Two growing fast-casual pizza chains announced Tuesday the hiring of development executives to head new franchising programs, both of whom are former executives of Qdoba Mexican Grill.

Seattle-based MOD Pizza has hired John Dikos as vice president, strategic partnerships. Dikos served previously as director of franchise development for Denver-based Qdoba.

Carlsbad, Calif.-based Project Pie has named Todd Owen vice president of franchise development. Owen served previously as vice president of franchise development for Qdoba.

For MOD Pizza, the appointment marks a new phase of franchise growth, chief executive Scott Svenson said in a statement. The chain has nine restaurants in Washington state, with seven more scheduled to open there and in Oregon and California before the end of the year.

“Over the past five years, we have thoughtfully built the business through company-owned stores with the goal of creating a unique and scalable brand and customer experience,” Svenson said. “As we accelerate the development of company stores, we have decided the time is right to invite a select number of experienced operators to partner with us to build MOD into a national brand.

“We believe John is ideal to lead these efforts because he is a great fit with our values and culture, he has all the tools to excel in the role, and he clearly understands that partner selection goes far beyond having capital and restaurant experience,” Svenson continued. “While we plan to be very selective when choosing our partners, we do anticipate swift growth.”

In 2000, prior to his term at Qdoba, Dikos co-founded Capital Avenue, an online commercial lending company, which was eventually acquired by National Cooperative Bank, or NCB. Dikos remained with NCB, focusing on the restaurant segment, until he joined Qdoba in 2007. During his term, Qdoba grew from 300 to more than 600 restaurants through both company and franchise development.

Owen, the new vice president at Project Pie, was with Qdoba for 11 years, during which the fast-casual Mexican chain grew from 60 to 630 units. Prior to Qdoba, Owen worked at Taco Bell and Pepsi-Cola in various franchise, sales and management roles.

Three-unit Project Pie was founded in 2012 by James Markham, who previously helped build the MOD Pizza concept, as well as Pieology, another fast-casual pizza chain.

The first Project Pie restaurant opened in October 2012 in the MGM Grand Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas; a second location opened in the San Diego area earlier this year. The company’s first franchise location also opened this year in Mandaluyong, Philippines, as part of a deal that will bring 25 locations in that country over the next three years.

In addition, Project Pie plans to open restaurants in Los Angeles County; Boulder, Colo.; and New York City later this year, the company said.

“We’re looking to Todd to properly grow and expand this unique brand throughout the world,” said Markham, Project Pie’s chief executive, in a statement. “We have proven the Project Pie business model can succeed in both domestic and foreign markets, and we’re eager to keep our momentum going as the leader and most experienced brand in the segment.”

The loss of two executives at Qdoba comes at a time when San Diego-based parent company Jack in the Box Inc. is undergoing a brand overhaul under new president Tim Casey, who was hired in March. Earlier this year, the company closed 62 underperforming Qdoba units, leaving 592 locations. Another five Qdoba units are scheduled to close before the end of the year.

Contact Lisa Jennings at lisa.jennings@penton.com.
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