Carl T. Howard
As a talented and seasoned industry executive Carl led multiple brands through successful turnarounds, most recently, Fazoli’s… Fast Fresh Italian. During his fourteen-year tenure as CEO of America’s largest premium Italian QSR chain, Carl launched Fazoli’s into the future with the systematic implementation of a full brand revamp. His areas of focus included culinary innovation, a re-engineered menu, a brand reimage, and the expansion of off-premise sales through catering programs, third party delivery, online ordering, and innovative technology. The period between 2011 and 2012 were pivotal for the Brand when Carl led the initiative to upgrade the menu and implemented the Enhanced Service Program where Fazoli’s upgraded the ingredients, cooked food to order, created an innovative baked pasta line, moved to the use of plateware, and began service at the table which several other brands went on to duplicate.
Carl led an aggressive franchise development initiative to re-initiate growth of the brand and expanded into new pioneer markets. He invigorated Fazoli’s brand with game changing solutions that fundamentally impacted the guest experience, and guest counts and sales, solidifying Fazoli’s relevance and ongoing success.
During his tenure Carl built an extremely talented team of the industry’s strongest leaders who shared his drive to position Fazoli’s as an industry leader and shared his pursuit of excellence. It was Carl and this team who managed the brand through the COVID pandemic focusing on safety, sanitation, creating a platform to fully utilize and enhance Fazoli’s off-premise capabilities to reach guests looking for great food they could receive in a safe environment at a great value. While many restaurant brands struggled through COVID, Fazoli’s experienced back-to-back years of 20% comps and the highest profitability for franchisees in Fazoli’s history. Besides the revitalization of the Fazoli’s brand, Carl led the company through two private financial transactions of the organization and positioned Fazoli’s for future success and growth.
Carl is also very enthusiastic about giving back to communities in need. He initiated the company’s efforts to find a charitable partner and in 2012 Fazoli’s partnered with Feed the Children, an organization which helps provide food and essentials to children. The partnership with Feed the Children in fundraising and food distribution events assisted over tens of thousands of people and provided tons of food, books, and personal essential items to families in need. Carl was also an ardent supporter and very proud of Fazoli’s Seeds of Compassion Fund which provides assistance to employees suffering financial hardships. In addition, he passionately supports the programs which promote education and career development for the next generation of leaders.
Other highlights during his tenure at Fazoli’s include tributes from Senator Mitch McConnell and KY Governor Andy Beshear for his leadership, employee satisfaction and turnaround results which resulted in Fazoli’s being named one of the best organizations to work in KY. Carl’s leadership has resulted in numerous awards including being named #1 on Fast Casual’s Top 100 Movers & Shakers list, NRN’s Power List of Restaurant Executives, a four-time CEO of the Year in Foodservice from the ABA, and several years of being named NRNs Reader’s Choice among Best CEO’s. In 2020, 2021 and 2022 Carl was named one of the most influential restaurant CEOs by Nation’s Restaurant News. Topping his career, one of his highlights came in October of 2022 with his induction into Fast Casual’s Hall of Fame.
Carl lives in Columbus, Ohio with his wife, Rocchina, and his beloved dog. He continues to pursue his passion for harness racing as both an owner and racing fan.