Edits of photos from (L to R) Sonic, Pei Wei, B. Good, Naf Naf Grill, and KFC. Edits of photos from (L to R) Sonic, Pei Wei, B. Good, Naf Naf Grill, and KFC.

Today, we’re launching Skift Table Top Restaurant Marketers 2019, our new franchise focused on the top marketing leaders the restaurant industry. With this list, we’ll highlight the people that are defining and innovating across brands big and small — as well as budgets big and small, too.

The 22 leaders, below, represent restaurants, brands, and technologies that are shaping the business of dining out across the U.S. and, in some cases, beyond borders, too. Each one is dealing with the same challenges on one hand — fickle consumers, new technology, changing competition — and ones unique to their brand on the other.

Through our short interviews and profiles, below, we explain why these marketers are giving their companies their best shot at success in the year ahead.

Go Deeper

In addition to profiles of top marketing leaders, below, we’ll bring you in-depth, one-on-one interviews with three leaders over three weeks (we will link to these additional stories when they are live):

Top Restaurant Marketers 2019

Lori Abou Habib<br>Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer
Lori Abou Habib
Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer
Sonic
Lori Abou Habib wasn’t lured to Sonic to pull off a flashy brand overhaul. She joined the company in 2007 as a product pipeline manager. In 2010, she was named the corporation’s employee of the year. Today, she leads marketing strategy for all 3,600-plus drive-ins, and is responsible for media, marketing technology, product innovation, and digital marketing. Right now, that last department has her focus.

“We’ve spent the last few years building a digital infrastructure, and I think that is a huge part of Sonic’s future,” she said in an email interview. “As the TV landscape changes, we are leaning more and more on digital media to expand our customer base.”

Abou Habib deftly balances the circa-1953 company with modern upgrades, such as their new mobile order ahead app, and the Signature Slinger, a 350-calorie burger made of mushrooms and beef. Her approach, she said, is, “No regrets. Sonic fosters a culture of innovation, and you can’t truly innovate unless you are willing to fail and make mistakes.”

Still, the company has no plans to replace its chili cheese dogs, roller-skating carhops or million ways to order a slush, shake or soda anytime soon.
Brent Feldman<br>Chief Marketing Officer
Brent Feldman
Chief Marketing Officer
B.Good
Marketing B.Good’s’ 73-and-counting restaurants keeps Brent Feldman focused on an overall strategy that begins with front-of-the-house basics.

According to Feldman, “making the guest experience the best it can be,”means clear menu boards, easy-to-follow-ordering, comfortable environments, and seamless pick-up.” As the company expands, establishing consistency across locations is essential for both attracting new and maintaining existing customers, whom he described as, “young professionals in our urban locations, families in our suburban locations.”

Meeting high customer expectations also means moving forward, as with recent launches of an upscale, personalized, app-based loyalty program, company-wide catering, and breakfast service. Meanwhile, Feldman has steered the company’s approach to social media, by hashtagging high-engagement posts of beautifully composed products with #FoodWithRoots, in an effort to spotlight whole ingredients from farmers and local suppliers.

Feldman joined Boston-based B.Good in June. He brought with him more than 30 years of experience in marketing and communications, including positions at Dunkin’, Chili’s and Coca-Cola. What sets B.Good apart, he said, are its customers’ expectations. “They expect better-for-you food that tastes great,” he said, “We won’t always have the lowest calorie option, but we’ll have that balance between being good for you, with clean, locally-sourced ingredients, and tasting really good.”

Go-to order: Citrus and avocado salad, add turkey patty.
Brandon Solano<br>Chief Marketing Officer
Brandon Solano
Chief Marketing Officer
Pei Wei
Of all of the executives on this list, Brandon Soldano is the maverick. Pei Wei’s marketing guru wholly embraces the creative side of what he does. What he does —at least recently — includes petition the FDA for menu transparency, tout the health and taste benefits of cauliflower rice, hire a private investigator to look into competitor Panda Express’ ingredients, play old-school hip-hop in his office, and pretend to be a tiger.

“I come to work every day thinking about what Tiger [Pei Wei’s mascot] should tweet out today — who we want to be kind to, who we want to rough up, and how we want to change the world,” he said.

The Flint, Michigan-born, single mom-raised, business school scholarship self-proclaimed “malcontent” views his rise to the c-suite as unlikely. But that’s what happens when you invent products like the limited-time Elvis Reese’s Cup (with banana cream) while at Hershey’s, publicize that your pizza needs work (Domino’s) and launch a pioneeringly irreverent fast-food Twitter account (Wendy’s). At Pei Wei, “we don’t have the media budget to get the broad awareness we had in my days at Wendy’s and Domino’s,” he said. But he’s still having all the fun.
Joel Yashinsky<br>Chief Marketing Officer
Joel Yashinsky
Chief Marketing Officer
Applebee's
Joel Yashinsky joined Applebee's in January of last year, a particularly challenging time for the country's largest casual dining chain. Parent company Dine Brands, Inc., (which also owns IHOP) was about to report a three percent revenue decline in 2017, following a five percent decline in 2016. Still, Yashinsky, a longtime McDonald's marketer, saw potential in at least one major feature that distinguishing his new employer from his former: Drinks. "Alcohol was a lot of fun to learn about," he said in an email interview. "I mean that in only the most sober manner."

He's not kidding. Among the "broad initiatives" that Applebee's rolled out last year was the introduction of inexpensive, themed cocktails known as "Neighborhood Drinks of the Month." During the winter holidays, Applebee's poured a "Dollar Jolly," (a rum and cola) for $2. For Halloween, it crowdsourced the idea for a gummy brain-garnished "Dollar Zombie," and targeted millennials by posting giveaways on Facebook Live and running ads during "The Walking Dead."

"We know that when people come in to try one of our drink specials, nine times out of 10, they are ordering our food to go with it," said Yashinsky. Marketing boozy fun just might have legs: In the third quarter of 2018, Dine Brands reported total revenue of $194 million, up from $174 million reported in the same quarter in 2017.
Nick Kokonas<br>Founder and Chief Executive Officer
Nick Kokonas
Founder and Chief Executive Officer
Tock
If the term "disruptor" weren't so yesterday, it would suit restaurateur and restaurant reservation system creator (and angel investor, derivatives trader, cookbook author) Nick Kokonas. But Kokonas is nothing if not resistant to labels — never mind that Alinea, his most sought-after Chicago restaurant, has won just about every culinary accolade in the world. He is not a disruptor. He just doesn't believe long-held marketing practices are necessarily the most effective or honest.

"The traditional strategy is, don't mention your competitor, right?" he said. "I think that's total B.S., you know?" When Kokonas feels Tock's rivals are lacking transparency or falling behind, he might call them out by name on Twitter, or, as in 2017, dream up a stunt comparing OpenTable to a dinosaur.

When it comes to directly reaching a potential Tock customer, his approach is research first. "When a restaurant calls us, I might know more on their marketing and their Google scores and their SEO than they do," he said. This knowledge, plus his industry expertise, give him enough leverage that his company gets by with a relatively small marketing budget. Kokonas believes if he builds it, business will come.
Andrea Zahumensky<br>Chief Marketing Officer
Andrea Zahumensky
Chief Marketing Officer
KFC
Colonel Harland Sanders — the real person, not the people who play him on TV — is a tough act to follow. By all accounts, Sanders was unpredictable, exacting, insubordinate, potty-mouthed, and possibly unhealthily obsessed with his own secret recipe. Nonetheless, Andrea Zahumensky is doing a bang-up job of carrying on Sanders' quirky legacy—at least the "feisty, pragmatic, unabashed fried chicken salesman" part of it, she said.

With KFC's founder as the brand's "north star," she said, she crafted her first campaign launch in December 2017: Smoky Mountain barbecue. Subsequent coups came in quick succession: hiring Reba McEntire to play the colonel, and a fried chicken-scented Yule log (officially "11 Herbs and Spices-scented Enviro-Log") that went absolutely viral, selling out in minutes last December.

Her job at one of the world's largest quick-service restaurant chains requires her to fire on all marketing cylinders, be that YouTube or on TV, a platform she described as "critical" to KFC operations. KFC contracts with Weiden & Kennedy for its creative, media, digital, data and analytics.

The mother of three joined KFC just over a year ago, after 20 years marketing toothpaste, diapers and floss for Procter & Gamble.
John Dillon<br>Chief Brand Officer, Senior Vice President
John Dillon
Chief Brand Officer, Senior Vice President
Denny's
When John Dillon looks back on his nearly 12 years at Denny's, he sees the turning point when the company adopted the slogan, "America's diner." "Denny's is an iconic American brand," he said. Yet, back when he started there in 2007, he added, "It was going through some tough times … But, there was this untapped love of the brand that was palpable. " He and his team envisioned a diner as, yes, a throwback to the restaurant's roots in 1953, but also as "an emotional world" and "the original social network."

Abstract ideals aside, Dillon has overseen a long-term plan to give hundreds of franchises a more "heritage" look. He's also upped the company's social media game, overseeing an Instagram feed of Denny's menu items and ingredients photoshopped onto photos with tongue-in-cheek contemplative captions, and a Twitter account filled with dad jokes. The latter makes perfect sense. He and his Baylor University sweetheart are the parents of three teenage girls.
Hector Muñoz<br>Chief Marketing Officer
Hector Muñoz
Chief Marketing Officer
El Pollo Loco
Hector Muñoz's relationship to chicken and restaurants goes back to his childhood. Like the company where he's the CMO, Muñoz was born and raised in Los Angeles, where his parents had moved from Mexico, and where his entrepreneurial father owned and operated Hector's Mexican Food.

"Growing up in the restaurant industry from a young age afforded me the experience and opportunity to truly understand restaurant operations from the ground floor," Muñoz said in a statement upon joining El Pollo Loco in December 2018. Muñoz's previous quick-service restaurant leadership roles: Church's Chicken and Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen.

Still, no two birds are alike. Muñoz's "Here's the Deal" campaign led Church's to five straight quarters of positive same-store sales, the brand's best performance in over 10 years. At Popeyes, he oversaw 24 consecutive quarters of positive same-store sales.

The 480-location El Pollo Loco is banking on him working the same magic. Despite successful growth in California and the Southwest, the chain has struggled with East Coast expansions. El Pollo Loco recently simplified its menu and hopes to grow sales among families and Latinos. With what CEO Bernard Acoca referred to as Muñoz's "people-centered emphasis on authenticity, humility and transparency," the CMO seems uniquely poised to tackle these challenges.
Marisa Thalberg<br>Global Chief Brand Officer
Marisa Thalberg
Global Chief Brand Officer
Taco Bell
If it seems like creating a Las Vegas Taco Bell complete with cocktail bar and wedding chapel, or dreaming up an exclusive party for by-online-reservation-only groups, or hiring James Marsden and Josh Duhamel in faux film trailers to promote Nacho Fries, is something only a chic executive with a background in the beauty industry would do, well, that's Marisa Thalberg.

In 2015, Thalberg left Estée Lauder and New York City for Southern California and the Doritos Loco Taco. She was Taco Bell's first chief engagement officer and first CMO. Now, she leads all 7,000 locations' global branding, complete with a $400 million advertising budget. She seems to be having fun.

Thalberg often describes the Tex-Mex quick serve's messaging as "delivered with a wink." Early this year, she told Fortune, "What delights me is being able to take the brand to places that no one really saw coming and having it make sense — completely surprising and whimsical, but makes sense." In the age of high-low glamour, what could be cooler than throwing a private party at a fast-food chain with a dollar menu, then posting it to Instagram? Doing it vegan, maybe. That's another option Taco Bell offers, and Thalberg's preference.
Dennis Maloney<br>Senior Vice President, Chief Digital Officer
Dennis Maloney
Senior Vice President, Chief Digital Officer
Domino's
Dennis Maloney believes Domino's should always be seeking out the latest tech — provided that tech aligns with the brand itself. The leader of the digital team of the world's top pizza seller, he's streamlined app ordering to zero clicks, created an "anywhere platform" that allows customers to order from 200,000 hotspots (including beaches and parks) and used autonomous cars to delivered pies.

"There are now over 15 ways to order pizza from us — from sending a pizza emoji over social media to voice command on Google Home — personalizing the experience for each individual customer and empowering them to order the way they want to," he told Google Think.

Maloney joined Domino's in 2010, during the company's launch of its game-changing "Oh Yes We Did" marketing campaign. The campaign refocused his — and Domino's — overall approach.

"From that point forward, a couple of things started to change," he told CMO.com. "One, I think we became a much more honest and transparent brand both to our consumers and internally. Two, we started asking ourselves: Is what we're working on something that would make our customers stop and say, 'Did Dominos really just do that?'" Although he heads the company's I.T. department, he sees himself as both innovator and collaborator.

"The connection between our IT organization and the marketing organization is probably the best relationship between any two groups in the entire company, which is a really unusual thing to say," he continued. "Our organization's structure ensures these two groups are working completely in lockstep."
Silvia Lagnado<br>Executive Vice President, Global Chief Marketing Officer
Silvia Lagnado
Executive Vice President, Global Chief Marketing Officer
McDonald's
The Golden Arches might be synonymous with American dining — but that's not where McDonald's is seeing its greatest success these days. In a January earnings call, the company reported a 2.2 percent decrease in guest traffic to its U.S. locations and an unexpected increase in international traffic.

Silvia Lagnado, a Brazil native whose previous marketing successes include the "Real Beauty" campaign for Unilever's Dove brand, joined McDonald's in 2015, soon after Steve Easterbrook, formerly McDonald's global brand officer, became CEO. Lagnado's hiring alone made a statement about the brand's direction.

In her current role, she does few interviews. She did, however, speak about her perspective on the fast-food behemoth to The Marketing Society in 2016. Lagnado described McDonald's 39,000 locations as network of mom-and-pop operations. "McDonald's 'owner operators (franchisees)' typically live in or close to the communities they serve, as do the people who work at each McDonald's restaurant. They take great pride in working in sync with the needs of their community, and often make very generous and meaningful contributions," she said.

If giving the world's biggest burger brand a more individualized feel means exiting from its 41-year sponsorship of the Olympics, touting digitally-ordered Big Mac deliveries, making cuts to McDonald's reported $2 billion advertising budget, pushing hard for breakfast, and praising store remodels, those are the actions Lagnado will support.
Jack Oh<br>Vice President of Marketing
Jack Oh
Vice President of Marketing
Tender Greens
When Danny Meyer backs a restaurant brand that's not his own, you can be sure there's something to the concept. When the New York City restaurateur invested in Southern California's "slow food done fast" Tender Greens, he helped the company do a graphic redesign and oversaw its East Coast debut. As the company opens more locations in New York, Boston, and California, it's now up to Jack Oh to expand the image of Tender Greens.

Oh's background isn't restaurants. The marketing innovator oversaw brand design and communications at Adidas, became Robinhood's first marketer, helmed creative programs at Riot Games, and founded the tech-forward brand and marketing consultancy Whitegold Collective. He came aboard in January 2018, upon the invitation of the company's then-new CEO, Apple veteran Denyelle Bruno.

His first move: "transform from grassroots, event-based marketing, which is meaningful on a one-and-one level, to digital," he said. He brought on a team of marketers with "backgrounds in digital, paid media programs and experience working on social media platforms and with influencers." Last year, they quadrupled Tender Greens' following on Instagram, the company's primary social media platform.

This year, he'll lead upgrades to the online ordering system, third party delivery, app, and loyalty program. He's also planning a dramatic, top secret campaign as part of an initiative to articulate Tender Greens' "heart as a brand," that " we hope other people will follow."
Tony Weisman<br>Chief Marketing Officer
Tony Weisman
Chief Marketing Officer
Dunkin'
When Tony Weisman weighs in on the future of Dunkin', he doesn't bring up donuts. In September, the brand ditched the second half of its moniker. "Dunkin' is a shorter, simpler, more modern version of who we've always been," Weisman said in an email interview. "It conveys the brand's focus on serving 'great coffee fast.'" The change is just one of many major moving parts for the Massachusetts-based, 11,000-plus franchise operation founded in 1950.

In 2018, the company streamlined its menu, introduced mobile ordering and new in-store technology, hired a new CEO, opened 60 NexGen stores, made a play for afternoon sales, expanded its perks program and launched its first creative review in nearly 20 years — all the while introducing new products and promotions. It also announced plans to open 1,000 new restaurants by the end of 2020, mostly outside its Northeastern U.S. base and eventually double its locations.

Weisman said these moves requires maintaining the brand's presence on traditional and social media, while "growing our investment with partners who help us drive traffic to our restaurants by combining specific audiences and location with stand-out messaging formats."
Kurt A. Kane<br>Executive Vice President, Chief Concept and Marketing Officer
Kurt A. Kane
Executive Vice President, Chief Concept and Marketing Officer
Wendy's
Advertising during the NFL Championship is notoriously pricey. Using that air time to troll a competitor, however, is next level. Wendy's $5 million such spend in 2018 paid off, according to Kurt Kane. "Last year, we took our fresh, never frozen beef mantra to new heights by calling out McDonald's on the biggest stage in advertising — the Super Bowl," he said in an email interview. Apart from a parting burger beauty shot, the commercial was text-only, recalling one of the company's Twitter posts. (Wendy's has 3 million followers on the platform.)

Wendy's followed up with a yearlong campaign to differentiate its main ingredient. The result, wrote Kane, "We raised awareness about Wendy's fresh beef offerings to 51 percent, up from the low 20's just two years prior."

For this year's Super Bowl, the company collaborated with HQ on a halftime trivia quiz about bacon, awarding the winner with a lifetime supply of free burgers. The app-based competition seemed a next step for Wendy's, an early adopter of using humorous, often taunting posts, to promote brand awareness among a social media savvy customer base.

"It's important to treat each interaction with fans uniquely and leverage social as a platform to bring your brand's personality to the forefront," Kane continued. Not surprisingly, the marketing team's motto is, "Life begins at the end of your comfort zone."
Meenakshi Nagarajan<br>Vice President, Head of Marketing
Meenakshi Nagarajan
Vice President, Head of Marketing
Sweetgreen
Sweetgreen's Instagram feed is only slightly less glamorous than Vogue's. Perfectly composed salads, artistically arranged squash, architectural shots of stacked cardboard bowls, and a side sprouting of basil embody the company's farm-to-table philosophy and validate its associations with chef Dan Barber, Kendrick Lamar, and, as anyone who has waited in a lunchtime line at any of Sweetgreen's 90-some locations knows, the best-dressed millennials in the office. So, when the Georgetown-founded, L.A.-based, $1 billion-valued startup went looking for marketing leader, it didn't need to reach. It was already doing that. Instead, it went traditional.

Meenakshi Nagarajan is a Wharton MBA who spent five years at Domino's and built brands at Pepsico and General Mills. Her conventional approach mirrors that of her industry peers. In laying out her brand vision, she told Skift Table in an email, "Our goal is for Sweetgreen is to be able to connect more people to our mission of building healthier communities by connecting them to real food. We want be able to provide more access to our high quality craveable food by reaching customers wherever they are."

Where they are, according to Sweetgreen's press page, is on Refinery29, The New Yorker, Fast Company, T Magazine, Travel + Leisure, and, fittingly, Vogue.com.
Chris Brandt<br>Chief Marketing Officer
Chris Brandt
Chief Marketing Officer
Chipotle
Chipotle introduced its new tagline in late September of 2018, but to loyal customers of 25-year-old, 2,000-plus location fast-casual operation, "For Real" felt like the slogan all along.

The idea came from Chris Brandt, who, himself, came on board in April 2018 from Taco Bell and, before there, Bloomin' Brands. Brandt saw the opportunity to tout Chipotle's commitment to simple, sustainable, real ingredients, and ran with it. Seems to have worked: During a quarterly earnings call in early February, CEO Brian Niccol reported that in 2018, digital impressions of the company increased 20 percent while social impressions increased 40 percent in the same time period, all without increasing the company's overall marketing budget.

"We took out a two-page ad in the New York Times that said, "The only ingredient that's hard to pronounce at Chipotle is, 'chipotle.' We then published all 51 of our ingredients, which are the same ingredients you have in your kitchen," he said. Since joining the company, Brandt has overseen Chipotle's return to TV advertising and entered a tractor pulling a float in the 2019 Rose Parade that featured those 51 ingredients, the message "Cultivate a Better World," and the band Portugal. The Man singing "Feel It Still" in the 2019 Rose Parade.

His motto, he said, comes from Winston Churchill, "To improve is to change; to be perfect is to have changed often." The CMO explained, "You can't resist change. You've got to embrace it. Brands don't get old; ideas do."
Shivram Vaideeswaran<br>Chief Marketing Officer
Shivram Vaideeswaran
Chief Marketing Officer
Jamba Juice
Shivram Vaideeswaran left Blaze Pizza and joined Jamba Juice in January 2019 with plans to resurrect the iconic 1990s smoothie company. "The brand was the originator and innovator in the smoothie space," he said in an email one month after taking the CMO job. "Unfortunately, as guests' preferences in the health and wellness space changed, Jamba didn't move quickly enough to innovate. This left opportunities for new players to enter the space and create a more crowded marketplace."

Orange Julius, Starbucks, Panera, and McDonald's now count among the 800-location company's competition. Vaideeswaran believes Jamba's edge is its focus on health. His plan's first step: a menu refresh.

"We need to offer a better balance of delicious, better-for-you options," he said. He'll also oversee redesigns of digital and off-premise platforms, social media, the loyalty program, and overall look. It's a big job, but one he feels his 12 years of marketing at Taco Bell (brand rollouts in China and Japan), Tender Greens (national rebrand), and Blaze Pizza (digital and delivery launches), have prepared him to do.
Stacey Snyder Murray<br>Vice President of Brand
Stacey Snyder Murray
Vice President of Brand
Naf Naf Middle Eastern Grill
Last year was big for Stacey Snyder Murray and her team of four. Chicago-based Naf Naf Middle Eastern Grill launched three major initiatives: solidifying Naf Naf's brand identity, creating an app so guests could order ahead, and launching a catering program and third-party delivery. With 36 locations and two set to open in 2019, Naf Naf operates lean, hiring outside public relations on a project basis and opting for guerilla marketing, including "brand ambassadors, street teams, and events," she said. "We'll blitz out in certain markets," and social media, especially Instagram, over traditional advertising.

Snyder Murray was the company's first marketing hire, joining in May 2016. At her previous job as Director of Global Brands at Hyatt Hotels Corporation, she oversaw marketing and guest experience design for the Hyatt Regency and Grand Hyatt.

"Going from a globally recognized brand to going to a small, emerging brand was a big difference," she said, noting one of her first tasks was simply to educate potential customers about the cuisine itself. "Not a lot of folks know what Middle Eastern food is," she said.

In the coming year, the University of Illinois graduate and mother of three children under age six plans to ramp up Naf Naf's influencer program by inviting Instagrammers into the kitchen to bake pita, carve shawarma and roll falafel. One thing she loves about her job: "There are not that many times in a marketer's career that you get to build the brand from the get-go."
Fernando Machado<br>Chief Marketing Officer
Fernando Machado
Chief Marketing Officer
Burger King
This isn't the first recognition of Fernando Machado's marketing prowess. He's won Ad Week's Brand Genius Award — twice. For his 15-second TV spot featuring a Google Home hack, Burger King received 9.3 billion global impressions, $135 million in earned media coverage and a Cannes Grand Prix Lion. His anti-bullying campaign earned respect (and eight million YouTube views) as have his timely stances on net neutrality and LGBTQ pride.

One Forbes article referred to Machado as "inarguably one of the most creative and innovative marketers of recent times." Other words he's associated with: transparency, disruptor, authenticity, and zeitgeist. Still, he told Forbes it's not all creativity and impact.

"While it's not such a glamorous part of my job, I would say that more than half of my time is managing the product portfolio and making sure that we have a roadmap so that our food is real, delivers better nutritional values, comes from better sourcing (sustainable) and doesn't impact the environment in a negative way," Machado said.

His roadmap is working. Burger King reported in Feburary that its most recent headline-grabbing stunt — offering Whoppers for one cent through the restaurant's app, as long as users were in close vicinity to a McDonald's — drove 1.5 million app downloads and kicked Burger King to the top of pile for most popular quick-service restaurant app downloaded during the month of December.
Jay Livingston<br>Chief Marketing Officer
Jay Livingston
Chief Marketing Officer
Shake Shack
In less than two months on the job, Jay Livingston has developed an insider's appreciation for the restaurant business. The former global marketer for Bank of America, and, more recently, BarkBox, became Shake Shack's first CMO in January. As part of his onboarding process, Livingston spent a week making and serving burgers, fries and shakes at Shake Shacks in Herald Square, New York, and Paramus, New Jersey. The executive couldn't keep pace behind the line or at the register, but he came away with inspiration for the job he was hired to do.

"I was amazed at the quality of the ingredients that were used, and how much cooking goes on on each individual order," he said in an interview. "As a marketer, I say we should be showing this more. When you look behind the curtain, you're even more impressed."

The chain has been expanding steadily, with 212 current stores and new ones planned this year in locations ranging from Mexico City and Singapore to Salt Lake City, Greater New Orleans, Columbus, Ohio, and Providence, Rhode Island. Livingston plans to use his experience managing customer data for Bank of America "to build channels to become a company that makes great fact-based decisions," and the storytelling expertise he honed at BarkBox "to convert fans into passionate advocates" for the brand. He also plans to learn as he goes. "I'm still in sponge mode," he said.
Brad Haley<br>Chief Marketing Officer
Brad Haley
Chief Marketing Officer
IHOP
At a time when the concept of the marketing stunt is increasingly démodé, IHOP's Brad Haley pulled a humdinger. The veteran of Hardee's and Jack in the Box joined the brand in 2017. Last February, he oversaw the return of the all-you-can-eat pancake special, employing a campaign where all scripts repeated one word, "pancake."

A few months later, he seemed to reverse course, announcing that the last letter in "IHOP" ("P" for pancakes) would flip to become "b," representing its new expanded selection of burgers, and, therefore, lunch and dinner. It wasn't fake news. But it was fake advertising that created social and traditional media buzz for the 60-year-old company — and led to a four-week spike in burger sales. Haley now characterizes the stunt as "the most effective campaign in brand history."

For now, IHOP is back to promoting pancakes, remodeling its family-oriented all-day restaurants, and, with Applebee's, which also owned by Dine Brands, Inc., hoping for a bump in yearly profits.
Dana Benfield<br>Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer
Dana Benfield
Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer
Red Robin
Developing Red Robin's Royalty program was a big deal for Dana Benfield.

Promoted to her current role in 2017, she understood what customers wanted for their birthdays was a free burger — any one of Red Robin's 25 signature options — anytime during their birthday month. She also appreciates the magic of bottomless fries, adult beer shakes, a contagious jingle that ends in "Yummm," and consistent demonstrations of support, via discounts and specials, for teachers and veterans at all of the chain's 528 locations.

Benfield has been part of the burgers, fries, and shakes stalwart's marketing team since 2002, after getting her start by managing then working in marketing for McDonald's. She is a graduate of the University of South Florida, and she and her family currently live in the Denver, Colorado, area and enjoy skiing and generally getting out of doors and into the Rocky Mountains.

Lauren McCutcheon is a writer and editor who specializes in features writing. Her work has appeared in The Philadelphia Daily News and The Philadelphia Inquirer, Domino, Philadelphia magazine, Every Day With Rachael Ray, Better Homes & Gardens and more. Her day job is content manager for Visit Philadelphia. Connect with her via LinkedIn.

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