Photo via Creative Commons
Photo via Creative Commons

Long John Silver’s is in the middle of an overhaul and has brought on some new executives to help steer the ship.

The fast-food seafood company hired James O’Reilly, former chief branding officer at Sonic Corp., as its new CEO in February. The former CEO of the private Louisville-based company Mike Kern had left in 2014.

O’Reilly quickly brought on Brian Unger, a former Einstein Noah Restaurant Group Inc. executive, as chief operating officer in April.

Both top executives talked about reinvigorating the brand, which has struggled, particularly after National Public Radio deemed its food a “heart attack on a hook” and called it the worst restaurant meal in America. It has since completely eliminated trans fats from its menu.

It should be noted that, according to LinkedIn, Marie Zhang, Long John Silver’s chief innovation officer, left two months ago for a job with Focus Brands, a large-scale franchisor in Atlanta. She was instrumental in changing the restaurant’s menu.

The ownership company LJS Partners LLC even tried to offload the business, but the sale fell through, so the owners decided to redouble efforts to improve the chain’s image.

To help in those efforts, Long John Silver’s recently has hired four new executives:

  • The company hired Peter Czizek to serve as vice president of culinary innovation, working to create new menu items. He previously worked on menu innovation for Applebee’s, Dave & Buster’s and Romano’s Macaroni Grill.
  • Margo Mize is Long John Silver’s new senior vice president of marketing. She has more than 20 years of experience in restaurants and retail. Mize most recently served as chief marketing officer for Sweet CeCe’s Frozen Yogurt & Treats.
  • Marilyn Nicholson was hired as vice president of media and promotions. She worked for 15 years at Louisville-based advertising firm Scoppechio.
  • Long John Silver’s has appointed Toni Bianco to vice president of operations. Bianco comes to the company from Papa John’s International Inc., where he worked on the Louisville pizza company’s operations in Asia.

“These new leadership team members have deep industry experience and proven track records of accomplishment,” O’Reilly said in a news release. “We’re ready to work together to leverage our strategic plan and customer insights to drive culinary, service and asset innovation toward our vision of becoming America’s favorite seafood restaurant.”

Louisville native Caitlin Bowling has covered the local restaurant and retail scene since 2014. After graduating from the Ohio University’s E.W. Scripps School of Journalism, Caitlin got her start at a newspaper in the mountains of North Carolina where she won multiple state awards for her reporting. Since returning to Louisville, she’s written for Business First and Insider Louisville, winning awards for health and business reporting and becoming a go-to source for business news. In addition to restaurants and retail business, Caitlin covers real estate, economic development and tourism. Email Caitlin at [email protected]


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