Focus Brands names Jim Holthouser CEO

The operator of Auntie Anne’s, Cinnabon and other concepts named the former Hilton executive to replace the retiring Steve DeSutter.
auntie Anne's
Photograph by Jonathan Maze

Focus Brands, the operator of Auntie Anne’s, Cinnabon and several other concepts, on Thursday named Jim Holthouser its new CEO.

The leadership change is “effective immediately,” the Atlanta-based company said.

Holthouser succeeds Steve DeSutter, who is retiring after six years at the helm of a company that also operates Carvel, Jamba, Moe’s Southwest Grill, McAlister’s Deli and Schlotzsky’s.

Holthouser comes to Focus from hotel operator Hilton Worldwide, where he was executive vice president, global brands, marketing and loyalty. He spent more than 20 years with Hilton in various strategic and brand management roles.

He is “a results-oriented leader with a demonstrated history of partnering with team members and franchisees to drive results,” Steve Romaniello, Focus Brands chairman, said in a statement. He also cited Holthouser’s record of managing multibranded portfolios.

Hilton encompasses 13 brands that operate 5,000 hotels. Focus Brands concepts operate more than 6,000 restaurants, bakeries and ice cream shops in the U.S. and more than 50 countries.

Holthouser “is ideally suited to lead Focus Brands in its next phase of growth,” Romaniello said.

Private-equity firm Roark Capital owns Focus. It also owns Arby’s and Buffalo Wild Wings operator Inspire Brands, which is also helmed by a former hotel company executive, Paul Brown.

DeSutter has been with the company since 2014, guiding it through its 2018 purchase of juice and smoothie chain Jamba.

In a statement, DeSutter said he is “very much looking forward to continuing to watch the business grow from my seat in retirement” and said that Holthouser “has impressed me with his passion for the brands, hospitality and franchising.”

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