Start to Finish: What Inspires Execs | May 2014 | By Sam Oches

Start to Finish: Cheryl Bachelder

CEO of Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen

Popeyes chief executive Cheryl Bachelder has successfully grown quick serve.
Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen
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I came into the quick-service industry working for Tom Monaghan at Domino’s Pizza in 1995. My responsibilities at Domino’s were marketing and product development. I came from a career of marketing and innovation in the grocery industry at Procter & Gamble, Gillette, and Nabisco, and I brought those skills with me to the restaurant industry and helped Domino’s create exciting advertising, promotions, and new products to draw traffic into the restaurants.

I fell in love with franchisees and helping them reach their American dream of entrepreneurial success. I found it rewarding to be alongside those franchisees and create food and innovation and operating systems that served them well.

I got recruited from Domino’s to be president of KFC at Yum! Brands and had the opportunity to work with that established system for about three years. And then I retired and thought I was going to sit on boards, but I ended up sitting on the board at Popeyes, and when their CEO unexpectedly resigned, the board asked me to step in as CEO—that was in the fall of 2007.

I’m motivated by the opportunity to develop future leaders. I love the fact that our industry is the place where many find their first job and an exciting career. I enjoy being able to shape people’s leadership capabilities, both their skills and character traits, so that they might grow into increasing responsibility and have the fun of supervising great teams. I hope to be remembered as a leader who served franchisees and restaurants well by providing them with the menu, innovations, and profitability they need to be successful.

Our brand has been rejuvenated by a new brand name—Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen—exciting menu innovation, national media, and a focus on improving the guest experience. We had perhaps the most remarkable success from the growth and the profitability of our restaurants for our owners, and that’s enabled them to build last year almost 200 new restaurants. I think that’s come from building a strong rapport and alignment with our franchise owners.


What was your first job?

I was a waitress in a retirement home.

What is your favorite menu item at Popeyes?

Spicy tenders and red beans and rice.

What is your favorite restaurant or type of food (excluding Popeyes)?

Probably a good-old steakhouse where I can have a filet and mashed potatoes.

What are some of your interests outside of the business?

Spending time with my family—my husband of 33 years and my three daughters who are now in their 20s.

What is the biggest risk you've ever taken as CEO?

That would be moving our brand to national advertising, where we co-invested in the idea with our franchisees to prove it would drive our business. It ended up being wildly successful, but it was a big risk.

Who are some leaders that inspire you?

Within the industry, I was really inspired by Tom Monaghan. He started one pizza delivery store with one Volkswagen in 1960, and he told me once his vision was to have 200 restaurants, and today, there's more than 10,000 Domino's Pizzas. I learned just about everything I know about operations from Tom, and I admire how he brings his value to work.

What is the best piece of advice quick-serve executives should hear?

My advice is, if you franchise restaurants, love your franchisee.