Before Black Bear Diner, Adams spent almost a decade as CFO of American Blue Ribbon Holdings where she helped increase revenue from $400 million to $1.2 billion and managed five restaurant brands and a bakery. She became Black Bear’s CFO in 2017 and was promoted to president in March 2019, a role in which she oversaw strategies that drove the brand’s growth and led the company’s shared services, including operations, franchise and corporate development, and human resources. She holds a bachelor’s degree in accounting from the University of Wyoming and an active CPA license in Colorado.
Adams is starting her new job amid aggressive growth by Black Bear. The 138-unit chain, 83 of which are franchises, opened 20 units in 2019 and has 20 more in the pipeline for 2020—10 corporate stores and 10 franchises.
Up until recently, Black Bear was predominantly a West Coast brand, and Adams says there were questions around portability and whether the chain would resonate in other markets. There was a desire among leadership to prove that its menu, all-American fare, and cabin-themed environment could spread across the country. The first step out of the West was Houston in 2018 and now there are five diners in that area. The brand has since opened in Kansas, Missouri, Montana, Oklahoma, and Arkansas and seen similar results. Black Bear is now open in more than a dozen states.
Adams attributes the success to the lively environment, particularly the large, carved totem bears and jukeboxes. She describes the restaurant as a fun, relaxed atmosphere where the company doesn’t take itself too seriously—that’s combined with a breakfast orientation full of quality proteins.
“We’re thrilled at the results,” Adams says. “We’ve opened up in markets where we had very little brand awareness, and guests were intrigued by the look and feel of the outside of our diners. … For us it’s a function of really bringing this brand east. And today we sit with 138 diners, so there’s just immense potential for Black Bear to continue to find itself east.”