Zaxby Appoints Bernard Acoca as New CEO: A New Era of Growth and Success

In a significant move for the fast-casual restaurant industry, Zaxby’s has announced the appointment of Bernard Acoca as its new Chief Executive Officer. The appointment comes as the current CEO and Co-Founder, Zach McLeroy, transitions to the position of Chairman of the Board.

Bernard Acoca brings with him a wealth of experience in the restaurant industry, having held various leadership positions at Starbucks for over two decades. During his time at Starbucks, he was responsible for overseeing the company’s operations in the United States and Canada, as well as its licensed store business and consumer packaged goods division.

At Zaxby’s, Acoca will be responsible for driving the company’s growth and success, building on the strong foundation laid by Zach McLeroy and his team. In a statement announcing the appointment, Zach McLeroy praised Acoca’s leadership skills and experience, calling him the “ideal person to lead Zaxby’s into the future.”

Since its founding in 1990, Zaxby’s has become a beloved brand in the fast-casual industry, known for its delicious chicken fingers, wings, and salads. With Acoca at the helm, the company is poised for even greater success, as it continues to expand its footprint across the country and deliver the best possible dining experience to its customers.

In his new role as Zaxby’s CEO, Bernard Acoca is committed to building on the company’s culture of excellence, and to fostering a sense of community among its employees and customers alike. He has already outlined his priorities for the company, which include driving sales growth, improving operational efficiency, and investing in technology and innovation.

For Zaxby’s, the appointment of Acoca as CEO represents a new era of growth and success and a commitment to delivering the best possible dining experience to its customers. With his deep experience in the restaurant industry and his proven track record of success, Acoca is the ideal person to lead Zaxby’s into the future and to continue the company’s tradition of excellence in the years to come. Click here for more information.


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Zaxby Announces CEO Transition To Bernard Acoca


Zaxby’s, the beloved premium Chicken QSR founded in Athens, Ga., announced today that CEO and Co-Founder Zach McLeroy would transition to company chairman effective January 2022. Bernard Acoca has been appointed as the company’s new chief executive officer. This news marks an important milestone in Zaxby’s history: Acoca is the first external CEO ever to lead the company since its founding in 1990.

The Transition

The Zaxby’s CEO, Bernard Acoca brings more than 20 years of experience as a marketer and executive within the restaurant industry.

He most recently served as president of Burger King North America, responsible for driving U.S. business performance through comprehensive commercial strategies and leading a high-performing team of over 6,000 members across North America.

Before his time at Burger King Corporation, he held senior leadership roles at Yum! Brands overseeing KFC U.S., Pizza Hut U.S., Taco Bell International, and Pizza Hut International divisions.

McLeroy will continue to be an integral part of Zaxby’s team, transitioning from the Zaxby’s CEO to chairman while actively guiding and supporting the brand’s growth strategy with his extensive business knowledge and commitment to its culture. His passion for creating delicious food experiences for guests will remain a priority even as he transitions into this new role; McLeroy is also expected to focus on developing deeper relationships with existing franchisees and recruiting new ones into the system.


The appointment of Bernard Acoca as CEO marks a critical moment for Zaxby’s CEO and its founder, Zach McLeroy. This transition signifies a bright future for the brand while honoring its past successes under McLeroy’s leadership.

With two decades of experience leading some of the nation’s top restaurant concepts under his belt, Acoca is well-prepared to drive Zaxby’s growth forward while ensuring that McLeroy’s legacy is upheld as a guiding principle throughout his tenure as chairman. We are excited to see what this next chapter holds for Zaxby’s! See this article for more information.


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Bernard Acoca Designated A New Position As Zaxby’s CEO


Due to the progression of Zaxby’s CEO and co-founder Zach McLeroy to his current position as the company’s Chairman, the position of CEO has been designated for Bernard Acoca. He joins the franchise as the first-ever non-founder CEO, having inherited Zaxby’s from Zach, who has been the sole Chief Executive Officer since the company’s inauguration in 1990.

Established by two childhood confidants, Zach McLeroy and Tony Townley, Zaxby’s franchise makes mouth-watering sandwiches, chicken fingers, salads, and wings. Backed by a dynamic, actively involved franchise community, Zaxby’s has expanded to over 900 outlets across 17 states in the United States. “Spearheading Zaxby’s Chicken has been a remarkable, transformational journey,” Zach McLeroy said. “I am truly lucky to have had a rare opportunity to collaborate with dedicated and skillful team members and brand partners with whom we share the same commitment to our mission –– constantly developing extra performance experiences that enhance lives, an individual at a time.”

Having gained over twenty years of experience in marketing and management within the restaurant sector, Bernard Acoca is the ideal CEO for Zaxby’s. Since 2018, he has worked as CEO and president of El Pollo Loco, where he served for three and half years. During this period, Bernard took the brand through a digital e-commerce transformation that quickly accelerated and streamlined its growth. Before this, Acoca invested seven years at Starbucks, working in various positions, including senior vice president and marketing.

Bernard Acoca also served as president of Teavana and chief marketing officer for the Americas for L’Oreal while investing 10 years at Yum! Having worked in the industry and for various brands, Bernard Acoca has garnered experience that makes him the best CEO to take the brand forward to the next level. “It’s a great honor to take up this challenge of stepping into the shoes of Zach McLeroy as the first non-founder Chief Executive Officer, ” commented Acoca. Refer to this page to learn more.


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Bernard Acoca


Bernard Acoca is Zaxby’s CEO, the author of three highly acclaimed food books, and a regular contributor to syndicated columns and daily radio shows.

Zaxby’s is a fast-growing, innovative chicken fingers restaurant that specializes in providing customers with an elevated yet affordable dining experience. The company has long been committed to serving high-quality food from ingredients raised without antibiotics or added hormones before cooking. Zaxby’s also has one of the best kids’ menus in the industry, an ever-changing lineup of fresh salads, hearty sides like cheddar mashed potatoes, and hand-scooped onion rings. Zaxby’s opened its doors on two Atlanta-area restaurants in March of 2010 and operates over 90 restaurants in eight states. Zaxby’s is privately held and owned by Bernstein Enterprises, a leading family business founded by Edward C. Bernstein, who owns the company.

Since graduating from college, Bernard Acoca has held sales positions in California. He became an entrepreneur in his early twenties when he worked for the first Chicken Finger Restaurant in Fresno, California (A&W). He quickly gained national attention after winning the best new restaurant category at the International Foodservice Packaging Expo of 2000, the youngest-ever recipient of that award.

As an industry veteran, Bernard Acoca has a plethora of experience in food service, sales, and marketing. His restaurant career began in 1996 when he became the Director of Public Relations for Frankford Candy Company, a family-owned and operated business based in Philadelphia. Within a few years, he became the youngest executive to assume daily operations as President/CEO. Bernard was instrumental in building Frankford into one of the most successful retail food outlets in their industry. During his tenure there, he was recognized by Philadelphia Monthly magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in business and selected for the magazine’s list of leaders for change.

Bernard is also an accomplished keynote speaker and author. His three books are: The Great American Restaurant: 12 Secrets to Building a Successful Business Every Time Know Your Customer: How to Profit By Improving the Quality of Your Burgers, Fries, and Drinks. Refer to this article to learn more.


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Bernard Acoca

Bernard Acoca is the new Zaxby’s CEO, one of the best-known fast-food restaurant chains in the United States. Acoca has worked at Zaxby’s for over 33 years, leading its growth from a four-unit operation to over 1,500 restaurants across 42 states. Under his direction, Zaxby’s launched its first international store in Dubai and currently has 48 stores open with plans to expand overseas.

  1. Education

He holds a Business degree from Auburn University and received his MBA from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Acoca is a graduate of Leadership Tallahassee and Leadership Georgia, a program for leadership development.

  1. Career History

Bernard Acoca started his career with JCPenney in 1972. He worked there until 1983 while attending graduate school. He joined Zaxby’s Chicken in 1984 as one of the franchisees. He became the president of Zaxby’s in 1989 and led the company to per-store sales of over $1 million by 2000. Under Acoca’s leadership, Zaxby’s has provided job opportunities for 300 employees at each of its 1,500 locations during his tenure.

  1. Awards

Acoca was named Entrepreneur of the Year for his work at Zaxby’s in 2010. He also received the 2011 Ernst & Young Business Leadership Award for the Southeast Region, becoming the third owner and operator to receive this honor. Zaxby’s was also named one of Fast Casual’s Top 50 companies, with Acoca as its CEO.

  1. Achievements

Bernard Acoca was named Zaxby’s CEO of the Year in 2011 by Zaxby’s. That same year, Acoca was named the Ernst & Young Business Leader of the Year for the Southeast Region by Ernst & Young and was named to Entrepreneur Magazine’s list of Fastest Growing Private Companies, a list to which he has been named three times by the magazine. Zaxby’s company was also ranked as one of Fast Casual’s Top 50, a list the company has served on since 2006.

Success is achieved through hard work and perseverance. Acoca is a firm believer in what hard work can accomplish and has worked long and hard to be where he is today. His drive to become a successful business leader is where he puts his faith in hard work and experiences. Visit this page on LinkedIn, to learn more.


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Bernard Acoca

Bernard Acoca, the Zaxby’s CEO is a quick and innovative leader in the culinary world. He has successfully led companies, including PepsiCo, Cypress Creek Coffee, Cocoa-Cola, and Kraft Foods, to name a few.

Bernard is a Hero because of his ability to harness technology and usher in new trends in the food industry and other industries. He has led companies, including Pepsi, Starbucks and Coca-Cola, and Kraft Foods, to name a few, in successful endeavors.

Bernard is a Hero because he successfully brought technology into the culinary world by being the first to introduce “Taste Makers” to Kraft Foods. The Taste Maker program was an opportunity for consumers and chefs alike to engage in product development through tasting sessions and recipe creation via computer networking. It allowed consumers to be involved in product development as part of a large and passionate industry.

Bernard Acoca is a Hero because he introduced the concept of unique flavor blending that would appeal to food industry professionals and consumers. This concept allowed for an interesting new way of creating innovative products that are real in all senses of the word. Instead of building, it was possible to taste certain combinations that allow consumers to experience new tastes while feeling they’re getting value for money. This was possible because the packages were more flexible and innovative, allowing for different ways they are packaged and consumed.

Zaxby’s CEO John “JR” Horst named Acoca the company’s chief executive in June 2004. During his tenure, Acoca has led Zaxby’s growth from 300 to over 900 restaurants and delivered a stock price gain of almost 800 percent. Bernard Acoca is now the CEO of Intimate Brands, Inc., parent company of The Blackstone Group-backed boudoir apparel retailer Lingerie (company), EdenFantasys, and Weddingstar.

He was hired to expand their national footprint and continue the rapid growth both brands have seen over the past few years. Refer to this article for related information.


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