Dunkin, Friendly's Get New CMOs

Both Friendly's and Dunkin have hired new chief marketing officers, as restaurant companies continue to look for new ways to connect with consumers in the post-COVID landscape.

Dunkin’ says Rafael Acevedo is joining as CMO, effective immediately. Acevedo has spent the last 20 years at Coca-Cola, most recently as vice president of marketing for its tea portfolio. The Canton, Massachusetts-based company says Acevedo will report directly to Scott Murphy, head of the Inspire Beverage-Snack Category and president of Dunkin'. Acevedo will also serve on the Dunkin’ leadership team.

Friendly's is making some marketing moves just in time for the ice-cream season, beefing up its marketing muscle. The woebegone chain has named David Ellis chief marketing officer. And it's promoted Sylvia Becker, senior director of media services, to vice president of marketing. 



Friendly's, a family dining institution for decades, had been floundering even before the pandemic. It filed for bankruptcy in November and got scooped up by Amici Partners Group, a Connecticut-based investor group affiliated with Brix Holdings, based in Texas.

The company had been looking for a buyer when COVID-19 shuts further hobbled its efforts. It was reportedly sold to Amici for just $2 million, an amount that shocked many industry experts.

The chain has been sold often, and at one point, was owned by Hershey. Most recently, Texas-based Dean Foods Co. bought it in 2016 for $155 million.

Brix and Amici hope to breathe new life into Friendly's. Together, the two companies focus on brands they think can grow into national and international chains. Their brand portfolio includes such chains as Red Mango Yogurt Café, Smoothie & Juice Bar, Smoothie Factory Juice Bar, RedBrick Pizza Kitchen Café, Orange Leaf, Humble Donut Co. and Souper Salad.

Brix says Ellis, who has worked at Uncle Julio's and O'Charley's, will oversee brand strategy, marketing, public relations and digital initiatives at Friendly's and its other brands. He'll also lead the development of loyalty programs, online ordering and new virtual brands.

Before joining Friendly's eight years ago, Becker worked at Johnny Rockets and McDonald's. She will develop marketing plans to support brand strategy, using traditional and digital media, loyalty programs, social media, and influencer partnerships. 

Friendly's, an 80-year-old brand, still has 130 friendly, full-service restaurants, and most remained open throughout its bankruptcy proceedings. A decade ago, the Wilbraham, Massachusetts-based company had more than 500.


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