MRM Franchise Feed: Sandwiches Up North and Taco John’s Gets Aggressive

Modern Restaurant Management (MRM) magazine's Franchise Feed offers a glimpse at what's new in the restaurant franchise  and MUFSO environment. 

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Allen Named CEO at Checkers & Rally's

Frances Allen has been named Chief Executive Officer and a member of Checkers & Rally’s Board of Directors, effective February 17, 2020. Allen succeeds Rick Silva, who has decided to leave the company after 13 years as CEO and President.


Allen comes to Checkers & Rally’s with a proven track record of success in the restaurant industry and deep expertise across brand strategy, menu and marketing, franchising, restaurant technology, and restaurant operations, among other disciplines. Most recently, Allen served as Chief Executive Officer of Boston Market, where she implemented a multi-faceted transformation plan setting up the brand for future growth. Prior to Boston Market, Allen served as President of Jack-in-the-Box from 2014 to 2018, where she held full strategic and operational responsibility for the 2,200-unit, $3 billion hamburger quick service restaurant chain, generating superior results and upgrading the quality of the menu.  Allen’s prior leadership experience includes successful tenures as Chief Brand Officer and Chief Marketing Officer at Denny’s Corporation, where she helped lead a successful turnaround and repositioned the brand as “America’s Diner,” and as Chief Marketing Officer of Dunkin’ Donuts USA, where she played a key role in elevating the brand from a regional to a national player.  She has also held leadership roles at Sony Ericsson Mobile Communications, PepsiCo, and Frito-Lay. 

Kevin Mailender, member of the company’s Board of Directors and Partner at Oak Hill Capital, said: “We are delighted that Frances will be leading Checkers & Rally’s through its next leg of growth. She is an accomplished leader in the restaurant industry.  Her wealth of experience with leading brands and impressive set of skills will be highly valuable to our business and its outstanding franchisees. With a demonstrated ability to develop and inspire winning teams, Frances is the right leader to guide Checkers & Rally’s to its full potential.” Mailender added, “On behalf of the entire Checkers & Rally’s family, I would like to thank Rick Silva for his partnership and many years of leadership. Rick has played a key role in positioning the system for long-term success, and we wish him well on his future endeavors.”

Allen said: “I am thrilled to be joining this unique brand with so much potential for growth.  Checkers & Rally’s will continue its tradition of putting the customer first and serving its communities by delivering high quality, craveable food at exceptional values. There is much work to do, but I am eager to build on the company’s recent momentum and set out on this exciting journey alongside Checkers & Rally’s passionate employees and talented franchisees.”

Taco John’s Launches Aggressive Franchising Initiative 

Taco John’s International Inc. launched an aggressive franchise growth initiative to expand its presence in prime markets throughout the United States.  The legacy quick-service brand is seeking to grow through franchising with qualified franchisees across the country. Taco John’s is initially focused on markets where it already has a presence. 

 In 2019, Taco John’s unveiled an updated brand and restaurant design. This year, the brand is introducing several menu items that aim to further position the brand as the first choice among Mexican quick-service brands. In addition, Taco John’s is rolling out a systemwide remodel program to match its updated branding, driving its popularity among young consumers. In early 2020, the brand added three restaurant veterans to its Board of Directors. Its new board members bring brand experience from industry juggernauts like McDonald’s, Wendy’s and Darden Restaurants. 

As Taco John’s ramps up franchising this year, it is targeting well-capitalized franchisees with experience in restaurants or as executives leading high-performing teams. The brand plans to ink agreements representing 50 units this year alone. 

“Having more than 50 years of proven experience behind us, Taco John’s is one of the very few legacy brands that still has significant green space available for franchise development,” said Brooks Speirs, vice president for franchise development at Taco John’s. “In addition to all of the initiatives we are launching this year, we boast strong unit-level economics, unmatched brand equity and a unique menu. All of the elements are in place for aggressive franchise growth.” 

The company also hired Kelly Hopper as its new chief financial officer.

Kelly Hopper

“Kelly brings a wealth of financial knowledge to Taco John’s,” said CEO Jim Creel. “She is a seasoned leader with a successful background, and we are all thrilled to welcome her to our team. I have no doubt that Kelly will add tremendous value to our company.” 

Hopper joins Taco John’s with an extensive background in finance and the restaurant industry. She began her career with Ernst & Young before progressively moving up to higher-level responsibilities at Yum! Brands. She first served as senior internal audit analyst at Yum! Brands before taking on controller and finance responsibilities in Western Europe. She also worked in Yum! Brands as a dealmaker in mergers and acquisitions, divesting of groups of company stores and working with financially troubled franchisees. She then moved into a Pizza Hut role, primarily working to help franchisees improve profitability.

After leaving Yum! Brands, Hopper consulted for TGI Fridays, serving in the role of project CFO for a major initiative that included a focus on menu mix analysis. She served in the multi-unit health care industry as controller, and most recently, she was senior director at 7-Eleven in Dallas, where she held responsibility for much of the accounting in the U.S. and Canada and where she also held a senior role in franchising.

At Taco John’s, Hopper will manage the financial actions of the brand, including tracking cash flow and financial planning, as well as analyzing the company's financial strengths and weaknesses and proposing corrective actions.

GFG Bakery-Café Expands with 31-Unit Deal 

Greek from Greece (GFG) Bakery-Café  finalized a deal that will rapidly expand its portfolio from 10 to 41 locations. Thirty of the new locations will open in Long Island, New York, and one will open in Stamford, Connecticut. The significant expansion fuels momentum for GFG Bakery-Café, which recently acquired and rebranded their biggest New York-based competitor and opened a new location in Tampa, Florida.

greek from Greece

The new GFG Bakery-Cafés will be housed in converted Dairy Barn drive-thru convenience stores that were in operation for more than 70 years. Most of the locations will retain a drive-thru, with a focus on to-go and grab-and-go foods, and some will also feature an eat-in dining area. The drive-thru feature is a first for the fast casual brand, which has previously focused on eat-in cafés and kiosks. 

“Greece has an amazing and storied coffee and café culture,” said Dan Rowe, CEO and founder of Fransmart, the industry leader in franchise development. “GFG sees this untapped segment as the biggest opportunity in the restaurant business. The company invested in a big, big way – buying out competitors and chains like Dairy Barn to quickly convert to GFG restaurants.”


GFG Bakery-Café CEO Georgios (George) Drosos and a group of successful businessmen with high levels of industry experience and knowledge opened the first GFG Bakery-Café in 2017 to long lines and delighted customers. Nine other locations soon followed throughout Manhattan and New Jersey, and a new location in Tampa, Florida, opened in December 2019. 


“George is the most dynamic restaurant CEO I have ever met,” said Rowe. “The company has invested tens of millions in their production and distribution facilities, making sure every GFG location has its entire supply line of proprietary, made-in-Greece menu items. It’s the ideal franchise – high volume, low start up, few moving parts, easy for a franchisee to operate multi-units, and easy for store-level employees to get it right every day. The food is crave-able, and you can only get it at GFG.”

This expansion will increase GFG Bakery-Café’s footprint to more than 40 locations, making them the dominant brand in Greek Cuisine. With more deals in the pipeline, GFG projects over 100 units will be open and in progress by the end of the year. 

GFG Bakery-Café is currently seeking experienced multi-unit foodservice operators and scouting potential markets across the country and internationally. 

Papa John's Names Clark as Chief Development Officer

Papa John's International, Inc.  appointed Amanda Clark as its Chief Development Officer. Clark will lead the company’s strategy to continue expanding its restaurant footprint in North America and internationally.

Amanda Clark

“Amanda is a passionate leader with a proven track record of driving growth at one of the restaurant industry’s biggest success stories over the past 10 years,” said Papa John’s President and CEO Rob Lynch. “I had the pleasure of working with Amanda during my time at both Procter & Gamble and Taco Bell, and I’m thrilled to welcome her to Papa John’s. Her energy, ideas and expertise will help us to achieve our goal of driving continued net unit growth through expansion in both the US and around the world.”

As Chief Development Officer, Clark will oversee franchise development and sales, building design and new concepts, and the programs and personnel that provide ongoing facilities support to existing restaurants.

“I believe Papa John’s is on a path to be one of the great brand turnaround stories, and I’m excited to a be a part of it,” said Clark. “I’m passionate about helping companies grow. Continuing to open more units is one of the key metrics that define the health of a restaurant brand. I’m looking forward to working with Rob and the leaders of Papa John’s to write the next chapter in the company’s history.”

Clark joins Papa John’s from Taco Bell, where she was Executive Vice President of Restaurant Experience. In her role there, she oversaw the entire customer experience of Taco Bell’s 7,000 restaurants, including design, consumer facing technology, merchandising, customer marketing, new concepts and company development. She served in other leadership roles during her nearly seven years at Taco Bell, including Senior Vice President, North America Development, where she helped Taco Bell deliver more net new units during those two years than any other QSR chain in North America. In addition, Clark served as General Manager for Taco Bell Canada, where she delivered record double digit same store sales growth for two years in a row. She also built the first free-standing Taco Bells in Canada for the first time in 17 years. Prior to joining Taco Bell, she worked at Procter and Gamble for nearly 12 years on some of P&G’s biggest brands, such as Olay, Pampers and Oral-B.

Earl of Sandwich® Opens First Canadian Outlet

 Earl of Sandwich opened its first location in Canada with the opening of its new Winnipeg franchise, top photo courtesy of Earl of Sandwich, Located at 7-515 Sterling Lyon Parkway, the Earl of Sandwich in Winnipeg is open daily.

“My family and I were introduced to Earl of Sandwich on trips to Las Vegas,” said franchise owner Laurent Raymond. “We were always impressed with the quality and affordability of the sandwiches and when the franchise opportunity presented itself, we jumped on it. With my daughters running the day-to-day operations, we expect to open more Earl of Sandwich locations throughout Manitoba.”

“I am delighted to see Earl of Sandwich continue its growth with our first location in Canada,” said Robert Earl, a founding partner of Earl of Sandwich and founder and CEO of Planet Hollywood®. “We are excited to bring our delicious gourmet sandwiches, salads and wraps to new customers in Winnipeg and look forward to continued growth in Manitoba. We are confident it will become the go-to place to dine, carry out, or for any catering needs.”

The restaurant also offers freshly tossed green salads, hand-crafted wraps, freshly baked desserts and a variety of grab and go options.

Fazoli's Expands Footprint

 Fazoli’s is set to bring more of its Italian dishes to North Carolina.


Fazoli’s President and CEO Carl Howard said the company has executed an area development agreement with Franchisee Jeff Milliken to bring one restaurant to Shallotte, North Carolina and one to Jacksonville, North Carolina, with the first slated to open in spring of 2020.

Milliken, a Shallotte resident, has been in the food service business most of his life, and he wants to bring his expertise in the industry to his hometown. After spending nearly a year researching Fazoli’s, Milliken decided it was time to meet with other franchisees who are part of the iconic brand.

“I went down to Georgia to speak with some Fazoli’s franchisees and was impressed by how highly they each spoke of their experience,” Milliken said. “I learned that Fazoli’s is truly a family, and the leadership team always supports its franchisees. They are all in to help us succeed. I knew immediately, after that first meeting, that this team wants us to be successful, and that was so encouraging for me.”

Milliken said Fazoli’s, as a fast-casual Italian chain with elevated service and premium, craveable dishes, is a leader in the industry and is sure to find success in the communities it will expand into. 

“Fazoli’s is at the forefront of the fast-casual Italian category,” Milliken said. “The brand serves fresh, indulgent food quickly and with excellent tableside service. Plus, nothing, of course, is better than the unlimited breadsticks. The community is going to love Fazoli’s. It will quickly become a favorite.”

 Golden Corral Celebrates First Janesville Restaurant

 Golden Corral's dining choices is now available to everyone in the Janesville, Wisconsin community.  This opening marks the first Golden Corral in Janesville, seventh in Wisconsin and 483rd systemwide.

The 9,200-square-foot restaurant will open as part of Golden Corral’s new prototype design package – GATEWAY MODEL. Highlights of the enhanced design include a stacked stone fireplace, contemporary décor, comfortable and varied seating options, and a new buffet layout.

Golden Corral in Janesville will provide space for up to 292 guests and added 135 jobs to the local community. 

“We are thrilled to bring Golden Corral to Janesville and can’t wait to start serving our signature buffet that features a diverse array of delicious food for breakfast, lunch and dinner,” said Franchisee Chris Gomes. “We have hired a talented team to help treat our guests to a wide variety of top quality food. We look forward to sharing our new, elevated design as we provide something for everyone in the Janesville area.”

Curry Up Now Expanding

Curry Up Now will celebrate the grand opening of its first franchise location in Sacramento, California, on February 21. The new Midtown storefront is the first of five locations as part of a multi-unit franchise deal with the family-run franchise group GKDHG, Inc. As part of the deal, four additional franchise locations are expected to open in the Sacramento area over the next five years, with plans to open a storefront in each suburb. 


“Curry Up Now has adventurous, one-of-a-kind Indian street food that’s unlike any other Indian food we’ve tried, and it is served in an approachable way that is relatable to so many customers,” said franchisee David Leuterio of GKDHG, Inc. “We’re thrilled be a part of the brand’s rapid growth and to build upon Curry Up Now’s Bay Area roots. I’m confident that Curry Up Now will be extremely successful throughout Sacramento.”

The new storefront is located in midtown Sacramento at 1610 R Street in The Ice Blocks, a three-block retail, office and residential development. Selecting the right location for each storefront has been key to the success of the brand, and the bustling mixed-use location in The Ice Blocks features many popular food and retail brands and is surrounded by large companies and tech giants with more flocking to the area.  The location is already offering online ordering for pickup and delivery through the Curry Up Now App and is already seeing a very healthy out the door and catering business.  

“Our mission at Curry Up Now is to bring our customers happiness through food, and we are excited to take our flavors to all regions of California and across the country to bring our unique interpretation of traditional Indian cuisine to even more diners,” said CEO of Curry Up Now Akash Kapoor. “We value the relationship we’ve forged with the Leuterio family to bring the Sacramento location to life, and this is just the beginning as we actively seek additional franchise locations and expansion opportunities throughout the U.S. – and beyond.”

The Sacramento franchise location is one of three Curry Up Now franchise openings in 2020 and additional locations will be opening in Newark, Atlanta and Salt Lake City.

The brand will also celebrate the Grand Opening of its first Utah restaurant at 1076 Fort Union Blvd. in Midvale on Friday, February 28. This opening marks the first Curry Up Now outpost in the region and continues the brand’s aggressive, rapid nationwide expansion. 

“Our Utah expansion is the next step in our plan for nationwide expansion via our Tikka Masala Burritos, Sexy Fries, Naughty Naan, and our other innovative Indian eats,” said founder Akash Kapoor. “The greater Salt Lake City area is growing rapidly, and we’re excited to have Curry Up Now be part of this market as it continues to develop and the population here expands.”

“We are excited to bring Curry Up Now to our hometown and opening our first location in Fort Union is the perfect way to introduce Utah to the restaurant’s amazing Indian flavors,” said John Netto of the Netto Family, the Utah-Colorado franchisee.. “The Fort Union location is centrally located in the heart of Salt Lake Valley and has a great mixture of offices and families nearby. We can’t wait for everyone to try the unique and amazing menu Curry Up Now has to offer.” 

“As the largest and fastest growing Indian fast-casual brand in America, Curry Up Now is a 1,000-unit chain in the making,” said Dan Rowe, CEO, Fransmart. “With consumption of ethnic foods on the rise and the popularity of its approachable Indian street food with a twist, this brand is a franchise opportunity that investors won’t want to miss.”

Curry Up Now is partnered with Fransmart as their exclusive franchise development partner to grow the brand. Curry Up Now has over 45 franchise locations currently in development, along with multiple market deals in the works in several states nationwide. The brand is currently looking for experienced multi-unit foodservice operators to develop additional franchises in major markets across the country.

More Mountains of Pizza

Mountain Mike’s Pizza, said two new restaurants featuring the brand’s updated prototype and refreshed guest experience will open this spring in Costa Mesa and Fountain Valley, California. The decision to plant deeper roots in Orange County was spearheaded by the dynamic leadership duo, Chris Britt and Ed St. Geme, Co-CEOs and principal owners of Mountain Mike’s Pizza, who acquired the over 40-year-old brand in 2017. The opening of these new Orange County locations will bring the brand to nearly 220 units and mark the county’s second and third locations, with one currently operating in Lake Forest.

The Costa Mesa location is set to open first this spring, taking over the space formerly occupied by Paris Baguette on 17th St., a prominent Orange County “foodie” hub bordering Newport Beach, and a prime trade area location that Britt and St. Geme have been targeting since acquiring the brand. Additionally, Mountain Mike’s new Fountain Valley restaurant is set to open shortly thereafter and will serve as an innovation kitchen for R&D, along with a test and training center to continually share best practices with franchisees systemwide. Along with a refreshed design, guest-facing features include a private party room, a kids’ activity room with arcade games, a bar counter with seating, beer on tap and a selection of wine, a salad and pizza buffet, and big screen TVs throughout. The nearly 3,000 sq. ft. restaurant will be located in Fountain Valley Square in the same center as Grocery Outlet.

Upon the acquisition, Orange County locals Britt and St. Geme moved the Northern California operations to Newport Beach and began building out the senior leadership team. After experiencing significant growth, in terms of franchisees and system sales, restaurant openings and its expanded executive team, in late 2019 Britt and St. Geme commissioned the development of a new national franchise support center in Newport Beach. The beautiful new support center serves as the company’s operational headquarters and the training ground for the executive and franchise support team and new franchisees.

“Mountain Mike’s Pizza is an iconic name in Northern California and although we will continue to grow the brand throughout that region, we are also excited about the potential in Southern California, including our own back yard of Orange County,” said Britt and St. Geme. “In a short time, we have made great strides in reinvigorating this beloved legacy brand, including significant expansion efforts  in the Inland Empire, and now our two new restaurants in Orange County will complement and reinforce how far the Mountain Mike’s brand has come.”

Mountain Mike’s new prototype which will be showcased at both the Fountain Valley and Costa Mesa locations features the welcoming, family-friendly atmosphere that the brand is known for, but with an adventurous twist. Inspired by the great outdoors, the new store design radiates a modern, active feel that speaks to today’s adventurous spirit! Mountain Mike’s is the ideal dining destination for family outings, sports teams, group fundraising events and private parties alike, serving up mouth-watering pizzas, including the fan favorite pepperoni pizza covered from edge to edge with mini crispy, curly pepperonis. All signature pizzas are made with high-quality ingredients like real whole milk mozzarella cheese and dough that’s fresh-made in-house daily. While the brand continues to innovate the dine-in experience, guests can count on Mountain Mike’s to deliver on freshness, quality and value when it comes to carry-out and delivery as well.

Britt and St. Geme continued, “We’re thrilled to unveil our beautiful new restaurants in Costa Mesa and Fountain Valley this spring and bring the Mountain Mike’s experience to more communities throughout Orange County where there’s a real hunger for family-friendly dining concepts like ours. Plus, our new franchise support center is allowing us to serve our franchisees better, doing everything in our power to grow their profits and set them up for success.”

The brand is also opening  its first Redding, California location. Located between East Cypress Ave. and Hartnell Ave., the new Mountain Mike’s makes the brand’s signature experience of enjoying “Pizza the Way it Oughta Be®” accessible to Shasta County residents for the very first time.

Owned and operated by Harnek Athwal, a Mountain Mike’s franchisee in Sacramento’s North Highlands for over 30 years, this new and expansive 4,950-sq. ft. Mountain Mike’s location aims to put family friendly fun at the forefront. With two party rooms filled with multiple TVs and surround sound, as well as a large kid’s game room featuring eight big screen TVs and a variety of entertaining arcade games great for children of all ages, this new restaurant is the ideal spot for sports teams, family gatherings and group fundraising events alike.

“I’ve had the pleasure of being a part of the Mountain Mike’s Pizza family for over 30 years and I couldn’t be more excited about the opportunity to expand this amazing brand into new territories with our big, beautiful new restaurant in Redding,” said Athwal. “This new space is truly a testament to the evolvement of the Mountain Mike’s brand over these past few years, and it’s been wonderful to be involved so closely in this growth. We love that our Redding location features so much space and amenities for birthday celebrations, office parties, fundraisers and more, and we’re looking forward to serving up the unique pizza experience only Mountain Mike’s can deliver.”

Athwal continued, “We just want to say thank you to everyone who has come by to check us out already; we’re thrilled to meet our new neighbors and looking forward to becoming a contributing business in Redding for many years to come!” 

Slim Chickens in the Sunshine State

Slim Chickens reports its first location in the Sunshine State will open in the spring. The forthcoming restaurant, which will be located at 300 W. 23rd St. in Panama City, comes out of the brand’s recent 10-unit franchise agreement covering the Florida Panhandle. There will also be a location coming to the Callaway area. 

Chris and Amy McMillan, along with business partners Richard Maddox, Adam Cantrell and Becky Retherford, are bringing Slim Chickens to the region and are all local business owners in Panama City. As multi-unit franchisees with a leading fast food drive-in restaurant, the McMillans are restaurant industry veterans with nearly 20 years of restaurant operations experience. 

“Slim Chickens has incredible momentum behind it – the brand is red hot. Now is the time to franchise with the brand,” said Chris McMillan, co-owner of the new restaurants. “We truly believe in Slim Chickens and are thrilled to show new customers in Florida what the excitement is all about. With its touch of southern hospitality and broad menu, we know it’s going to be a hit.” 

In addition to the forthcoming location in Panama City, the group plans to open in towns and cities across the Panhandle like Pensacola, Fort Walton, Callaway and others. 

“The McMillans and their business partners are exactly the kind of franchisees we’re seeking as we expand into new markets,” said Jackie Lobdell, executive director of franchise development at Slim Chickens. “Their professional background in restaurant operations coupled with their local business expertise are what we look for as we sign franchisees across the country.” 

The brand has opened 100 locations across the United States, the United Kingdom and Kuwait, and is known for its passionate group of followers. With more than 350 units in development, the fast-growing brand is well on its way to reaching its goal of 600 restaurants. 

In July, Slim Chickens attracted an equity investment from 10 Point Capital, the private equity firm behind segment leader Tropical Smoothie Café. 

Good Times for Chicken Salad Chick

Chicken Salad Chick is reporting 2019 as its most successful year in company history, completing Q4 with 40 new restaurants opened throughout the year, including its first locations in Ohio and Illinois. The banner year for the brand also marked the grand opening of co-founder Stacy Brown’s high-volume franchise location in her hometown of Rome, Georgia. The fast casual concept also signed 26 franchise agreements in 2019 to develop 60 new restaurants over the next several years in target markets such as Kansas City, Kansas; Austin, Texas; and Boca Raton, Florida. In addition to this tremendous system growth, the brand achieved its 16th consecutive quarter – fourth consecutive year – of same-store sales growth, reporting $153.3 million in system sales and a 4.4 percent increase in comp sales year over year.

“As I reflect on the tremendously successful year that 2019 was for Chicken Salad Chick, I’m incredibly proud of all that we’ve accomplished and know that none of it would have been possible without the tireless work of our outstanding team and dedicated franchise owners. Amazing things can happen when everyone is aligned in a shared purpose; for us, that’s always been spreading joy, enriching lives and serving others,” said Scott Deviney, CEO of Chicken Salad Chick. “Looking at the year ahead, as our brand is poised for another year of significant growth, we’re energized to keep the momentum going and continue our accelerated expansion plans to bring more Chicks to communities across key regions in the U.S.”

Chicken Salad Chick has more than quadrupling in size in the last four years, with systemwide sales increasing by 40.1 percent and unit count by 38.5% in 2019 alone. The brand’s compounding success over the past several years has fueled a surge in franchise development and positioned it for further growth in 2020. Chicken Salad Chick plans to open more than 50 new restaurants this year throughout the Midwest and South in states like Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky, Virginia, Texas, Arkansas and Florida. These efforts, coupled with the brand’s concentric circle growth strategy, help to support its greater development goal to open 250+ locations within the next five years, bringing the total unit count to 400 by 2025.

To support its aggressive national growth strategy, Chicken Salad Chick is targeting franchise development throughout the Midwest region, specifically in states like Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, Indiana, West Virginia and Virginia, and is actively seeking individuals with an entrepreneurial spirit who possess high energy and enthusiasm about the brand, marketing skills and the ability to manage a strong team. Restaurant experience is preferred. Interested candidates should have a minimum net worth of $600,000 and liquid assets of at least $150,000. Franchisees can expect the initial investment to be approximately $515,000 – $683,000 with a $50,000 initial franchise fee.

The brand is  expanding in Georgia with its newest restaurant in Macon. Marking the state’s first Chicken Salad Chick opening this year, the Macon restaurant kicks off a string of development in Georgia with additional locations slated to open in Cartersville and Loganville this spring. Located at 1676 Bass Road, across from North Macon Plaza near The Shoppes at River Crossing and I-75 exit 172, the Macon restaurant is owned by multi-unit franchise owners Rod and Lanier McLeod.

Rod and Lanier McLeod of RLM Restaurant Group, LLC have nearly a decade of experience managing and directing operations across the healthcare and restaurant industries. The Macon restaurant will be the duo’s fourth Chicken Salad Chick restaurant to open in less than four years, with existing locations in Warner Robins, Newnan and Carrollton, Georgia. The McLeods also own seven Sleep Well locations throughout the state and two Zaxby’s restaurants in North Carolina. As Macon residents and parents of a pre-schooler, the McLeod’s are involved in the community and pleased to develop the real estate for their Macon location under C.R. McLeod Developments. The building, which will feature a drive-thru, will be home to Chicken Salad Chick as well as Sucheros Tex-Mex.

“As Rod and I prepare to open our Macon restaurant, we are overcome with excitement and joy. We have fallen in love with this city, so it’s been exciting to build from the ground up,” said Lanier McLeod. “Chicken Salad Chick offers so much more than fresh, flavorful chicken salads. The concept provides a dining experience that sparks lasting memories for friends and family, and we are thrilled to introduce this one-of-a-kind restaurant to the residents in Macon.”

Potbelly Expands in Airports

Potbelly Sandwich Shop  opened a new franchise location in Charlotte, North Carolina at Charlotte Douglas International Airport. Officially opened to the public on November 15, 2019, the shop is conveniently located in the DE Concourse across from Gate D1. The brand now has five locations in North Carolina and 12 airport shops nationwide. 

“I’m thrilled to add a Potbelly location to the Charlotte airport – one of the nation’s busiest travel centers. Now, millions of domestic and international travelers can experience our tasty sandwiches,” said Frank Johnson, owner of the location and three other restaurants in the Charlotte airport. “The brand’s proven success in non-traditional environments made it an attractive opportunity as we sought to expand our fast-casual restaurant portfolio of well-known, segment-leading restaurant concepts.” 

Johnson is the founder and chief executive officer of Denard Enterprises, Inc., which is a solely minority-owned restaurant franchise company that develops and operates food and beverage concessions exclusively in airports throughout the southeastern region of the United States. Well suited for franchise ownership with Potbelly, Johnson has 15 years of restaurant operations experience. 

“Frank is a great fit to expand our non-traditional footprint, as well as our presence in Charlotte,” said Peter Ortiz, Vice President of Franchise Development for Potbelly. “Owning and operating some of the nation’s leading restaurant brands, Frank and his team have a deep understanding of how to run successful airport food and beverage operations.” 

In addition to its new Charlotte airport location, Potbelly is expanding the brand in North Carolina through franchising in the Triangle region, along with the eastern section of the state and down into South Carolina. A recently signed franchise deal includes 13 new shops for cities such as Fayetteville, Wilmington and Myrtle Beach. Potbelly continues to be an attractive franchise investment because of its reputation for having delicious food and a warm, neighborhood atmosphere, thriving in traditional and non-traditional environments alike.   

“As we prioritize franchise expansion as a company in 2020, non-traditional growth is a linchpin in our strategy,” added Ortiz. “Experienced multi-brand operators like Denard Enterprises are exactly the caliber of franchisee groups we’re seeking to grow our brand within airports, campuses, hospitals and other venues.” 

Hungry Howie's Opens New Spot

 Hungry Howie’s Pizza opened its newest location in Melvindal, Michigan. Franchisee Robert Leger’s journey with Hungry Howie’s began 30 years ago when he was just 16 years old making pizzas for a location in Florida. Eventually, he worked his way to becoming a full-time business manager. Today, Robert and his business partners operate 65 stores throughout Michigan, Ohio, North Carolina, and Florida. They plan to open more store locations within the Michigan market in the next year. In addition to this new Melvindale location, Robert recently opened a store in Big Rapids, MI in January 2020.

“It is a privilege to have had the opportunity to grow Hungry Howie’s Pizza throughout the great state of Michigan” said Leger. “Community is extremely important to us, and all of our restaurants have become an integral part of their local neighborhood. We can’t wait to serve high-quality, delicious pizza to the local Melvindale residents and provide exceptional service to this area.”

“We are fortunate to have a strong leader such as Robert, who brings more than three decades of experience with Hungry Howie’s to this new location,” said Jennifer Jackson, Vice President of Development at Hungry Howie's. “His passion and enthusiasm for the brand is a great representation of what we value at the company. His commitment to Hungry Howie’s is hard to miss, and really shines through as he continues to establish locations across the state of Michigan.”

Del Taco Expands in Arizona

 Del Taco Restaurants, Inc. opened its newest Arizona location at 5130 West Bell Road in Glendale, Arizona.

“We’ve seen firsthand how Del Taco’s winning combination of freshly-prepared food served at a tremendous value creates fans and drives traffic,” said Chris Beavor, Del Taco franchisee. “Whether guests are craving The Del Taco made with seasoned beef and hand-grated cheddar cheese, or one of our new Beyond Tacos, made with 100 percent plant-based protein, we look forward to offering the Glendale community an assortment of items sure to satisfy every craving.”  

With more than 580 locations across 15 states, Del Taco is committed to offering its guests a unique variety of Mexican favorites prepared fresh in every restaurant's working kitchen. 

In other news, Tim Hackbardt has been appointed Chief Marketing Officer. Hackbardt is a restaurant industry veteran with over 27 years of experience and has led or advised numerous restaurant chains as a marketing executive and brand consultant across the quick-service, fast-casual, family dining, casual and polished-casual categories. Among these brands are BJ’s Restaurant & Brewhouse, Rubio’s, Pieology, Steak ‘n Shake, Johnny Rockets, and Lucille’s Smokehouse Bar-B-Que. He has a proven track record of driving sales and traffic profitably while building strong differentiated brands.

Hackbardt’s experience also includes four years (1999-2003) leading marketing for Del Taco. During this time, the Company had some of its most successful years, setting records across many financial and brand metrics, including over 20% comparable restaurant sales growth during his tenure. He has also consulted with Del Taco on a range of projects from marketing technology to new prototype design over the past five years.

John D. Cappasola, Jr., President and Chief Executive Officer of Del Taco, commented, “We are pleased that Tim has rejoined Del Taco permanently as our Chief Marketing Officer. Over the last three decades, he has successfully driven strategies and innovation to attain one of the best track records in the industry for consistent, long-term performance. Tim also has a deep, hands-on appreciation of Del Taco’s differentiated QSR+ positioning and of the importance of being nimble. I am confident that he will be a tremendous asset to our Company.”

Tim Hackbardt, Chief Marketing Officer of Del Taco, added, “I am excited to be returning to Del Taco on a fulltime basis and to be resuming my work with the Company’s talented management team. We have an incredible opportunity to take our distinct platform of fresh food, value, and convenience to build unique experiences that will drive strong consumer loyalty and increased visit frequency. I look forward to helping Del Taco reach new levels of growth and market share.”

I Heart Mac & Cheese App

I Heart Mac & Cheese, a fast-casual concept specializing in customizable, made-to-order macaroni and cheese bowls and grilled cheese sandwiches, today announced the launch of its new I Heart Mac & Cheese App, which is available now for download on Apple and Android devices. The app, developed by Boca Raton-based Reatro Ventures, is designed to enhance the overall customer experience, and allows users to place online orders with streamlined payment options and gives Mac addicts the ability to earn and redeem loyalty points.


“As our brand continues to expand, and our guests are progressively on-the-go, we are thrilled to be able to offer our customers more options to improve their experience through innovation and technology,” said Steve Giordanella, CEO and Chairman of I Heart Mac & Cheese. “We are very excited for our guests to experience the additional convenience of online ordering and fantastic rewards this new mobile platform offers.”

Customers who download the app – which is free and compatible with IOS and Android platforms – can simultaneously register for I Heart Mac & Cheese’s new rewards program.  Each user will receive 50 rewards points for joining and, in addition, will earn one point for every $1 spent moving forward.  One hundred points equate to $10 in “Mac Money,” which can be used at any I Heart Mac & Cheese location nationwide.  App users can also conveniently place and pay for an order online to pick up at their nearest location. Rewards can also be earned by scanning the receipt barcode for orders placed in the restaurant.  The same process and points apply to I Heart Mac & Cheese’s online ordering feature which is now available on the website.

Pizza Hut AI

Manthan deployed Restaurant Analytics Solution across 400 plus Pizza Hut Delivery outlets in the UK. 

The solution has been deployed across functions including sales, marketing, operations, guest experience, HR and planning – to create an enterprise-wide move to data-driven decisioning. After analysing the challenges business users faced due to delayed reporting and lack of insights, Pizza Hut decided to replace an existing Business Insights platform and move to a modern analytics platform with predictive algorithm capabilities and democratize analytics across the organization. Manthan’s Restaurant Analytics solution has enabled access to insights, on-the-go, to their busiest people, significantly reducing inefficiencies and allowing for prompt course corrections.

“Manthan has demonstrated its ability to understand our business and our customers, and has the capability to deliver the highest levels of scalable technology innovation,” said Beverley D'Cruz, Chief Marketing Officer, Pizza Hut Delivery – UK. “The partnership with Manthan has significantly boosted our operational and analytical efficiencies. Manthan not only collated all our data from legacy systems to create a Single Source of Truth, but also created easier access to operational and performance metrics to give us quicker analytical turnaround times.”

“We have significantly reduced time spent on analysing and driving insights around operational bottlenecks, sales challenges, promotional performance, store benchmarking and delays in reporting. With a 360-degree view of the customer, sales and operations, we are now poised to run a more efficient ship," said Kate Vacovec, Head of Commercial Planning, Pizza Hut UK & Europe. “As a strategic technology partner, Manthan strengthens our ability to bring scalability, speed and disruptive innovation as Pizza Hut continues to elevate the customer experience through greater convenience and personalization. Their technology is a complete game changer for us, and I suspect it will be for the entire hospitality industry.”

“We’re extremely delighted for the opportunity to put our brand behind Pizza Hut. Pizza Hut is an important partner for us, and they are now on course to transform into an algorithmic business that seamlessly uses data, analytics and algorithms to drive greater business outcomes," said Madhu Rao Attada, VP, Professional Services, Manthan.

Subway Partners with Olo

Olo partnered with Subway® restaurants to integrate digital orders directly into the restaurant’s point of sale for the majority of the chain’s locations. The partnership allows Subway’s network of more than 20,000 U.S. restaurants to more seamlessly handle digital orders from third-party marketplaces.

Subway has integrated its systems and vast network of restaurants through Rails, Olo’s platform that enables restaurants to efficiently process and integrate orders originating from third-party destinations. Orders are unified on Olo’s platform and sent directly into the restaurant’s point of sale to improve operations efficiency and guest experience. It is a two-way integration, allowing Subway to benefit from accurate pricing and menu, while inbound orders are automatically directed to the restaurant’s point of sale and order management systems.

“As we explored solutions to manage orders from our third-party marketplaces, Olo stood alone in terms of efficiency, reach and ability to operate at the enterprise-scale necessary for Subway,” said Rob Tedesco, VP of Digital and Consumer Technology at Subway. “The integration of our systems to the Olo platform went very smoothly, allowing us to vastly improve restaurant operations at thousands of our locations – and without having to build or manage separate integrations for each of our third-party marketplace partners.”

Rails makes it easy for restaurant operators to list menu items on third-party marketplaces and drive incremental sales without the need to manage multiple tablets on the restaurant counter and disparate order flows. This integration reduces lag, increases order success rates, and enables faster and more accurate ordering experiences.

Subway® joins Olo’s customer base of 300 restaurant brands with access to new Rails features such as:

  • Price updater: Allows restaurant brands to set and adjust pricing for each marketplace they work with, which is then syndicated out to partners.
  •  Menu export: An automated service that alerts marketplace partners when menu changes are made. A store or menu change within Olo’s database will trigger the creation of a new store file along with a notification to marketplace partners.

“We’re thrilled to partner with Subway in a time when establishing a common digital ordering layer has become crucial for restaurant excellence,” said Marty Hahnfeld, Chief Customer Officer of Olo. “Our experience in complex enterprise environments and menu synchronization has helped to make this digital integration a success.”