WIU Alumnus Named President, CEO of Cosi, Inc.

The Cosi, Inc. restaurant chain has named Western Illinois University alumnus Carin L. Stutz as its newest president and CEO.

She will also join the company’s board of directors.

Stutz began her new position Jan. 1 after serving as the president of Global Business Development for Brinker, International, Inc. At Brinker, Stutz led franchise development and operations for 240 Chili’s and Maggiano’s restaurants around the world. Prior to that, Stutz was executive vice president of operations for Applebee’s International.

Before transferring to Applebee’s, Stutz was the Pacific Division vice president for Wendy’s International; served as Regional Operations vice president for Sodexo, U.S.A., and was vice president of Corporate Operations for NutriSystem, Inc.

Stutz received her bachelor’s of science degree in home economics from WIU in 1978. She later received her master’s degree in business administration from Mid America Nazarene University.

She is also the chair of the Women’s Foodservice Forum, an organization in the food service industry dedicated to developing gender-diverse leadership talent.

“Carin is a proven leader with deep operational, marketing and business development experience,” said Michael O’Donnell, CEO of Ruth’s Hospitality Group and a member of the Cosi board and search committee. “She is a respected leader with a track record of innovative strategic brand building, and an impressive record of accomplishment, having held leadership positions at several of our industry’s leading companies. Her energetic leadership and broad perspective will drive our company forward.”

Cosi, Inc. is a national fast-casual restaurant chain, which “has developed featured foods built around a secret, generations-old recipe for crackly crust flatbread.” There are currently 80 company-owned and 57 franchise restaurants in 17 states, the District of Columbia and the United Arab Emirates.

Stutz has many fond memories of her time at WIU, including the friends she made her first year, living in Bennett Hall.

“I’ve recently reconnected with several friends from there and we now meet for an annual reunion,” she said. “I was a member of the Sigma Sigma Sigma sorority, held several leadership positions and was the treasurer of the Panhellenic committee. I was also in the work-study program where I worked in the library all four years with many impressive female mentors there.”

Stutz and her husband, Rodger, are both graduates of WIU.

In addition, Stutz said she is excited for the opportunity she has been given with the Cosi company.

“I am thrilled at the opportunity to lead this talented management team and help build a great future for the Cosi brand, our employees, franchise owners, and all who invest in our success,” said Stutz.  “My mission is to energize the Cosi brand and the guest experience.”


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