When Bobby Flay decided to appeal to a broader audience and open his burger restaurant, Bobby’s Burgers by Bobby Flay, he knew he wanted to bring his chef-driven vision to the masses. After opening seven units in nontraditional spaces, including Yankee Stadium, the brand (and its leader Flay) decided to start franchising.
That’s where Anne Pritz came into the picture.
The current chief marketing officer of the Charlotte, N.C.-based burger concept has a long history in the industry.
She was an early employee at Tim Hortons in the U.S. and was part of the Canadian company’s rebrand.
“Wendy’s spun Tim Hortons off and we had engaged with Boston Consulting Group on a strategic plan for the U.S. business at that time… that opportunity is what has shaped my career,” Pritz said. “I’m a marketing person with an ops brain because of that. I still talk to a lot of my franchisees to this day. They are dear friends of mine.”
After almost 11 years at Tim Hortons, she moved to pizza chain Sbarro, where she was the chief marketing officer. She joined the brand just as former Wendy’s president David Karam was named its CEO. Not only had Karam been president of Wendy’s, but he had also been also in charge of the chain’s third-largest franchise group, Cedar Enterprises. Pritz led a rebrand at Sbarro when the chain was trying to move out of malls and into the fast-casual space.
Then Pritz, left, led yet another rebrand as CMO at Royal Cup Coffee and Tea. That eventually led her to Bobby’s Burgers.
Actually, it was a phone call from an old co-worker at Tim Hortons that lanced Pritz the job.
“One of the things that I’m very passionate about is mentorship,” Pritz said. “I think I’m a great example of it in the sense that you create relationships… you learn from them. And then when you have your seat at the table, you create those opportunities for people to come up within this industry.”
While her previous posts were at established brands, Pritz saw Bobby’s Burgers as a new challenge.
“We’re architecting a brand here, and that’s extremely exciting,” she said.
While she’s the CMO at Bobby’s Burgers, Pritz believes she has a special talent for franchisee relations, as evidenced by her continued friendship with several Tim Hortons franchisees she worked with over 10 years ago.
“I love franchisees,” she said. “I thoroughly enjoy building those relationships and being witness to [them] and helping them succeed.”
Pritz prides herself on the way she’s able to reach franchisees, mainly by going to the units and interacting with the owners.
“Early in my career with those franchisees [I learned] it’s not just [about] sitting in a chair or sitting in an office and thinking about how to drive traffic to their restaurants,” she said. “That’s great, and yes, I do that sometimes, but if I don’t understand how they operate, and I don’t understand what their guests are looking for each day, I’m remiss.”
She’s looking for multi-unit operators for Bobby’s Burgers, ones who have experience with running a restaurant franchise and doing it well. During the past few years while Pritz has been on board, the brand has been working to tighten up its operations and menus to optimize franchise growth.
It’s not typically a CMO’s job to deal with the franchise operations, but Pritz welcomes the responsibility.
“I am a person who wants to be involved,” she said. “My sleeves are rolled up. There is not a role within an organization that I will not do.”
The move to franchise is a new one for the team and Bobby Flay himself. He has three additional restaurants: Amalfi, Brassiere B, and Bobby’s Burgers by Bobby Flay, and has been a fixture on The Food Network for over 20 years, from “Triple Threat," to "Beat Bobby Flay," and "BBQ Brawl."
It took a lot of trust in the team for Flay to move forward with franchising, since he’s the mind behind all the culinary elements. Pritz said that the chain’s entire R&D department is Flay himself.
“[Flay will] ideate around what [a new burger] might look like,” Pritz said. “Where I would come into play in that scenario is… if there are some tweaks or changes that we need to make [after focus groups], the good news is, I go back to one person and say, ‘Hey, what are your thoughts on…’ and then it usually just sparks an idea in his mind and it can make the product even better.”