Focus Brands Strengthens Organizational Leadership with Promotions, New Hires

Focus Brands Strengthens Organizational Leadership with Promotions, New Hires

Atlanta, GA  (RestaurantNews.comFocus Brands®, parent company of iconic brands including Auntie Anne’s®, Carvel®, Cinnabon®, Jamba®, McAlister’s Deli®, Moe’s Southwest Grill® and Schlotzsky’s®, announced today several leadership promotions and hires as the company and its brands continue to invest in building best-in-class support functions and industry-leading brands.

“As we continue to move our company and brands into the future, we must invest in key talent necessary to propel our brands forward and enhance services provided to our guests and franchisees,” said Jim Holthouser, CEO, Focus Brands. “I’m thrilled we have such highly regarded tenured industry executives within our four walls and that we continue to attract exceptional leaders to grow our teams.”

Focus Brands Strengthens Organizational Leadership with Promotions, New Hires
Kristen Hartman
Focus Brands Strengthens Organizational Leadership with Promotions, New Hires
Erik Hess

To power enhanced brand capabilities and outcomes, Focus Brands has organized its brands into categories. In two newly created roles, Kristen Hartman has been promoted to President, Specialty Brands (Auntie Anne’s, Carvel, Cinnabon, and Jamba), and Erik Hess has been promoted to President, Restaurant Brands (McAlister’s Deli, Moe’s Southwest Grill, Schlotzsky’s). Hartman, current president of Cinnabon and Carvel, joined Focus in 2012. With more than 20 years in the quick service restaurant industry, she has held several prominent leadership roles within Focus spanning marketing strategy, innovation, consumer insights, concept development, and licensing for the entire Focus portfolio of brands. Hess, former president of Moe’s, came to the company in 2019 with more than 25 years of experience in the food and beverage industry, including key executive roles at McDonald’s globally, domestically, and internationally. Over the course of his career he has led menu management and new product development, strategy and insights, customer experience innovation, and restaurant development. Beto Guajardo, former Starbucks executive, was promoted earlier this year from president of Schlotzsky’s to president of the International division. Kat Cole, COO & President, Focus Brands, continues to oversee both the Restaurant and Specialty categories as well as the International and Licensing divisions.

Focus Brands Strengthens Organizational Leadership with Promotions, New Hires
Anissa Mandell

Anissa Mandell has been promoted to SVP, Supply Chain, Focus Brands. Mandell steps into this role after serving as Vice President of Focus Brands Supply Chain and will oversee the strategic planning framework for Supply Chain, Distribution, Logistics and Quality Assurance functions as well as planning and directing all aspects of policies, objectives, and initiatives for each supply chain function to ensure adaptable and scalable solutions. Joining Focus Brands in 2011, Mandell has been in the supply chain industry for more than 25 years, playing an instrumental role in the initial formation of Focus Supply Chain.

In addition, Focus has welcomed two new executives to drive brand-level growth and innovation.

Focus Brands Strengthens Organizational Leadership with Promotions, New Hires
Alex Williams

Alex Williams has joined Moe’s Southwest Grill as Chief Brand Officer to lead the Moe’s business. With nearly 30 years of leadership experience in the oil & gas and food and beverage industries, Williams will leverage his franchising and operations leadership skills and experience driving business results across several well-known and innovative brands to continue building Moe’s as a segment leader. Most recently, while Williams was at Bloomin’ Brands, he ran Outback Steakhouse in the Midwest region and served as Vice President of Operations for Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse nationally. He has also spent time leading franchising, innovation and brand experience at McDonald’s and held roles in operations, supply chain, and distribution for Starbucks Corporation and ExxonMobil. 

Focus Brands Strengthens Organizational Leadership with Promotions, New Hires
Seth Freeman

Seth Freeman has joined Schlotzsky’s as Vice President of Marketing. A seasoned marketing executive with experience across the consumer-packaged goods, hospitality and restaurant industries, Freeman will oversee the national consumer marketing strategies and programs that drive brand growth and relevance, inclusive of menu development, promotions, demand generation, and the overall Schlotzsky’s brand experience. Prior to joining Schlotzsky’s, Freeman was the Chief Marketing Officer for Buffalo Wild Wings where he successfully partnered with franchisees to drive sales and focused on improving the overall guest experience. Freeman has also served in marketing leadership roles at Russell Athletic, The Coca-Cola Company and InterContinental Hotels Group.

About Focus Brands

Atlanta-based Focus Brands is a leading developer of global multi-channel foodservice brands. Focus Brands, through its affiliate brands, is the franchisor and operator of more than 6,000 restaurants, cafes, ice cream shoppes, and bakeries in the United States, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and over 50 foreign countries under the Auntie Anne’s®, Carvel®, Cinnabon®, Jamba®, Moe’s Southwest Grill®, McAlister’s Deli®, and Schlotzsky’s® brand names, as well as Seattle’s Best Coffee® on certain military bases and in certain international markets. Please visit to learn more.

Marissa Sharpless
Director of PR and Communications
FOCUS Brands