The 2013 Golden Chain award winners represent the best the restaurant industry has to offer. To celebrate the winners, NRN outlines each executive’s road to the top and dives into the strategies they used to build brands and inspire people. Find out more about this year's winners >>
Since Michael Hislop took the chief executive role at Corner Bakery Café in 2006, he’s led the brand’s evolution from a primarily company-owned chain into a franchise-driven growth vehicle.
The Dallas-based chain has become a formidable player in the fast-casual bakery-café space, posting $296.4 million in U.S. systemwide sales in fiscal 2012, up nearly 14 percent over the previous year.
Under Hislop’s leadership the chain grew from fewer than 100 units to nearly 150 locations in 14 states and the District of Columbia. Now Corner Bakery has set its sights on doubling the number of units by 2015.
Founded in 1991 in Chicago, the chain was initially designed as a popular bakery concept attached to Maggiano’s Little Italy, serving artisan breads, coffee, tea and espresso. The menu was quickly expanded to include freshly prepared sandwiches, paninis, soups, salads and desserts.
Meanwhile, Hislop was moving up the ranks at Il Fornaio, a casual-dining and bakery concept. The two chains came together in 2006, when Il Fornaio (America) Corp. acquired Corner Bakery from then-owner Brinker International.
Both were acquired in 2011 by private-equity firm Roark Capital Group, a move Hislop said at the time would further bolster Corner Bakery’s growth potential.