Senior Leadership Team
Charles Bruce – President and Chief Executive Officer
Charles Bruce brings to Johnny Rockets more than 35 years of experience in marketing and leadership positions. Most recently, Charles Bruce was President and Chief Executive Officer of Peter Piper Pizza, a regional pizza chain where he was hired in 2009 as Chief Marketing Officer to develop and implement the strategy to turn the brand around. Following the successful turnaround, Bruce was promoted to President and Chief Executive Officer. Charles has a proven track record developing integrated brand strategies that achieved substantial sales growth for a variety of brands and establishing productive relationships with franchise partners. Earlier in his career, Bruce held marketing and brand strategy positions with the International Pizza Hut Franchise Holders Association as Vice President of Marketing and at Wendy’s as Vice President of International Marketing. Bruce also held positions at Damon’s Grill, Captain D’s Seafood and Salsarita’s Fresh Cantina.
Joel Bulger - Chief Marketing Officer
With more than 25 years of restaurant industry experience, Bulger brings extensive marketing and brand development expertise to Johnny Rockets. He leads our Field Marketing and Corporate Communications teams as well as driving the overall strategic plan through brand marketing, LSM, public relations, guest services, agency management, new menu item launches and social media, both domestically and internationally. Bulger comes to Johnny Rockets with a rich history in the restaurant industry. Prior to joining Johnny Rockets, he held the position of SVP of Brand Marketing and Digital Strategy for Church’s Chicken where he was responsible for national advertising, Social/Digital Strategy, menu/product development and creative strategy for the 1,250-unit brand. As Vice President of Brand Marketing for Moe’s Southwest Grill in Atlanta, he led marketing and creative for the 420-unit restaurant chain. During his tenure at Darden Restaurants, Bulger worked on both the Olive Garden and LongHorn Steakhouse brands, holding roles as Senior Director of Brand Marketing, Brand Director of New Business Development and Director of Field Marketing. Bulger also worked with Wendy’s International, Inc. as the Director of Marketing in the Southeast Region, responsible for over 2,500 restaurants. Prior to this, Bulger worked for Coca-Cola USA where he held the position of National Promotions Manager (Coke classic brand) and developed and executed multi-million dollar promotions for the beverage company. Bulger began his marketing career with Fricks/Firestone Advertising in Atlanta, where he worked with national clients including United Healthcare, Royal Oak Charcoal and AFC Enterprises. He graduated from University of Georgia with a B.A. in Advertising before acquiring his M.B.A. in International Business from Mercer University in Atlanta.
James Walker - President, Operations and Development
Walker joined Johnny Rockets in December of 2013 where he oversees domestic and international operations, franchise sales and global development, including construction, design and real estate. He brings more than twenty years experience in franchise development to the Johnny Rockets team. Previously, Walker served as the CDO for the Tampa Florida based Beef ‘O’ Brady’s and The Brass Tap concepts. Prior to this, Walker served as CDO of Fresh Brands, the parent company of Baja Fresh, Sweet Factory, La Salsa and Canyon’s Burger. Walker also served as National Director of Operations for AFC Enterprises/Cinnabon, Inc.
Marc Abenoja - Vice President, International Operations
An integral part of Johnny Rockets, since June 1993, Abenoja has vast experience with the brand. He served as a Certified Training Manager, for seven years, showing the ropes to hundreds of international and domestic restaurant managers. He was also a key element in the brand’s successful expansion on the East Coast, including Florida, New York, New Jersey, South Carolina, Atlanta, Tennessee and Virginia, as well as what are now 11 restaurants on Royal Caribbean Cruise Line ships. From there, he became Johnny Rockets’ District Manager for Florida, Tennessee, Orange County, then Corporate Training Manager, in 2000. In that role, he revamped the entire training system for both hourly and management positions and created effective procedures for new restaurant openings. As Johnny Rockets continued to grow internationally, Marc became the Director of International Operations and helped open new markets in India, Malaysia, Honduras, Costa Rica and Brazil. After our 100th international restaurant opening, he was promoted to Vice President of International Operations. In his current position, Abenoja helps the International Franchise Support Managers oversee day-to-day operations as they manage all aspects of new restaurant openings in markets around the world.
Jim Hicks - Senior Vice President of Domestic Operations
Jim Hicks joined the Johnny Rockets executive team in January 2015 as Senior Vice President of Domestic Operations. A 30-year restaurant and franchise industry veteran, he has proven success in franchise and corporate operations and training. His role at Johnny Rockets focuses on improving the quality, consistency and profitability of the brand’s franchise and corporate restaurants in the U.S. Hicks previously served as Vice President of Operations Services at Yoshinoya America, Inc., where he led operations services, training, purchasing and facilities management. Prior to that, Hicks held the position of Senior Director of Operations Services, Training and Development for Fresh Enterprises, Inc., the owner of Baja Fresh and La Salsa Fresh Mexican Grills and Canyons Burgers Restaurants. While there, he achieved record sales in company-owned locations. Hicks has worked with a variety of restaurants in the fast-casual and full-service space including El Pollo Loco, Inc., Prandium, Inc. and Koo Koo Roo, Inc.
Gene Savage - Director of Franchise Sales & Real Estate
With more than 30 years of experience in the restaurant and retail industries, Gene Savage joined Johnny Rockets as Director of Franchise Sales and Real Estate in January 2015. As part of his role, Savage is responsible for franchise sales and development and real estate. Prior to joining Johnny Rockets, he held the position of Director of Franchise Sales and Real Estate for FSC Franchise Co. LLC., the franchisor of The Brass Tap, a craft beer and wine bar, and Beef O’Brady’s Family Sports Bar. As an expert in franchise sales and development, Savage’s extensive domestic experience spans a number of high-profile brands including Baja Fresh Mexican Grill, La Salsa Fresh Mexican Grill, Marble Slab Creamery and MaggieMoo’s, Hot Stuff Pizza, Dunkin’ Brands, Baskin-Robin’s, Togo’s Eateries, Inc., Winchell’s Donuts, Jiffy Lube and Mobil Oil.
Naresh Worlikar - Vice President, International
Naresh joined Johnny Rockets in September of 2015 where he oversees International. He brings more than thirty years of experience in the industry of which sixteen years are in the International Markets. His strengths include training and operations; strategic brand, supply chain and country development, speaking multiple languages and understanding cultural diversities with interpersonal skill to foster business relationship. Naresh’s experience includes thriving in domestic and international divisions for Domino’s Pizza Inc., Little Caesars LLC., American Pizzeria Inc., Subway and Sbarro LLC.