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TooJay’s Deli Names New President and CEO

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (October 9, 2017) – TooJay’s, the West Palm Beach-based restaurant company with 27 locations throughout Florida, has announced the appointment of 20-year restaurant and hospitality veteran Maxwell Piet as President and CEO. Piet succeeds current President and CEO Christopher Artinian, who will remain on the TooJay’s board of directors.

Piet will provide strategic leadership, working with the board of directors and management team to establish long-range goals, expansion plans and policies for the restaurant company known around the state for its generous servings of homemade, New York deli favorites.

“Looking ahead, I see exciting opportunities to delight new generations of guests with TooJay’s genuine New York deli tradition, which has timeless appeal,” said Piet. “Today’s guests crave the authenticity that TooJay’s is known for. As we update our restaurants, open new locations, enhance our menu and utilize the technology our guests prefer, we will always stay true to our great culinary heritage. Great food and experiences are the heart and soul of the TooJay’s brand.”

Most recently, as Senior Vice President, Piet worked with The Meatball Shop in New York City managing operations, human resources, marketing and finance. He set the strategic vision for growth and alignment across The Meatball Shop brand, which surpassed year over year sales by more than 10 percent.

Previously, in his work as a consultant, Piet helped restaurant and retail owners through times of growth and challenge, ranging from a single pizza restaurant to large, multi-unit casual dining companies. His first general manager position at the age of 24 was with Darden Restaurants, after which he was recruited by Ruby Tuesday in 1997 and rose to Vice President, Operations responsible for 225 restaurants worldwide.

Piet is active at the University of Tennessee, serving as the co-chairman for the Retail, Tourism and Hospitality Management program and advisory board member for the university’s Culinary Institute.

Founded in 1981, TooJay’s has grown to 27 restaurants throughout Florida and currently serves guests in Palm Beach and Broward counties, the Treasure Coast, the West Coast of Florida, the Orlando area, The Villages, the Space Coast and Polk County.
TooJay’s received the 2016 Best of South Florida Award for Best Deli from the Sun Sentinel, 2017 Dining Award for Best Deli from Orlando Magazine, two Foodie Awards for Best Deli and Best Take-Out from the Orlando Sentinel and is ranked eighth in the country for Family Dining by Consumer Reports.
For more information about TooJay’s, visit TooJays.com. Follow TooJay’s at twitter.com/therealTooJays and instagram.com/toojaysdeli or visit the Facebook fan page, which has over 86 thousand fans, and become a fan at facebook.com/TooJaysDeli.

Contact: EmmaJean Livingston
Pierson Grant Public Relations
954-776-1999, ext. 242


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TooJay’s Chris Artinian on Going from Entry Level to CEO


Emon Reiser
Digital Producer
South Florida Business Journal

Long before Chris Artinian led TooJay’s Original Gourmet Deli, he made $4.13 an hour in an entry-level position at Morton’s Restaurant Group. He would eventually become CEO of the steakhouse chain and credits his success to the “great people” who surrounded him over the years.

After he climbed to the top of the ladder at Morton’s, Artinian went on to become CEO of Smokey Bones Bar & Fire Grill, then CEO of West Palm Beach-based TooJay’s.

His leadership style is centered on cultivating an industrious and positive company culture that brings out the best in the people with whom he works. And with a great team in place, he says, Artinian has mapped a path of comparatively rapid growth for the 35-year-old brand, with three to four locations opening each year.

Artinian told the Business Journal more about what drew him to the restaurant industry and his favorite TooJay’s dish.

What was your first job in hospitality? I parked cars for a restaurant, and the owner of that restaurant needed help one day. And the next thing you know, I found myself in the kitchen. Then I went from the kitchen to waiting tables. My first position at Morton’s paid $4.13 an hour, and eventually I ended up CEO. I can’t explain exactly how it happened, but I was surrounded by great people.

Where did you get your passion for the restaurant industry? My mother was an amazing cook and, growing up in New York, I was sitting around some sort of dining room or kitchen table all my life. I learned to cook with my mom early on. Sitting down with great friends, family — the socialization and experiential piece of the industry continues to drive me today. I worked in restaurants as a teenager, but when I came out of school, I was actually working with mutual funds. I was drawn back to the business because of the hospitality piece.

How do you compare your goals and challenges at TooJay’s to that of Morton’s or Smokey Bones? I find the restaurants to be very similar. All are aiming for growth and delivering on quality, even though there may be different price points. The approach to the business is the same. It’s about a great guest experience with quality food and making sure all the systems are in place to make that consistent.

What do you think is the most important thing about leading a restaurant company? I spent a lot of time at Morton’s, and what I learned there is how important company culture is. I’ve been doing this all my life, I know great people make great things happen. With TooJay’s having a 35-year history and people with lots of tenure at the company, it gives me a lot to work with to leverage growth.

What trends are you seeing in the restaurant industry now that you’ve never seen before? There’s more competition today than ever. Every year, it becomes tougher and tougher to stick out and break out of the clutter. It kind of leads to my favorite part of the business: How do you get your restaurant concept to stick out? Displaying the core culture of that concept to those guests can draw them in. With the onset of the Food Network and all this exposure to culinary sophistication, we have a more educated consumer, and that makes it a little more exciting, too.

What’s your favorite dish at TooJay’s? I was a longtime customer before I came to the company, and it’s the Reuben. Being from New York, those New York-style deli sandwiches appeal to me.

How do you find balance in a demanding business like the restaurant industry? I’m very fortunate that my family has grown up in the restaurant business because this is all I’ve ever done. We share a similar interest in restaurants; we’re always going out to try great restaurants or taking pride in the restaurants I’m leading. It’s a very difficult business to find work-life balance in, but with my family being so involved — I’m married with five kids — everyone really enjoys sitting around the table. The kids are a little older now. They travel with me sometimes. It really helps.

Have you ever thought of opening your own restaurant concept? I’d be lying if I said it’s never crossed my mind. I don’t want to say I’ll never own my own restaurants, but I thoroughly enjoy taking someone else’s creation and having it realize its full potential. No real desire to open up a concept from scratch right now.

Age: 47
Birthplace: Queens, N.Y.
Residence: West Palm Beach
Current position: CEO and president, TooJay’s Original Gourmet Deli

Emon Reiser is the digital producer for the South Florida Business Journal. Get the latest local business news with our free daily newsletter. Click here to subscribe.

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