Restaurant industry solidifies leadership ranks in advance of 2023

Church’s, Starbucks, Portillo’s among restaurant brands welcoming new executives

Multi-unit operators, including Church’s, Starbucks, Portillo’s, and more, are staffing up and bolstering their teams and making adjustments ahead of 2023.

Here are some of the latest executive appointments around the restaurant industry:

Church’s Texas Chicken named Tim Waddell EVP of international business. The new role for the former managing director of international development at Inspire Brands will start September 6. Waddell will bring to Church’s Texas Chicken and Texas Chicken an expanded understanding of global development, sales, marketing, operations, and P&L management.

Starbucks named Laxman Narasimhan chief executive officer and board member effective April 1. First, Narasimhan will work with Interim CEO Howard Schultz starting October 1 when he joins the company during a transition period. He has accumulated 30 years of experience in retail brand leadership. Narasimhan comes from Reckitt, a multinational consumer goods health company.

Portillo’s appointed Mike Ellisto to the role of chief development officer. The executive has more than three decades of experience growing and expanding some of the country’s top restaurant brands. Ellis’ role will be pivotal in enabling Portillo’s ongoing, aggressive growth plan, which includes existing market in-fill and new market penetration.


Freddy’s Frozen Custard and Steakburgers named Brian Wise chief operating officer (COO) and Jerry Kunz vice president of finance. Wise comes from the franchise side of the business, having worked with Freddy’s franchise group for 15 years. Kunz arrived from First Watch Restaurants, where he served as director of finance & treasury.

Krystal Restaurants named former Focus Brands executive Casey Terrell chief marketing officer. Most recently, he served as head of digital transformation at Focus Brands. There, he oversaw the transformation and change management of the seven brands, including Carvel and McAlister’s Deli, among others. During Terrell’s tenure, collaboration and innovation would fuel change across digital, technology, and organizational business processes at the multi-brand franchisor.

Panera Brands named Konrad Meyer chief financial officer as of August 22. The company serves as the holding brand for Caribou Coffee and Einstein Bros., as well as its namesake bakery-cafe chain, Panera Bread. The outgoing CFO of Panera Brands, Ted Stedem, departed to pursue other interests, and Meyer will replace him.


WOWorks named Cole Thompson VP of Culinary for Garbanzo Mediterranean Fresh, The Simple Greek, Barberitos Southwestern Grille and Cantina in July. Thompson, a classically trained chef from the culinary school at Johnson & Wales University, has more than 15 years in the food industry. Cole’s career spanned fine dining, fast casual brands, and culinary research and development. Before WOWorks, he served as the corporate executive chef at RaceTrac. WOWorks also promoted Katie Cavuto, WOWorks’ executive chef for Saladworks, Frutta Bowls, Garbanzo Mediterranean Fresh and The Simple Greek to the newly-created position of VP of Culinary for Saladworks, Frutta Bowls, and Zoup! Eatery.

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