Garden Fresh Restaurants Names Industry Veteran as CEO

by Katie Lee

San Diego — San Diego-based Garden Fresh Restaurants has tapped longtime restaurant industry leader John W. Haywood to lead the next phase of its growth. Brands include Souplantation and Sweet Tomatoes.

“John is the perfect guy to take our unique brands to the next level,” says Gene Baldwin, former interim CEO of Garden Fresh and member of the board of directors. “He has a keen understanding of consumer insights, culinary trends and operations management in addition to the financial acumen it takes to succeed in today’s challenging environment.”

A San Diego resident and California native, Haywood has been a hospitality industry turnaround specialist for the past decade in various private equity advisory and restaurant interim CMO and CEO positions. Earlier in his career, he served as chief concept officer and chief marketing officer for Carrols Corporation’s $565 million Hispanic Restaurant Division, where he led brand strategy and growth of the Pollo Tropical and Taco Cabana chains. Previous assignments include advising Chef Bobby Flay on the creation and rollout of the Bobby’s Burger Palace concept, interim CEO of Don Shula’s Steakhouses, vice president of food & beverage for the $300 million Black Angus chain, and leading research and development for Metromedia Restaurant Group.

“Souplantation is America’s first fresh salad and soup specialist and having grown up in California, I’ve long admired the Souplantation and Sweet Tomatoes brands,” Haywood says. “Our guests have remained so loyal during challenging times, and we now look forward to exceeding their expectations and earning their loyalty in every way.”

Garden Fresh Restaurants currently operates 97 restaurants in nine states. The company is based in San Diego and operates under two brand names: Souplantation in Southern California and Sweet Tomatoes elsewhere. For more information, visit or


SOURCE: Garden Fresh Restaurants

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