After running the IHOP full-service pancake chain for three years, Darren Rebelez is returning to the convenience store industry as CEO of the Casey’s General Stores chain.
The former COO of 7-Eleven will face many of the same challenges he did as president of IHOP, where he oversaw a turnaround fueled by new marketing, new menu options, a new restaurant design and a push for off-premise business.
More recently, 1,831-unit IHOP aired plans to embrace more technology, a mission Rebelez will shoulder at 2,100-store Casey’s. The publicly owned c-store brand recently told investors that it plans to roll out a new smartphone app and loyalty program. Rebelez’s predecessor as CEO of Casey’s, Terry Handley, said tech will be important in bolstering the brand’s sales of prepared foods and fountain beverages. Sales of foodservice items rose on a same-store basis by 1.5% for the third quarter ended Jan. 21.
Casey’s generated foodservice sales of about $1 billion for fiscal 2018, which would have put it in 49th place on Technomic’s Top 500 ranking of restaurant chains by sales volume. It sells enough pizza to claim that it’s the nation’s fifth-largest pizza chain, behind Papa John’s.
About a year ago, the chain revealed plans to drop delivery from about 100 of the then-790 units that offered that service, citing concern about margins. Delivery through third parties has been a big driver of IHOP’s sales growth.
Rebelez will assume his new post on June 24. Handley is retiring that day after leading Casey’s for 38 years.
Before joining IHOP, Rebelez, a West Point graduate, worked at 7-Eleven for eight years.
“Darren brings a remarkable combination of leadership experience in the convenience store, fuel and restaurant industries, and he has an impressive track record of driving performance and innovation,” said Casey’s Chairman Lynn Horak.
Rebelez will be succeeded as president of IHOP on June 13 by Jay Johns, currently SVP of operations for the Dine Brands Global holding.