Project Pie named two experienced restaurant executives to its leadership team, bolstering the brand’s stature among fast-casual pizza franchises.

Brian Watkins now serves as Project Pie’s director of operations. Watkins has worked more than 25 years in the restaurant industry, the past 12 of which were spent at Pei Wei Asian Diner in Southern California. As a partner with Pei Wei, he oversaw eight top-performing restaurants in the San Diego and Orange County markets by maintaining guests and supervising staff through superior operations and marketing strategies. Watkins also was an operating partner for two Jason’s Deli locations.

Steve Brigandi has been named chief administrative officer and general counsel. He has held various senior management positions with Jack in the Box Inc., the operator and franchisor of 2,300 Jack in the Box and 625 Qdoba Mexican Grill restaurants. Most recently, Brigandi oversaw all company franchising policies and procedures. Prior to his restaurant experience, he spent almost 15 years as a corporate and litigation partner with a San Diego law firm.

“As we grow our brand nationally and internationally, the toolboxes Brian and Steve bring to the table is awesome,” says CEO and founder James Markham. “In a very short time, Brian has already brought our labor costs down dramatically. Steve’s past experience in growing a brand is significant—and these are the types of qualities franchisees want to see. Our partnership with Lee Equity has made getting this killer talent that much easier.”

In January, Project Pie entered into a partnership with New York City–based Lee Equity Partners, headed by investor Thomas H. Lee.

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