Taziki's Mediterranean Café has named Dan Simpson as its new CEO. Simpson previously served as the restaurant’s Chief Innovation Officer from May 2016 through February 2018.
During this time, Simpson was instrumental in the growth of the restaurant brand visiting Taziki’s locations in all 16 states where the chain has a presence, gathering both customer and employee feedback. Taziki’s recently opened its 83rd restaurant in West Chester, Ohio last month.
Simpson is working closely with Founder Keith Richards as the restaurant plans include having 100 locations open by 2019. The two have worked closely with Taziki’s board and staff to form a clarified purpose, mission and brand values to guide the next 20 years.
“Keith’s vision for his restaurant is an inspiration to so many, he has created an environment that combines extraordinary food with meaningful human experience,” says Simpson. “He has led the charge to offer fresh, healthy, diverse, and affordable food options to the tables of ten of thousands of people for the past 20 years.”
Richards is managing the flagship market in Birmingham, Alabama and will continue to lead Taziki’s culinary R+D and the HOPE program, Taziki's signature charity.
The HOPE Program began after Richards decided to get more involved with special needs education. His restaurants have always employed those with special needs, but he realized they needed more opportunities.
The fresh, locally grown herbs—parsley, oregano, cilantro, basil, and rosemary—are grown by students at various HOPE programs across the U.S. and used to flavor the local restaurant’s Mediterranean-style foods. The overall goal of the HOPE Program is to teach students with special needs all aspects of the herb business using skills that will transfer to other jobs.
Virginia just began its own HOPE Program last week and is the ninth of its kind, with others in Little Rock, AR, Nashville, TN, Morgantown, WV, Atlanta, Ga., as well as Birmingham, Huntsville and Dothan, AL.
Richards will be traveling to Greece with his wife Amy and two sets of twins this summer to develop new menu items for the restaurant.
“Dan is working closely with me to carry out my vision for the next 20 years of Taziki’s,” says Richards. “His passion for working to create the new ‘Mediterranean-Coastal’ design for our restaurants has been an integral part of this process.”
The new design elements that Simpson launched for Taziki’s restaurants include community tables established to create a welcoming environment for conversation within the exposed stone and painted white shiplap adorned walls. Shades of bright white and deep ocean blue can be found in the restaurant’s interior accent pieces.
Hanging wicker lanterns provide a warm yet fresh ambiance, highlighting Taziki’s delicious menu teeming with original chef-driven recipes prepared daily from more than 100 fresh produce items as well as more than 60 herbs and spices flavoring the food. All meals are prepared from raw ingredients much like you would use in your own home. Taziki’s does not use fryers or microwaves while preparing meals for customers.
Natural lighting streams from windows and exposed wooden beams in the ceiling provide the experience of dining outdoors. In the back of the restaurant, a community board lists local non-profit events with information about how to participate, furthering the at-home, communal feel.
As a Taziki's franchisee and managing partner at Fresh Hospitality from January 2015 until May 2016, Simpson learned what customers wanted and observed an over 60% increase in the amount of online and to-go orders in the past five years.
Prior to joining the Taziki’s family, Simpson was also the founder and CEO of ToGo Technologies from May 2012 until January 2015.
“Expanding Taziki’s technology capabilities for our customers including our app offerings, accessibility to ordering online as well as a new website is a big focus for our team,” says Simpson. “We are working to anticipate consumer trends and seeking innovations that enhance guest experiences.”
Later this year, Simpson will be launching TazRewards, Taziki’s rewards loyalty program, that works both in-line and on-line through Taziki’s app, as a way to say thank you to the restaurant’s growing community of loyal guests.
Simpson was also the Chief Development Officer of Dispensary of Hope, Nashville, TN from May 2008 until May 2012. Similar to Taziki’s Founder Keith Richards,Dan’s heart seeks to tie Taziki’s back to local communities and bring people together over delicious food.
Dan earned his BS from Clearwater Christian College followed by his MBA from West Virginia University.
Born in urban Philadelphia, raised in rural Maine, Dan and his wife, Kim now live in Nashville, TN with their 3 kids. Dan serves on the boards of the Shalom Foundation/Moore Pediatric Surgery Center and Dovehouse Ministries and is a member of TedXNashville Society of Fellows.