Wisconsin-based Toppers Pizza has named Chris Cheek as the brand's first chief development officer.

Cheek's new role will include franchisee recruitment and overseeing the real estate selection and construction phases of new units. He will also assist new franchisees with site-selection through openings.

Cheek holds a mechanical engineering degree from North Carolina State University, and upon graduation, he went through General Electric's management training program, eventually working in sales and business development for the company. In 2002, he entered the restaurant industry and developed a franchise sales program from the ground up for Bear Rock Café.

He joined Bruegger's bakery-cafés in 2006, working on the development of both traditional and non-traditional venues, such as airports and military bases. In 2012, when Bruegger's was acquired by Le Duff America Inc., Cheek served as the vice president of Franchise Development for the restaurant group with responsibility for Bruegger's, Timothy's World Coffee, Michel's Bakery Cafés, la Madeleine Country French Café and Brioche Dorée.

In 2012, Cheek went to work for Freebirds World Burrito, a 26-year-old brand that was just beginning to offer franchising opportunities. Cheek was hired as their first vice president of Franchise Development.

When Cheek joined Bruegger's in 2006, he met Toppers CEO and founder Scott Gittrich.

"I remember taking mental note because (Toppers') unit-level economics were so good at the time, and I thought that if they could continue at that rate as they opened more stores, that would be an extremely powerful selling statement for new franchisees," said Cheek. "There's also a lot of soul and magic to Toppers, and when you find a brand that has a soulful irreverence, combined with good unit economics, it's really something special."

Cheek's hire is a strategic move for the brand as it continues to expand beyond the Midwest and across the nation. The company's goal is to reach 150 stores by the end of 2015 and 500 stores by 2020.

"It's exciting to work with a professional of Chris's caliber," Gittrich said. "With a record year just behind us and a record year on the horizon, Chris is coming to Toppers at an exciting time. The brand is moving forward at a great pace and it's Chris' job to keep the momentum and trajectory pointed in the right direction."

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