Così Inc. said Monday it has named restaurant industry veteran Carin L. Stutz its new chief executive and president.
Stutz, 55, most recently was president of global business development at Brinker International Inc. and was previously executive vice president of operations for Applebee’s International Inc. Stutz, who will assume her new role Jan. 1, will also join the board of directors at Deerfield, Ill.-based Cosi, which operates or franchises the 138-unit bakery-sandwich chain.
“Carin is a proven leader with deep operational, marketing and business development experience,” Michael O’Donnell, a member of Cosi’s board and chief executive of Ruth’s Hospitality Group Inc., said in a statement. “She is a respected leader with a track record of innovative strategic brand building, and an impressive record of accomplishment, having held leadership positions at several of our industry’s leading companies.”
Brinker International said Monday it has already begun a search for Stutz’ replacement at the Dallas-based company.
“I am thrilled at the opportunity to lead this talented management team and help build a great future for the Così brand, our employees, franchise owners, and all who invest in our success,” Stutz said in a statement. “My mission is to energize the Così brand and the guest experience.”
Così has recently been under pressure for leadership changes by investor Blum Growth Fund, which owns a 6.8-percent stake in the company. Fund founder Brad Blum, a former top executive at Burger King, Olive Garden and Romano’s Macaroni Grill, had volunteered to serve as Cosi CEO for a $1 annual salary. Cosi had been pushing Blum and his proposals off.
Before Brinker and Applebee’s, Stutz was Pacific division vice president for Wendy’s International, served as regional operations vice president for Sodexo USA and was vice president of corporate operations for NutriSystem Inc. She is currently chair of the Womens’ Foodservice Forum.
Così also said Monday that board member Stephen F. Edwards would assume the role of executive chair on Jan. 1.
Edwards said, "On behalf of the board, I would like to thank Mark Demilio for his leadership as interim CEO through this transition and look forward to continuing to work with him as a member of the board of directors.”
Così has 80 company-owned and 57 franchise restaurants in 17 states.