True Food Kitchen has named hospitality veteran John Williams as CEO, succeeding Christine Barone in the position, the company said Tuesday.
Phoenix, Ariz.-based True Food Kitchen said Williams most recently served as chief marketing officer of Huntington Beach, Calif.-based Lazy Dog Restaurants. Williams succeeds Christine Barone as CEO, who left the position in November to become CEO at Grants Pass, Ore.-based Dutch Bros Inc.
True Food Kitchen, founded 15 years ago under the anti-inflammatory food philosophy of Dr. Andrew Weil, has grown to 43 locations.
“I have been a longtime personal fan of the brand,” said Williams in an email exchanged. “I always feel ‘at home’ when I dine at True Food Kitchen. Not only is the food incredible, and the service warm and welcoming, but I also have a great deal of passion for the brand’s mission. I first learned about and appreciated Dr. Weil’s philosophy and ethos during my college years and was so impressed at the way this approach was integrated into the brand. Joining True Food Kitchen is a full circle moment for me.”
I’m thrilled to work alongside the talented True Food Kitchen team to continue connecting with its loyal fan base, unlocking new ways to share its culture and flavorful, inventive dishes with new audiences, and expanding the reach of the brand to serve communities across the country.”
Prior to Lazy Dog Restaurants, Williams oversaw marketing strategy as an executive at The Disneyland Resort, focused on driving attendance, occupancy and revenue for the resort. Before that, Williams held roles with General Mills and Nestle.
“One of the biggest lessons I learned in my time at The Walt Disney Co. was that the key to building an enduring brand is ensuring that you have a welcoming and warm environment for all teammates and guests,” Williams said. “I also learned a lot about the critical importance of continuous innovation, both big and small, to keep a brand growing and maintaining relevance and excitement. True Food Kitchen delivers an outstanding experience already in both of these areas, and I’m looking forward to working with the team to find ways to continue to strengthen it."
The casual-dining segment and hospitality remain exciting spaces to work in, Williams added.
“It is constantly changing and evolving as guest needs continue to adjust, which really keeps you on your toes,” he said. “To be successful, you need to continually have a pulse on what’s ahead for teammates and guests so that you can out-deliver on their needs. True Food Kitchen does an excellent job at this; always striving to understand how, and why, the industry is moving forward and identifying new areas that can be built upon. This focus enables the brand to meet guests and team members where they are — whether that be in a True Food Kitchen restaurant or off-premises through new channels and offerings.”
In September, True Food Kitchen said it had secured a funding round of more than $100 million from HumanCo and Manna Tree.
The Phoenix, Ariz.-based wellness brand, which includes existing investor Centerbridge Partners L.P., said the HumanCo-Manna Tree investment was the largest for the restaurant concept.
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