- MOD Pizza has tapped former Friendly's and Johnny Rocket's president and CEO John Maguire as its COO effective Oct. 22, according to a company release. Maguire stepped down from both roles in September after two years with Johnny Rockets and Friendly's for six years. Friendly's parent company FIC Restaurants and Johnny Rockets are both owned by private equity group Sun Capital Partners.
- Former MOD COO Paul Twhohig will still maintain his role as company president, and will oversee operations including real estate, restaurant design and construction and supply chain.
- Maguire also worked at Panera Bread for more than two decades. "As a leader at Panera during their formative years of growth combined with his experience leading two loved brands, John brings the perfect mix of deep operating expertise combined with experience sustaining the culture required to build an iconic brand," MOD CEO Scott Svenson said in the release.
Maguire joins MOD Pizza during a time of massive growth. The fast-casual chain has been named the fastest-growing restaurant company in the U.S., with sales skyrocketing 220% in 2016, according to Technomic. Last year, the restaurant's $270 million in sales — an 80% jump from 2016 — cemented its spot as the 141st largest chain in America, according to NRN's Top 200 data.
This profitability has been hard won, as the top-your-own pizza segment has become crowded with heavyweight competitors such as Blaze, &pizza, Pieology and Pizza Rev. The chain, which boasts more than 380 restaurant locations across the U.S. and U.K., has differentiated from these rivals by investing in its workplace culture and mission to hire employees with physical and mental disabilities or challenging backgrounds.
Earlier this year, the Seattle-based chain raked in $33 million in equity funding, bringing MOD's total equity capital raised to more than $185 million. The financial backing is key as the restaurant planned to open another 100 restaurants in 2018. Seeing those expansions through will be one of Maguire's main projects after taking the helm as COO. During his time at Panera, he built over 700 new locations, and operated over 1,500 bakery cafes, bringing in more than $3.5 billion in annual systemwide sales. According to MOD, Maguire is joining the brand "with a strong focus on all phases of expansion and growth."
Further expansion will certainly be a boon for the pizza chain, but with continually growing competition, it's unclear if this will be enough to defend its market share. Many chains are investing in technology that makes their pizza more accessible — and interesting — to the consumer, such as drone delivery, mobile ordering that uses pizza emojis and driverless delivery cars. Though many of these initiatives may just be marketing gimmicks, they could also help position brands as cutting-edge in the eyes of the consumer. If MOD doesn't enter the tech arms race, it may need to further double-down on marketing that centers on its people-focused mission — a tactic company leaders seem confident Maguire will embrace.
"John brings the perfect mix of deep operating expertise combined with experience sustaining the culture required to build an iconic brand,” Svenson said in the release. “The thing which most attracted him was our commitment to using our business as a platform to make a positive impact on our people and the communities we serve. We could not be more thrilled to welcome him, and are confident that his track record of leading operations across large, multi-unit brands will allow us to further strengthen the MOD experience."