East Coast Wings + Grill’s Sam Ballas Named Influential CEO

East Coast Wings + Grill President and CEO Sam Ballas was recently named to Nation’s Restaurant News’ 2021 “Power List Reader Picks,” a recognition that honors Ballas as one of the most influential restaurant CEOs in the country. With NRN only identifying a select few CEOs from the record number of submissions it received this year, over 500 in total, Ballas joins exclusive company thanks to his outstanding leadership in 2020.

One of the key factors in selecting executives for this year’s “Power List Reader Picks” was leadership that demonstrated impact and innovation, given the economic hardships the restaurant industry has faced over the past 12 months. These realities forced restaurant executives to get creative and make the most of what they had to keep their systems afloat.

While the circumstances may have been unprecedented, Ballas’ demeanor and approach were anything but new. In fact, as ECW+G’s Executive Vice President of Operations Mark Lyso recounts, it was this very leadership Ballas reflected during the throes of the COVID-19 pandemic that attracted him to come aboard ECW+G in 2017.

“I was immediately intrigued with how many system platforms, designed like no other, Ballas had within the ECW+G model to assist franchisee profitability and scale strategically the regional brand,” Lyso said. “Ballas’ obsession with the bottom line is unique and appreciated by the executive team and franchisees alike. His unparalleled, laser-like focus on unit-level economics and his data-driven philosophies play a major role in the profitability of the franchisees and the system as a whole.”

Tom Scalese, who has worked alongside Ballas since 2008 and currently serves as ECW+G’s Chief Operating Officer, concurs with Lyso’s assessment.

Scalese first met Ballas as one of his customers, when he was an area executive for a broad line food distributor. It was in this role Scalese first witnessed Ballas’ hands-on approach and unwavering commitment to provide franchisees with the best, most cost-effective products available.

“Ballas is a visionary, and I jumped at the opportunity to help him see through his ideas and goals for ECW+G, which includes making sure our franchisees have the right product at a reasonable price without compromising quality,” Scalese said. “Throughout this pandemic, we saw a substantial increase in overall franchisee engagement because our owners trust Ballas and the entire franchise support team to make decisions with them in mind. That’s the culture he’s fostered at ECW+G.”

This unparalleled commitment from ECW+G executives has allowed the full-service, family-dining restaurant franchise to maintain its exceptional food quality and the consistency of its guest experience. As a result, Ballas and ECW+G are continuing to drive notable earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT) at the store level.

“He has prioritized a system of profitability for our franchisees throughout the pandemic and places the franchisees unit-level economics above all else,” Lyso said. “It feels good to know Ballas’ impact and innovative leadership is recognized and radiates outside of our franchise network. We hope to see more franchise partners join us as we expand into select hyperlocal markets with our data-driven metrics and community-minded approach.”


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