more, visit RubyBrunch.com.


About Ruby Slipper Restaurant Group

Born from the undeniable spirit and soul of New Orleans, a place where the good times roll on no particular day of the week or time of the day, we set out to create a place that celebrates the craveable and creative flavor and spirit of breakfast and brunch front and center, every day. Ruby Slipper Restaurant Group was founded in New Orleans in 2008 to help bring the community together over a shared love for brunch. Over a decade since that first cozy Ruby Slipper Café, the group has grown to operate two brands, expanding with Ruby Sunshine, and now has more than 20 restaurants in six states. Ruby Slipper is open seven days a week, serving an array of offerings from breakfast, lunch, brunch, coffee and cocktails. For more, follow Ruby Slipper and Ruby Sunshine on Facebook and Instagram, and visit online at RubyBrunch.com.


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Patrick Kirk Joins Fuzzy’s Taco Shop Leadership Team as Chief Marketing Officer


Applebee’s veteran to lead marketing, culinary, and beverage innovation for the growing fast-casual-plus restaurant brand

Patrick Kirk, Chief Marketing Officer, Fuzzy's Taco Shop.

April 23, 2024 08:00 AM Eastern Daylight Time

DALLAS--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Fuzzy’s Taco Shop®, the fast-casual-plus restaurant serving Mexican favorites with a splash of Baja, today announced that Patrick Kirk – previously Vice President of Bar and Beverage for Applebee's Neighborhood Grill + Bar® – has joined the brand’s Leadership Team as Chief Marketing Officer. In his new role, Kirk will continue to define the Fuzzy’s Taco Shop experience as he develops and delivers strategic direction across all aspects of marketing including advertising, digital marketing, and culinary and beverage innovation.

“Over the past eight years, Patrick has disrupted the casual dining industry through stand out marketing campaigns at Applebee’s,” says Paul Damico, President of Fuzzy’s Taco Shop. “His ability to create strategic platforms and forge strong brand and franchisee partnerships with a focus on creating buzzworthy and fun guest experiences is undeniable. I look forward to the new expertise and creative thinking he’ll bring to our talented team.”

With more than 23 years of experience in the restaurant industry, Kirk was responsible for creating industry-leading beverage programs and building trusted relationships at national brands, including Applebee’s, Tony Roma’s, and Buffalo Wild Wings. In his previous role, Kirk led the vision and strategy for Applebee’s bar and beverage experience across restaurants nationwide, growing his marketing department into a substantial revenue driver for the business.

“I love Fuzzy’s badass attitude and strong values,” says Patrick Kirk, Chief Marketing Officer of Fuzzy’s Taco Shop. “After Dine Brands acquired Fuzzy’s in 2022, I’ve had the chance to get to know the team and have been impressed by the way the brand brings its Baja vibe to life and connects with guests. I can’t wait to dive in further with the team to unlock the brand’s marketing potential.”

Kirk currently is a member of Millennium Advisory Board, a collection of industry leaders helping shape the future of on-premise beverage. He has also served on other industry councils including the VIBE Conference and the Bar & Nightclub Expo. He earned his Bachelor of Science degree and graduated with honors from the University of Illinois.

For more information about Fuzzy’s Taco Shop or for a full list of locations, please visit www.FuzzysTacoShop.com.

About Fuzzy’s Taco Shop

Founded in 2003 in Fort Worth, Texas, Fuzzy’s Taco Shop® is a fast-casual-plus restaurant serving Mexican favorites with a splash of Baja. The laid-back atmosphere pairs perfectly with signature Baja-style tacos, famous chips and queso, and icy-cold beverages always served at a chill price. As of December 31, 2023, 44 franchise groups operated 131 Fuzzy's restaurants in 18 states within the United States and we had one company-owned restaurant in Texas, totaling 132 restaurants. Fuzzy’s Taco Shop restaurants are franchised by affiliates of Pasadena, Calif.-based Dine Brands Global, Inc. (NYSE: DIN). For franchising information, visit www.MyFuzzys.com.

About Dine Brands Global, Inc.

Based in Pasadena, California, Dine Brands Global, Inc. (NYSE: DIN), through its subsidiaries and franchisees, supports and operates restaurants under the Applebee's Neighborhood Grill + Bar®, IHOP®, and Fuzzy’s Taco Shop® brands. As of December 31, 2023, these three brands consisted of over 3,500 restaurants across 18 international markets. Dine Brands is one of the largest full-service restaurant companies in the world and in 2022 expanded into the Fast Casual segment. For more information on Dine Brands, visit the Company’s website located at www.dinebrands.com


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Smalls Sliders® Welcomes Julie Hauser-Blanner as Chief Operating Officer


Prominent Executive Joins One of QSR's Fastest Growing Brands to Lead Its Operations

ATLANTA, April 22, 2024 /PRNewswire/ -- Smalls Sliders has appointed industry veteran Julie Hauser-Blanner as its Chief Operating Officer. In her new role, Hauser-Blanner will oversee all aspects of the brand's daily operations, driving strategic initiatives to elevate efficiency, scalability, and overall performance.

Julie Hauser-Blanner


With an illustrious career spanning over 25 years in multi-unit, multi-brand, global hospitality and restaurant companies, Hauser-Blanner brings a wealth of experience to the brand's growing Executive Leadership Team. Having most recently served as Chief Franchise Officer at European Wax Center, Hauser-Blanner was responsible for all growth, strategy and support functions across Field Operations, Guest Relations, Communications, Learning and Development, and Field Training for over 1,000 units across 45 states. Prior to that, she was responsible for leading operations at Front Burner Restaurants, Bonefish Grill, and Outback Steakhouse in a variety of progressive operations roles.


"The opportunity to work with Smalls Sliders was one that I simply could not pass up," said Hauser-Blanner. "It is truly a brand that cannot be ignored within the industry given its impressive growth strategy, strong engagement among its loyal 'Frequent Sliders' and a stacked leadership team. I admire the impact the brand has made across the space in record time, and I am ready to be a part of its next era of continued growth."

As a skilled operator, Hauser-Blanner brings ambitious goals for the brand and will work closely across teams to streamline processes, optimize resource allocation, and ensure alignment with organizational targets.

"I am thrilled to welcome Julie to our growing Executive Leadership team at Smalls Sliders," said Maria Rivera, CEO of Smalls Sliders. "Her global expertise to drive sales growth, enhance market presence through operations execution, and implement innovative people strategies makes her the ideal choice to lead our operational efforts as we embark on our next phase of growth and innovation."

In March 2024, Smalls Sliders announced it had reached over 200 Cans open or under development, just ten short months after the brand reopened its doors to franchising. Smalls Sliders currently has Cans open across Louisiana and Mississippi, with a robust pipeline of growth set across 16 states in the Southeast and the Midwest. Likewise, Smalls Sliders has expanded its target growth markets to Utah, Colorado, Kentucky and more, ramping up to officially paint the nation its signature 'Smorange™' color.

Smalls Sliders opened its first Can in 2019. Since its inception, Smalls Sliders has disrupted the QSR industry with its modular build, simplistic menu, and robust development pipeline. The brand continues to garner high-level industry recognition, with Nation's Restaurant News featuring Smalls Sliders in its "Breakout Brands of 2023", and QSR Magazine ranking the brand in its annual QSR 50 Contenders list. Other accolades include ranking on Entrepreneur magazine's "Top New & Emerging Franchises" list in 2023.

For more information on Smalls Sliders, slide thru to www.smallssliders.com.

About Smalls Sliders

Smalls Sliders is one of the fastest-growing brands in the QSR industry, specializing exclusively in fresh, cooked-to-order cheeseburger sliders that are small in size but big in taste. Equipped with a streamlined drive-thru, walk-up window and unique modular buildout, the Atlanta-based brand is headed towards nationwide growth with locations opening across the Southeast, Southwest, Midwest, and West Coast. Smalls Sliders is the brainchild of restauranteur and visionary Brandon Landry, led by CEO and brand-building expert Maria Rivera, and is backed by industry veterans, 10 Point Capital, and former NFL star Drew Brees, as investors. For more information on how Smalls Sliders is the biggest thing to happen to burgers since buns, visit www.smallsliders.com.


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Mo’ Bettahs Appoints CFO as It Gears up for Next Chapter of Growth


April 18, 2024


The authentic Hawaiian-style food brand adds Clay Hansen to its C-Suite

Lehi, UT  (RestaurantNews.com)  It’s mo’ growth ahead for Mo’ Bettahs Hawaiian Style Food. In preparation for unprecedented expansion, the popular Hawaiian BBQ concept has added to its C-suite and named Clay Hansen its Chief Financial Officer.

Hansen joins Mo’ Bettahs with experience in finance, IT, marketing and strategy — both in and outside of the F&B industry. He worked at Cafe Rio for 10 years, where he built out the FP&A team and oversaw its growth from 38 to 140-plus locations. Most recently, Hansen worked at Greenix Pest Control, where he served as VP of Marketing and Business Development, then VP of Strategy, and then as CIO. During his time at Greenix, he oversaw revenue growth that doubled from $60MM to $120MM.

“Clay will be an incredible asset to our team,” said Rob Ertmann, CEO of Mo’ Bettahs. “He has the unique perspective of being both detail-oriented and big-picture focused. Our culture here at Mo’ Bettahs is fast-paced and growth-minded, and Clay will fit right in. We are thrilled to work alongside him.”

Hansen’s expertise comes at a pivotal time for Mo’ Bettahs as it expands across the country. It currently has 52 locations in seven states, along with two digital kitchens in Kansas City and Dallas. For the remainder of 2024, Mo’ Bettahs plans to add 10 additional stores and three digital kitchens.

“I’ve never had a welcome like I’ve had at Mo’ Bettahs. Within 10 minutes of accepting the offer from Rob Ertmann, I had multiple text messages from the team telling me how excited they were to have me join,” Hansen said. “Mo’ Bettahs is an exciting brand with a phenomenal growth trajectory and strategy. And while it might sound a bit cliché, it’s the people who initially drew me in — from the team at Savory to the entire team at Mo’ Bettahs. They really do practice the aloha spirit they preach.”

About Mo’ Bettahs Hawaiian Style Food

Mo’ Bettahs was founded in Bountiful, Utah in 2008 by Kimo and Kalani Mack with a goal of providing guests with an authentic Hawaiian island barbeque experience, just like they enjoyed while growing up in Oahu, Hawaii. Since partnering with Savory Fund, Mo’ Bettahs has grown to 52 locations in Utah, Idaho, Oklahoma, Texas, Missouri, Nevada, and Kansas. Mo’ Bettahs has plans to spread the aloha spirit to more communities through continued expansion in the coming months and years, even being named at #46 on Fast Casual’s “Top 100 Movers and Shakers” list in 2023. Mo’ Bettahs offers dine-in, takeout and catering. For more information, visit Mo’ Bettahs’ website or follow on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter.

About Savory Fund

Savory Fund is an innovative private equity firm that combines over $750 million in assets under management with a growth playbook and expertise that has been developed over 15 years of operating in the restaurant industry. Savory partners with high-potential, profitable, emerging restaurant brands to deliver financial capital, industry expertise, growth and revenue opportunities, profitability enhancements, and new location development. The Savory team contributes directly to all aspects of growth and replication by using a proven playbook and methodology. Founder involvement in the expansion of a brand is a central theme of the Savory approach as founders carry the tribal knowledge around the uniqueness that has energized early success and is essential to future growth. Savory is currently invested in 11 brands: Swig, R&R BBQ, PINCHO, Via 313 Pizzeria, Houston TX Hot Chicken, Mo’ Bettahs Hawaiian Style Food, 86 Repairs, Saigon Hustle, Hash Kitchen, The Sicilian Butcher, and South Block. For more information, visit SavoryFund.com.


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Seasoned Restaurant-Industry Executive Carol Denembo Proudly Named Chief Marketing Officer at Mountain Mike’s Pizza


April 16, 2024


Mountain Mike’s Pizza Names Carol DeNembo Chief Marketing Officer

Fast-growing Franchise Chain Expands C-Suite with In-house Elevation of Marketing V.P.

Newport Beach, CA  (RestaurantNews.com)  Mountain Mike’s Pizza, a leading California-based family-style pizza chain for more than 45 years, known for its legendary crispy, curly pepperonis, Mountain-sized pizzas, dough made fresh daily, and toppings to the edge, has proudly named longtime foodservice marketing executive and experienced restaurant-industry leader Carol DeNembo as Chief Marketing Officer (CMO). Since being hired by Mountain Mike’s Pizza in 2018 as Vice President of Marketing, brand visibility and awareness have skyrocketed – with Mountain Mike’s fueling America’s love for pizza and the band’s signature dining experience, including “Pizza the Way it Oughta Be®, playing a central role.

“Since her arrival, Carol has been an invaluable asset and an absolute marketing powerhouse for Mountain Mike’s Pizza, always uncovering creative, innovative and effective ways to interact with our guests and propel the brand as we enter new markets across the country,” said Jim Metevier, Chief Executive Officer of Mountain Mike’s Pizza. “Carol’s exemplary leadership of our marketing initiatives has been paramount to the significant sales and franchise growth we’ve experienced in the last half-decade, and her custodianship of our brand has truly been best in class.”

DeNembo’s tireless and strategic approach to brand marketing has continued to keep Mountain Mike’s engaged with longtime customers and new guests. She has made many notable contributions to brand growth, especially across the professional sports landscape where Mountain Mike’s stays top-of-mind with pizza-loving fans who passionately cheer for their teams. In 2018, DeNembo was instrumental in securing and successfully activating the brand’s professional sports partnership with football’s San Francisco 49ers, which continues today. That was followed in 2022 by a multiyear agreement with the Los Angeles Angels baseball club. The next year, DeNembo led Mountain Mike’s into its third professional sports partnership as the brand became an Official Pizza Partner of the NBA’s Sacramento Kings.

Overseeing a team of talented digital strategists, DeNembo’s sports integration activities included loyalty-building app trigger campaigns for all three teams last year, producing increases in transacting members for the 49ers and Kings promotions, plus loyalty transaction growth in the Angels’ territory. Under DeNembo’s thoughtful stewardship, each partnership continues to serve as an effective way to deepen the brand’s relationship with the communities it serves and reinforces Mountain Mike’s 45-year+ commitment to families, sports fans and communities throughout California and the Western U.S.

“Growing our brand through high-visibility sports activations is one of many powerful arrows in Carol’s impressive marketing quiver, and we are constant admirers of her tremendous work,” said Chris Britt and Ed St. Geme, Principal Owners of Mountain Mike’s Pizza. “Carol’s elevation to Chief Marketing Officer is a testament to her hard work and consummate dedication to the Mountain Mike’s brand and family, and we have the utmost confidence she will continue to propel the brand forward – and upward to summit the highest peaks.”

Complementing the brand’s trio of successful sports integrations, DeNembo has been highly adept at leveraging Mountain Mike’s longstanding reputation for excellence in menu innovation. She continues to ensure the brand stays on the vanguard of industry trends and remains committed to finding new and effective ways for guests to connect over great pizza. In 2023, DeNembo led comprehensive marketing efforts to support an array of successful limited-time menu offerings, including Heart-Shaped Pizza, Garlic Not-Knots, the BBQ at the Ranch Pizza and Cinnamon Not-Knots. Heart-Shaped Pizza, offered annually in February, continues to be a fan-favorite menu item that creates significant buzz with consumers – and strengthens unit economics. DeNembo’s firm grasp of industry trends, coupled with her ability to harness the immense power of product marketing, continues to help Mountain Mike’s surprise and delight new and longtime guests with creative limited-time offerings, resulting in impressive sales growth.

“I’m honored to operate as this brand’s CMO, and it’s deeply rewarding to be part of the Mountain Mike’s Pizza team, especially as we experience ongoing national expansion, growing guest loyalty, significant interest from new franchisees and a mounting list of impressive industry accolades,” said DeNembo. “It’s been a privilege to work in lockstep with leadership to help position the brand on a national stage and lead a passionate marketing team that loves to think outside the pizza box to find creative ways to foster deeper engagement with our valued guests.”

With nearly 300 units in operation across seven states, Mountain Mike’s is primed to continue expansion throughout the U.S. by extending opportunities to new franchise partners looking to diversify their portfolios with a popular family pizza concept. To learn more about new franchise opportunities in your market of interest, visit MountainMikesFranchise.com.


About Mountain Mike’s Pizza

Since 1978, Mountain Mike’s Pizza, a leading family-style pizza chain known for its legendary crispy, curly pepperonis, Mountain-sized pizzas, and dough made fresh daily has been a popular choice for families, serving “Pizza the Way it Oughta Be!®” In addition to offering carryout, its own in-house delivery, and four third-party delivery options, Mountain Mike’s provides a family-friendly dine-in environment making it easy for guests to enjoy the brand’s signature experience wherever they are. Most of its nearly 300 locations feature a kids’ activity area with arcade games, dedicated party rooms and big screen TVs throughout, making Mountain Mike’s an ideal place for sports teams, family gatherings, group fundraising events and private parties alike. With a menu of signature pizzas, chicken wings, garlic knots, fresh salads, sharable desserts, and a selection of beer and wine, there’s something for everyone at Mountain Mike’s. Guests may also take advantage of streamlined ordering via the Mountain Rewards® app to earn exclusive offers and personalized rewards towards free food. This year, Mountain Mike’s was named one of America’s Favorite Restaurant Chains by Newsweek, as well as one of the Top Beloved Brands by Nation’s Restaurant News. The brand also received FRANdata’s prestigious 2024 TopScore FUND Award. For a complete list of locations and the full menu, visit MountainMikesPizza.com or follow Mountain Mike’s on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.


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East Coast Wings + Grill Gears Up for Next Level of Growth with Hiring of VP of Marketing, Ashley Mitchell


April 15, 2024


Franchise Veteran and Entrepreneur’s Top 50 Franchise CMO Joins Popular Family Dining Franchise

Winston-Salem, NC  (RestaurantNews.com)  As part of their deliberate development strategy, East Coast Wings + Grill (ECW+G), a casual dining restaurant franchise, has taken the next step in their growth with the hiring of Ashley Mitchell as Vice President of Marketing. With decades of consumer marketing experience with world-class brands such as The Walt Disney Company along with franchise industry giants like Goldfish Swim School, Soccer Shots and Streamline Brands, Mitchell will help drive the new and updated 5-year growth strategy while continuing to elevate brand awareness, local store marketing and lead generation.

Mitchell brings with her an extensive background in marketing and communication – having held several positions where she was responsible for creating and driving marketing strategy, overseeing the growth of the business through consumer marketing and communication, contributing to overall strategic planning as part of company executive leadership teams, and executing high-profile events. Her experience with The Walt Disney Company and several franchises in industries including youth enrichment, home services, beauty concepts, QSR and B2B services led to recognition as a leader in the franchise industry, most recently as a Top Franchise Influencer and Top 50 Franchise CMO Gamechanger.

“Over the past few years, we have been meticulous, patient, and laser-focused on creating a multi-brand strategy within our ecosystem within our brand to attract new talent and drive our growth,” said Sam Ballas, CEO & Founder of ECW+G. “Bringing on a heavy hitter like Ashley is the talent reboot we have been preparing for. Our plan is all coming together at this moment, and it is the perfect partnership to throttle ECW+G into the next gear. We are thrilled to have Ashley’s level of talent on board and it will be exciting to watch what she will do.”

Mitchell’s efforts will support the company’s long-term growth plans to sign an additional ten locations this year while opening another four across the country by year’s end. In addition, Mitchell will be focused on bringing meaning and connection to the East Coast Wings + Grill brand and telling its story while building and developing her marketing team to be the best in the industry.

In addition to Mitchell’s hiring, ECW+G also hired a multi-unit manager for the brand’s corporate locations and a franchise business coach with 32 years of experience in the field.

“For years, I’ve admired what Sam and the team have built at ECW+G,” said Mitchell. “I’m thrilled to join the brand as we head into this next level of growth. We have a strong foundation and reputation in the communities we serve, and I look forward to continuing to elevate that in the years to come.”

For more information about East Coast Wings + Grill franchising opportunities, visit EastCoastWingsFranchise.com.


About East Coast Wings + Grill

East Coast Wings + Grill is a full-service, family-dining franchise that spotlights Buffalo wings. The thoughtfully-crafted menu also offers a variety of other options to satisfy every family member’s taste buds. With more than 50 nationwide locations, the franchise has secured a spot on the Entrepreneur and the Franchise Business Review Top Food Franchise lists. The concept has also been named to the Franchise Business Review Hall of Fame for the past decade due to outstanding franchisee support and overall franchisee satisfaction. East Coast Wings + Grill is a member of the IFA, with CEO and Founder, Sam Ballas, serving as the second vice chair of the association. For more information about East Coast Wings + Grill or its franchise opportunities, visit EastCoastWingsFranchise.com.


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