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Zaxby's names Sharlene Smith as chief operating officer.

Zaxby’s names Sharlene Smith as COO

New operations chief most recently worked with Papa John’s

Zaxby’s Franchising LLC has named Sharlene Smith as chief operating officer, the company announced Thursday.

The Athens, Ga.-based quick-service brand said Smith most recently served as vice president of operations excellence for the North American division of Papa John's International Inc. Her appointment is effective April 25, and she succeeds David Waters in the role.

Zaxby's-COO-Sharlene-Smith-Headshot.jpgSmith, left, has more than 30 years of experience at leading restaurant concepts, and the company said she “will be instrumental in driving the company's national expansion through operational effectiveness, system improvements and people development.”

"Given that culture and quality have always been hallmarks of our brand, we needed an exceptional leader who has demonstrated capabilities for operational excellence as well as a passion for people," said Bernard Acoca, Zaxby's CEO, in a statement.

"Sharlene is an executive who balances vision with execution, and that makes her ideally suited to help accelerate our growth,” Acoca said.

Most recently, Smith was responsible for Papa John’s operations across 3,000 locations and worked with the brand’s franchisee advisory council.

Acoca said Smith’s experience with off-premises sales was beneficial.

"Sharlene's vast foundational experience with iconic brands in the areas of drive-thru and delivery, along with her abilities to build strong teams while scaling for growth will prove vital in the evolution of Zaxby's,” he said.

Prior to Papa John’s Smith also held leadership positions in McDonald’s Corp.

"Helping organizations develop talent, grow revenue and create systems for excellent service are my passion," Smith said.

Goldman Sachs Merchant Banking Division acquired a “significant stake” in Zaxby’s Operating Co. L.P. in 2020.

Zaxby’s, founded in 1990, has more than more than 900 locations in 17 states.

Contact Ron Ruggless at [email protected]

Follow him on Twitter: @RonRuggless

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