October 20, 2016 – HVS Executive Search has placed Mark Mears as chief marketing officer of Slim Chickens, a franchise restaurant operator with more than 40 locations in 10 states. The fast-casual restaurant plans to grow to 600 locations in the next 10 years and needed a marketing executive to further fuel this effort. CEO Court Williams led the search along with vice president Bill Conn.
In his storied 30-year career, Mr. Mears has become known as a visionary business leader with a proven track record for driving innovation and growth among major players in the restaurant industry. Previously, he served as chief marketing officer for Noodles & Company. He also held the CMO role for Schlotzsky’s and The Cheesecake Factory. During his career he also served as chief concept officer for Mimi’s Café.
“We’re proud of where our brand is today, but we know that bringing a visionary marketing and branding leader like Mark on board to provide business and marketing strategy and implement processes will help take us to an even higher next level,” said Greg Smart, co-founder and chief brand officer of Slim Chickens. “We’re eager to solidify our branding and messaging as we continue to open locations and reach a new fan base in markets across the country.”
“I’m eager to meet our franchise partners and share our initial plan to build upon our strong foundation and continue our future growth,” said Mr. Mears. “The brand has great momentum nearing 50 locations with more than 20 new openings expected by the end of 2016 and plans to add another 50 every year moving forward. Now is the time for the franchise system to get aligned, to cement our brand story and expand on our fantastic culture.”
An Industry In Rebound
HVS Executive Search provides human capital advisory services to leaders in the hotel, restaurant, food service and travel/leisure industries. Practice areas include senior level executive search, mid-management recruitment and performance improvement. The firm maintains offices in New York, London, New Delhi and Hong Kong.
After taking a massive hit during the Great Recession, employment and hiring within the hotel/hospitality industry has begun to rebound. In the last year, according to one set of survey metrics, the industry added 527,000 jobs (2.6 million since 2004). That number is forecasted to increase in 2016, as global tourism and traveling in general are expected to rise. The sector continues to outperform the national average for employers adding full-time staff.
Recruiting Chief Marketing Officers
Like most other function-specific, C-suite leaders, chief marketing officers continue to be in high-demand. As business becomes more global and complex, and power shifts from producers of goods and services to consumers, a CMOs responsibility of planning and coordinating an organization’s marketing activities has become much more challenging, according to recruiters specializing in the function.
“Recruiting CMO’s is always a challenge,” said Peter Polachi, managing director of Polachi Inc. “Over the last 20 years, I have come to realize that it is more challenging than recruiting CEOs for technology companies due to market constraints.”
Current business landscape demands have increased the contribution from chief marketing officers, the latest research report from Forrester and Heidrick & Struggles reveals. The survey found CMOs are building strong relationships with the head of product and research & development to prepare the organization for digital disruption.
“Today’s CMO works with the CEO to accelerate the organization and drive transformation. CMOs also collaborate with other members of the C-suite, especially with a company’s top HR executive to shape the company brand,” said Christine DeYoung, a partner at DHR International. “As such, chief marketing executives are gaining rapidly in stature and influence in the C-suite.”
“We see CMOs moving beyond functional expertise to assume responsibility for driving overall growth within their organizations,” said Sheryl Pattek, VP, CMO executive partner at Forrester. “They are evolving into key strategic partners on the executive team, and know that collaboration with the rest of the C-suite will be instrumental to their success.”
In many cases, CMOs today are actually the ones driving the disruption. “The C-suite is shifting and the CMO is very much playing a new role in working with the CEO to accelerate the organization and drive transformation,” said John Abele, managing partner for marketing, sales & strategy practice, at Heidrick & Struggles.
Contributed by Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor, Hunt Scanlon Media