True Food Kitchen Taps Former Shake Shack Exec as First Chief People Officer
True Food Kitchen announced that Peggy Rubenzer has been named chief people officer to lead the brand's human resources and training function as the brand continues to grow. Rubenzer will be responsible for developing and executing people strategies that support the company's operational goals and help drive performance within the organization. As a member of the True Food Kitchen executive leadership team, reporting to CEO Christine Barone, she will work to scale the team's vision for True Food while protecting the brand values at its foundation.
Rubenzer most recently served as senior vice president of people resources for Shake Shack for the past eight years and played a significant role in the growth and development of the rapidly expanding brand, helping to take it from nine locations in 2011 to more than 200 locations in 13 countries around the globe. Rubenzer led HR strategy and was instrumental in the creation and execution of the people and talent strategies that helped successfully define Shake Shack's lively and inspiring culture of service and hospitality.
Before joining Shake Shack in 2011, Rubenzer held leadership positions at P.F. Chang's China Bistro—first, as vice president of people services from 2002 to 2007 supporting 300 restaurant locations with more than 27,000 employees around the globe, before taking on the role of vice president of training and development from 2007 to 2011. She began her human resources career in 1989 with Southwest Airlines, internationally recognized for being on the leading edge of people and culture, where she spent 10 years developing an expertise in the selection and training of service employees and corporate management.
"Peggy's expertise leading growth companies with great culture will help us continue to push True Food Kitchen forward and advance our goal of being one of the industry's best places to work," says Barone. "Her impressive background of driving organizational change and leading restaurant brands through hypergrowth make her exactly the right people leader to help scale and fulfill our mission to bring delicious, healthy food to more people."
"I was drawn to True Food Kitchen because it is a strong brand made up of people who are deeply committed to eating better, feeling better and living better," says Rubenzer. "While our food is good for the body, I am excited to focus on the types of employee initiatives that are good for the soul. Our people have the passion to serve our guests and my passion is to serve our people in a way that allows them to grow and thrive, which is the key to growing our brand."
Rubenzer will play a critical leadership role in driving the company's talent management strategy, which includes: leading people operations; attracting industry top talent, building leading-edge learning and development programs; and developing rewards and recognition strategies—all in an effort to bring True Food Kitchen's already strong brand and culture to new and exciting heights through its people initiatives.
Founded in 2008, True Food Kitchen has received national recognition as a culinary leader, with a health-driven menu of seasonal dishes and natural beverages guided by the principles of founder Dr. Andrew Weil's anti-inflammatory food pyramid. Today, True Food Kitchen operates 28 restaurants in 12 states, with a robust growth strategy that includes focus markets on the east coast in New York, New Jersey, and North Carolina, in addition to expanding its existing presence throughout Florida, Virginia, and more. The restaurant brand currently has 3,000 employees nationwide.
In the midst of the brand's geographic growth is the thoughtful expansion of its world-class leadership team to support its national growth and expansion in recent years. In 2016, True Food Kitchen named the following executives to its leadership team: CEO Christine Barone, former Starbucks executive; CFO Allison Schulder, of P.F. Chang's China Bistro; and COO James Liakakos, former VP of Operations for Jean-Georges Management. Earlier this year, True Food Kitchen named Shannon Keller as Chief Marketing Officer following the 2018 appointment of Robert McCormick, former Daniel Boulud corporate chef, to True Food Kitchen brand chef.