Denver-based Qdoba Mexican Grill announced that it promoted five executives to build upon the company’s positive sales and new unit growth through innovative marketing, franchise development, and menu innovation. Promotions include: Karen Guido to chief marketing officer; David Craven to division vice president of marketing; Neil Harfert to division vice president of restaurant operations; Jim Piper to division vice president of restaurant operations; and John Dikos to director of franchise development.
Despite the recession, Qdoba’s menu and operations initiatives have helped it become one of the leaders of the fast-casual restaurant segment with unit growth of 15 percent over the past two years. In addition, Technomic listed Qdoba as the second largest fast-casual Mexican chain in the U.S. based on unit count.
“Over the last decade, Qdoba has become one of the most successful fast-casual Mexican restaurant companies,” says Qdoba CEO Gary Beisler. “In that time we’ve established a national presence with more than 500 restaurants operating in 43 states. Still, we believe there is a tremendous growth opportunity for our brand, with the long-term potential for 1,800–2,000 locations operating in the U.S. Our success is directly related to the hard work of our experienced and talented executive team. I’m very proud of their achievements.”
Guido joined Qdoba in June 1998 as vice president of marketing, just three years after it was founded. Since her hire, Guido helped grow the brand from 19 restaurants to more than 500 locations. Over the years, Guido’s responsibilities have expanded to include oversight of research and development, brand strategy and positioning, and brand research, as well as management of all media planning and execution, along with multiple other duties involved in communicating and evolving the Qdoba brand image, message, and overall sales objectives.
Craven joined Qdoba in August 2005 as a marketing manager with oversight responsibilities for Chicago, Minneapolis, St. Louis, and Seattle. Approximately two years into his tenure he was promoted to brand strategy manager and soon thereafter was promoted to director of marketing. He oversees ongoing brand research and helps lead brand positioning for Qdoba, which manifests through all facets of the brand, including advertising, media, and marketing communications. In addition, Craven oversees all national promotional strategy and support material development, advertising and marketing creative development, print production, and a variety of other brand initiatives.
Harfert joined Qdoba in September 1998 as a restaurant general manager and training manager. Harfert then served as director of human resources and training before becoming the regional director of operations for restaurants in Seattle, building 18 locations in the market. In 2005, he added St. Louis and Minneapolis to his group, and in 2008, became responsible for restaurants in Colorado and helped integrate and consolidate three California Qdoba franchise groups under the company’s corporate management. Harfert relocated to Denver in September 2009 and recently added Cincinnati restaurants under his area of responsibility. Harfert is responsible for approximately 85 Qdoba company restaurants.
Piper joined Qdoba in March 1999 as a regional manager of corporate restaurants in Texas. He was promoted to a director and charged with establishing new corporate restaurants in St. Louis and Chicago. He then became a franchise business consultant and eventually returned to company operations. Piper relocated to Chicago as the regional director of Midwest operations to manage the acquisition of two Michigan franchisees in addition to managing the operations of corporate restaurants in Chicago, St. Louis, and Minneapolis. He is responsible for more than 100 Qdoba company restaurants.
Impressed with Qdoba’s brand and the caliber of its franchise model, Dikos joined Qdoba in January 2007 as a member of the franchise finance and development team. Since then, Dikos has added more than 170 new restaurants through new development agreements with seasoned restaurateurs, in addition to helping existing franchisees continue to grow and add to their development commitments. Dikos previously worked in commercial banking at National Cooperative Bank in Washington, D.C., where he managed franchise finance for 10 brands, including Qdoba.