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Bonus: Leaders from Chick-fil-A, Chili’s, and Taco Bell talk about their careers and the future of the industry

Hear from the Taco Bell’s Scott Mezvinsky, Chick-fil-A’s Erick McReynolds, and Chili’s Candace Watkins


This week on a bonus episode of Extra Serving, a podcast by Nation’s Restaurant News, there are three interviews with restaurant executives to fill your feed.

First is an interview with Erick McReynolds, VP of diversity, equity, and inclusion at Chick-fil-A. McReynolds has been in his post since 2021 and has been with the Atlanta-based chicken chain since 2007. Chick-fil-A has long been known for its Christian founding and had an image of being exclusionary. That has been debunked by Chick-fil-A’s support of both LGBTQ+ causes as well as Black-owned businesses and charities over the years. McReynolds, who has faced conservative backlash for his position, spoke with NRN executive editor Alicia Kelso about the role of DEI in Chick-fil-A’s future.

Then, Candace Watkins, director of operations at Chili’s, spoke with NRN’s senior editor Joanna Fantozzi about mentorship. Chili’s has seen success where some of its other casual-dining peers haven’t. In 2023, the chain saw an increase in sales and unit count, according to Technomic Ignite data while competitors lost both units and revenue. For over a year, Chili’s has been focused on value-based messaging which has become especially important in this economic environment. The chain is seeing the results. Fantozzi and Watkins also spoke about how Watkins was able to move up in her career.

Finally, the president of international and North America at Taco Bell, Scott Mezvinsky, joined Kelso to discuss the future of the brand. Mezvinsky has been with Taco Bell’s parent company Yum Brands for over 20 years, working in the finance departments at KFC both domestically and internationally. Mezvinsky, known in the franchise community as a leader, newly oversees Taco Bell’s international division, which is picking up the development pace. Prior to his current role, he was chief strategy and financial officer at Taco Bell, making him the right fit for the new expansion, something he and Kelso spoke about during their conversation.

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