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Bernard Acoca’s Appointment As The First External Zaxby’s CEO

Zaxby’s is a premium chicken quick service restaurant founded in 1990 by Tony Townley and Zach McLeory in Athens, GA. It serves sandwiches, salads, chicken fingers, and wings. With an engaged and robust franchise community, the restaurant has opened over 900 locations in 17 states.

Zach McLeory remained part of the restaurant, becoming its Chief Executive Officer. However, he announced his transition to the chairman on October 2021, announcing Bernard Acoca as the new Zaxby’s CEO. The change took effect in January 2021, after 30 years of Zach McLeory leading the restaurant.

That made Acoca the first brand’s external CEO, which McLeory said was essential to help them capitalize on the numerous opportunities. Bernard Acoca brings vast experience in the field after leading some of the most prominent restaurant concepts across the United States.

That will be vital in driving Zaxby’s growth. At the same time, McLeroy’s continued involvement will ensure the continuity of the brand’s culture plus founder-led history, which will act as a guiding principle.

McLeory said they wanted to hire the best in the industry, which led them to a long CEO search. They wanted someone with operational, marketing, and strategic experience and expertise to help accelerate the brand’s national expansion and growth.

Acoca has over 20 years of experience as an executive and marketer in the restaurant sector, making him a perfect choice. One of his most notable positions is his CEO tenure at El Pollo Loco since 2018. Over that time, he helped streamline the house’s back-end and drive-thru, accelerate e-commerce, and improve brand positioning.

He was also on Starbucks’ leadership team for seven years. He served as the Marketing and Category for Americas, senior vice president, and Teavana president. He also worked at L’Oreal as chief marketing for the Americas and spent a decade at Yum! Brands.

Nicole Agnew, a restaurant’s Board of Directors member, expressed her confidence in Bernard Acoca as the new Zaxby’s CEO. She said he has an impressive track record of driving profits and sales. She added that his humility and experience would help the brand achieve new success levels. Refer to this page for additional information.


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