- Restaurant Brands International has promoted Joshua Kobza, chief operating officer, to CEO effective March 1, the company announced Tuesday.
- Current CEO Jose Cil will remain at the company for one year as an advisor to help with the transition.
- Kobza has worked at RBI for 11 years, serving in various leadership positions including CFO, chief technology officer and development officer and COO.
Kobza’s experience at RBI spans, “accountability for strategy, technology, human resources, global procurement, supply chain and international development,” the company said. He played an important role in the acquisitions of Tim Hortons in 2014, Popeyes in 2017 and Firehouse Subs in 2021.
In his new position, Kobza will report to Patrick Doyle, executive chairman at RBI.
"Over the past several years, the Board of Directors has worked with management to build a thoughtful succession plan for key positions, so this is a natural transition for Josh to lead our next phase of growth,” Doyle said.
Kobza takes the helm of a company whose American business performance has lagged competitors, with Burger King posting slow sales growth and shrinking unit counts. But RBI’s international business has seen considerable growth.
In the U.S., Burger King’s comparable sales have trailed behind McDonald’s. Burger King’s U.S. comps rose 2.2% for the full-year 2022 and 5% for Q4 2022, compared to a 5.9% full-year increase and 10.3% jump in Q4 for the Golden Arches. While Wendy’s hasn’t reported its Q4 results yet, its year-to-date comparable sales in Q3 outpaced Burger King’s, growing 3.3%.
Burger King’s U.S. unit count shrank by 0.9% in 2022, according to RBI’s Q4 2022 earnings release. In January, Toms King, a 90-unit U.S. franchisee, filed for bankruptcy protection, citing high costs. The relative weakness in Burger King’s sales drove the chain to announce the Reclaim the Flame program, a chainwide marketing and remodel overhaul, in September 2022.
Patrick Doyle, RBI’s board chairman, said on the company’s Q4 earnings call that the Reclaim the Flame program’s marketing spend drove sales growth in Q4.
“We’re pleased to see early indications that our dedicated operations improvement efforts and Reclaim The Flame plan are driving results,” Kobza said on the call.
Popeyes also saw weak U.S. sales in 2022, according to the earnings release, with sales down 0.5% for the full year, but up 1.5% in Q4.
Store growth has been strong for the chicken chain, however, with Popeyes’ unit count up about 10%, to 4,091. When RBI acquired the chicken chain in 2017, it had 2,700 units.
“This year we sold 200 restaurant openings in North America alone, featuring the greatest number of new franchisees,” Kobza said. “In 2022 we opened over 180 net new stores outside of North America.” According to the earnings release, Popeye’s international unit count grew 23% in 2022.
International sales were strong for Burger King, which saw its international comparable sales rise 15.9% for the whole year. The brand opened a net 542 stores and saw its international system grow by about 5%
“The international business is going to be the engine of stores [growth] for decades to come,” Doyle said on the earnings call.
Tim Hortons also saw weakness in its home market, with Canadian unit counts shrinking 1.3% in 2022, compared to 27% rest-of-world growth. However, the coffee chain’s Canadian comparable sales rose 11.6% in 2022.