Cosi hires BK’s Hyatt as CEO

DEERFIELD Ill. The Cosi fast-casual sandwich chain has hired former Burger King global chief operations officer James Hyatt as president and chief executive.

He succeeds Bob Merritt, who had been filling those roles on an interim basis since Kevin Armstrong exited the posts in March for health reasons. Merritt remains on the board of directors at Cosi, which is based here.

Hyatt, 51, also is serving as a director. He brings to his new posts more than 30 years of industry experience. At Burger King, he simultaneously served as executive vice president while overseeing the chain's global operations.

"Jim has been and will continue to be a great ambassador of our brand," Burger King chief executive John Chidsey said of Hyatt in a statement announcing his successor at BK. "His keen understanding of restaurant operations was instrumental to the Burger King turnaround and improvements in our brand image."

Hyatt, who began his career with Burger King as a multiunit franchisee, is expected to lead Cosi’s nationwide expansion push. Currently, Cosi operates 107 company-owned stores and franchises 26 units in 17 states and the District of Columbia. The concept specializes in flat-bread sandwiches.

Burger King has appointed Julio Ramirez, a 20-year veteran who most recently was president of the Latin American region, to replace Hyatt.

In announcing Hyatt's appointment, Cosi’s chairman William Forrest said in a statement, “Jim’s appointment is another strong demonstration of Cosi’s stated commitment to focusing our company resources on supporting franchise development.”