Personnel Updates

• B.Good (9) named Brent Feldman CMO to replace Kim Cerato who recently exited the company.

• CKE Restaurants (60) named Charles Jemley as its new CFO and Kerry Olson as Chief Legal Officer and General Counsel.

• Darden Restaurants (93) announced that Cheddar’s Brand President Ian Baines and Seasons 52 Brand President Brian Foye are out. COO Dave George will look after Cheddar’s operations while Capital Grille President John Martin will oversee Seasons 52.

• Dunkin’ Brands (79) named Dave Hoffmann as its new CEO. Hoffman succeeds Nigel Travis, who stays with the company as Executive Chairman.

• Eggs Up Grill (3) named Ricky Richardson CEO.

• El Pollo Loco (16) Chief Marking Officer Ed Valle flew the coop.

• FoodFirst Global Restaurants (21) named Mike Ellis its new Chief Development Officer. Ellis will be charged with executing real estate strategy.

• Garbanzo Mediterranean Fresh (8) hired Larry Sidoti as its new Chief Development Officer.  Sidoti was the founder of Juice It Up! before leaving that company in 2008.

• Mama Fu’s Franchise Group (12) named Jamie Cohen (from Jason’s Deli) to the newly created position of Chief Marketing Officer.

• NPC International (18) restructured its leadership team and created separate divisions for its Pizza Hut and Wendy’s operations. CEO Jim Schwartz will transition to Chairman, and CFO Troy Cook will become Vice Chairman. Steve Layt becomes President and CEO, Pizza Hut Division, and the company will search for a President and CEO of its Wendy’s Division.

• On the Border (11) promoted Rebecca Miller to Senior VP of Marketing.

• Papa John’s (35) Chairman John Schnatter resigned, and the company is removing his likeness from branding and advertising.

• Peet’s Coffee (19) named Kenneth “Casey” Keller Jr. as its new CEO. Kelle will replace Dave Burwick effective August 6.

• Restaurant Brands International (69) named Duncan Fulton as its new Chief Corporate Officer.

• Rosa Mexicana (6) brought in Steve Weissman as CFO, Ellie Skinner as Director of Training and Stephan Hengst as Director of Marketing.

• Slim Chickens (20) hired Jackie Lobdell (formerly of FOCUS Brands) as Executive Director of Franchise Development.

• Starbucks (464) CFO Scott Maw will retire in November.

• Sweetgreen (15) named Thomas Prommer as its CIO, a newly created position within the company.

• Taco Bueno (12) brought in Mary Ellen Mullins as its new Chief People Officer.

• Tender Greens (22) has a new CEO, President Denyelle Bruno. Co-founder Erik Oberholtzer becomes Executive Chairman.


Industry Insight

• CaliBurger is trialing facial recognition software in its ordering kiosks in 10 locations.

• Cheesecake Factory announced its new fast casual concept, Social Monk Asian Kitchen. The first unit will open in Thousand Oaks, CA in the fall.

• Chuck E. Cheese introduced an “All You Can Play” model at company owned units.

• Del Taco added “Fresh Mexican Grill” to its branding as it attempts to reposition the brand to draw in fans of both Taco Bell and Chipotle.

• LEON, a UK-based “healthy” QSR, will open its first US location in DC this summer.

• Smashburger’s majority owner, Jollibee Foods, has plans to acquire a Mexican concept.

• Tim Hortons plans to drop $100 million to improve its distribution system and open two new warehouses. Among other franchisee complaints, recent issues arose when deliveries from the company to franchisees were delayed due to software changes.

• Wingstop will roll out delivery nationally in 2019 using a proprietary app platform. The company will continue to use Olo’s online ordering platform for the back end but replace the interface with one developed in house. Currently, 24% of Wingstop sales are digital, and the company has a goal to increase that number to 40%.


Mergers and Acquisitions

• Ballard Brands bought Garces Restaurant Group for $8 million.

• Native Foods Café (CO) was acquired by Millstone Capital Group, which also owns the Missouri-based Lion’s Choice chain.

• P.F. Chang’s owners Centerbridge Partners are exploring a sale of the chain.

• Taco del Mar was acquired by private equity firm High Bluff Capital Partners, the firm that recently purchased Quiznos.


Real Estate 

• Cowboy Chicken opened its first California location in Rancho Bernardo.

• Freshii has made it to Arkansas with the opening of a franchise location in Bentonville.

• Johnny’s Italian Steakhouse will add a total of 5-7 franchised units in the next 18 months in Colorado, Michigan and Wisconsin.

• Patachou Inc. will open a third location for its Public Greens concept in Indianapolis this fall.

• Shuckin’ Shack Oyster Bar will add 8 franchised locations in the next 12 months, including its first store in Georgia. The company is also exploring Midwest expansion, with the greater Cincinnati area as an initial target.

• Stacked Pickle, a small Indiana-based chain of sports bars owned by former Colt Gary Brackett, plans to begin franchising, with up to 5 locations opening in 2019.

• Tropical Smoothie Café opened 47 new stores in the first half of the year and has identified its key growth markets as Atlanta, Houston and Dallas-Fort Worth.

Just because we don’t mention it here doesn’t mean it didn’t happen – or we didn’t capture it. In the past four weeks, we’ve updated more than 844 companies in the Restaurant Franchisee Premier Database, with many of those companies’ records updated at multiple points.