Alpha Kappa Psi alumna Cheryl A. Bachelder, CEO of AFC Enterprises, Inc.—the franchisor of Popeyes® Louisiana Kitchen restaurants—will receive AKPsi’s Career Achievement Award when the fraternity meets at its New Orleans Convention in August.
Cheryl is a passionate restaurant industry executive, known for her crisp strategic thinking, guest-focused operations, consistent financial performance and the development of outstanding leaders and teams. She joined AFC Enterprises in 2007 and brought with her more than 30 years of experience in brand building, operations and public-company management from companies including KFC, Domino’s Pizza, RJR Nabisco, Gillette and Procter & Gamble.
The Indiana University graduate initiated in 1976—the first year women were allowed to join the fraternity. She will be featured along with astronaut F. Story Musgrave, Syracuse ‘58-Life, and world renowned economist Leo V. Ryan, Marquette ‘44-Life, in the autumn issue of The Diary of Alpha Kappa Psi.
|Not getting The Diary of Alpha Kappa Psi? Students receive the Diary in bundles sent to the chapters. For alumni, individual copies of the magazine are mailed to Life Loyal members and donors to the Alpha Kappa Psi Foundation. Become a Life member or make a gift to the foundation of any size and get on the magazine’s mailing list now. The fall issue will be mailed in late November.|
Autumn Diary Preview:
Cheryl A. Bachelder: Pride in being a brand-builder
Cheryl Bachelder, Indiana ‘76, isn’t one to stay totally in the comfort zone. Instead, she ventured into a business scene that had been inhabited primarily by men. And rather than sign on with an employer at the top of its game, she picked one where the numbers were headed in the wrong direction and challenged herself to make a positive change.
Bachelder is CEO of Atlanta-based AFC Enterprises, the franchisor for Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen restaurants. Yes, among chicken chains it’s not as widely recognized as KFC, but she’s already been there and done that—and given the magic she’s working at Popeyes, you can bet the Colonel is paying attention.
When she arrived in November 2007 at Popeyes—named after Popeye Doyle of “The French Connection,” not Popeye the Sailor Man—the chain had recorded seven years of declining customer counts. “Now we have five years of increasing customer counts,” she says. With Bachelder at the helm, the company has met or exceeded expectations every year, and today it has roughly $2 billion in revenues, has grown to 2,050 restaurants in two dozen countries, and provides work for some 60,000 restaurant employees.
It’s all in a day’s work for Bachelder. “What I have focused on has been rejuvenating brands that have gotten a little off their game and become less relevant to their customers,” she explains. “I focus on bringing brands back to life, making them fresh and innovative. I’m impressed with the resilience of great brands.”
In the case of Popeyes, that’s meant reemphasizing its place as the only major chain where one can get Louisiana-style food fast. It has involved rolling out popular new concepts such as the spicy Wicked Chicken and the scoop-shaped Dip’n Chick’n. And it has meant ramping up the chain’s presence in national television advertising.
Prior to joining Popeyes, Bachelder held executive roles at KFC and Domino’s Pizza, where she achieved similarly positive results. Before moving to the restaurant business, she focused on a variety of brands at RJR Nabisco, Gillette and Procter & Gamble. She was drawn into foodservice by the critical role that people have in a company’s success. “People deliver the food and the smiles,” she says, and they represent a lot of opportunities for encouraging growth and leadership.
Bachelder earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in business at Indiana University, through an honors program that had her starting MBA work as a junior. But she was originally drawn there by the university’s world-renowned music program. “I was a piano major as a freshman, but decided it was not very practical,” she recalls. So she switched to studying marketing and finance, thinking she would go into international business like her father, who was in the semiconductor industry.
“I am a joiner and a continuous learner,” she says, which explains why she joined Alpha Kappa Psi. But that was not a typical thing for a female student to do back in 1976—the fraternity had just become coed that year, so she was among the first women to join. As she points out, MBA programs were dominated by men at the time, so she was certainly blazing new trails.
For her, though, taking part in an organization such as AKPsi was a logical part of preparing for the future. “I was interested in leadership development,” says Bachelder, who was president of her sorority. “There are so many skills you can gain.”
Bachelder is excited about the role AKPsi, and business education in general, can play in building more responsible corporate executives. “The thing I’m most passionate about is developing a new kind of leader, who is competitive but also has strong character traits in leadership.”
She laments that news headlines in recent years have carried stories of less-than-principled leaders, and is determined to do her part to point the future in a better direction. That means nurturing leaders “with strong principles, who do the right thing,” she says, adding that AKPsi is in a great position to do just that. “This organization is developing leaders, and traits of strong leadership.”