- CKE, the parent company of Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s, has appointed Jennifer Tate as chief marketing officer and Mike Lenihan as chief financial officer, effective immediately, the company announced Wednesday.
- CKE has undergone a significant leadership change this year since hiring former Papa John’s COO Max Wetzel as CEO in March.
- Tate and Lenihan join the company as it undergoes a $500 million rebranding and renovation effort impacting hundreds of restaurants.
Both executives, according to the press release, have significant experience working with brands undergoing major changes.
Tate served as Cracker Barrel’s CMO for three years and spent over a decade in brand management and marketing at Olive Garden. In both those roles, CKE said Tate played a major role in brand renewal efforts.
“At Cracker Barrel, Jennifer Tate successfully led the evolution of the menu and the advertising strategy and put in place a new off premises business plan that led to sustained growth,” the press release states. She helped “reinvigorate the brand in the areas of innovation, digital guest experience and data-driven marketing.”
As head of marketing at Olive Garden, Tate oversaw a “brand renaissance,” according to the press release.
Lenihan, who joins CKE from Yum Brands where he held various roles for 20 years, likewise worked at a major brand as it was undertaking a major transformation.
“While part of the Yum! corporate team, Mike Lenihan led transformative initiatives that successfully changed the company's operating model and resulted in significant shareholder value creation,” the press release states.
The ongoing renovation and rebranding drive, which was announced last May, “will focus on holistic renovations, technology advancements and streamlined operations.”
CKE, alongside Burger King U.S., was one of a number of QSR brands to see a major franchisee go bankrupt and shutter stores this spring. The major renovation program has been accompanied by other efforts to bolster sales and strengthen branding at Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr. In March 2022, CKE launched a loyalty program that spanned both brands. The company has also partnered with three conversational AI companies to offer franchisees drive-thru tech it says will boost margins and upsell, while reducing labor costs.