4R Restaurant Group Adds Chief Marketing Officer Ahead of Growth

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Jay Zavada4R Restaurant Group, parent company of 4 Rivers Smokehouse, has made recent changes to its headquarters operations, outsourcing payroll, benefits and human resources divisions to third party vendors and creating a chief marketing officer position.

Joining the Winter Park based company as CMO is Jay Zavada, left, a former vice president of global relationship marketing for Walt Disney Parks.

“It’s a change we’ve been looking at for some time,” said company founder and CEO John Rivers. “But we didn’t want to do it until we had something lined up” for the workers whose jobs would be eliminated. Rivers, speaking by phone Monday morning, said that positions have been arranged for two the three workers let go and he believes he has something lined up for the third.

“We’ve made a big investment in marketing,” said Rivers, “which is not something we’ve done historically.” He said that as the company approaches its ninth year and opens more restaurants outside the Central Florida market where it is well known, “We need to have more than a grassroots marketing plan.” Rivers said that when he opened a 4 Rivers Smokehouse in Georgia, “We learned that not everyone in Atlanta knows who we are.”

“We’re changing our way of bringing our brand to the market.”

Rivers said that three of the Smokehouse restaurants are scheduled to open in the next year, another in Atlanta and in Florida and one in the Carolinas. Zavada has been on the job for about 60 days, but the new changes won't take effect until Oct. 1.

Rivers also recently announced a new concept that will open at Disney Springs and said Monday that the official launch date will be Aug. 21. The 4R Barbacoa Food Truck will feature the brisket and pulled pork that locals have come to know at the popular smokehouses but will be prepared in a barbacoa style, a method popular in the Caribbean and Mexico.

Although it is starting out as a food truck, Rivers said, “If the cantina food truck takes off I’d like to see it grow into a brick and mortar business.”

Rivers also said that Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon will begin serving some of the company’s meats, including its smoked sausage and perhaps its well-known brisket. He said that he didn’t know if the water park would present the items with the 4R stamp.

That might be something his new marketing officer should look into.