Leadership

Claudia San Pedro is stepping down as Sonic president

The 2022 Restaurant Business Restaurant Leader of the Year is leaving the company to focus on family medical matters. Arby's Brand President Jim Taylor is taking her place, while Rita Patel will head Arby's.
Claudia San Pedro
Claudia San Pedro is stepping down as Sonic Drive-In brand president. / Photo courtesy of Inspire Brands

Claudia San Pedro, who guided Sonic Drive-In through the pandemic and then its challenging aftermath, is stepping down as the chain’s brand president to focus on family medical matters, parent company Inspire Brands said on Wednesday.

The move prompted several other leadership changes at the Atlanta-based brand operator. Jim Taylor, who is Arby’s president, will shift over to Sonic to take San Pedro’s place.

Rita Patel, who was Arby’s chief marketing officer, was named that chain’s brand president.

Ellen Rose, meanwhile, has been named Arby’s chief marketing officer. She is currently the chain's VP of strategic growth initiatives. 

And John Bowie, chief operating officer at Buffalo Wild Wings, is being promoted to that chain’s brand president.

“As Inspire has grown, we have placed a high priority on cultivating talent and developing a strong bench of leaders,” Inspire CEO Paul Brown said in a statement. “This allows us to maintain consistency in talent and culture while bringing a fresh perspective to new teams and roles.”

San Pedro was RB’s Restaurant Leader of the Year in 2022 for her performance at Sonic, where average unit volumes grew more than 30% under her watch.

She joined the chain in 2006 and spent more than 16 years with the brand, guiding it through its 2018 sale to Inspire. Brown called her an “exceptional leader.” “Her unmatched leadership ability has helped guide the brand through several challenging economic and operating environments,” Brown said, noting that “I hope to have the opportunity to welcome her back to the Inspire family in the future.”

Taylor has been with Arby’s for nearly nine years, starting as head of product development, then chief marketing officer and then brand president.

The company enjoyed nine years of same-store sales growth during Taylor's time at the chain, along with record unit-level economics and the highest average unit volumes in its history.

Patel has been with Inspire since 2020, first as CMO for Buffalo Wild Wings where the company launched menu items such as “Boneless Bar Pizza” and Bird Dawgs. Before Inspire, she worked as VP of brand management with Target.

Rose, meanwhile, has been with the Arby’s brand for nearly 10 years in various leadership roles.

Bowie has worked with Inspire and its brands for more than a decade, including Arby’s, where he was chief operating officer before that chain’s acquisition of Buffalo Wild Wings.

Members help make our journalism possible. Become a Restaurant Business member today and unlock exclusive benefits, including unlimited access to all of our content. Sign up here.

Multimedia

Exclusive Content

Financing

Reassessing McDonald's tech deals from 2019

The Bottom Line: The fast-food giant’s decision to end its drive-thru AI test with IBM is the latest pullback away from a pair of technology acquisitions it made five years ago.

Operations

Trend or fad? These restaurant currents could go either way

Reality Check: A number of ripples were evident in the business during the first half of the year. The question is, do they have staying power?

Financing

Starbucks' value offer is a bad idea

The Bottom Line: It’s not entirely clear that price is the reason Starbucks is losing traffic. If it isn’t, the company’s new value offer could backfire.

Trending

More from our partners