Bennett Management Corp., the restaurant franchise business owned by the late Robert G. “Bob” Bennett, has hired a fast-food industry veteran from Colorado to become its new chief executive officer and oversee the company’s Toledo operations.
Those operations include 26 Burger King stores and the Tony Packo’s restaurant chain that Mr. Bennett acquired in February, 2012.
Jimmy Harmon, 42, of Denver, who began his restaurant industry career as a cashier at a Taco Bell, will take immediate control of Bennett Management.
He was in discussions to become CEO prior to the unexpected death of Mr. Bennett, 76, on May 8 in the Cleveland Clinic.
Until accepting the position with Bennett Management, Mr. Harmon was national vice president of operations, training, and franchising for Noah Einstein Restaurant Group Inc. of Lakewood, Colo., which controls more than 800 licensed, franchised, and company-owned Einstein Bros. Bagels shops.
Mr. Harmon said that Mr. Bennett had contacted him at the end of March about possibly taking over the Toledo company. The two men did not previously know each other.
“He [Mr. Bennett] and I started conversations several weeks ago. He was looking for help with the company after coming out of retirement,” Mr. Harmon said. “He wanted someone to take control of both Burger King and Packo’s.”
Bennett Management operates Burger King restaurants in Ohio, Michigan, and Indiana, and bought the Packo’s chain after it was put into receivership following an unsolvable dispute between family members who owned Packo’s.
Mr. Harmon said he had numerous telephone conversations with Mr. Bennett about his firm, and Packo’s, and met with the late businessman at the Cleveland Clinic just three days before he died to iron out details of his executive contract.
Mr. Harmon lived in Cleveland from 1996 to 2005 and knew of Packo’s, but never visited the chain.
“I’d heard of them because I’d spent some time in Toledo, but didn’t know about their operations, their notoriety and cult-like following. But I have now been in their restaurants and got to spend some time with [operations managers Tony Packo, Jr., and Tony Packo III] and got a real good tour of their operations,” Mr. Harmon said. “We’ve since had some meetings with the key operation personnel, and I got the entire Packo’s story from Bob,” he added.
The Bennett family will continue to own the company, and Mr. Harmon will report to a corporate board headed by Emily Bennett, Mr. Bennett's widow.
Before joining Einstein Bros. in 2012, Mr. Harmon was chief operating officer for By the Rockies LLC, a company that operated Hardees and Carl’s Jr. restaurants. While in Ohio, he worked for the Wendy’s/Arby’s Group, setting up Arby’s franchises across northern Ohio.
“I’ve done just about everything in the restaurant business” except run a company, Mr. Harmon said.
The new CEO said he spent several weeks researching Bennett Management’s operations and had long conversations with Mr. Bennett about the future of the company.
Mr. Harmon said the two men clicked because their visions for the company — and Packo’s — were similar.
“There is such potential in [the Packo’s] operation. He started out by talking about growth, and the challenge, as Bob and I talked about it, is the growth could be multifaceted,” Mr. Harmon said.
Packo’s commercial products, catering operations, restaurants, and gift sales all could be grown, he added.
“The issue is: Where do we start and where do we go,” Mr. Harmon said, but those questions must wait until he becomes more acquainted with the company. “I can’t say when all that will happen, but I can say I’m anxious to move forward,” he added.
Originally, it was planned that Mr. Harmon would begin in mid-June and ease into his role at Bennett Management while Mr. Bennett slipped slowly back into retirement throughout 2013.
“He thought at the time he’d live a few more years, not a few days,” Mr. Harmon said.
Contact Jon Chavez at: email@example.com or 419-724-6128.