Group Leaders

James Walker

Chief Culinary & Concept Officer

Experiential Brands

Mr. James Walker, recognized as one of the restaurant industry’s most accomplished and sought-after executives, features deep expertise across QSR, Fast Casual and Casual theme segments. Walker is an authority in restaurant technology and delivery channels, with a focus on building a best-in-class customer experience, domestic and international development, operations, new product innovation, menu evolution, and brand (re)positioning. Currently Mr. Walker holds the position of CEO for Cincinnati-based Frisch’s® Restaurants, a 75-year-old American Comfort Food, Casual Theme Restaurant brand, famous for its “Big Boy®” burgers. Additionally, Mr. Walker is the Chief Concept and Culinary Officer for Atlanta based Experiential Brands, which includes such innovative brands as The Original Hot Chicken®, Inked Tacos®, and Pinsa Roman Pizza®.

Walker has more than 30 years of broad-based, senior level, management experience in the hospitality and retail industries for brands such as Nathan’s Famous®, Baja Fresh®, Cinnabon®, and Subway®. As the North American Vice President for Subway®, Walker oversaw their 28,000 restaurants in the U.S. and Canada and was instrumental in starting Subway’s delivery program, menu transformation, and remodel program. While at Nathan’s Famous®, Walker repositioned the brand as “The Flavor of NY,” and he successfully developed the sandwich menu offerings to drive both check average and frequency. He has conducted business in more than 70 international markets, including such emerging markets as Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Pakistan and Mongolia, as well as virtually all major trade areas within the United States. In January 2022, Walker was elected to the NYC Hospitality Alliance’s Board of Directors.

Walker holds a Master of Business Administration (MBA) from Duke’s Fuqua School of Business and has received certificates and diplomas from a number of institutions and colleges, including Yale’s School of Management, and Harvard’s Business School. Walker has also completed both MIT’s “Artificial Intelligence: Implications for Business Strategy” program as well as the Sloan School of Management’s “Social Media Strategy” program. In 2020 and 2017, he was a Reader’s Pick for the Nation’s Restaurant News “Power List” of notable restaurant executives. In 2016, he was awarded the President’s “E” Award by President Obama for Excellence in Furthering American Business Internationally. In 2015, the International Franchise Association (IFA) conferred the designation of Certified Franchise Executive (CFE) to Walker, and in 2021 he joined the Society of Fellows of The Culinary Institute of America (CIA). In November of 2022, Walker received his certification in Wine at WSET Level 2. In September of 2023 Mr. Walker was awarded the “Lifetime Achievement Award” during the Arab Franchise Expo in Dubai.

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