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Executive Movements - November 2022

Impossible Foods Names Leslie Sims New Chief Marketing and Creative Officer

Celebrated communications exec brings more than two decades of creative and brand building leadership to the company as Impossible readies for next phase of growth

November 08, 2022 08:00 AM Eastern Standard Time

REDWOOD CITY, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--California-based Impossible Foods today announced that award-winning creative and marketing veteran Leslie Sims will be its new Chief Marketing and Creative Officer in a newly created leadership role. Sims will officially join the food and climate company on Jan. 1, 2023 from Deloitte Digital, where she built a modern, multidisciplinary demand marketing engine in her role as U.S. Chief Creative Officer of Deloitte Digital.

Named one of the Top 10 CCO's in the U.S. by Adweek, one of the Most Creative Women in Advertising by Business Insider, and one of the Top Marketing Leaders and Innovators by iMedia, Sims is joining Impossible Foods to build out robust marketing and creative functions as the company continues to grow faster than any other plant-based meat brand in the U.S. Under Sims’ leadership, the company plans to significantly increase consumer awareness and trial while pulling well ahead of other plant-based brands into a category of its own.

With more than 25 years in creative leadership roles at major advertising agencies, Sims joined Deloitte Digital in 2021 to build and connect the cross-channel teams managing all aspects of the customer journey for clients — from awareness and consideration to trial and repeat — infusing creativity throughout every brand touchpoint. Leading the U.S. creative and experience design teams, she created award-winning, brand-defining experiences for clients across all industries, from food to entertainment, surfacing the breadth of possibilities an integrated creative system can engender.

Prior to Deloitte, Sims served as U.S. Chief Creative Officer for Ogilvy and also Young and Rubicam, respectively, leading large cross-functional creative teams whose charter was to build brands and drive demand.

“Leslie is the proven creative marketing powerhouse that we need to bring our products and promise to the masses,” said Impossible Foods CEO, Peter McGuinness. “The plant-based meat category is in its infancy and despite our growth, most of the country still hasn’t heard of us. We have a real opportunity to create and build not just our own brand, but the entire category through greater awareness, approachability and accessibility. Leslie knows how to set the creative vision for brands and businesses in hypergrowth, build and lead high-performing teams, and create emotional connections with consumers.”

Sims has produced award-winning and business-transforming work for Fortune 500 organizations and brands of all kinds, including IBM, General Mills, Mastercard, Staples, Girl Scouts, Pfizer, Land Rover and others. She brings extensive experience in the food space, having worked with dozens of food and restaurant brands like Burger King, Joe’s Crab Shack, and Macaroni Grill, as well as brands owned by General Mills, including Nature Valley™, Big G Whole Grain Initiative, Cinnamon Toast Crunch™ and Betty Crocker™.

“To be offered the chance to set the tone and define the marketing narrative for such an important brand at this level is a once-in-a-career opportunity,” said Leslie Sims. “Impossible is the ultimate category disruptor for good. It’s one of the few companies in the world where, as the company does well, so does the planet. Nothing’s more motivating than that. I’ve loved my time at Deloitte Digital, it's been a privilege to help build and connect the team across the US — it’s a powerhouse group supercharged with talent — and they’ve made some of my most favorite work of my career these past two years. But I’m so excited and looking forward to meeting and digging in with the entire team at Impossible to help them grow and change the world.”

Sims’ work has been recognized by every major global awards show, including the Webby Awards, Cannes Lions, The One show, Clios and Effies. She served on numerous international award show juries, including as a Cannes Lion award juror five times. She recently judged the industry’s most sought-after award, Cannes Lion Titanium, which recognizes creative work that transcends categories. She has also served on the prestigious Grand Effie award jury.

Sims serves on the board of directors for The One Club for Creativity and for the Clemson University Erwin Center.

Sims' appointment comes amid a 60% increase in Impossible Foods’ retail sales growth in the past year and a record burst of new product launches, including Impossible™ MeatballsImpossible Sausage LinksImpossible™ Wild Nuggies, and Impossible Bowls, as well as a new version of its flagship Impossible Beef product with 33% less saturated fat than beef from cows (6 grams v. 9 grams). The brand has also announced co-branded collaborations with BuitoniValley Fine Foods, and Kroger Home Chef. Impossible Foods continues to be the fastest growing plant-based meat brand in retail in nearly every new product category it has entered, including ground meat and beef patties, chicken nuggets, and meatballs.

About Impossible Foods

Impossible Foods is on a mission to positively impact people and the planet by making delicious, nutritious meat from plants with a fraction of the environmental footprint of meat from animals. The privately-held food company was founded in 2011 to combat climate change by taking a scientific approach to making the world’s best meat — from plants. Every nugget, burger, and patty we sell that displaces animal meat production dramatically reduces greenhouse gas emissions, land use, and water consumption compared to the animal version. We make chicken, beef, and pork products for every meal — breakfast, lunch and dinner — with a goal of replicating the flavors, textures, and cooking characteristics that meat eaters crave.

Impossible Foods products are designed in California, produced in California and the Midwest, and are available in the United States, Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, Macau, New Zealand, Singapore, the United Arab Emirates, and the United Kingdom. For more information, please visit and follow us on InstagramTwitter and LinkedIn for updates.

View source version at Impossible Foods

STEELE BRANDS Hires Kelly C. Baltes as CEO – Founder & CEO Steele Smiley to Transition to Executive Chairman of the Board

November 7, 2022

Baltes Brings 28+ Years of Multi-unit Restaurant Experience to CEO Position

Minneapolis, MN  (  STEELE BRANDS, a Minnesota-based company developing healthy lifestyle brands including CRISP & GREENSTALK & SPADE and PACO & LIME, today announced that restaurant industry leader Kelly C. Baltes has been named Chief Executive Officer of its brand development company, Steele Brands Management. Baltes has over 28 years of restaurant industry leadership experience in both founder-led and private-equity brands. In his most recent role as President for the iconic brand Maggiano’s Little Italy, Baltes provided strategic and operational guidance to refresh the brand experience, improve guest metrics and develop the business model to unlock sustainable growth with system revenues of $425 million.

Baltes succeeds Founder & CEO, Steele Smiley, who remains the sole controlling shareholder in the business and will continue to support the company as Executive Chairman of the Board. Smiley founded the company in 2016 by opening the first flagship CRISP & GREEN store in Wayzata, MN. Smiley has led the company through exponential footprint growth through a franchising model, with over 200 total stores currently open or in development in 25 states.

“Kelly is an industry veteran, and I am confident in his ability to expand the STEELE BRANDS’ footprint,” said Smiley. “Kelly and I met a few years ago, and our relationship has grown to a point where I have 100% confidence in his ability. Kelly is a true operator – he literally grew up in this business, and has played every operational role within a restaurant system, from bussing tables early in his career to CEO. But what makes Kelly the most impressive to me is his passion around people – he truly wants the best for all our employees, franchise partners and customers, making Kelly uniquely qualified to lead STEELE BRANDS into the next phase of growth and expansion.”

Baltes has experience establishing scalable business models and significantly growing revenues across restaurant formats and brands in various stages of growth. Previous to Maggiano’s Little Italy, Baltes held the Chief Executive Operator position at Good Smoke Restaurant Group that merged Jim ‘N Nick’s and Dinosaur Bar-B-Que, with system revenues of $200 million. Earlier in his career, Baltes served as Chairman and CEO to transition the founder-led Cheddar’s Scratch Kitchen into a more nationally positioned chain, resulting in tripled revenue growth. Baltes also held operations leadership roles at Darden including Red Lobster, Olive Garden and Pizzeria UNO.

“Of all of the career opportunities I’ve had, this is the most exciting one,” says Baltes. “Since first meeting Steele and his team, I’ve admired what they are creating and what they have achieved. Each brand is positioned for today’s consumer, and aligned to a personal passion I have for wellness. The growth potential for these brands goes beyond national expansion and I am eager to work alongside Steele and his leadership team to continue the impressive work he started.”


STEELE BRANDS is the brand development company created by Steele Smiley. The company has a decade of proven success developing disruptive challenger brands that make it easier for people to live healthy lifestyles. The company is focused on partnering with experienced franchise owners to bring healthy lifestyle brands to national scale with a local touch. STEELE BRANDS portfolio includes some of the fastest growing franchises in America including three fast-casual restaurant brands: CRISP & GREEN, STALK & SPADE and PACO & LIME. The company has more than 200 restaurants built and in development across all three brands in 25 states. For more information, visit


CRISP & GREEN was founded in 2016 by CEO Steele Smiley on the belief that nourishing a healthy lifestyle goes beyond the kitchen. The fast casual destination blends healthy and nutritious foods, community engagement and complimentary fitness to create the “Living Crisp” movement. The brand’s goal is to create an approachable environment for all through its exceptional product and world-class hospitality. After seeing success with stores across Minnesota, CRISP & GREEN is experiencing rapid national growth and functions as a rare example of positive growth, expansion and evolution in the current restaurant landscape. For more information, visit


STALK & SPADE is the nation’s first plant-based, fast casual franchise restaurant. Its restaurants offer a full selection of familiar American grill favorites, including lunch, dinner and frozen treats. All menu offerings are chef-crafted by an in-house culinary team using fresh, wholesome ingredients that are 100% animal-free. For more information visit


PACO & LIME is a Mexican kitchen designed to be a community oasis that sparks well-being. The first restaurant will open in Q1 of 2023. The menu features traditional Mexican methods and authentic flavors delivered in locations designed to be vibrant, lively and refreshing.

View source version at STEELE BRANDS

Bar Louie Taps Mike Mrlik as Chief Operating Officer

November 3, 2022

The Original Gastrobar™ welcomes restaurant veteran to oversee brand redesign, franchise operations and more

Dallas, TX  (  Bar Louie CEO Brian Wright, along with the company’s executive team and Board of Directors, has officially announced the appointment of Mike Mrlik as its new chief operating officer.

With over 25 years of experience, Mrlik brings extensive restaurant industry expertise in building and stabilizing brands, leading to both revenue growth and profitability. As a hands-on leader with a people-first approach, he has already visited Bar Louie locations across the country to obtain a better understanding of what makes Bar Louie a one-of-a-kind concept.

“We’re extremely proud to welcome Mike to our team,” Wright said. “He’s a well-respected restaurant leader with experience bringing out the best in his brands. He has had an incredible career developing strategies that uplevel brands from every angle — his experience will be a game-changer for Bar Louie.”

Prior to Bar Louie, Mrlik led operations at Old Chicago Pizza & Taproom, where he re-branded the concept, its image and menu from the ground up by identifying trends in craft beer and casual dining. Mrlik also served as President and CEO of Mr. Gatti’s Pizza, where he refined the concept at both the company and franchise levels to stabilize the brand at a time of economic uncertainty.

“Bar Louie is an iconic brand, and I’ve already enjoyed getting to know what makes it so special,” Mrlik said. “People are always the center of any growth strategy and Bar Louie has an exceptional team that is enthusiastic about its next phase. We are all in it together and I couldn’t be more excited to get started.”

The tenets of The Original Gastrobar™ are simple – Eat. Drink. Be Happy. Best recognized for its signature martinis, Bar Louie offers handcrafted drinks with premium liquors, delicious chef-inspired food and exceptional service in a comfortable, relaxing atmosphere. With Bar Louie, no two bars are the same because the brand listens to the neighborhoods it serves. Whether you’re looking for great food, refreshing cocktails or just good conversation, Bar Louie has you covered.

For more information about Bar Louie, visit

About Bar Louie

Founded in downtown Chicago in 1990 and headquartered in Dallas, Texas, Bar Louie is the original Gastrobar with an award-winning collection of neighborhood bars with a lively, social atmosphere. With 70 locations across the United States, Bar Louie is known for its signature handcrafted martinis and cocktails, Gastrobar menu of appetizers, burgers, and sandwiches served every day until close. For more information on Bar Louie, visit

View source version at Bar Louie

Restaurant Growth Services Announces Kara Jacobs as Chief Financial Officer

November 3, 2022

Nashville, TN  (  Restaurant Growth Services, LLC is pleased to announce Kara Jacobs as its new Chief Financial Officer (“CFO”). Jacobs will also serve as CFO for the O’Charley’s and Ninety Nine restaurant brands. As CFO, Jacobs will be responsible for all financial and technology-related support services for the restaurant brands that are majority owned by Cannae Holdings, Inc.

“Kara’s professional experience and capabilities align completely with our commitment to the highest standards for financial reporting, internal controls and effective support of our restaurant operations,” said W. Craig Barber, CEO of Restaurant Growth Services. “Importantly, Kara is also committed to empowering those she works with, along with elevating the effectiveness of our support functions by collaboration across all aspects of our business. We are excited to have Kara’s extraordinary leadership in this key role.”

Jacobs brings a strong background and business acumen to the position having most recently served as Vice President, Corporate Controller and Principal Accounting Officer of Cracker Barrel Old Country Store, Inc.

“It’s an honor to join Restaurant Growth Services and help power its brands forward to new heights,” said Jacobs. “The RGS leadership team has positioned the brands for long-term success with a clear goal to elevate and enhance the outcomes for our guests, our team and our owners. The commitment to sustained excellence in operations and support of the operating teams is impressive. I’m truly excited to be a part of the RGS team.”

Jacobs began her professional career with Deloitte & Touche, LLP where she spent thirteen years before moving to Bridgestone Americas, Inc. where she was Vice President and Corporate Controller. She received her Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from the University of Tennessee at Martin, her Master of Accountancy from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville and is a Certified Public Accountant.

About Restaurant Growth Services

Restaurant Growth Services, LLC (formerly ABRH, LLC) is headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee, and provides a host of management services for restaurant brands. The services include executive leadership, strategy, operational oversight, supply chain, technology, human resources, benefits, financial reporting, treasury management, legal counsel, training and more.

View source version at Restaurant Growth Services

Marco’s Pizza Grows Development Team by Adding a VP of Construction & a VP of Real Estate

November 3, 2022

Nation’s Fastest-Growing Pizza Brand* Adds Five Decades of Expertise to Development Team, Plans Next 1,000 Units

Toledo, OH  (  To support Marco’s Pizza and its unparalleled growth trajectory, the nation’s fastest-growing pizza brand* announces the appointment of David Gladstone – VP of Construction and Paul Williams – VP of Real Estate. Collectively, they bring more than five decades of experience to the development team led by recently appointed Chief Development Officer Gerardo Flores. Under new leadership, Marco’s is refining its franchise development program by sophistically streamlining the process and driving strategic expansion.

With a 30-plus year track record of working in restaurant development, Gladstone has held various roles in real estate, construction, and procurement for Bad Ass Coffee of Hawaii, Starbucks, Einstein Bros. Bagels, Focus Brands, Noodles & Company, Jamba Juice, and Quiznos. As he steps into this new role, he will work hand-in-hand with his team to support franchisees through their site selection and construction process, providing start-to-finish guidance and management of the construction process to ensure new Marco’s Pizza stores are built in an efficient and timely manner.

Williams is an accomplished real estate professional with extensive experience in restaurant and retail real estate. He has previously served as Director of Real Estate for Jersey Mike’s Subs, Real Estate Manager at Jack in the Box, Inc., and Development Manager for Dunkin’ Brands. His knowledge and background with these fast-growth franchise brands aligns with Marco’s vision for nationwide growth as it plots its next 1,000 units.

Marco’s currently spans 1,100-plus stores across 33 states with locations in Puerto Rico and the Bahamas. Franchise expansion continues to accelerate with more than 200 stores in various stages of development with more than 350 agreements signed – all while achieving record-breaking performance, surpassing $1B in annual systemwide sales.

“David and Paul are wonderful additions to our exceptional development team and great assets to our current and future franchisees,” said Flores. “Their extensive experience and trusted status within the franchise industry make them an ideal fit for our sophisticated approach to franchise development. As we look to Marco’s next era of growth, we’re expanding our teams at each level – sales, real estate, construction, etc. – with top line talent like David and Paul. From there, our internal teams will sync up and create efficiency through process protocols that will deliver brilliant results.”

Marco’s is on track to rise in the ranks as Nation’s Restaurant News Top 500 Report shows the brand achieved the highest percent year-over-year sales change (+18.2%) when compared to the nation’s top 4 pizza brands**, making Marco’s the No. 5 pizza brand in systemwide sales in America. With strong growth and performance, Marco’s now sets its sights on becoming the No. 4 brand in pizza as it experienced a 12.8% increase in year-over-year Average Unit Volume (AUV), and the Top 50% of Marco’s franchised stores generated $1,198,201 AUV for 2021***.

“Not only are we experiencing strong performance, but our franchise development pipeline remains robust and healthy,” said Tony Libardi, Co-CEO & president of Marco’s Pizza.  “As we continue to grow with muti-unit franchisees and expand our brand footprint, we’re committed to providing a full development support system, including technology and tools to help identify the right territories for expansion plus expertise in financing, real estate, construction management, and field operations. It all starts with the right team, and I’m confident we have the right players to catapult Marco’s into its next phase of rapid growth.”

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

About Marco’s Pizza

Marco’s Pizza is America’s Most Loved and Most Trusted Pizza Brand, according to the 2019 Harris Poll EquiTrend® Study. Headquartered in Toledo, Ohio, Marco’s Pizza is the fastest-growing pizza brand in the United States*. Marco’s was founded in 1978 by Italian-born Pasquale (“Pat”) Giammarco and thrives to deliver a high-quality pizza experience, known for its dough made from scratch and its three fresh signature cheeses. The company has grown from its roots as a beloved Ohio brand to operate over 1,100 stores in 33 states with locations in Puerto Rico and the Bahamas. Most recently, Marco’s Pizza was ranked No. 2 in the Pizza category on Entrepreneur Magazine’s 2022 “Franchise 500” ranking, and No. 4 in the Fastest Growing category on Restaurant Business’ 2021 “Top 10 Fastest Growing Chains” ranking. Other recent accolades include a high ranking on Newsweek’s 2023 “America’s Best Customer Service” in pizza chains list, ranked No. 40 on QSR’s Top 50 and has been featured five consecutive years on Nation’s Restaurant News’ prestigious “Top 500” ranking.

View source version at Marco's Pizza

Farmer Boys Announces Appointment of Joseph Ortiz as President and Chief Operating Officer

November 3, 2022

Farmer Boys has announced that Joseph Ortiz has been promoted to president and chief operating officer, replacing Dave Wetzel who retired after 37 years in the restaurant industry.

Ortiz Replaces Dave Wetzel Who Retires After 37 Years in the Restaurant Industry

Riverside, CA  (  Farmer Boys®, the Southern California-based fast casual restaurant chain known for its award-winning burgers and exceptional service, has announced that Joseph Ortiz, current vice president of finance & accounting has been promoted to president and chief operating officer.

“I am honored and humbled to be selected as the new Farmer Boys president,” said Ortiz. “I will focus on reaching our long-term growth plans by expanding our organizational capabilities and leading a team that can deliver an unmatched guest experience.”

Ortiz has served as vice president of finance & accounting of Farmer Boys since July 2020. In this role, he was responsible for leading the finance and accounting teams, overseeing the information technology team, creating new strategies and growth models, as well as improving workflow and development plans. With more than 17 years of operations and financial experience in the restaurant and food service industry, Ortiz has held various leadership roles, including BakeMark and CKE Restaurant Holdings.

Wetzel joined Farmer Boys in 2020 as senior vice president of operations and was then promoted to president and COO. Under his leadership, Farmer Boys grew average unit volumes by over 20 percent, improved the drive-thru experience by investing in new equipment and technology, opened its first Arizona location, and strengthened its position as a fast casual competitor in the hyper-competitive California, Nevada, and Arizona markets. Wetzel plans to focus on nonprofit work upon retirement.

“It has truly been a great honor to have worked alongside the Farmer Boys team as their president for the past 3 years,” said Wetzel. “The accomplishment that I am most proud of was our ability to recruit and retain such an amazing team. I am grateful to the team members who are the pulse of the Farmer Boys brand. I know that Joseph will continue leading the team towards success. I am excited to see what the Farmer Boys team will harvest in the coming years.”

To learn more about Farmer Boys, view their menu of farm fresh fare, or find the restaurant nearest you, visit and follow the brand at @FarmerBoysFood on Instagram and Facebook, and @FarmerBoys on Twitter. Farmer Boys fans are encouraged to download the Very Important Farmer (VIF) app to enjoy personalized offers, birthday treats, early alerts about new menu launches, and information on local events. Farmer Boys’ VIF app is available in the App Store and Google Play.

About Farmer Boys®

Farmer Boys® is a farm-to-table fast casual restaurant chain serving award-winning burgers and all-day breakfast, stacked sandwiches, hand-chopped salads, and signature hand-breaded zucchini sticks and colossal onion rings™. At Farmer Boys, Farm Food Ain’t Fast Food®. Farmer Boys is annually recognized with ‘Best Of’ food awards, voted by consumers who value generous portions of farm fresh food at a fair price.

The burger concept has also been recognized by notable industry publications, including being named one of Fast Casual’s Top 100 Movers & Shakers. Farmer Boys currently operates restaurants in California, Nevada, and Arizona. For more information, visit

View source version at Farmer Boys

Potbelly Corporation Extends Contract for Chief Executive Officer Robert D. Wright through 2025

Wright to lead the Company through its next phase of growth

November 02, 2022 17:30 ET

CHICAGO, Nov. 02, 2022 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Potbelly Corporation (NASDAQ: PBPB) (“Potbelly” or the “Company”), the iconic neighborhood sandwich shop, today announced its Board of Directors has agreed to extend the terms of Robert D. Wright’s contract as Chief Executive Officer through 2025.

“On behalf of the entire Board, we are extremely pleased to extend Bob’s agreement with Potbelly for an additional three years,” said Joe Boehm, Chairman of the Board of Directors. “Since joining in 2020, Bob has established a strong foundation for Potbelly’s success, effectively improving operations and defining a strategic direction for the Company. His success in pivoting the Company back to growth, along with his deep restaurant operating experience, adept leadership capabilities, and alignment with shareholders gives us great confidence that Bob is the right leader for Potbelly to drive traffic-driven profitability and unit growth via our Five-Pillar strategy.”

Since becoming CEO in 2020, Mr. Wright has delivered growth for Potbelly through strong top-line momentum, its return to profitability, and operational success. He led the Company through the challenges of the global pandemic, strengthened Potbelly’s executive management team with the addition of several highly experienced restaurant professionals, and drove advancement in the Company’s tech stack and digital platform. Mr. Wright is leading Potbelly’s strategic pivot to become a franchise-focused organization, positioning the Company for profitability and system growth, with a long-term target of 2,000 units.

“Potbelly is an outstanding Company with a unique and differentiated position in the fast casual restaurant space, and I am honored by the opportunity to continue leading such a marquee brand into the future. I am extremely proud of the progress made by our Potbelly family over the last two years and pleased by the improved performance of the Company,” said Bob Wright, Chief Executive Officer. “Together, our Board, senior leadership, and dedicated teams continue to focus on delivering the best experience for our customers, expanding our business with franchisees and driving enhanced value for all stakeholders. It is a privilege to lead these efforts.”

About Potbelly

Potbelly Corporation is a 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 approximately 400 company-owned shops in the United States. Additionally, Potbelly franchisees operate over 40 shops in the United States. For more information, please visit our website at

View source version at Potbelly

Natalie Mazza Promoted to Chief Product Officer at OTG Management

Nov 02, 2022, 08:30 ET

Her latest position highlights her ascent through the ranks of OTG over the last decade

NEW YORK, Nov. 2, 2022 /PRNewswire/ -- OTG Management, the hospitality group that is transforming the airport experience across the country, announced the promotion of Natalie Mazza to Chief Product Officer. The CPO position combines the responsibilities of product development, strategic business planning and team leadership, with a strong emphasis on creating solutions with technology. In her expanded role, Mazza will lead the strategic products team, and oversee the company's tech focused product portfolio. She will be responsible for creating and executing on the tactical product plans necessary to expand upon the various applications that comprise OTG's fully custom tablet and mobile POS technology, back-office applications, integration hubs and data warehouse.

Mazza's OTG journey began 9 years ago where she interned during her college years, eventually accepting the company's employment offer in the position as Office Manager in 2013. Her passion for technical innovation encouraged her to apply for an opportunity in the software development area, where Mazza served as a project manager for four years. Four years into her tenure at OTG, Mazza was promoted to Director and Partner, charged with leading product organization, and building strategic technology- focused solutions. Two years later she was promoted to Vice President of the team. And most recently, she was promoted to her current position.

"I am thrilled to announce the promotion of Natalie Mazza to Chief Product Officer. Her in-depth knowledge of our business and passion for people are a perfect match for our organization as we continue to experience rapid growth and prosperity. OTG is defined by our Crewmembers and nurturing and developing our talent is key to our success," said Rick Blatstein, CEO at OTG.

A strong strategic and innovative thinker, Mazza has both supported and managed major business processes and technology projects for OTG.  She was a part of the small team responsible for OTG's original iPad platform known as flo™ classic, and ultimately graduated to assume oversight of the product innovation for the platform migration to flo™ xgen.  Along her OTG journey, Mazza has supported the team developing a sustainable POS platform that defines the OTG brand; launched highly custom "partner-integrated" technology solutions; led the product and development of the "first of its kind" mobile reporting and manager tool; and, in partnership with OTG's Executive team, developed a global strategy that introduced the self-order, self-pay iPads in traditional restaurants and airport hold rooms.

"I've been with OTG for nearly a decade, in a time where such tenure is uncommon, particularly in the gig economy," said Mazza. "And I am often asked why I've stayed with one company for so long. My answer is simple: OTG provides an exciting, innovative, and illuminating experience every single day. The people here are brilliant, industrious, and enthusiastic about what they do. They really care. The trinity uniting a passionate workforce, dynamic leadership and a company culture deeply rooted in innovation- well, it's magical."

Mazza's experience includes product development; technology and business integration; creating and managing strategic partnerships; implementing and enforcing organizational best practices; and leading teams through product discovery and delivery. She has managed complex cross-functional teams including a diverse range of third-party vendors from all over the world. Mazza promotes a DEI team-building approach to problem solving and has a passion for delivering "enterprise ready" solutions that enhance the customer and Crewmember airport experience.

"I have been fortunate to have had incredible mentorship and thoughtful leadership throughout my tenure at OTG," continued Mazza. "I've been afforded exposure to each element of our technology stack, which is built with client-facing operators interacting daily, so that we meet and anticipate demands. Each position and role I have assumed has built the foundation necessary to meet the demands of the next, all-in concert to meet the obligations of our mission, which is to deliver the best customer experiences through simple, frictionless interfaces allowing them to focus on a great dining experience."

About OTG

OTG develops and operates restaurants and retail markets in airports throughout North America. With more than 350 locations across 22 terminals in 10 of the world's busiest airports, OTG is an industry leader. OTG combines world-class hospitality, award-winning cuisine, innovative design, and state-of-the-art technology to deliver a superior guest experience. Founded in Philadelphia in 1996, OTG serves hundreds of millions of passengers annually.

View source version at OTG

Tijuana Flats names Burger King vet as CEO

Tijuana Fats names former Church’s Chicken CEO as its top exec

Published Nov. 1, 2022

Joe Christina joined Tijuana Flats as CEO in October 2022.

Dive Brief:

  1. Tijuana Flats, a 124-unit Tex-Mex chain, has named Joe Christina as CEO and a member of the board of directors, the company said Monday in a statement emailed to Restaurant Dive.

  2. Christina has nearly 40 years of restaurant experience, most recently serving as CEO, president and board member at Church’s Texas Chicken. He left the chain in August.

  3. Christina succeeds Brian Wright, who served as CEO of Tijuana Flats for over three years. Wright took a post as CEO of Bar Louie in September.

Dive Insight:

Christina’s extensive restaurant experience, especially in franchising, will come in handy as the company focuses on growing via franchising. Christina has a record of delivering sustained revenue and profit growth, according to the press release.

Tijuana Flats restarted its franchising program in 2020 after a 13-year pause. The chain, which is based mainly in Florida, Virginia and North Carolina, is looking to expand throughout the eastern U.S. and Texas, according to QSR Magazine. In 2021, Tijuana Flats opened its first corporate-owned location since 2018 with a new prototype in Florida, which offers an interior with high ceilings and an easily updated digital menu boards.

Christian worked for 28 years at Burger King, most recently as SVP of franchise operations, managing the North America Western Division, according to his LinkedIn profile. He was responsible for overseeing strategic planning, operations, real estate, training and other tasks for over 2,000 restaurants across 19 states. That division generated $2 billion in sales, according to the press release.

While at Church’s, Christina spent the three years as EVP for U.S. operations, responsible for franchise and company-owned restaurant operations. As CEO of Church’s, he oversaw 1,700 restaurants in 26 countries that generated over $1.2 billion in yearly systemwide sales.

View source version at Tijuana Flats

Toppers Pizza Names James “Jimmy” McFeeters as VP of Development

November 1, 2022

The fast-growing pizza brand brought on McFeeters to build franchise development more strategically.

Whitewater, WI  (  Toppers Pizza, the rapidly growing pizza delivery franchise with 70+ units open, recently named James “Jimmy” McFeeters as Vice President of Development.

McFeeters brings more than 10 years of experience to the role. Most recently, he served as vice president of development and franchise Sales at WOWorks. Previously, he spent over five years as senior director of franchise sales at FOCUS Brands, where he was a significant contributor in pushing Schlotzsky’s economic growth and development.

“Bringing Jimmy onto the Toppers Pizza leadership team to oversee franchise development is a major step for us as we look to double down on franchise development in 2023. We look forward to the vision and leadership that Jimmy will bring to the brand,” said Scott Gittrich, Toppers Pizza CEO.

“When I visited with the team before being hired, I immediately experienced the warm, inviting and highly relational culture that Toppers has built,” said McFeeters. “There’s a lot of rich history here with the Toppers team, and it is apparent that Toppers has built a team that is deeply connected to its mission, vision and origins. The brand’s longevity and the team’s culture are major reasons I took this position.”

In recent years, Toppers has been heavily focused on corporate development. In his new role, McFeeters will begin to build franchise development more strategically.

“Toppers hasn’t historically been well known for franchise development, but they have all the right ingredients for huge success,” said McFeeters. “We are focused on unit-level economics that set the franchisee up for greatest success.”

When it comes to cultivating a supportive culture and franchise family, Toppers’ robust corporate team, which is much larger than most brands its size, offers a high level of support in which all franchisees’ voices are heard.

McFeeters will leverage the brand’s approach to real estate, which is a more streamlined and simple model compared to others in the franchise development space. In 2022, Toppers is expected to have three new units open, and coming into his role, McFeeters expects to more than double that in 2023 and build that pipeline even more in 2024.

For more information or to order online for delivery or pickup, please visit

About Toppers Pizza

Founded in 1991 as an alternative to big-box pizza, Toppers is built on a bold attitude with the product to back it up. Headquartered in Whitewater, Wisconsin, 70+ Toppers locations are on a mission to redefine what customers should expect from QSR pizza. The menu features unique flavors, bold recipes, crave-worthy Topperstix, signature wings, specialty desserts and a growing selection of offerings for diverse lifestyles. By consistently giving customers what they want, Toppers has forged an untapped space in the pizza industry and is thriving in a digital-first post-pandemic world. World-class technology ranking among the top QSR pizza concepts, consistent menu innovation, a powerfully focused digital media strategy, and Gen Z-centric social media channels drive 75%+ of sales online for the brand. With franchisees achieving a $1,100,000+ average unit volume across the entire system and 17 consecutive quarters of same-store sales increases, Toppers Pizza is primed for major growth and is looking for like-minded franchisees to join its system. For more information, visit and follow the brand on Facebook and Instagram.

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Red Robin Gourmet Burgers, Inc. Announces Executive Leadership Appointments

Retirement of Chief Financial Officer Lynn Schweinfurth, New Chief Financial Officer Todd Wilson and New Chief Legal Officer Sarah Mussetter

Jeff Hoban to Serve as Interim Chief Legal Officer; Deena DePhillips to lead IT team until new CIO is named; and Amy Woolen to lead Marketing team until new CMO is named

October 31, 2022 04:05 PM Eastern Daylight Time

ENGLEWOOD, Colo.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Red Robin Gourmet Burgers, Inc. (NASDAQ: RRGB), a full-service restaurant chain serving an innovative selection of high-quality gourmet burgers in a family-friendly atmosphere, today announced a series of permanent and interim executive appointments as part of the formation of a new leadership team that will support President and Chief Executive Officer G.J. Hart in driving growth and long-term shareholder value.

With the retirement of Lynn Schweinfurth, the executive leadership team will now include Todd Wilson, Chief Financial Officer, who will be joining the Company on Nov 7th. In addition, Sarah Mussetter will be rejoining the Company on December 5th as Chief Legal Officer, while Jeff Hoban will continue to serve as Interim Chief Legal Officer until Ms. Mussetter’s arrival. Deena DePhillips, VP Technology, will lead the IT organization and Amy Woolen, VP Marketing & Brand Management, will lead Marketing until a new CIO and CMO are appointed. Both will report to G.J. Hart in the interim.

G.J. Hart, Red Robin’s President and Chief Executive Officer said, “I am thrilled to announce new additions to the executive leadership team. Since becoming CEO in early September, my focus has been to build upon the foundation that has been laid so we can best fulfill our brand promise and deliver a differentiated restaurant experience to our guests. I believe both Todd and Sarah bring abundant experience and expertise to help us achieve these objectives. I also want to extend my gratitude to Jeff, Deena, and Amy for demonstrating their dedication to Red Robin and for serving in interim capacities. They bring a plethora of talent to fulfill the duties of these roles.”

Mr. Wilson most recently served as Chief Financial Officer at Hopdoddy Burger Bar and Hibar Hospitality in Austin, Texas from 2018 until 2022. Prior to that, he was Vice President of Finance for Jamba Juice from 2016 until 2018. From 2012 to 2016, Mr. Wilson served as Division CFO and Vice President of Finance at Bloomin’ Brands Carrabba’s Italian Grill, and later from 2011-2012 also served as Division CFO and Vice President of Finance for Bloomin’ Brands Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse and Roy’s Hawaiian Fusion. Mr. Wilson received his MBA from the University of South Florida and his bachelor’s degree from the University of Florida.

Ms. Mussetter will be replacing Michael Kaplan who recently left the Company to pursue other career interests. Red Robin is excited for her return, as she has previously spent 10 years with the Company. Until her arrival, Jeff Hoban, currently Vice President and Deputy General Counsel, will continue to serve as Interim Chief Legal Officer. Effective immediately, Mr. Hoban has also been promoted to Senior Vice President, Deputy General Counsel.

Ms. Mussetter most recently served as Senior Vice President, Deputy General Counsel & Assistant Corporate Secretary at Skillsoft Corporation from 2021 until 2022, a publicly held educational technology company that provides enterprise learning solutions. From 2011 to 2021, she served at Red Robin, most recently in the role of Vice President, Deputy General Counsel & Assistant Corporate Secretary. Prior to her time at Red Robin, Ms. Mussetter started her legal career with Holme Roberts & Owen (presently known as Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner) where she worked closely with public company securities. She received her law degree from the University of Denver and her bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan.

Lynn Schweinfurth will continue to play a role at the Company through the remainder of the year. In addition, Darla Morse, Executive Vice President and Chief Information Officer, and Jonathan Muhtar, Executive Vice President and Chief Concept Officer will be leaving to pursue other personal and career interests.

Hart added, “We express our sincere appreciation to Lynn and all of her work and dedication through some of the most challenging periods of our brand history. During her tenure, we transitioned to a new CEO in Paul Murphy, dealt with the challenges of COVID-19, and most notably, established a new credit facility. We wish her the best in her future aspirations outside of Red Robin.”

Hart concluded, “We also want to thank Darla Morse and Jonathan Muhtar for all of their contributions. Darla helped launch our new app last year as well as the Hot Schedules platform in 2022. Jonathan has been at the forefront of recent menu innovations, limited time offers, as well as the growth of Red Robin Royalty®. We wish them both well as they transition to new opportunities.”

About Red Robin Gourmet Burgers, Inc. (NASDAQ: RRGB)

Red Robin Gourmet Burgers, Inc. (, is a casual dining restaurant chain founded in 1969 that operates through its wholly owned subsidiary, Red Robin International, Inc., and under the trade name, Red Robin Gourmet Burgers and Brews. We believe nothing brings people together like burgers and fun around our table, and no one makes moments of connection over craveable food more memorable than Red Robin. We serve a variety of burgers and mainstream favorites to Guests of all ages in a casual, playful atmosphere. In addition to our many burger offerings, Red Robin serves a wide array of salads, appetizers, entrees, desserts, signature beverages and Donatos® pizza at select locations. It's now easy to enjoy Red Robin anywhere with online ordering available for to-go, delivery and catering, or you can download our new app for easy customization, access to the Red Robin Royalty® dashboard and more. There are more than 520 Red Robin restaurants across the United States and Canada, including those operating under franchise agreements. Red Robin… YUMMM®!

View source version at Red Robin


Oct 28, 2022, 10:00 ET

Major Global Pizza Brand Promotes Key Leader to Top Marketing Spot

DETROIT, Oct. 28, 2022 /PRNewswire/ -- Little Caesars® announces today that Greg Hamilton will take on the role of chief marketing officer at the third largest pizza chain in the world, effective immediately.

Greg is being promoted from his role of senior vice president of marketing with Little Caesars. He has spent the last 20 years in marketing roles with progressive leadership responsibility and has nearly 15 years of experience in the quick-service restaurant industry. Greg helped to spearhead the digital transformation of the marketing function at Little Caesars and has played a key role in the brand's high-profile initiatives, including the chain's first Super Bowl commercial, its integration in The Batman movie and Call of Duty®: Modern Warfare™ II, and being named the Official Pizza Sponsor of the National Football League.

Little Caesars, home of the Hot-N-Ready® Pizza and Pizza Portal® pickup, is a Detroit-based global pizza company that focuses on bringing customers value, quality, and convenience. The chain aims to continue its digital marketing expansion and impactful partnerships under Greg's leadership.

"We have such tremendous talent at Little Caesars, and we're thrilled to be able to promote from within for this key role," said Dave Scrivano, president and CEO of Little Caesars. "Greg has been an innovative leader here for some time and we're confident he's going to propel our brand forward even more as our CMO."

Greg graduated from Cedarville University in Ohio with a Bachelor of Arts in marketing. Personally, he is an avid runner and enjoys spending his free time with his wife and two children hiking and camping. Greg and his family live in metro Detroit.

"I'm elated to take on this important role at such a storied company, with a group of people I already respect so highly," said Hamilton, "I look forward to continuing to work with the Little Caesars team and our incredible community of franchisees to keep driving brand growth even further."

About Little Caesars

Headquartered in Detroit, Michigan, Little Caesars was founded by Mike and Marian Ilitch in 1959 as a single, family-owned restaurant. Today, it is the third largest pizza chain in the world, with stores in each of the 50 U.S. states and 27 countries and territories.

Known for its HOT-N-READY® pizza and famed Crazy Bread®, Little Caesars uses quality ingredients, like fresh, never frozen, mozzarella and Muenster cheese and sauce made from fresh-packed, vine-ripened California crushed tomatoes. The brand is known for innovation and is home of the exclusive Pizza Portal®, a heated, self-service mobile order pickup station. Little Caesars is also the Official Pizza Sponsor of the National Football League.

An exceptionally high growth company with over 60 years of experience in the $145 billion worldwide pizza industry, Little Caesars is continually looking for franchisee candidates to join the team in markets around the world. In addition to providing the opportunity for entrepreneurial independence in a franchise system, Little Caesars offers strong brand awareness with one of the most recognized and appealing characters in the country, Little Caesar.

View source version at Little Caesars

Former Focus Brands President Kat Cole Joins Virtual Restaurant Company Nextbite As Advisor

Powerful Operator and Growth Leader Brings More Than 25 Years of Building and Executing Global Brands to Nextbite

October 26, 2022 09:00 ET

DENVER, Oct. 26, 2022 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Nextbite, the leader in virtual restaurants, today announced that Kat Cole, a 25-year restaurant industry executive and former President and Chief Operating Officer (COO) of Focus Brands, has joined the company as Advisor. Cole will continue as a long-time friend of Order Mark to guide Nextbite with her experience in building high growth strategies, support the advancement of healthy brands in the portfolio, and streamline operations.

Cole is currently President and COO of Athletic Greens, one of the fastest growing wellness brands and subscription businesses, where she focuses on driving organizational scale, accelerating business growth and global expansion, innovation, and more. Prior to this, Cole most recently served as President and COO at Focus Brands, a developer of iconic global, multi-channel foodservice brands, including Moe’s Southwest Grill, Jamba, Auntie Anne’s and other chains. In her executive position, she led the multi-billion dollar businesses of seven brands and all operating divisions, including franchising, licensing and international divisions, building revenues and profits through global licensing, manufacturing, and e-commerce.

As Nextbite continues its rapid expansion, it will benefit from Cole’s expertise in leading consumer brands, scaling organizations through various stages of growth, and bridging and integrating the worlds of startup thinking and innovation with corporate structures. Cole will advise Nextbite on its virtual, delivery-only strategies, concepts, and operations.

“The restaurant industry is constantly evolving and it’s crucial to thoughtfully innovate in order to grow,” said Cole. “Technology is reshaping restaurants and Nextbite’s virtual, delivery-first concepts and highly specialized capabilities offer the convenience and variety that consumers are craving. Nextbite and a variety of their brands can help brick and mortar restaurants leverage existing assets, drive financial growth, and reach more customers.”

Cole will also provide counsel for Nextbite as the company moves into its next phase of growth to meet the ever-evolving needs of today’s restaurants and consumers, including the development and execution of healthy, innovative delivery brands from strategy to operations, manufacturing, and design and packaging.

A strategic food industry leader, Cole specializes in building global brands, businesses, and high performing teams from Main Street to Wall Street, connecting big brands and businesses with small and mid-sized independent business owners. A seasoned executive, she has years of experience in culture and communications, crisis and change-management, development, mergers and acquisitions. She also has expertise in integrating digital and physical brand expressions and communities, multi-channel brand extensions, consumer brands, marketing, licensing, strategic alliances and partnerships, domestic and international franchising, and operating model pivots.

“Kat’s career was built in the kitchen and she’s recognized as an industry visionary. She understands what it takes to keep customers coming back and how to build and manage brands that are aligned with restaurant and consumer needs and trends,” said Alex Canter, CEO and co-founder of Nextbite. “Her experience and perspective in growing companies and operations is powerful counsel for Nextbite’s continued expansion.”

Cole currently serves on Boards of Directors of Slice, Athletic Greens, HumanCo SPAC, and Milk Bar.

About Nextbite

Nextbite is helping drive and shape the new digital era for the restaurant industry. A leader in virtual restaurants and the pioneer in online order management, the company is focused on helping restaurant partners successfully enter the virtual restaurant space with new delivery-first menus, using underutilized labor and kitchen capacity, to increase margins and revenue. Originally founded as Ordermark in 2017, Nextbite matches in-demand brands with under-utilized kitchens via technology, data and services. Headquartered in Denver and Los Angeles, Nextbite has raised more than $150M in funding, with its most recent round led by SoftBank. Learn more at, and follow us on FacebookInstagramLinkedIn and Twitter.

View source version at Nextbite

Brinker International Changes Leadership Structure to Align with New Strategy

Oct 25, 2022, 16:30 ET

Aaron White Promoted to Executive Vice President, Chief People Officer and Wade Allen Returns to Role as Chief Digital Officer

DALLAS, Oct. 25, 2022 /PRNewswire/ -- Brinker International, Inc. today announced Aaron White has been promoted to Executive Vice President, Chief People Officer, Brinker International. In her new role, White will oversee all aspects of the Team Member experience for Brinker and Chili's® Grill & Bar, including recruitment and retention, talent selection, learning and development, and diversity, equity and inclusion. At an enterprise level, she will also lead key business priorities such as culinary operations, restaurant services, Guest engagement and Team Member relations.

"Given the importance of Team Member and manager retention, we're moving our people function closer to the operation," said Kevin Hochman, President and CEO of Brinker International. "And with previous leadership roles in PeopleWorks – our HR department – and extensive operations experience, Aaron was the perfect candidate to help us achieve our hiring and retention goals and make our positions in the field easier, more fun and more rewarding."

Aaron joined Chili's as an hourly Team Member and has devoted her twenty-plus year career serving Chili's restaurant teams and Guests. In her most recent role as Senior Vice President and Co-Chief Operating Officer of Chili's, Aaron oversaw operations for more than 500 restaurants to ensure best-in-class operations and deliver excellent Guest and Team Member experiences. Her tenure with the brand has also included roles such as VP, Operations Services; Sr. Director, PeopleWorks; and Area Director. She earned her bachelor's degree in psychology and business from the University of Tennessee.

"I've had a passion for this industry since I started working in restaurants in high school, and I've always been motivated by supporting the growth and development of Team Members throughout their careers," said White. "I'm honored to take on this role and am ready to tackle our retention goals and redefine our labor model to better support our operators and Team Members."

In addition, Wade Allen will return to his role as Senior Vice President, Chief Digital Officer, this time with a focus on growing the company's off-premise business and driving the digital Guest experience online through the Chili's app, To-Go and Delivery.

"Given the $1 billion in annual Chili's sales consumed off-premise, it's clear that Guests now view Chili's as a delicious home meal replacement," Hochman said. "I'm pleased that Wade has jumped into the opportunity to explore and determine how we might remove friction from the Team Member and the Guest experience to continue to drive this important part of our business."

Allen joined Brinker in 2014 and was previously SVP of Innovation with oversight of culinary innovation, engineering, strategic growth, and the development and execution of virtual brands. He has held multiple leadership roles in technology, analytics and digital marketing. He will work with the Chili's CMO, George Felix; CIO, Pankaj Patra; and COO, Doug Comings to identify strategies and plans to accelerate the Chili's off-premise business, most of which is transacted digitally.

"My roots are in technology, data security and analytics, and I'm excited to continue to use technology to transform and improve the off-premise experience for our Guests," said Allen. "Chili's has always been a leader in leveraging tech in the industry, and we will continue to innovate and make strides with ease, personalization and hospitality at the forefront."

ABOUT BRINKER INTERNATIONAL, INC. Brinker International, Inc. (NYSE: EAT) is one of the world's leading casual dining restaurant companies and home of Chili's® Grill & Bar, Maggiano's Little Italy® and two virtual brands: It's Just Wings® and Maggiano's® Italian Classics. Founded by Norman Brinker in Dallas, Texas, we've ventured far from home, but stayed true to our roots. Brinker owns, operates or franchises more than 1,600 restaurants in 29 countries and two U.S. territories. Our passion is making people feel special, and we hope you feel that passion each time you visit one of our restaurants or invite us into your home through takeout or delivery. Learn more about Brinker and its brands at

View source version at Brinker

Applebee’s® Welcomes Chef Scott Rodriguez as Chief Culinary Officer

Applebee’s® Welcomes Chef Scott Rodriguez as Chief Culinary Officer

October 24, 2022 08:02 AM Eastern Daylight Time

GLENDALE, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Applebee's announced today that Chef Scott Rodriguez has joined its leadership team as Senior Vice President and Chief Culinary Officer. A classically trained chef, Rodriguez brings deep casual dining innovation experience to Applebee’s talented culinary team.

"Scott possesses a unique blend of culinary creativity, operational pragmatism, and big-brand leadership. Most importantly, Scott loves food and the role it plays within Applebee’s Eatin’ Good in the Neighborhood® positioning,” said Applebee’s President, John Cywinski.

“I have a life-long admiration for Applebee’s and am thrilled to be part of this incredible leadership team,” said Applebee’s Chief Culinary Officer, Scott Rodriguez. “A successful culinary strategy begins with our guests and restaurant-level excellence. I’m spending my first few months in-restaurant learning from our teams and franchise partners and listening to our guests in terms of what they love and expect from Applebee’s.”

Chef Rodriguez will also be a member of the Operations and Marketing Committees helping to drive alignment on future innovation alongside brand leaders and franchise partners.

With more than 20 years in the casual dining restaurant industry, Chef Rodriguez has previously worked with recognized brands like Papa John's and BJ's Restaurants Inc. He helped these brands develop new offerings for guests through a focus on research and development, new product innovation and menu strategy. He is a graduate of Food Service Management, Culinary Arts from Johnson and Wales University.

About Applebee's®

As one of the world’s largest casual dining brands, Applebee’s Neighborhood Grill + Bar serves as America’s kitchen table, offering guests a lively dining experience that combines simple, craveable American fare with classic drinks and local drafts. Applebee’s makes it easy for family and friends to connect with one another, whether it’s in a dining room or in the comfort of a living room, Eatin’ Good in the Neighborhood™ is a familiar and affordable escape from the everyday. Applebee's restaurants are owned and operated by entrepreneurs dedicated to more than serving great food, but also building up the communities that we call home. From raising money for local charities to hosting community fundraisers, Applebee’s is always Doin’ Good in the Neighborhood®. Applebee’s franchise and company-operated operations consisted of 1,673 Applebee’s restaurants in the United States, two U.S. territories and 11 countries outside the United States as of June 30, 2022. This number does not include two domestic Applebee’s ghost kitchens (small kitchens with no store-front presence, used to fill off-premise orders) and eight Applebee’s international ghost kitchens. Applebee's is franchised by subsidiaries of Dine Brands Global Inc. , which is one of the world's largest full-service restaurant companies.

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SPB Hospitality Announces Senior Leadership Promotions

October 24, 2022

Leading operator of full-service dining restaurants builds out best-in-class marketing and culinary teams

Houston, TX  (  In an effort to build on the company’s people-first approach, newly appointed Interim-CEO of SPB Hospitality Josh Kern recently announced two internal promotions — Lisa Lee as the Senior Vice President of Marketing and Chef Ian Dodson as the Senior Vice President of Culinary & Beverage.

“Lisa and Ian have been critical to our success, and each play a pivotal role in driving our brands to create best-in-class experiences for our guests,” Kern said. “I’m excited to partner with them as we continue elevating our incredible collection of restaurant concepts.”

Lee has led the marketing efforts for all SPB brands as Vice President of Marketing since October 2021. In her newly expanded role, she will add Guest Experience, Sales Center and Group Sales teams to her portfolio. Lee received her MBA from the University of Texas McCombs School of Business in Austin and has focused her career on food and beverage marketing and brand management at companies like Frito-Lay, Coca-Cola and Luby’s Fuddruckers Restaurants.

“I’m grateful for the opportunity to work with such an extraordinary team,” said Lee. “I’m proud of the impact our team has made so far and look forward to continuing to improve our guest experience while building brand equit,y and driving sales. I feel like every experience in my career in food and beverage marketing has prepared me for this unique and exciting opportunity.”

Dodson is charged with overseeing culinary and beverage excellence at all SPB concepts. During his career with the brand, he has progressed from Kitchen Coach to Head Coach to Regional Director, and most recently served as the Vice President of Culinary Operations.

He received his formal education from Salisbury College in Wiltshire, England where he graduated from the Culinary School with Distinctions. Dodson began his professional career working in various roles ranging from working at Michelin Star rated restaurants to Princess Anne’s estate during Horse Trial season. Dodson is celebrating 29 years with J. Alexander’s Restaurants this month.

“I’m excited to be a part of this dynamic new team we are putting together and look forward to working across this incredible collection of brands,” Dodson said. “Menu innovation is at the core of each of our brands, giving each concept a unique approach while leveraging their collective scale.”

SPB Hospitality operates 16 concepts under its umbrella – ranging from the polished-casual brand, J. Alexander’s, to the 136-unit Logan’s Roadhouse – with each brand offering a unique dining experience.

About SPB Hospitality

SPB Hospitality is a leading operator and franchisor of full-service dining restaurants, spanning a national footprint of hundreds of restaurants and breweries in 35 states and the District of Columbia. The Company’s diverse portfolio of restaurant brands includes Logan’s Roadhouse, Old Chicago Pizza & Taproom, and a collection of high-end restaurant brands including J. Alexander’s, Merus Grill, Redlands Grill and Stoney River Steakhouse and Grill. SPB Hospitality is also one of the largest operators of craft brewery restaurants including Rock Bottom Restaurant & Brewery, Gordon Biersch Brewery Restaurant, ChopHouse & Brewery, Big River Grille & Brewing Works, AIA Ale Works Restaurant & Taproom, Ragtime Tavern Seafood & Grill and Seven Bridges Grille & Brewery.

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Capital Tacos Appoints Joel Bulger as Brand's First Chief Marketing Officer

Oct 20, 2022, 09:17 ET

As their C-Suite Expands, Top Taco Concept Looks to Ramp up Name Recognition and Market Presence

TAMPA, Fla., Oct. 20, 2022 /PRNewswire/ -- Capital Tacos, the emerging corner taco shop turned nationally-awarded Tex-Mex restaurant franchise, is pleased to announce the hiring of industry veteran Joel Bulger to the position of Chief Marketing Officer (CMO).

Bulger is a veteran of the restaurant industry, having most recently served as CMO of Zaxby's, where he drove all-time record sales. In total, he has 30 years of experience aiding in and directing the marketing efforts for some of the country's most recognizable brands, including Wendy's, Coca-Cola, Olive Garden, and more.

As the Chief Marketing Officer for Capital Tacos, Joel joins the growing tier-one executive team being put together by Capital Tacos' founders to support its rapid corporate and franchising growth across the country. He is tasked with conveying the brand's story, developing its namesake, and working with its franchisees to successfully bring its award-winning menu to as many people and markets as possible.

"Joel was recruited by numerous emerging and household brands, and we're thrilled he chose Capital Tacos," said Josh Luger, Co-Founder of Capital Tacos. "We're all about connecting with communities and customers in unique and impactful ways, and Joel's experience helping distinguished brands and passionate franchisees do just that over his career is a perfect marriage, especially given our initial franchising traction and the growth we have in front of us in the coming months and years."

A true testament to the franchise, Bulger says his appointment to the Capital Tacos team is the most exciting opportunity he's taken on in his professional career. The company's commitment to scratch-made, innovative, grilled to-order Tex-Mex cuisine and ability to dish out "the absolute and unequivocal best food in the sector, and an overall quality you simply don't find in the fast casual space", according to Bulger, excited him and caught his attention. But it was the authenticity of the brand, and the ability to share such a compelling history and story with the world, coupled with their deep-rooted values, next-gen tech capabilities, and resources, that ultimately made the opportunity impossible to resist.

"The quality of the franchise aside, it's what the Capital Tacos brand stands for, as evidenced by the cult-like following in the communities it currently serves that make it such an appealing opportunity," said Bulger. "It has a unique story to tell and a powerful position in the market. Being in the early stages of its regional and national expansion, it's a brand I'm excited to have the opportunity to develop."

After having built a large and passionate following in its home market of Tampa, Capital Tacos has been officially introduced in Orlando, Atlanta and Miami over the past quarter alone, with sizable expansion in those markets as well as North Carolina and Colorado to come soon. All this highlights the consumer's desire for a game-changing Tex-Mex experience, one that will only continue to gain momentum in these final months of 2022 as new franchise agreements are introduced in territories around the U.S.

For more information on Capital Tacos franchise opportunities, please visit

About Capital Tacos

Capital Tacos is a nationally-ranked, fast-casual Tex-Mex restaurant franchise founded in Tampa, Florida, that has expanded to four additional markets in the Southeast so far this year. They've been named one of America's Top 40 Hottest Fast Casual Brands and one of the 11 Taco Chains Disrupting Fast Casual Sector by QSR Magazine, a top 3 taco in the country by Business Insider/Foursquare, and the top taco restaurant in Tampa / St. Petersburg by Yelp, amongst a variety of other awards. The emerging franchise brand is known for its scratch-made, innovative, and unmatched Tex-Mex flavors, pushing the boundaries of quality and creativity that the sector has become known to provide. With more than 80 units active or in development, they are currently seeking qualified candidates to help further expand the franchise to select markets across the Southeast and the country more generally.

View source version at Capital Tacos

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