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Zunzi’s + Zunzibar names Kevin Nelson vice president of operations

Industry veteran contributes three decades of operational experience as savannah-based concept looks to expand across southeast

Zunzi’s, the Savannah-based fast casual concept known for its award-winning sandwiches, is proud to announce the addition of fast food veteran Kevin Nelson to its roster as vice president of operations. Nelson brings more than 30 years of operational experience with such top-tier brands as Five Guys, Krispy Kreme and Arby’s as Zunzi’s and its beach-themed bar concept, Zunzibar, gear up to expand into select markets throughout the Southeast. 

“Kevin and I were both in the Five Guys system when I was a franchisee,” says Zunzi’s + Zunzibar owner Chris Smith. “I always knew he’d be the right guy at the right time to oversee operations when we wanted to ascend to the next level. I’m really excited to have a very disciplined restaurant operator at the helm of operations as we prepare for exponential growth.”

“What I love most about Zunzi’s + Zunzibar is that we have assembled a dynamic team that has fun working together and is eager to take on new challenges in a very entrepreneurial environment,” says Nelson. “Both concepts are fun, festive, energetic environments—they really have that passion for developing future leaders and giving them the opportunity to grow and building a great company together” he says. “And with the food, the unique, award-winning sandwiches, that’s something entirely different from what you see anywhere else.”

Nelson, a native of Kenosha, Wis., most recently served as vice president of operations for Cambridge Franchise Holdings, which operated more than 200 Burger King and Popeyes restaurants. Before that, he spent more than 12 years with Monument Restaurants, opening 95 Five Guys restaurants across seven states and 10 Krispy Kreme shops in the Washington, D.C. area. 

“I don’t like this business,” he says. “I absolutely love it.” And he’s just as enthusiastic about the prospects for Zunzi’s + Zunzibar.

“I’m excited about building out our strategies and getting all our operational models ready for scale as we continue to develop with our team and our franchisees. It’s exciting to watch this thing grow and to see the energy of everyone behind the scenes. Everyone really believes in both the product and the company culture of giving back to the communities we serve. We’re here to make money, have fun and make a difference in people’s lives.”


Zunzi's first opened its doors in 2005 with the sole purpose of filling the tummies of college students at the Savannah College of Art and Design with home-cooked meals. Since then, Zunzi's award-winning menu has won the hearts of not only SCAD students but also locals and tourists visiting Savannah. By popular demand, Zunzi's expanded to Atlanta, Georgia, and opened a second location in 2018. In 2021, Zunzi’s relocated its original Savannah location and added Zunzibar, its sister beach-bar concept. A second location of Zunzibar opened in Tybee Island, Georgia, in 2023. Zunzi's + Zunzibar is now focused on further expansion by opening company and franchised locations in the Southeastern United States. In 2023, CEO Chris Smith was named an FSR magazine Rising Star. In 2022 and 2023, Zunzi’s earned a spot on Fast Casual’s Top 100 Movers & Shakers list, and Smith was recognized among Fast Casual’s Top 25 Executives. In 2020, Smith was named among QSR’s “15 Young Restaurant Leaders to Watch.” In 2019, Zunzi’s landed on Thrillist’s compilation of “The 33 Best Sandwiches in America,” and the eatery’s Conquistador was named the best sandwich in Georgia on People magazine’s “Best Sandwich in Every State” list. In 2017, Zunzi’s secured a spot on Mental Floss’ list of “The Best Sandwiches in all 50 States” and BuzzFeed’s “34 Meals That are Actually Worth Traveling the World For.” Zagat also rated the Savannah location’s food a 4.6/5. The Conquistador was ranked among Men’s Journal’s “50 Best Sandwiches in America,” in 2015 and “Best Sandwich in the South” by Travel Channel’s Adam Richman in 2012. For more information, photos and menus, visit and


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