Former BBDO Atlanta CEO Drew Panayiotou to Lead Chick-Fil-A’s New Innovation Incubator

By Patrick Coffee 

Last week, the Atlanta offices of BBDO announced leadership changes that focused on the promotion of EVP, general manager Peter Bunarek to the role of managing director. He will lead the 200-plus team in Georgia moving forward alongside chief creative officer Robin Fitzgerald.

The release also noted that this decision followed the announcement that president, CEO Drew Panayiotou would be leaving the ad industry to assume “a newly created role” at the Atlanta headquarters of chicken chain Chick-Fil-A.

We’ve since learned a bit more about that role. Yesterday a Chick-Fil-A spokesperson wrote: “Drew Panayiotou was hired by Dan Cathy to start an innovation incubator that will focus on developing new lines of business,” adding that the company would share more information at a later date.


Chick-Fil-A is hardly new to the innovation game. In 2013, the chain opened Hatch, a San Francisco-based unit focused on “strengthening the customer experience, the brand, and enriching the company’s culture.”

Hatch focuses exclusively on the restaurants themselves. A BuzzFeed post from last March, for example, documented the ways in which Hatch helped the chain deal with the persistent challenge of “crazy-long [drive through] lines.” Not to spoil it for you, but the solution was to have servers walk up to waiting cars to take customers’ orders and then walk the orders to the cars when they’re ready, like In-N-Out Burger but more so.

The spokesperson clarified today, however, that Panayiotou’s team will focus on “non-restaurant innovation” occurring outside the main brand.

Chick-Fil-A is not ready to share much in the way of details at this early stage in the onboarding process, but it would seem that the chain might be making some new investments in coming months.

Panayiotou joined BBDO in April 2014 after serving as chief marketing officer at Best Buy. It was a new role for the executive, who previously held in-house marketing positions with Walt Disney, Coca-Cola, Hershey, Johnson & Johnson and Eastman Kodak.