Church’s Chicken has a new name and a new CEO.
On Tuesday, the 1,500-unit chicken chain, which is now calling itself Church’s Texas Chicken, named former Focus Brands executive Joe Guith its new CEO.
He takes over for Joe Christina, who had been chief executive of the Atlanta-based chain for the past six years.
Guith had been head of the restaurant category for Focus, also based in Atlanta, where he oversaw Moe’s Southwest Grill, McAlister’s Deli and Schlotzsky’s. He had previously been brand president at McAlister’s and Cinnabon. And earlier in his career worked with KFC and the Coca-Cola Company.
He now takes over the leadership of a company that has been increasingly showing off its Texas roots. Church’s is known outside the U.S. as simply Texas Chicken, and in Canada in 2019 rebranded into Church’s Texas Chicken. The company now appears to be taking that same strategy in the U.S.
Church’s was founded in San Antonio in 1952 by George W. Church. It is currently owned by private-equity firm High Bluff Capital Partners along with FS Investments. Anand Gowda, founder of High Bluff, said in a statement that Guith’s “proven track record supports our efforts to build upon the brand’s strong foundation.”
Guith in a statement said he was “impressed with this brand’s resiliency and its ability to navigate a challenging environment over the past few years.” He said the company has a “strong base of domestic and international franchisees and a number of strategic growth initiatives on the horizon.”
Church’s has been in decline in the U.S. over the past five years, with domestic unit count down more than 24% while system sales declined 16%, according to data from Restaurant Business sister company Technomic. But its growth in international markets has offset that at least somewhat—it now operates more than 600 international locations, up 8% over the past five years.
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