Industry veteran Jim Greco has joined Newk’s Franchise Company as chief operating officer, a newly created position, the company said Wednesday.

Greco is charged with expanding the Jackson, Miss.-based fast-casual operator’s development program and honing its brand positioning.

“Newk’s Eatery is already on a strong trajectory because of its unique positioning among second-generation fast-casual restaurants,” Greco said of the 10-year-old company in a press release. “To accommodate Newk’s explosive growth — more than doubling in size by 2018 — we need to build additional support systems for franchise and company restaurants. I will help guide the development of those systems under the leadership of [Newk’s co-founder and chief executive] Chris Newcomb.”

Greco was most recently chief executive of Sbarro. He joined the company in February 2012, shortly after it emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy, and left a year later. Subsequently, Sbarro entered and emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy again.

During his tenure there, Greco said he wanted to move Sbarro toward a fast-casual positioning, including making operational tweaks and improving the pizza recipes.

He was also CEO of Bruegger’s Bagels, and is credited for turning around and helping to manage its private equity purchase and sale.

“Jim shares our passion for Newk’s culinary-driven excellence in a hospitality environment, as well as our value for maintaining the tremendous restaurant level economics that are a cornerstone of our franchising success,” Newcomb said. “His expertise is valuable as we seek to increase density in the southeastern quarter of the U.S. and stretch into new territories.”

Newcomb, his father Don Newcomb and family friend Debra Bryson, who founded Newk’s, sold the chain to Sentinel Capital Partners in March.

Newk’s, with 70 units in 13 states, has a diverse menu that includes salads, California-style pizzas, toasted sandwiches, soups and cakes. The company plans to have a total of 200 restaurants by 2018 and expand into the Southwest and Midwest, enabled in part by its acquisition by Sentinel.

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