Top Five CEOs Leading Growth

Restaurant industry headlines have been doom and gloom over the past few months. Despite record low food pricing, restaurants are still facing challenges like a shifting marketing landscape, increased minimum wages and soaring operation costs accompanied by declining sales.

Despite the stagnant sales and dining room visitor downturn, some restaurant chains are actually seeing some growth. What can the leaders of successful companies teach us about stirring sales? We decided to take a closer look at some of the CEOs of the Top 10 Fastest Growing Chains in the United States.   


Zach McLeroy

  • McLeroy is the CEO of Zaxby’s, Nation’s Restaurant News’ 10th top restaurant chain.
  • CEO since 1990 and Co-Founder.
  • Previously: CEO for Southern Mortgage & Lending Corporation

McLeroy got his start in the restaurant industry while putting himself through the University of Georgia. He worked at restaurants around campus including a pizza shop. Inspired by the success of Guthrie’s, a local chicken finger restaurant, he left his job in mortgaging, sold his drum set and started the chicken joint Zaxby’s with childhood buddy Tony Townley.



Charles R. Morrison 

Morrison has more than 20 years in the restaurant industry. In 2012 after taking the helm at Wingstop , his primary goal was to infuse more “discipline and structure” to the company. Apparently, his strategy and leadership have worked. Since then he’s overseen the company going public in 2015. When asked what has inspired his leadership style ,he responded, “All of my experiences in my career, watching people and modeling what to do and avoiding what not to do.”



Chris Gheysens

  • CEO of WaWa, Nation’s Restaurant News’ 9th top restaurant chain.
  • Named CFO in 1997 and promoted to CEO in 2013.
  • Was an auditor in the Philly office of Deloitte LLP before moving to WaWa.

Most of Gheysens career has been spent at convenience store WaWa. He learned the importance of treating employees well and supporting customer relationships from watching his father own and operate car washes as a child. Service is built into WaWa’s ethos. Gheysens is known to stop and pitch in when making store visits. He also worked with Saint Joseph’s University to design a customized servant leadership program, which all of WaWa’s senior management have completed.



Stephen M. King

King learned restaurant management and earned his MBA at Cornell University. He helped turn things around after Dave and Busters declared bankruptcy in 2004; the “Chuckie Cheese for adults” sold for $570 mil in 2010 and then double that in 2014. King attributes the change in tide to new systems in the kitchen and labor management.



Peter Cancro

Cancro’s career started with Mike’s Subs working behind the counter. At the age of 17, he became the owner after buying the business with the help of his football coach who, fortunately for Cancro, was also a banker. Since purchasing Mike’s Subs in 1971, he has grown the business to over 1,500 locations! From the start, Cancro taught his staff the importance of customer interaction and shared his passion for getting to know every guest that walks through the door.