The Johnny Rockets chain of diner-style restaurants has announced industry veteran Lee Sanders as the president and chief executive officer of The Johnny Rockets Group, Inc.

“Johnny Rockets is poised for growth through development of new ‘express’ concept restaurants and strategic partners such as Six Flags,” said Chris Ainley, chairman, The Johnny Rockets Group, Inc. “With his extensive background in the restaurant industry and proven track record, Lee is perfectly suited to take on the leadership of Johnny Rockets and we are thrilled to have him on board.”

A senior executive with success in franchise development, distributor networks, operations management and building and leading teams in start-up, turnaround, growth and Fortune 500 environments, Sanders most recently served more than five years as the senior vice president of development and franchising for Minneapolis-based Buffalo Wild Wings. While there, he led the national rollout of the casual dining restaurant chain with more than 465 units and implemented a strategy that continues to allow Buffalo Wild Wings to achieve their objective of more than 1,000 units.

Previously, Sanders served as national director of franchising for Dunkin’ Brands (Boston), the fifth largest franchiser with $4.5 billion in annual sales and more than 6,500 retail units. There, he headed the revitalization and expansion of Dunkin’ Donuts, Baskin-Robbins and Togo’s Eatery. Sanders also worked in a variety of key positions with General Mills, Inc. during his more than 10-year tenure there and with Frito-Lay at their Dallas headquarters in strategic planning and financial analysis.

“Johnny Rockets is a great brand, and I’m anxious to work with both the executive team and our existing franchisees on the growth opportunities ahead,” said Sanders. “Our food is pure Americana: made-to-order burgers, fries and shakes. We strongly believe it is important to make the brand available to our guests in convenient locations wherever the guest may be. We are embarking on an exciting journey which will see Johnny Rockets grow from the current 213 units to more than 1,000 units in relatively short order.”

Sanders added, “Franchising is a key component of Johnny Rockets’ growth. This brand provides an incredible opportunity for both new and existing franchisees. We offer both an established brand and a substantial inventory of exclusive franchise development territories which are available now.”

Sanders received a BBA as well as an MBA from Texas A&M University, Commerce. He also holds the professional designations of Certified Franchise Executive and Food Management Professional. He resides in San Clemente, Calif.

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