Sonny’s Real Pit Bar-B-Q has brought in a pair of heavy hitters in the worlds of operations and marketing to oversee changes in the venerable restaurant chain.
Brandon Manly joins Sonny’s as chief operating officer where he will implement significant changes in corporate culture, including the introduction of a Sonny’s competition barbecue team, a rarity among larger barbecue franchise companies.
Manly, 36, said his immediate focus will be managing changes that promise to enliven and reinvigorate the Sonny’s brand while remaining true to its deep roots in the barbecue culture.
Manly’s age belies his experience in restaurants, where he has worked for more than half his life. He began working at a grill his parents were partners in at 16, and he soon realized his career would be in restaurants, he said. He helped operate a number of higher-end steakhouse venues before moving to Tulsa, Okla.-based Rib Crib BBQ and Grill in 2000.
Manly is joined by respected longtime Oklahoma marketing professional Dominic Losacco, who takes over as vice president of marketing. Losacco will lead the company’s aggressive roll out of new concepts in restaurant design, menu and décor expected later this year.
Losacco, 45, previously worked in marketing for major franchisors such as McDonald’s and Sonic in Oklahoma and Louisiana. After leaving Sonic in 2011 as marketing vice president, Losacco said he spent several months looking for the ideal opportunity to “set the culture” at his next job. Sonny’s offers just that opportunity, he said.
“Sonny’s is an iconic and well-loved brand whose reputation is known nationally,” he said. “We want to enhance that brand by strengthening our roots in the barbecue culture and spreading that culture to a wider audience.”
Losacco is a graduate of the University of Oklahoma. He is married and the father of four children.
Manly, who left Rib Crib as vice president of franchising to take on his new role at Sonny’s, said it was during his tenure there that he began his love affair with barbecue.
“I have a deep love for barbecue. I guess it’s because I’ve always been a people pleaser,” Manly said. “With barbecue, you can spend hours getting it just right, and people love it. That’s a tear-up moment.”
Manly, a married father of three, wants to share that passion for barbecue with customers at each of the restaurant’s 126 franchises in nine states.
Losacco agrees. Barbecue, like no other restaurant concept, offers patrons more than just great food, he said. It also represents community, friendly competition and commitment to prepare food the right way.
“We take barbecue seriously,” he said.
With 126 locations throughout the southeast, Sonny’s Real Pit Bar-B-Q is one of the largest and most popular barbecue restaurant companies in the country. Headquartered in Winter Park, Fla., the restaurants employ more than 6,700 people. Sonny’s was founded by Floyd “Sonny” Tillman in 1968 in Gainesville, Fla. Just as it was then, today Sonny’s trademark is serving up great, slow-cooked food fast and friendly. In 1991, Robert Yarmuth, a longtime Sonny’s franchisee from Kentucky, purchased the Sonny’s chain and today serves as Sonny’s chairman and CEO.