14 Recent Restaurant Leadership Changes

Latest Restaurant Leadership Changes from Bar Louie, Cannoli Kitchen Pizza, Chester’s Chicken, Dickey’s Barbecue Pit, East Coast Wings + Grill, Handel’s Homemade Ice Cream, Lee’s Famous Recipe Chicken, Mo’ Bettahs, Mountain Mike’s Pizza, Pepper Lunch, RAVE Restaurant Group, Ruby Slipper Restaurant Group, Shuckin’ Shack Oyster Bar, Wild Eggs

Handel’s Homemade Ice Cream Announces Jennifer Schuler as New CEO
Handel’s Homemade Ice Cream, a leading operator and franchisor serving handcrafted ice cream since 1945, recently announced Jennifer Schuler as its new Chief Executive Officer. Schuler is a highly seasoned executive with extensive marketing and franchise experience. She is taking the helm of a nearly 130-store and growing brand with more than 65 franchisees.

Shuckin’ Shack Oyster Bar Appoints Previous Director of Franchise Operations as New Chief Operating Officer
Shuckin’ Shack Oyster Bar, the laid-back full-service seafood restaurant franchise with 19 units across the country, announced that Sarah Meriam has been promoted to chief operating officer. The promotion fills the role vacated in late 2022 due to the retirement of the previous COO.

Chester’s Chicken Hires Industry Veteran Bill Rice as Executive Vice President
Chester’s Chicken, the fresh fried chicken quick-service restaurant concept with over 1,300 active franchised and licensed locations across the U.S., welcomes Bill Rice to the executive team as EVP, Head of Sales, Operations and Supply Chain. Rice joins Chester’s after a short retirement preceded by nearly four decades of experience in foodservice supply chain management, most recently as a senior vice president at Krispy Krunchy Foods, LLC.

Wild Eggs Welcomes Return of Co-Founder JD Rothberg as Senior Vice President of Operations
Wild Eggs, a favorite breakfast, brunch and lunch restaurant chain headquartered in Louisville, Kentucky, announces the return of one of its founders – JD Rothberg, who assumes the role of Senior Vice President of Operations. With his homecoming, Rothberg pledges to elevate Wild Eggs into the premiere breakfast place, emphasizing the importance of high-quality food, company culture and unparalleled service.

Andrew Dimatteo Named Operations Manager for Cannoli Kitchen Pizza
Cannoli Kitchen Pizza, the growing pizzeria brand known for fresh Italian favorites made with authentic recipes, has named restaurant executive Andrew DiMatteo as its Operations Manager. Cannoli Kitchen Pizza is a part of United Franchise Group (UFG), a family of affiliated brands and consultants whose members have access to a global network and nearly four decades of experience in the franchising industry and is among the concepts included in UFG’s food division, Big Flavor Brands.

Ruby Slipper Restaurant Group Welcomes Veteran Duo as Regional Vice Presidents of Operations
Ruby Slipper Restaurant Group, the home of the New Orleans-style brunch, has welcomed Derek Kamarata and Michael McBride as regional VP of Operations in respective territories. With more than 30 cumulative years of specialized restaurant industry experience, the expert duo will drive operational performance for the brand, focusing on providing effective solutions, generating growth and enhancing customer satisfaction for guests.

Mo’ Bettahs Appoints CFO as It Gears up for Next Chapter of Growth
It’s mo’ growth ahead for Mo’ Bettahs Hawaiian Style Food. In preparation for unprecedented expansion, the popular Hawaiian BBQ concept has added to its C-suite and named Clay Hansen its Chief Financial Officer. Hansen joins Mo’ Bettahs with experience in finance, IT, marketing and strategy – both in and outside of the F&B industry.

RAVE Restaurant Group Appoints CFO and Bolsters Executive Team to Accelerate Growth
RAVE Restaurant Group announced a strategic reshaping of its executive team. These appointments represent a significant upgrade to the leadership team, signaling investors and franchisees alike that the company is focused on the continued expansion and development of its Pizza Inn and Pie Five Pizza brands.

Bar Louie Names New Executives to Strengthen Franchising Activities and Continue Rapid Growth
With a focus on advancing and enhancing its franchise development efforts, Bar Louie – America’s #1 Happy Hour spot – has announced a pair of top-shelf hires poised to drive and elevate the brand’s franchising efforts. Brian DeHart will assume the role of Vice President of Franchise Operations, and Steve Culbert has joined as Vice President of Franchise Sales and Administration.

Pepper Lunch Bolsters Executive Team with Leading Franchise Growth and Real Estate and Development Executives
Pepper Lunch, the Japanese-born experiential fast-casual concept unlike any other, with more than 500 locations in 15 countries, has tapped franchise sales executive, Paul Tran, as its Vice President of Franchise Development, and Dana Hathaitham as its Vice President of Real Estate and Development.

Seasoned Restaurant-Industry Executive Carol Denembo Proudly Named Chief Marketing Officer at Mountain Mike’s Pizza
Mountain Mike’s Pizza, a leading California-based family-style pizza chain for more than 45 years, known for its legendary crispy, curly pepperonis, Mountain-sized pizzas, dough made fresh daily, and toppings to the edge, has proudly named longtime foodservice marketing executive and experienced restaurant-industry leader Carol DeNembo as Chief Marketing Officer.

East Coast Wings + Grill Gears Up for Next Level of Growth with Hiring of VP of Marketing, Ashley Mitchell
As part of their deliberate development strategy, East Coast Wings + Grill, a casual dining restaurant franchise, has taken the next step in their growth with the hiring of Ashley Mitchell as Vice President of Marketing. With decades of consumer marketing experience with world-class brands, Mitchell will help drive the new and updated 5-year growth strategy while continuing to elevate brand awareness, local store marketing and lead generation.

Lee’s Famous Recipe Chicken Welcomes Jessica Crouch As Director of Field Marketing
Lee’s Famous Recipe Chicken, a celebrated name in home-style fresh, never frozen fried chicken for over 55 years, recently announced Jessica Crouch as the new Director of Field Marketing. Crouch will lead marketing efforts for Lee’s corporate-owned units and continue to build out local store marketing resources for the field. She will report to Vice President of Marketing Dan Sokolik.

Dickey’s Barbecue Hires New Director of R & D: Chef Matt Burton
In October of 2023, accomplished chef Matthew Burton continued his industry career by joining Dickey’s Restaurant Brands, Inc. as their Director of R&D and Corporate Executive Chef. With nearly 30 years of notable performance, chef Matthew Burton brings his extensive knowledge of flavors and culinary creativity to the world’s largest barbecue brand.

The 6 Best Small Business Week Deals for Entrepreneurs

Companies including T-Mobile and Verizon are offering deals for founders to take their small businesses to the next level.

Small Business Week is around the corner–and so are deals for entrepreneurs.

Spanning from April 28 to May 4, Small Business Week is a celebration of American entrepreneurs hosted by the Small Business Administration. The event provides small businesses visibility and highlights how these companies have impacted their local communities. Founders can participate in the SBA’s free virtual summit from April 30 to May 1 with Zoom sessions hosted by companies like Visa, T-Mobile and Amazon.

They can also take advantage of these discounts and deals running through the week. Here are some standouts:


Businesses looking to expand their phone plans can take advantage of T-Mobile’s new “Business Unlimited Package.” The deal offers phone lines at $45 monthly with a minimum of six lines. For Small Business Week, new small businesses using this package can add 10 or more lines to get a credit of $1,000 via 36-monthly bill credits. Businesses also have the option to earn up to $1,000 via 24-monthly bill credits and use it for any new smartphone per line when they add 10 lines.

Owners can get Amazon Business Prime Essentials free for a year by having at least three active lines on the following T-Mobile plans: Business Unlimited Edge, Business Unlimited Ultimate, Go5G Business Next, or Go5G Business Plus. Business Prime Essentials offers features to help small businesses run smoothly on Amazon, like free shipping on eligible orders and access to consumer spending analytics.

T-Mobile will also distribute $50,000 to five small businesses that win its Small Business Week sweepstakes. To enter, businesses must fill out a form and share their business challenges, investment interests, and customer service experience.

During the SBA’s virtual Small Business Summit, T-Mobile will host two sessions: “Securing Your Small Business in a Work-From-Anywhere World” and “Small Business Strategies for Collaboration and Productivity.” The summit will occur on April 30 and May 1.


The telecommunications brand will offer 30 percent off phone cases and screens. Small business owners can also use the code “GET50” to get $50 off fiber internet when ordering online.

Office Evolution and Venture X

Take advantage of the opportunity to meet with your team in person during Small Business Week. Co-working space companies Office Evolution and Venture X are offering free co-working spaces from April 29 to March 3. Participating locations and registration can be found on the Office Evolution and Venture X websites. The co-working spaces offer various amenities, including an onsite receptionist, internet, kitchens, conference rooms, printer access, parking access, and more.

Constant Contact

The email and digital marketing platform Constant Contact will offer 30 percent off three months of any email or digital marketing package purchased from April 28 to May 4. The platform offers various programs that help small businesses deploy email campaigns-such as newsletters or announcements-without any required coding experience by providing templates and interfaces to streamline mass digital correspondence.


The customer relationship management company will extend its 14-day free trial to 30 days. The platform helps small businesses in sales and team management aspects by offering services that can automate email replies, compile consumer reports, and organize tasks.


Prior to Small Business Week, Verizon is offering free consultations and services until April 28. This includes a free tech check, a free 5G phone for businesses willing to switch to Verizon with no required trade-in, and up to a $1,000 Visa Prepaid Card when a business switches to select Fios Business Internet plans on a two-year term.

These 5 Bad Habits Are Hurting Your Business — Here’s How to Break Them

When you develop these negative habits, it can severely impact work performance and, because the behavior has become so routine, you may not even realize the harm you’re causing. Here’s how to tackle these 5 bad business habits head-on.

In the old days, when I was much younger and inexperienced in business, I often found myself getting defensive when someone disagreed with me. I would say, almost automatically, “You’re not listening to me!” I finally saw this knee-jerk reaction was a habit I needed to break; the other person usually was listening but just didn’t see things my way. I changed that bad habit by turning it into a question – “Why do you think that way is best?” – which made all the difference in the tone of the conversation.

Negative habits equal negative performance

Acting without thinking, as I did in those situations, is the very definition of habitual behavior. When the habit is negative, it can do great harm to work performance, especially when you don’t see the damage you’re doing because you’re so accustomed to engaging in the behavior. You may not even think it’s a habit. A few minutes of social media won’t hurt, right? Maybe not – until it turns into a few hours.

I never like to see anyone doing anything without thinking, but the damage done by bad habits – to the one practicing them and those they work with – is worse than just the fact you’re engaging in rote action. I have seen first-hand how bad habits negatively affect people. Wasting time leads to sloppy last-minute work. Bad attitudes drag everyone down.

I’ve found the best way to fix a bad habit is to replace it with something positive, like I did with my “You’re not listening” complaint. Asking the other person to explain their point of view shows respect and replacing “You’re not” with “Why?” turns a negative attack into a positive inquiry. (And, getting the other person to defend their opinion can also lead them to realize you were right after all!)

Before you break a bad habit, of course, you must admit you’ve developed one. Here are five bad habits that could be hurting your business and advice on how to help yourself break them.

Wasting work time on social media

This is almost a redundancy; unless you’re the social media manager for your company, any time spent on Facebook, Instagram or other networks is a waste of time. The problem is that we often think we’re “just going to check” these social networks — the next thing we know, we’re still online and the day is half over.

Break it: Set a time for social media consumption and stick to it; set a timer if you need to. Turn off all the alerts and stay offline in meetings. You might want to put your phone in another room if you’re on Zoom, so you don’t get distracted.


It’s disrespectful and you can lose essential contributions from the person you interrupt. The problem starts when we are thinking about what we’re going to say in response to the speaker, instead of listening to them and then answering.

Break it: Wait until the speaker finishes and then offer your opinion and response. Or, for a day or two, you could try saying nothing at all until someone asks what you think.


We used to think this was a superpower. “Wow, she’s so productive!” Now we know better. Our brain needs time to readjust as we switch from one task to another.

Break it: Do one thing at a time and do it well. Give yourself a chunk of time – at least an hour, maybe two – to focus on the tasks of each project, and don’t let the other projects interrupt.

Skipping lunch

Another “macho” business habit that’s been debunked. If you’re so busy you can’t take a break to refuel, you’re doing something wrong. This is one of several health-related habits to break: drinking to excess, smoking (in any amount), eating poorly, getting no exercise. You wouldn’t let your laptop or cellphone keep going without recharging; your body and mind won’t be any good either if you neglect them.

Break it: Take the off time you’re allotted, have a nutritious lunch and relax. Take a couple more breaks during the day to walk. You might even solve that business problem when you get away from your desk!


Negativity drags you down and takes everyone with you; positivity leads to success. We have a manager who used to think he was always being honest and transparent by sharing bad news. This is terrible leadership, as the negativity spreads and gives everyone room to complain. We are changing this, and he now has a better understanding of the effect his attitude was having.

Break it: Before sharing bad news or a negative opinion, ask yourself if your listeners need to hear it. Will it make anyone’s job easier or their day better? If you must share it, just give the facts and don’t make it sound worse (or better) than it is.

Now, because I believe in positivity, I’ll leave you with a good habit you should cultivate. Be a “good finder,” as the author and motivational speaker Zig Ziglar used to say. It’s easy to get caught always finding the mistakes in yourself and others but make a habit of looking for the good in everyone, too.

Cannoli Kitchen Pizza names operations manager

Cannoli Kitchen Pizza has named Andrew DiMatteo as operations manager, according to a press release.

DiMatteo will serve on the brand’s leadership team and will spearhead its new franchisee training program as well as oversee operations for Cannoli Kitchen Pizza.

Most recently, DiMatteo serves as VP of operations for a privately-owned, multi-unit Italian restaurant brand.

“With Andrew’s culinary and restaurant training and his family’s Italian roots, he’s a perfect fit for this role. Coupled with his intimate familiarity with the culture that embodies Cannoli Kitchen Pizza, Andrew is poised to help propel our brand’s growth and we couldn’t be more thrilled to have him on our leadership team,” Austin Titus, president of Cannoli Kitchen Pizza, said in the release.

The brand will hold its first training school in May and provide seven weeks of learning: Two weeks in the classroom at their global headquarters in West Palm Beach, three weeks on-location at the Deerfield Beach restaurant and two weeks at new franchise locations.

“I spent most of my life in the restaurant business, learning with family and friends and loving every aspect of it,” DiMatteo said in the release. “As I step into this new role, I look forward to tapping into my depth of knowledge, years of experience and Italian roots to help Cannoli Kitchen Pizza and our incredible franchise owners grow and succeed.”

Cannoli Kitchen Pizza is a part of United Franchise Group, a family of affiliated brands and consultants whose members have access to a global network and nearly four decades of experience in the franchising industry and is among the concepts included in UFG’s food division, Big Flavor Brands.

PPAI Research: Suppliers Face Revenue Struggles

In PPAI Research’s series of bi-monthly snapshots, the promotional products industry seems unable to shake its modest pace of revenue growth. In February and March, the industry grew by 1.5% over the same period in 2023.

  • This is only a slight improvement on the 1.4% growth registered in December and January.
  • Perhaps more importantly, it continues to stay below half the rate of inflation, which rose to 3.5% in March according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
  • The latest revenue data isn’t cultivated from the same methodology as the annual Distributor Sales Volume Estimate, which polls distributors of all sizes. Rather, the current assessment stems from the aggregated results of PPAI 100 suppliers responding to a flash survey.

Alok Bhat, PPAI’s market economist and research lead, says that maintaining growth leaves plenty of room for a promising future, but it also puts many promo companies in a position in which nimble maneuvering is crucial going forward.

“The industry’s modest growth – lagging behind inflation – underscores the challenges of expansion and the necessity for cautious optimism, adaptation and innovation in a fluctuating economic landscape,” Bhat says.

These challenges are underscored by the reveal that 41% of suppliers reported a revenue dip in February and March 2024 compared to the same stretch of 2023. Markedly, a much smaller share of distributors – 20% – reported a revenue decline in February-March.

“Distributors seem to be outpacing suppliers in capturing sales revenue growth, likely benefiting from direct consumer insights and agile market response capabilities,” Bhat says.

The share of suppliers reporting an increase in unit sales (39%) mirrored, roughly,  the share reporting a decline in unit sales. In another sharp contrast, 65% of distributors reported an increase in unit sales in February-March.

Andrew Titus, president of Fully Promoted – ranked the No. 18 distributor in the inaugural PPAI 100 – says the West Palm Beach, Florida-based company has experienced a slight increase in sales revenue, partly due to unit growth.

“Our numbers will mostly likely skew higher than average in the next six months as we have a record number of new locations being launched,” Titus says.

Order volume tells a similar tale as unit sales. Among suppliers, 46% reported an increase in order volume in February-March and 33% reported a decrease. Again, the numbers are much better for distributors, 70% of which reported an increase in order volume and only 10% report a dip in order volume.

Supplier Challenges

“Economic uncertainty” remains the most commonly reported business challenge facing suppliers. However, the number of suppliers who cited the economy dropped significantly in February and March down to 63%, compared to 82% in December and January.

  • Concerns over the economy have softened notably over the past six months. The number of suppliers citing the economy as a challenge was 91% back in October and November.

With the economy seeming to stabilize in the minds of suppliers, something else is perhaps behind their recent revenue struggles. It is worth noting that the number of suppliers who answered “Others” to what business challenges they faced has gone up to 19%, implying a diverse set of unique challenges.

That 19% underscores how numerous possible obstacles can pop up for suppliers, affecting – at least temporarily – their bottom line.

  • One anonymous supplier stated a new ERP launch in the first week of February, “which is a good thing, but we intentionally cut off rush and prolonged production time during the transition, which translated to changes in order, revenue and units sold.”
  • Another supplier cited “changes in buying habits from end users” and still another reported “minimal distributor effort” becoming a challenge.

Also of note is a significant increase in suppliers claiming that price competition pressure as a business challenge, which at 59%, nearly doubled the shareof suppliers (32%) citing that issue in December and January.

According to Bhat, this newfound focus on price competition suggests “a highly competitive market environment where cost efficiency and value proposition become pivotal.”

Distributor Challenges

Similar to their supplier counterparts, PPAI 100 distributors cite economic uncertainty and lengthy sales cycles as their biggest business challenges.

  • Matching the trend among suppliers, distributors’ concerns over the economy have also significantly decreased over the past six months. In February-March, 58% of distributors reported it as a challenge,  compared to 94% in October-November.

The same share of distributors (58%) are reporting long sales cycles as a hurdle, which may reflect decision-making delays or complexities in procurement processes.

Titus adds that the political climate is the next biggest challenge facing promo firms. “Both candidates are polarizing, which is impacting how some businesses are choosing to spend their budgets,” Titus says.

More than one-third (37%) of distributors – up from 32% in December and January – reported rising customer expectations as a major challenge, indicating a shift towards higher service standards and product quality in the industry.

  • Meanwhile, price competition, which in October and November had affected a third of distributors, has since stabilized and is now considered a challenge by only 22%.

Nearly one-third (32%) of distributors who answered “Other” highlighted unique challenges, such as adapting to digital transformations, navigating labor market shifts and ensuring quality control from suppliers.

One anonymous distributor said that “RFPs continue to become more complicated” and that they “often see greenwashing and a lack of transparency from suppliers on sustainability.” Another distributor mentioned “facing a slowdown in customer demand.”

Jo Gilley, CEO of Overture Promotions – ranked the No. 15 distributor in the inaugural PPAI 100 – considers the pace of change to be a challenge for the Waukegan, Illinois-based company.

“As we continue to improve technology, automate workflows and add AI into the mix, we have to keep it manageable to be able to train employees and normalize new ways of doing things,” Gilley says. “Ensuring remote and hybrid employees stay engaged and a part of the culture is an ongoing, low-grade challenge.”

Gilley hopes that Overture’s “homecoming week,” in which everyone comes to headquarters for three days’ worth of training, awards, a town hall and a “spring fling” party, will fuel camaraderie throughout the organization this week and beyond.

“The building is humming with energy, and it makes me deeply happy,” Gilley says.

Cannoli Kitchen Names Ops Manager

Cannoli Kitchen Pizza named restaurant executive Andrew DiMatteo as its operations manager.

DiMatteo will lead the chain’s franchisee training program, as well as oversee operations for Cannoli Kitchen Pizza. Most recently, DiMatteo served as vice president of operations for a privately owned, multi-unit Italian restaurant brand focusing on handmade pizzas and other menu items, per a release.

Cannoli Kitchen Pizza is owned by multiconcept operator United Franchise Group. It’s part of UFG’s Big Flavor Brands division, which includes fast-casual restaurants like The Great Greek Mediterranean Grill and specialty concepts like the grazing and charcuterie board chain Graze Craze.