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Brinker taps John Cywinski to head innovation

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John Cywinski, a marketing veteran who has shaped the development of such brands as KFC, Applebee’s and Burger King, is joining Brinker International as EVP of strategic innovation. 

Cywinski, who also has experience as a restaurant franchisee, “will be instrumental in delivering a differentiated guest experience across our brands,” said Wyman Roberts, CEO of Brinker and president of its largest operation, the Chili’s casual chain. “As we continue to pursue initiatives focused on an enhanced guest experience, John will lead the strategic thinking and innovation around aligning all guest touch points.”

Chili’s has been attempting to differentiate itself in casual dining by aiming to deliver whatever experience a particular guest wants on that visit. A new kitchen setup allows the brand to provide speedy service to a customer who may want a quick dinner before a movie, or to slow down the pace for patrons who want a more leisurely dinner with several drinks.

It has been an early adapter of such technology as tabletop ordering tablets as well.

Brinker is also the parent company of the Maggiano’s family-style Italian chain.

Cywinski will join the company on Monday.

He was previously the president of KFC’s domestic operations, overseeing some 4,500 quick-service restaurants. Earlier, the one-time ad agency exec ran franchises of Dunkin’ Donuts and Sonic Drive-In in Chicago.

Much of his time in the industry has been spent in marketing. He was CMO of Applebee’s and vice president of marketing for Burger King’s U.S. division.

Between restaurant jobs, he also served as president of Buena Vista Pictures Marketing, a business of The Walt Disney Co.

Early in his career, he worked for the Leo Burnett ad agency.

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