Wienerschnitzel, the world’s largest hot dog franchise, has announced the promotion of longtime company executive Rusty Bills to Chief Operating Officer, effective immediately. Bills brings 15 years of experience with Galardi Group Inc. to the COO position, which was last held by now-President and CEO J.R. Galardi, who was elevated to his current role in February of this year.
Bills’ new position reflects his longstanding dedication to Galardi Group Inc., where he has risen through the ranks with the storied hot dog franchise. His previous roles have included his start with the company as Franchise Business Consultant, Director of Operations and Vice President of Operations – always demonstrating invaluable leadership attributes and problem-solving abilities for all Galardi Group concepts, Wienerschnitzel, Tastee Freez and Hamburger Stand. As COO, Bills will spearhead cost savings, store-level technology advancements and streamline operational efficiencies across each brand.
“Being named COO to help guide the same brands I have dedicated my career to for the last 15 years is an immense honor, and it’s proof that this company, which continues to be celebrated for its longevity and history, invests in those loyal to the organization,” says Bills. “It’s such an exciting time at Galardi Group, especially as J.R. and the leadership team have put the right systems and people in place to position our three concepts for major growth domestically and abroad. Today, I’m more energized than ever for what’s ahead and for the future of Galardi Group because I truly believe there are no limits to what this tremendous organization can accomplish.”
Bills was hired by Galardi Group in 2007 as a Franchise Business Consultant for Wienerschnitzel’s Sacramento-area franchisees, who he credits with helping to fuel his early company success. He built trust and rapport with the franchisees – many of whom were the brand’s largest at the time – by listening to their concerns and providing solutions that made their lives easier, restaurants more efficient and profits grow. He then served as Manager of Tastee-Freez and Special Projects, and after, as Director of Operations, overseeing franchise business consultants, running internal departments and generally operating as a jack of all trades. In 2017, Bills was promoted to Vice President of Operations where he became the liaison for all facets of the business, from franchisees and corporate leadership to vendors and outside agencies. It was in this role that he further developed as a trusted leader, helping all three brands to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic.
Not only did he rise to meet the pandemic-fueled challenges at hand, but he helped position Wienerschnitzel for future growth by supporting the design of its Heritage store model, streamlining operational efficiencies in the restaurant and kitchen, implementing customer feedback tools and signing master agreements for third-party delivery partners. As COO, Bills will continue implementing advancements in technology that will allow the organization to better adapt to a changing world, including more accurate labor forecasting models, kitchen equipment innovations that improve back-of-house efficiencies and A.I. drive-thru advances and alternate payment methods.
“When determining who should assume the very important role of COO at such a pivotal time of growth for the company, it was clear there was no one better for the job than Rusty – a trusted and dedicated leader who is ever deserving of this promotion,” says J.R. Galardi, President and CEO of Galardi Group Inc. “Without question, Rusty is the right person to oversee our core departments and restaurants, and he is proof that if you join Galardi Group at any level – even as a teenage janitor like I did – there’s a path for you to grow with the organization, advance your career and fulfill your professional aspirations.”
Earlier this year, following the appointment of J.R. Galardi to President and CEO, Galardi Group hired Michael Nishi in March as Chief Financial Officer. With Bills assuming the COO role, the newly restructured executive team is poised to successfully catapult Wienerschnitzel, Tastee-Freez and Hamburger Stand into the future.
There are nearly 350 franchised Wienerschnitzel locations in operation throughout 10 states, with more than 50 units in various stages of development across the U.S.