One of southern California’s most beloved homegrown brands has tapped longtime restaurant industry leader John W. Haywood to lead the next phase of its growth. Haywood is a San Diego resident and California native.

Haywood, 53, is a Washington & Lee University and The Culinary Institute of America graduate with over 20 years of senior management experience with several national restaurant companies.

“John is the perfect guy to take our unique brands to the next level,” says Baldwin, former interim CEO of Garden Fresh and member of the Board of Directors. “He has a keen understanding of consumer insights, culinary trends, and operations management in addition to the financial acumen it takes to succeed in today’s challenging environment.”

Haywood has been a hospitality industry turnaround specialist for the past decade in various private equity advisory and restaurant interim CMO and CEO positions. Earlier in his career, he served as Chief Concept Officer and Chief Marketing Officer for Carrols Corporation’s $565 million Hispanic Restaurant Division, where he led brand strategy and growth of the Pollo Tropical and Taco Cabana chains. Previous assignments include advising Chef Bobby Flay on the creation and rollout of the Bobby’s Burger Palace concept, interim CEO of Don Shula’s Steakhouses, Vice President of Food & Beverage for the $300 million Black Angus chain, and leading research and development for Metromedia Restaurant Group. He has served on the Board of Directors of Black Angus Steakhouses, and Lessing’s Hospitality, a New York-based portfolio hospitality company. His unique experience combines strategic brand development with deep marketing, culinary, operations and financial expertise.

During his career living throughout the nation, Souplantation and Sweet Tomatoes have always been close to Haywood’s heart.

“Souplantation is America’s first fresh salad and soup specialist and having grown up in California, I’ve long admired the Souplantation and Sweet Tomatoes brands,” Haywood says. “Our guests have remained so loyal during challenging times, and we now look forward to exceeding their expectations and earning their loyalty in every way”, Haywood said. “I am especially honored to lead this San Diego-founded and based company, and our incredibly passionate, tenured and dedicated team members.”

Garden Fresh Restaurants, operator of 97 restaurants in nine states, serves more than 20 million guests each year and is known for its 50-ft. salad bar, made from scratch soups, hot pastas, freshly baked breads, muffins and desserts. Guests have the freedom to create their own wholesome meal in a one-of-a kind dining experience in a family friendly atmosphere at an everyday value. The company is based in San Diego and operates under two brand names: Souplantation in Southern California and Sweet Tomatoes elsewhere.

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