Chicken and waffles at Metro Diner.

Metro Diner

Metro Diner is known for its giant portions and low prices, with most dishes under $15.

Rapidly Growing Metro Diner Adds New Executives

The brand is set to achieve a 46 percent annual growth rate this year.

One of the fastest-growing concepts in full service is shoring up its executive team ahead of 2019. Metro Diner announced December 13 that it hired Stanley Goodman as chief operating officer and John Kunkel as chief financial officer in preparation of continued national expansion. By the end of 2018, Metro Diner expects to have 66 units (there are 63 current), which would represent a 46 percent annual growth rate.

Carl Sahlsten, the former president of Carrabba’s Italian Grill who serves as chief executive of Metro Diner, said the additions would help the brand scale in an effective and smart manner.

“The big picture as we continue our solid growth is to bring aboard top-level industry professionals to supplement our high impact leadership team,” he said in a statement. “We have always been focused on operations and we’re thrilled to have Stanley drive operational excellence. As CFO, John brings extensive financial experience that will complement our solid foundation permitting continued growth.”

READ MORE: Metro Diner, and the Making of America’s Next Great Diner Chain

Goodman previously worked with the founders of ConSul Partners—the group that exercised its option to purchase 100 percent of Metro Diner’s intellectual property in late 2015. That group included Chris Sullivan, one of Outback’s founders, Hugh Connerty, the iconic steakhouse’s first franchise partner, and Sahlsten. Mark Davoli created Metro Diner with his father, John Sr., and brother, John, Jr., in 1992. Davoli himself had Outback ties, serving as a grill cook at an Orange Park, Florida, location owned by Connerty.

Fittingly, Goodman operated the Outback Steakhouses in Canada. As COO of Metro Diner, the company said he would “bring a laser focus to the team by sharing his standard of excellence and entrepreneurial spirit and inspire the managing partners who own and operate their respective Metro Diners.” He will also aid the management development program to support continued expansion.

“It’s not about how fast we grow but how well we execute—providing every guest with dishes made of quality ingredients and an unbelievable experience,” Goodman added in a statement. “We have confidence that with great managing partners at every diner, we will continue our strong growth and be even more competitive in the industry.”

Like Outback, which was the first company to introduce a true managing partner equity program, Metro Diner is deploying an adjusted version of the strategy to carve its expansion. This is similar to the platform Texas Roadhouse uses, where partners pay $25,000 up front and get 10 percent of the store profits. Metro Diner provides a base salary compensation of $75,000 per year; managing partners invest $7,500 in their diners and receive a 5 percent interest that can scale up to 10 percent. The participation interest of diner cash flow is in addition to the base salary. Metro Diner also allows significant ability to realize the value of the partner’s participation interest after five years.

Kunkel will be responsible for elevating and enhancing financial projections and clearly communicating with investor partners, Metro Diner said.

“There is a strong nucleus of senior leaders in the home office whose track record speaks for itself and completely understands from experience how to bring solid growth to a great brand like Metro Diner,” Kunkel said. “I’m excited to join them in sharing a 110 percent dedication to supporting each of the diners in a drive to maintain consistency and great guest experiences while continuing to lead the family dining sector as a growth company.”

Metro Diner said it plans to expand its footprint in current markets and add Tennessee and South Carolina to its growth markets.