When Linda A. Lang, BS 80, relocated to San Diego from the Bay Area in 1984, she knew she wanted to work for a large company.
Jack in the Box Inc., based in San Diego, seemed like a fun organization, she says. So she applied to the accounting and finance department and landed her first job: managing eight accounting clerks, who processed invoices for burgers, fries, and wrappers.
For two decades, Lang worked her way from accounting supervisor to president and chief operating officer of the quick-service restaurant chain, which posted $2 billion in 2003 sales. The company operates and franchises 1,970 Jack in the Box restaurants and 130 Qdoba Mexican Grills.
You name the job – Lang’s done it on her way up the ladder. She transitioned from accounting and finance to marketing in 1993. Within that department, she held positions in product development, brand management, and advertising.
“I’ve had experience in almost every facet of the business – accounting and finance, franchising, marketing, and operations,” she says. One busy year, Lang served as regional vice president for Southern California, where she was responsible for operating 180 Jack in the Box restaurants.
She says the job of president, which she’s held since November 2003, has been both rewarding and fun – partly because of Jack, the company’s ping-pong-ball-headed television ad star. Lang is involved with the company’s humorous, award-winning ad campaign, which is one of the most successful in the business. “Our ad agency works hard to keep the campaign fresh and relevant,” she says. “But I try not to tell Jack how important he is to the company. I don’t want him to get a big head!”
As president, Lang, 45, is helping Jack in the Box fend off a host of feisty fast-food competitors by developing high-quality, innovative products, such as the chain’s new line of Pannidos, and by improving profitability.
Lang says she has learned a great deal during her tenure with the 53-year-old company. “I’ve always worked hard, taken advice from mentors, and sought positions enabling me to learn as much as I could about the business,” she says. “Professional organizations, like the Women’s Foodservice Forum, have also been valuable to my professional development.”
Jack in the Box’s support for work/family balance, too, is important to Lang. “Everyone works very hard, but we also know how to have fun,” she says. Married with four sons and a 1-year-old grandson, she likes to golf, ski, and walk her two dogs when she has time off.
Lang says she often eats Jack in the Box fare. But you won’t catch her driving through a competitor’s restaurant – unless, of course, she wants to get the skinny on a new product. Then she’ll take a bite.
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