I’m the son of two Mexican immigrants who opened up a restaurant outside of Los Angeles, so I’ve been in the business over 40 years. I learned at a very young age that regardless of the economic conditions, people had to eat. This industry is somewhat recession proof.

I started at Church’s Chicken with its largest franchisee at the time. When I got to a point where I needed more classical marketing experience, I moved to Chicago to join Bruegger’s Bagels. We were in startup mode, with a goal of building 2,000 restaurants by 2000. Being a constant learner, I felt I needed more advertising agency experience, so I joined Bozell, which at the time was partnered with Taco Bell. Then I moved back to the client side, at Long John Silver’s.

With my franchise, startup, agency, and corporate marketing experience, I wanted to take my game to the major leagues and was fortunate to get a call from Burger King. I was blessed to be involved in a number of different projects, whether with movie studios, sports teams, celebrities, or nonprofits. After 13 years with Burger King, I joined Popeyes. It was absolutely the place I needed to be to take my career to the next level and to better understand the importance of serving your franchisees and coaching your people.

Now I’m back to the brand I love, where it all started: Church’s Chicken. It’s a brand I have passion for, but it was also one of my lead competitors for the last six years, so it’s a brand I’ve been studying. That really has put me in a position where I’ve been able to hit the ground running. Many of the people I worked with 25 years ago are still in the business and now have become franchisees and are running restaurants.

I instill in my team the belief that nothing happens by accident. The results—good or bad—are a direct correlation of the impact that everyone on this team makes. When we’re firing on all cylinders and doing things right, you see the results immediately. There’s a lot of pressure, but if you are a fierce competitor, then this is absolutely the industry for you.

What’s your favorite menu item at Church’s?

Spicy Chicken and Spicy Tender Strips.

What’s your favorite type of food, excluding chicken?

I do love a great ribeye steak and glass of Italian Brunello.

Who has inspired you as a leader?

I’ve been blessed to have a number of different mentors: Joe Cristina, Cheryl Bachelder, Dick Lynch, and Aslam Khan.

What is the best piece of advice you think quick-service executives should hear?

If you’re dealing with a franchise model, you need to remember who your customer is. Many times we talk about the guest who comes into our restaurant, and yes, they are very much our customers, but the franchisee has to be your No. 1 customer.

What are some of your interests outside of the business?

First and foremost my family. My daughter just got into cross-country, so I’m really having a fun time watching her. I’m a Miami Hurricanes fan, not only because I graduated from there, but also because my son is a long snapper on the football team.

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