Whataburger has hired Peggy Rubenzer as its new Senior Vice President and Chief People Officer. Rubenzer is a seasoned executive with more than 30 years in the human resources industry, building people teams at True Food Kitchen, Shake Shack Enterprises, PF Chang’s China Bistro Inc., Southwest Airlines and more.
During her time at True Food Kitchen as their Chief People Officer, Rubenzer oversaw all HR-related functions, from leadership development to compensation, benefits, performance management and training. Prior to joining True Food in 2019, Rubenzer held the Senior Vice President and Chief People Officer role and led the entire People and HR function at Shake Shack between 2011 and 2019 – leading the HR strategy and developing the people model during the company’s explosive growth phase both pre- and post-IPO. In addition, during Rubenzer’s tenure, Shake Shack was recognized for its innovation in employee engagement and training.
Prior to Shake Shack, from 2002 to 2011, Rubenzer held the VP of People Services, Training and Development for P.F. Chang’s China Bistro, Inc. (which included P.F. Chang’s, Pei Wei and their global licensed partner companies).
“Peggy has designed, developed and executed people models and training programs for some top-notch brands,” says Whataburger CEO Ed Nelson. “Her experience shaping HR and Training functions will be extremely valuable as Whataburger continues its growth into new markets and new states—and expands its 51,000+ employee workforce. Our people are the heart of our brand.”
Rubenzer hails from Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, Illinois, and completed the Executive HR Program at Stanford University for seasoned HR professionals. Her first career role out of college was with Southwest Airlines, where she grew up in the ‘Herb Kelleher school of people management.’ She started in customer relations and eventually led and supported all People and Recruitment efforts for the Southwest Airlines Midwest People Department as the brand spread its wings to open its Midwest and East Coast operations.
“Whataburger is a 72-year-old company with a unique family-like culture and a growth mindset,” Rubenzer says. “I’m excited to join this brand and help build on the strategy and vision to achieve long-term success by strengthening engagement, retention and leadership opportunities for all employees. It really all boils down to people – people in the guest-facing positions on the front lines who deliver the brand hospitality to customers; and people behind the scenes who work so hard to support and help to drive those successes.”
Rubenzer’s first day on the job at Whataburger is Monday, April 25. She will work in Whataburger’s San Antonio-based Home Office.