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Parent of Pie Five adds new executives as president departs

Four new leaders help with course correction for Rave brands

Rave Restaurant Group announced hiring four new executives to work across its brands, as president Bob Bafundo departs the company. Rave is the parent of Pizza Inn, Pizza Inn Express and Pie Five. Douglas Kwong takes the role of Rave VP of Marketing. Also, Mike Burns joins the company as Rave chief operations officer.

Brandon Solano took the helm of Rave as chief executive officer in October. In his most recent role as chief marketing and digital officer at Pei Wei Asian Kitchen, he oversaw some of the highest sales comps in the history of the brand. Additionally, he began a clean label initiative for the brand, known as Pei Forward. Surely, results, such as the 12.2 percent Q3 comp sales decrease at Pie Five, or the three net store closures of Pizza Inn and Pizza Inn Express restaurants, are not something Solano finds comforting.

Pictured from left to right: Douglas Kwong, new Rave VP of Marketing, and Mike Burns, new chief operations officer. Photo by Rave Restaurant Group.
Pictured from left to right: Douglas Kwong, new Rave VP of Marketing, and Mike Burns, new chief operations officer. Photo by Rave Restaurant Group.

Kwong came over from Pei Wei Kitchen as well. There, he served as Director of eCommerce and Digital Marketing. With the installation of new technology, Kwong led a team that took digital sales from 8 percent of revenues to 30 percent. “His work at Pei Wei resulted in social media engagement rates 10,000 percent greater than the industry average,” said Solano of Kwong.

New Rave executives have immediate challenges to overcome

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Burns will oversee operations services and lead the operations team for all three RAVE brands. He spent eight years at Bojangles’ Famous Chicken as director of operations support. In addition, he served as Bojangles’ regional vice president, responsible for 175 restaurants. In his most recent role at Pei Wei, he led the operations of 80 Pei Wei stores.

Rave also tapped Justin Smith as Pizza Inn senior director of operations. Additionally, it hired Aaron Archuleta for Pie Five. He’ll lead the fast-casual pizza chain’s day-to-day initiatives and performance as Pie Five director of operations. “I’m looking forward to working with this talented team to transform the business, drive profit and win with consumers,” added Solano.

As Solano departs, Pive Five is an immediate source of concern for the brand as the make-your-own fast-casual pizza segment matures. Pie Five closed two units during the quarter and posted a $400K decrease in average weekly sales at its stores. Most of the new Rave executives will face addressing the chain’s woes immediately.

Photo credit: Rave Restaurant Group

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