Potbelly Corporation (NASDAQ: PBPB) yesterday announced the latest in a series of recent key appointments to strengthen its leadership team, with the appointment of Brandon Rhoten as Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer. The addition of Rhoten builds on Potbelly’s focused effort to assemble a world-class leadership team as the Company executes its turnaround strategy.
With more than 15 years of restaurant industry and agency experience, Rhoten brings a wealth of knowledge and insight from his previous marketing and branding roles. He will report directly to Alan Johnson, President and Chief Executive Officer of Potbelly. Rhoten will have oversight of all aspects of Potbelly’s marketing, including brand strategy, digital marketing, social media, research, loyalty, direct marketing and advertising.
Rhoten joins Potbelly from Papa John’s International, Inc., where he served as Global Chief Marketing Officer. Prior to Papa John’s, Rhoten was Vice President of Advertising, Media and Digital/Social at Wendy’s International, where his team received industrywide recognition for its highly successful digital/social media campaigns, which helped lead the brand turnaround. Rhoten started his career in marketing at the advertising agency Gyro.
Johnson said, “The kind of marketer who would have Boyz II Men sing to a cheeseburger and give a year of chicken nuggets to a high schooler for earning the most retweets in history will definitely bring the quirky fun back to Potbelly. Brandon’s experience and approach are perfectly aligned with the direction we are setting to expand our brand presence in a world where social and digital drive the conversation. We look forward to leveraging his many years of creativity, brand strategy, bold and disruptive marketing, and success with other well-known consumer brands. This is an exciting time for Potbelly.”
“The second you walk through the door of a Potbelly, it’s clear this place is like no other sandwich restaurant,” Rhoten said. “Potbelly is THE brand in the space that can truly be interesting. I’m excited to join the team so we can make the sandwich category irresistible for consumers again.”
Johnson continued, “The addition of Brandon is just the most recent action that we have taken to build out the right leadership team required to execute our strategy to turn around the business. Over the past few months, we have added talented and experienced leaders to drive our franchise development, our off-premise business, our menu innovation and now our brand marketing to the next level.”
Potbelly has successfully recruited several highly accomplished restaurant executives with deep expertise in franchise, off-premise, culinary and marketing. Key additions include:
- Jeff Welch, Senior Vice President of Franchise Development, brings to Potbelly over 30 years of franchise, real estate and operations experience across organizations such as Krispy Kreme, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell and KFC. Welch has full responsibility for franchising, including developing and executing the vision, strategy and tactical plan to deliver long-term profitable and sustainable growth. His efforts will build a stronger foundation for franchise expansion, allowing for accelerated growth and an increased mix of franchised units.
- Debbie White, Vice President of Off-Premise, joins Potbelly with over 25 years of sales and marketing leadership roles across PepsiCo, Taco Bell and Domino’s Pizza. With a craveable product that travels well and is perfect for many occasions, Potbelly is vastly underpenetrated in its off-premise business. White’s primary focus will be to capture the significant growth potential across all dayparts in catering, delivery, grab & go, and curbside pickup.
- Chef Ryan LaRoche, Vice President of Culinary Innovation, is a Michelin-starred chef with over 20 years of success in culinary production from fine dining to fast casual. He served as Executive Chef at Park Hyatt Washington, was Executive Sous Chef to legendary chef Joël Robuchon and most recently was Vice President of Culinary Operations at Mariano’s. LaRoche brings a chef-inspired perspective to menu design and product innovation that will let Potbelly embrace its unique, quirky nature through fun and interesting new ways to excite its customers and make Potbelly’s menu even more craveable.
Johnson concluded, “We are excited to have Brandon, Jeff, Debbie and Chef Ryan join the Potbelly team. We remain focused on building the right team to establish the foundation to reposition Potbelly for sustainable profitable growth over the long term. I am confident that our best days are ahead of us.”
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