Personnel Updates

• Ark Restaurants Corp. (12) President and CFO Robert J. Stewart passed away.

• Asian Box (7) named Mike Speck (formerly with The Halal Guys) as its new CEO. Co-Founder and former CEO Frank Klein stays on as Brand Ambassador. Klein will work on the launch of a new concept, Roost House.

• Back Yard Burgers (6) named Scott Shotter CEO.

• Brinker International (71) named Kelly Bates Exec VP and President of Maggiano’s.

• Buffalo Wings & Rings (10) named Joe Dominiak COO.

• Del Frisco’s (27) named Mia Meachem as its new CMO. She replaces Brandon Coleman who was named President of the company’s Del Frisco Grille division.

• Dickey’s (15) brought in Ken Miller as Senior VP of Operations.

• Domino’s (74) named Tom Curtis as its new Exec VP of Team USA. He’ll lead company-owned stores in the US. Curtis replaces Stan Gage who has left the company to become a franchisee.

• Famous Dave’s (16) added Sylvia Matzke-Hill to its leadership team as Head of Culinary.

• FAT Brands (16) named Rebecca Hershinger as its new CFO. Former CFO Ron Roe stays on as Senior VP of Finance and will focus on the integration of newly acquired concepts.

• Fired Up Inc. (4) (Johnny Carinos) Founder Creed Ford III passed away.

• First Watch (26) hired Mel Hope, formerly of Popeyes, as its new CFO.

• Kona Grill (11) promoted COO Jim Kuhn to CEO. Out-going CEO Berke Bakay becomes Executive Chairman.

• Lawry’s (5) promoted Ryan Wilson to Chief Marketing Officer.

• The Palm Restaurant Group (12) hired Jens Baake as its new COO.

• Papa John’s (35) named Olivia Kirtley as Chairman, replacing Founder John Schnatter.

• Paris Baguette (5) named Jack Moran COO.

• Portillo’s (10) announced that P.F. Chang’s CEO Michael Osanloo has been named its new CEO. He’ll take over for the retiring Keith Kinsey in October.

• The Wendy’s Co. (47) announced the CIO David Trimm will retire early next year and be replaced by Chief Concept and Marketing Officer Kurt Kane who will head up a new “Digital Experience Organization” within the company. Also in the mix are CFO Gunther Plosch who will add enterprise technology to his remit and COO Bob Wright, who will take point on in-store technology while handing over international oversight to Chief Development Officer and new Head of International, Abigail Pringle.

• Wetzel’s Pretzels (10) named Kimberly Smith CFO.


Financial Focus

• Brinker International Inc. released its FYE 6-27-18 earnings statement. Total revenue was down -0.5% for the year. Chili’s comparable store sales were down -1.3% on the year while Maggiano’s were flat.

• Noon Mediterranean filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

• Real Mex Restaurants has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and has agreed to sell itself to Z Capital Group for $47 million, though the door is open for a higher bidder to scoop up the company.


Industry Insight

• Applebee’s revised its projections for store closures to 80 to 90 domestic restaurants plus 10 international stores, as compared to previous guidance of a combined 60 to 80 domestic and international closings.

• Bloomin’ Brands will expand Outback and Carrabba’s delivery to another 200 locations by the end of the year, doubling the number of stores that offer the service.

• Bojangles’ plans to close10 stores and refranchise approximately 30 others. Refranchising efforts are focused primarily in Tennessee with a pending sale to a large existing franchisee.

• Chick-fil-A is trialing meal kits in Atlanta-area stores.

• Jack in the Box will drop $45 million over three years to improve its drive-thru lanes with new digital menu boards and tablet-holding order-takers.

• Melting Pot is expanding its menu and adding grills to all of its locations.

• Oath Pizza received a sizable investment from Aramark. The latter will look to grow the brand among its college, hospital, sports venue and corporate café accounts. Oath also plans to enter the franchise fray and continue to open company-operated stores.

• Papa John’s founder John Schnatter is suing the company.

• RBI has consolidated its US operations, moving Popeyes corporate headquarters from Atlanta to Miami, the home of Burger King.

• Schlotzsky’s Deli is changing things up. It’s changing its name to Schlotzsky’s Austin Eatery, changing its branding, adding beer and wine sales and remodeling all 350 stores by the end of 2019 in a bid transform itself into a “fast fine” brand. 18 restaurants have already been converted.

• Starbucks opened its first standalone Princi bakery in Seattle.

• Steak n Shake is offering to sell its 400 company owned stores to single-unit franchise partners for $10,000 in return for a 15% royalty on sales and a 50/50 split of profits.

• Subway launched an $80 million store refresh program, “Fresh Now,” that includes new menu boards, uniforms and menu ingredients. San Diego is the test market with the rest of Subway’s North American stores expected to be updated by next summer.

• Tim Hortons is getting all day breakfast in a bid to boost sales. The company will also roll out a loyalty program and a kid’s menu.

• Tropical Smoothie Café opened its 700th location.

• US Foods acquired SGA’s Food Group for $1.8 billion.


Mergers and Acquisitions

• ARC Group (owners of Dicks Wings) is close to finalizing a deal to acquire Titled Quilt.

• CAVA Group will acquire Mediterranean fast-casual Zoe’s Kitchen in a $300 million deal that will take Zoe’s private. The deal comes thanks to a “significant investment” in CAVA by a group led by Ron Shaich, Founder and ex-CEO of Panera. Brett Schulman, current CAVA CEO, will head up the combined companies while Shaich will serve as Chairman. Zoe’s can shop for a higher bidder for 35 days, and the deal is expected to close in Q4.

• Focus Brands will acquire Jamba, Inc. for $200 million in a deal expected to close in the third quarter.

• Hooters is back up for sale.

• Krispy Kreme will acquire a majority stake in Insomnia Cookies, a move that adds another snack/coffee concept to JAB Holding Co.’s portfolio. Early word is that Insomnia will continue to operate as an independent company.

• Which Wich parent company Sinelli Concepts acquired fellow Dallas-based Paciugo Franchising, a chain of 32 gelato shops. Jeremy Cook, previously of Cold Stone Creamery, will head up the concept.


Real Estate

• Chick-fil-A will expand to Canada in 2019 when it opens a franchise location in Toronto.

• Cousins Subs is moving into Chicagoland. The company signed a franchise deal with brothers Amit and Kalpesh Patel for up to 40 locations through 2025. The first store is expected to open this fall.

• Kahwa Coffee (St Petersburg, FL) signed a deal with Publix supermarkets to place Kawha Coffee in Publix stores. The program starts with locations in two Florida cities and will expand to a Virginia Publix next.

• Lazy Dog Restaurant & Bar will open its first East Coast location in greater Atlanta in Spring 2019.

• McDonald’s and its franchisees are investing $6 billion in remodeling 5,000+ stores in 16 states and DC by the end of 2020. The plan calls for an interior and exterior refresh; new counters, McCafe counters and display cases; new digital menus inside and in the drive-thru; and changes to parking to accommodate mobile pickup. States getting the new-look stores are AZ, CA, CO, FL, GA, IL, IN, MA, MD, NC, NY, OH, PA, TX, VA, and WA along with DC.


• Starbucks plans to add more stores in the South and Midwest as sales slump.

• Walk-Ons expanded into Alabama. Near-term expansion plans have the concept moving into Florida, Mississippi and Tennessee as well.


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 780 companies in the Restaurant Franchisee Premier Database, with many of those companies’ records updated at multiple points.