This is the latest installment in a series that highlights major executive changes at top fast casual, QSR and casual dining chains over the past week.
Even though the novel coronavirus pandemic has slowed sales and operations over the last few months, several top chains continue to hire new leadership. Wahlburgers, Naf Naf Grill and Krystal Restaurants will have new top executives going forward, which will be instrumental in dictating the strategic directions many chains will take as they move toward recovery, and Dine Brands has begun the search for a new CEO.
Krystal Restaurants, which declared bankruptcy in January and was sold to one of its lenders in May for $48 million, will start its new chapter with a new president. This follows a trend of leadership hires following strategic sales, similar to Boston Market naming Randy Miller as president just weeks after it was bought by Engage Brands.
Dine Brands: The company's board of directors announced Thursday that it has hired executive search firm Spencer Stuart to search for a successor to current CEO Steve Joyce, according to a company release. Joyce's employment contract expires Feb. 1, 2021, and he has served as chief executive of Dine Brands since September 2017. He has nearly four decades of multibrand and franchisee experience and has served as a Dine Brands board member since 2012.
Wahlburgers: John Fuller has become the burger chain’s president and CEO, according to Restaurant Business. Prior to this position, Fuller was president and CEO of The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf; CFO and then president and CEO at Johnny Rockets; and executive roles at Rubio's, Carl's Jr. and Del Taco. Fuller will take over for CFO and president Patrick Renna, who stepped in as interim CEO after Rick Vanzura left the company for GameStop. Renna will focus on his CFO role going forward.
Panera Bread: The fast casual chain hired Eduardo Luz as chief brand and concept officer, according to Restaurant Business. Luz, who worked at Kraft Heinz from 2013 to 2019, was most recently CEO of 8Greens, a nutritional supplement company. In his new role, Luz will oversee marketing, culinary, digital and strategy/insights.
Naf Naf Grill: Starting June 15, Greg Willman will become the fast casual chain's CEO, according to a press release. He will replace Gary Beisler, who has been acting as interim CEO and will remain as chairman of the board. Willman will oversee the company's corporate and franchise strategy and operations. Willman, who has over 20 years of experience in the restaurant industry, co-founded and served as CEO of 316 Investments, which was Naf Naf's the first franchise group, signing an exclusive area development for Central Indiana. He was also one of the first developers and operators of Qdoba and his group was one of its largest franchisees. Prior to co-founding 316 Investments, Willman served at many Fortune 500 and small, high-growth companies where he served in senior executive roles in marketing, strategy and business development.
Waitr Holdings: The third-party delivery aggregator appointed Leonid Bogdanov as CFO and chief accounting officer, according to an SEC filing. He previously served as director of financial planning and analysis at the company for the last 18 months. He also held this position at BiteSquad, which Waitr acquired in January 2019. Prior to joining BiteSquad, Bogdanov worked at PriceWaterhouseCoopers for over 10 years.
Krystal Restaurants: Thomas Stager has taken over operations as president following the sale to Fortress Investment Group and operating partner Golden Child Holdings, according to a press release. He will replace former president and chief operating officer Tim Ward, who along with CFO Bruce Vermilyea, has left the company. According to Stager’s LinkedIn profile, he has served as CEO of Golden Child Holdings since March. He has decades of experience as a leader and operator and has worked on turnaround alignments for franchisees and franchisors for brands including Pizza Hut and Arby's.