Major-chain execs make an entrepreneurial shift

executive cafe laptop

As an SVP of Starbucks, Clarice Turner handled big projects for a very big chain—steering the 16,000-store empire into nighttime bar service, to name just one of the moonshots. But after working at NASA scale for seven years, Turner left the industry’s second-largest chain this summer for a brand too small to appear on most sales rankings: 28-unit Boudin Bakery.

Ralph Bower understands her reasoning. In two decades of leading restaurant chains, his smallest charge was 300-store Pei Wei Asian Diner. He left the fast-casual sister of P.F. Chang’s in August to become CEO of The Melt, an operation with 19 units.

The pair are hardly unusual in leaving resource-rich operations of scale for small growth concepts still in entrepreneurial mode.

Turner’s former colleague Christine Barone resigned her SVP post at Starbucks, where she oversaw food and bakery operations, to become CEO of 19-branch True Food Kitchen in mid-September.

Phil Costner, a former president of Mimi’s Cafe and la Madeleine, now oversees 28 Granite City brewpubs and Cadillac Ranch honkytonks.

Irene Cook was SVP of Panera Bread before joining the C-suite at Dug Inn, a farm-to-table fast-casual chain with 12 stores.

Larry Mench packed up the personal items from his VP’s desk at Tim Hortons and began to introduce himself as COO for the seven-unit Oasis delivery chain.

Turner, a former president of Papa Murphy’s, insists that size was less important to her than geography. For nearly a decade, she’s been slogging back and forth from Starbucks’ Seattle headquarters to the San Francisco area, where her husband and family continued to reside.

Today's top stories

1
Domino’s proved once again it’s dodging the sales slowdown hamstringing other restaurant operations, posting a 10.2% domestic same-store sales gain for the first quarter. The leap in sales follows a...
2
The Food and Drug Administration is pushing back enforcement of menu labeling requirements for chain restaurants and retailers from the scheduled start day of May 5, according to a group lobbying for...
3
Cash may still be king, but a huge asterisk is being slapped atop that truism as it applies to restaurants. The number of places looking to forgo currency and accept only cashless payments, and app-...
4
It is a commendable goal to look at performance metrics to make sure your employees are performing to their potential and have incentive to excel. On the surface, there is nothing preventing an...
5
Much like food trucks before them, food halls are the new go-to format for incubating a restaurant concept. Andrew Gruel knows this well. Gruel’s California-based fast-casual sustainable fish chain...
6
After revealing dramatic indications that a sales rebound is underway , Chipotle acknowledged more misfortune yesterday, warning customers that some personal information may have been swiped by...
7
Chipotle proved today its recovery drive is finding traction , posting a same-store sales gain of 17.8% for the first quarter of 2017 and an expansion of store-level operating margins to 17.7%,...
8
With more consumers expressing an interest in “free-from” foods and wanting to know the origin of their next meal, operators across segments are taking a more transparent approach to menu creation...
9
Consumers continue to show interest in clean, natural ingredients on restaurant menus. It’s easy to see why: Mandatory nutrition labeling for chain restaurant menus has pushed the idea of...
10
Burgers are a major part of foodservice business, with more than 50 billion served each year. That's why burgers, although highly popular, are an area that is ripe for innovation. Chefs who are...