CraftWorks Restaurants & Breweries announced Mark Belanger has joined its executive team as vice president of global franchise operations and development. In his new role, Belanger will be responsible for leading the national franchise growth efforts for casual-dining leader Old Chicago Pizza & Taproom, as well as growing the presence of the company’s other brands—Gordon Biersch Brewery Restaurants, Rock Bottom Restaurants & Breweries, and ChopHouse & Brewery. He will also oversee day-to-day franchisee and license development domestically and abroad.
“Following a very successful year, it’s time to aggressively expand our brands’ visibility nationwide, specifically Old Chicago’s growth within the franchise space,” said Srinivas Kumar, CEO of CraftWorks Restaurants & Breweries. “With Mark’s vast experience in franchising and his ability to cultivate strong, long-lasting partnerships, we are confident that he will carry out our franchise expansion goals for Old Chicago, and growth for our key brands.”
While his efforts will span across CraftWorks’ primary brands, Belanger will be leveraging his expertise to specifically accelerate Old Chicago Pizza & Taproom’s momentum in 2016, following a year of unprecedented growth. He will lead the company’s development strategy, which focuses on catapulting Old Chicago’s presence even further by growing the brand in existing markets and identifying new markets to target for franchise expansion.
An industry veteran with nearly three decades of experience in the franchise, foodservice, and retail space, Belanger most recently served as CEO of ProFab Holdings and president/managing principal of MAB Consulting Group, where he and his team provided franchisees with effective ways to save time and money when opening new locations. Prior to consulting, Belanger held various positions at several leading brands including vice president of El Pollo Loco Holdings, director of business development for Service Master Brands, and vice president of Barnes & Noble.
“The rate at which the CraftWorks brands are expanding is truly impressive, and there’s tremendous opportunity to keep the momentum going,” Belanger says. "With a focus on further developing Old Chicago’s franchise presence in key markets, I look forward to creating partnerships with a new generation of franchisees and fostering the existing relationships in our system.”
Old Chicago experienced record-breaking success in 2015, achieving $254 million in system-wide revenue and 20 consecutive months of positive comp sales, and launching its new restaurant prototype—a 5,000-square-foot build with an additional 1,000 to 1,200 square feet of outdoor patio space. To fuel franchise growth, the company is seeking multi-unit operators with experience in business, management, and foodservice and/or restaurant experience, plus a passion for and commitment to exceptional customer service.