Focus Brands bolsters leadership team with four promotions, two, new executive hires

Franchise-centric restaurant company also realigns brands, adding management layer

Focus Brands promoted four new executives and hired two new leaders as part of a strengthening of its leadership team, as it realigns some responsibilities. The franchisor of multiple food brands and controlled by private equity group Roark Capital, promoted Kristen Hartman to president, Specialty Brands and Erik Hess to president, Restaurant Brands. In addition, Focus Brands promoted Anissa Mandell to SVP, Supply Chain at Focus Brands, and Beto Guajardo to president of its International Division.

The realignment of the brands has led to Specialty Brands as the umbrella for Auntie Anne’s, Carvel, Cinnabon, and Jamba. Consequently, the Restaurant Brands grouping will represent McAlister’s Deli, Moe’s Southwest Grill and Schlotzsky’s.

Hartman has spent two decades in quick-service restaurants. Since joining Focus Brands in 2012, she has supported the company in marketing strategy, innovation, consumer insights, concept development, and licensing. Hartman is also the current president of Cinnabon and Carvel.

Now president of Restaurant Brands, Hess formerly served as president of Moe’s Southwest Grill. He joined Focus Brands in 2019 after cutting his teeth in the food and beverage industry for 25 years, Hess specializes in many areas, particularly in menu development, innovation, strategy, and development.

As SVP of Supply Chain for Focus Brands, Mandell is tasked with the strategic framework and development of Supply Chain, including Distribution, Logistics and Quality Assurance functions. Plus, she’s responsible for all policy initiatives for Supply Chain. She came to the company in 2011 and has extensive experience in the supply chain spanning more than 25 years. Mandell was central to the original formation of Focus Brands’ Supply Chain structure.


“As we continue to move our company and brands into the future, we must invest in key talent necessary to propel our brands forward and enhance services provided to our guests and franchisees,” said Jim Holthouser, chief executive of Focus Brands. “I’m thrilled we have such highly regarded tenured industry executives within our four walls and that we continue to attract exceptional leaders to grow our teams.”

Earlier this year, the company promoted Guajardo from president of Schlotzsky’s to president of Focus Brands’ International division. Before joining the company, he served as a Starbucks executive.

Kat Cole, president and chief operating officer of Focus Brands remains in her position, overseeing Specialty Brands, Restaurant Brands, International and the Licensing divisions. And two new executives join the leadership team. The company hired Alex Williams for the position of Moe’s Southwest Grill chief brand officer and Seth Freeman to serve as VP of Marketing for Schlotzky’s.

Newly-hired Williams comes to Focus Brands after three decades in the oil & gas and food & beverage industries so the confidence level is high in Williams’ ability to tap his leadership skills for this new role. He most recently worked at Bloomin’ Brands, running the Outback Steakhouse Midwest Region business. Williams also served as VP of Operations for Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse. His career also includes brand management work at McDonald’s and various operational and supply chain roles at Starbucks and ExxonMobil.

At Schlotzsky’s, Freeman’s experience in the consumer-packaged goods, hospitality and restaurant industries should serve him well. He will “oversee the national consumer marketing strategies and programs that drive brand growth and relevance, inclusive of menu development, promotions, demand generation, and the overall Schlotzsky’s brand experience,” announced Focus Brands in a statement. Most recently, he held the role of CMO at Buffalo Wild Wings.


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