AJ Baird has been named Chief Development Officer for Full Course, the restaurant industry’s first-and-only incubator, accelerator and investor in early-stage food brands.
Prior to joining Full Course, Baird was the President and COO of Southern Rock Restaurants, overseeing operations for more than 135 McAlister’s locations across 12 states. At Southern Rock, he also played a key role in site selection for over 50 restaurant locations from stand-alone to endcaps to non-traditional spaces in rural, urban and captive markets. As a member of the Culinary Committee, Baird supported the menu engineering process, including the creation and implementation of the pick-up window which ultimately equated to roughly 30% of sales. Additionally, he was instrumental in the product development process which delivered McAlister’s best-selling summer salad. Known for pioneering innovations that drive incrementality, Baird championed off-premise opportunities, like the concession trailer as well as a process to perfect order-ahead and delivery for the predominately dine-in restaurant chain.
Baird was drawn to Full Course’s mission to help small restaurant operators grow through education, training and equitable access to capital, something that resonated with his management style.
“My philosophy is to teach, coach and train. From my roles as general manager up to COO, my focus was to remove obstacles and help people be as successful as possible,” Baird says. “Joining Full Course allows me to target the industry as a whole.”
As Chief Development Officer, Baird will oversee all facets of development for Full Course’s partners including menu development, site selection and remodels, and strategic omni-channel growth opportunities including non-traditional locations and consumer packaged goods.
“AJ’s experience in so many facets of the restaurant business make him a great addition to our leadership team,” says Lauren Fernandez, Founder and CEO of Full Course. “He knows the operations side of the business backward and forward and uses his experience to elevate others.”