Paul Damico, CEO, Naf Naf Grill - Episode 25

Paul Damico, CEO, Naf Naf Grill
ROI Podcast Episode 25

In CEO Podcast Series by Brandt A. Handley

Paul joined Naf Naf Grill as CEO in June 2017 and brings more than 35 years of food service experience to the organization. His love for the culinary arts began when he worked at his dad’s catering business washing dishes and preparing food. This work inspired him to attend Johnson & Wales University where he earned degrees in Culinary Arts and Hotel Restaurant Management and where he met his wife, Laura. Following his graduation from J&W, Paul spent 13 years in various roles with Host Marriott Corporation culminating to his role as Vice President of International Development where he oversaw restaurant development on five continents.

In 1999, his entrepreneurial instinct came to life and he co-founded FoodBrand LLC, a company that specialized in the development of restaurants in malls and airports. He and his co-founders grew this company to over 100 restaurant locations. In 2006, Paul joined SSP America, an international concessions company, as the Chief Operating Officer responsible for airport properties in North America and the Caribbean. In 2008, Paul joined Moe’s Southwest Grill as President of the organization. Over a six-year period, he grew the company from 200 locations to 680, leading the industry in new restaurant openings and culinary development. During his time with Moe’s, Paul delivered 23 consecutive quarters of positive same-store sales growth and was named by Fast Casual Magazine as a Top 26 Executive. While President of Moe’s, Paul was featured on the CBS hit TV series Undercover Boss where he went undercover to work in the restaurants and changed the lives of 5 Moe’s associates. After six years with Moe’s, Paul was promoted to Group President, by parent company FOCUS Brands, and was responsible for the oversight of McAlister’s Deli, Moe’s Southwest Grill, and Schlotzsky’s Deli. In early 2016, his role expanded to encompass all six FOCUS Brands, including Auntie Anne’s Pretzels, Carvel Ice Cream and Cinnabon World Famous Cinnamon Rolls. As FOCUS Brands’ President of North America, Paul oversaw a $2.6 Billion-dollar foodservice company made up of more than 5,000 restaurants.

Paul is a philanthropist and advocate for children and the hungry community, generously donating his time and money to causes such as the No Kid Hungry and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF). An active member of the restaurant industry, Paul is an International Franchise Association Certified Franchise Executive (CFE) and Board Member of the National Restaurant Association Fast Casual Industry Council. Paul also serves on the Illinois Restaurant Association. In 2015, Paul was honored as the Restaurateur of the Year for the Georgia Restaurant Association’s Crystal of Excellence Award. He was recognized by his alma mater, Johnson & Wales University, as a Distinguished Lecturer and Distinguished Visiting Professor and was recently inducted into the World Association of Cooperative Education Hall of Fame. In 2016, Paul was again honored by Johnson & Wales University as they conferred upon him the degree of Doctor of Business Administration in Restaurant, Food & Beverage Management, honoris causa. Paul and his wife, Laura, reside in Chicago, Illinois and are the proud parents of their three daughters: Taylor, Samantha, and Rachele.