Scooter's Coffee names Joe Thornton CEO

The chain’s president will take over at the drive-thru coffee chain for the retiring Todd Graeve on Jan. 1.
Joe Thornton
Joe Thornton | Photo courtesy of Scooter's Coffee.

Scooter’s Coffee, the Omaha-based chain of drive-thru coffee concepts, on Wednesday said that Company President Joe Thornton would become CEO on Jan. 1.

Todd Graeve, who has been CEO of the chain since 2016 and has been with Scooter’s for nearly two decades, is retiring.

“Joe has been a blessing for our business for our business since joining as president,” Don Eckles, cofounder and chairman of Scooter’s, said in a statement. Eckles called Thornton “an exceptionally experienced leader in the restaurant, franchise and retail industry.”

The rest of the year will be a transitional period, the company said.

Thornton has spent 40 years in large-scale operations, strategy and human resources. He is the former chief operating officer with foodservice operation HMSHost and before that held the same position with Jamba Juice.

(Check out Thornton on this 2022 episode of the “A Deeper Dive” podcast.)

He takes leadership of one of the fastest growing chains in the U.S. Scooter’s is part of a generation of rapidly growing drive-thru coffee concepts. System sales grew 52% last year, according to data from Restaurant Business sister company Technomic. The chain finished the year with 555 locations, up 39% from 2022.

“I knew this company was special from the moment I arrived,” Thornton said in a statement, noting that the company’s “family roots, core values and stability” are “unmatched.”

He will also take over for a long-term executive in Graeve, who joined the chain in 2005 as a franchisee before joining the leadership team three years later. “We wouldn’t be where we are today without him,” Eckles said.  

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.


Exclusive Content


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?


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.


Struggling I Heart Mac and Cheese franchisees push back against their franchisor

Operators say most of them aren't making money and want a break on their royalties. But they also complain about receiving expired cheese from closed stores. "Don't send us moldy product."


More from our partners