Kirk Palmer Associates Places Chief Experience Officer for Cava Group

June 20, 2023 – Retail-focused executive search firm Kirk Palmer Associates recently helped place Andy Rebhun as chief experience officer for Mediterranean restaurant chain Cava Group Inc. in Washington, D.C. The assignment was led by partner Dana Levine and search manager Jennifer Riemer. The chief experience officer position is reportedly new and will oversee the brand’s creative and digital teams. Mr. Rebhun reports to Cava co-founder and CEO Brett Schulman. “Proud to congratulate Andy Rebhun on his new role as chief experience officer of Cava,” said the search firm in a statement. “It was such a pleasure partnering on this search!”

“This is a fast-growing brand that’s defining a new category and truly bringing heart, health, and humanity to food, and that makes for a great customer experience,” said Mr. Rebhun.

A ‘Remarkable Success Story’

Last week, Cava made waves in its debut on the New York Stock Exchange, with shares closing at $43.30, valuing the restaurant chain at close to $4.9 billion, nearly double the company’s $22 per share price of the night before. “It’s a remarkable success story for any hip restaurant chain,” said the online website Slate. “But could it also be a savior for the IPO market, and an encouragement to other food brands waiting to go public?”

Mr. Rebhun previously worked for Costa Mesa, CA.-based El Pollo Loco Inc., where he served as chief marketing officer for the past year and a half. Prior to that, he served as the brand’s chief digital officer. Before El Pollo Loco, he worked in marketing positions at McDonald’s Corp. and the Ford Motor Co.

Related: Kirk Palmer Associates Assists Ashley Stewart in Finding New CEO

Cava describes itself as “the category-defining Mediterranean fast-casual restaurant brand, bringing together healthful food and bold, satisfying flavors at scale.” Begun by three friends since childhood — Ted Xenohristos, Ike Grigoropoulos and Dimitri Moshovitis – Cava started as a full-service restaurant, Cava Mezze, in Rockville, MD in 2006. In 2021, the brand received a $190 million round of Series F funding. As of April, the company had 263 restaurants across 22 states and Washington, D.C.

Retail-Focused Recruiters

Since its founding in 1987, Kirk Palmer Associates has grown globally, helping retailers hire CEOs, presidents, and front-of-house executives spanning a wide array of marketing, merchandising, stores, sales, E-commerce, and digital leadership roles. Kirk Palmer Associates is made up of retail and fashion industry veterans. The firm’s partners have placed more than 1,000 CEOs, presidents, vice presidents, and other senior executives at over 200 retail and wholesale companies across all channels, sectors, and functional areas.

Ms. Levine is a partner specializing in fashion, luxury and lifestyle brands. She joined Kirk Palmer Associates in 2014 after an extensive career in merchandising, planning, digital, and stores at GAP, Ralph Lauren, and Loro Piana. Ms. Levine has partnered with clients ranging from LVMH to PetSmart and has placed CEO, C-level and senior management executives.

Ms. Riemer began her career in search over a decade ago supporting the board practice at Spencer Stuart. She is adept at supporting complex executive search assignments for board, CEO and C-level through VP talent. Earlier in her career, Ms. Riemer was an external communications specialist at McKinsey & Company.

Kirk Palmer Associates recently assisted in the recruitment of John Aylward as chief marketing officer of JCPenney. Partner Lindsay Stevens led the assignment. “The 120-year-old JCPenney brand is iconic. We must protect what the brand represents while evolving how it expresses who we are today,” said Marc Rosen, chief executive officer. “John will help fulfill our potential at this pivotal moment when JCPenney stands alone as a one-stop retailer. Additionally, John’s passion for purpose-driven work will be an important asset as we continue to provide offerings that promote inclusivity and celebrate the diversity of our customers.”

Related: Kirk Palmer and Associates Assists Vince Holding Corp. with CEO Search

Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; and Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media

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