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The Power 20

This year's 20 elite leaders of the restaurant industry

The Power 20

Dan Beranek

Sweetgreen is among the most digitally savvy restaurant brands, often cited for its willingness to be a pioneer and trial new tech advances, processes and more. Dan Beranek, a former dDirector of dDigital for Starbucks, is one of those leading the charge for the growing fast casual, focusing on driving the best digital experience for both diners and employees. “It goes back to being customer obsessed,” Beranek said at the FSTEC cConference last fall. “That drives everything we do. We have to remove friction from not just customers getting the food, but for our team too.”

The Power 20

Marcus Byrd

Marcus Byrd was merely a fan of fast-casual Mexican chain Dos Toros when he sent a LinkedIn message to the emerging chain’s CEO. A coffee date meeting led to Byrd becoming the brand’s fourth corporate employee when the concept had just four units and was making about $10 million annually. Now, Dos Toros pulls in nearly $60 million a year and was recently acquired by Chopt.

Founding Just Salad in his 20s, Nick Kenner built a growing fast-casual brand that has seen 30 consecutive months of same-store sales growth, with 2019 comp sales up 18%.

Last August, the New York Times called Marguerite Mariscal the “secret sauce” behind the growing Momofuku Group restaurant empire.

The restaurant industry’s leadership preferences tend to go in cycles. In a trying economic environment, finance veterans appear to have an inside track to the CEO’s job.

Christopher Thomas-Moore is a creator. Since joining Domino’s in 2018, he’s driven several tech advancements and campaigns, including the launch of its Points for Pies loyalty program that allows users to scan any pizza for points, using AI-tech embedded in Domino’s app.

When Laura Titas joined Wendy’s in 2018, the burger chain was considered a tortoise in the race for digital sales. But after an investment of $25 million in digital, growth was up 325% year over year in Q3 2019, Titas reported in a presentation at Wendy’s Investor Day last year. 

Danika Brown first joined Auntie Anne’s as an intern, coming on full time after graduating college. “Since that time, she’s been promoted quickly because of her work ethic, her strategic thinking, her respect from her peers and franchisees, and her ability to produce results, over and over again,” says Auntie Anne’s President Heather Neary. Now, says Neary, she’s responsible for the brand’s off-premise initiatives, which Brown has grown six- to ten fold since the program first started in 2017.

Brian Loescher has spent his career in the restaurant industry, dating back to when he was a team member for Rally’s Hamburgers. Now, he’s focused on franchising.

The running joke among Jason Valentine’s circle of friends was that he was always 20 going on 40, says Valentine, now the president and COO of Zoup! Eatery. He actually achieved his lofty position at 38, getting hired by Zoup’s CEO and founder Eric Ersher in 2018.

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