Bringing a 69-year-old brand to technology’s leading edge would be the achievement of a career for many restaurant leaders. But Claudia San Pedro, president of the retro-feeling Sonic drive-in chain, had a few other things on her meal tray when she took the job. Like managing the public company’s $2.3 billion sale, all while allaying the concerns of a franchise community that hadn’t hesitated in the past to use its voice.
The course she plotted enabled the chain to weather those challenges as it barreled into an even bigger test: A once-in-a-century pandemic. Her steadfast stewardship through those extraordinary times earned San Pedro the selection as the 2022 Restaurant Leader of the Year, the chain sector’s top honor.
The one-time public servant will take the stage at the Restaurant Leadership Conference on Tuesday to share her thinking on the challenges and opportunities that currently preoccupy chain executives. San Pedro will be interviewed in a keynote session by Restaurant Business Editor in Chief Jonathan Maze, who’s just back from visiting the headquarters of Sonic’s parent company, Inspire Brands. In addition to running Sonic, San Pedro is now also head of the multi-brand franchisor’s limited-service group.
The session will wrap up the Tuesday general session, which runs from 9:30 to 11:30.
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