Jack in the Box announced Thursday the hiring of Darin Harris as its new CEO, replacing the retiring Lenny Comma.
The hire will be effective no later than June 15. Board member David Goebel will serve as non-executive chairman of the board once Harris begins.
Harris, with 25 years of experience leading franchised and corporate multi-unit retail and service businesses, previously worked as CEO of North America for IWG, a holding group for providers of more than 1,000 flexible workspaces.
In the restaurant industry, Harris is the former CEO of CiCi’s Pizza and previously served as senior vice president of Arby’s and vice president of franchise and corporate development at Captain D’s Seafood. In addition, he worked as a franchisee of Papa John’s and Qdoba. Harris has a Masters of Business Administration from Xavier University and a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Creighton University.
“I am thrilled to join this strong leadership team and build a great future for the Jack in the Box brand, our talented employees, and all Jack in the Box franchisees,” Harris said in a statement. “Given my extensive background in franchising, brand building, and operations, I have been able to observe the potential of this company, and I look forward to leading the organization toward this potential. My first order of business will be to learn this iconic brand and listen to our team members, partners, and franchisees on how best to serve our guests.”
Comma, who announced his retirement in December, has served as CEO and chairman since 2014. Once Harris’ tenure begins, Comma will depart from the company and the board of directors.
“On behalf of the Jack in the Box Board of Directors, I would like to personally thank Lenny for his commitment to the company over his 18 years at Jack in the Box, and specifically his fearless leadership over the last six-plus years as CEO and chairman,” Goebel said in a statement. “Lenny has had an enormous impact on the company with countless accomplishments, including driving same-store sales growth every year as CEO with industry-leading margins, transforming the business model from a multi-branded mixed model of franchise and company restaurants to a single-branded, primarily franchised company, all while developing the people and culture in the organization. We appreciate the continuity that Lenny will provide as a result of this transition and we wish him well in all his future endeavors.”
Harris’ journey as Jack in the Box CEO will begin as the restaurant industry continues to grapple with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
More than 99 percent of Jack in the Box restaurants are still open and operating via an off-premises model. Although the brand had positive same-store sales gains in the mid-single digits for most of the second quarter, the closure of dining rooms caused sales to slide. For Q2, the company projects a 4.2 percent slip systemwide, with a 4.1 percent decline at company-owned locations and a 4.2 percent decrease at franchises.
The company has more than $165 million cash on hand and paused its share repurchase program.
In the midst of the crisis, the company started a #StayInTheBox social media campaign, which has included creative content, meal bundle deals, free delivery, and other offers.