A Passion for Food Service: Jim Balis is the 2024 Multi-Brand Leadership MVP
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A Passion for Food Service: Jim Balis is the 2024 Multi-Brand Leadership MVP

A Passion for Food Service: Jim Balis is the 2024 Multi-Brand Leadership MVP

Name: Jim Balis
Title: CEO
Company: Sizzling Platter
No. of units by brand: 345 Little Caesars, 105 Little Caesars Mexico, 139 Wingstop, 92 Jamba, 30 Dunkin’, 22 Jersey Mike’s Subs, 7 Sizzler, 5 Red Robin Gourmet Burgers, 2 Cinnabon
Age: 58
Family: Wife, two daughters
Years in franchising: 20
Years in current position: 4

Jim Balis is the 2024 Multi-Brand Leadership MVP (Most Valuable Performer) for achieving brand leadership with multiple brands.

Jim Balis started in the restaurant industry when he worked as a dishwasher in high school. In college, he ran a business providing food backstage for performers. During those early years, he developed a deep and abiding appreciation for the food service industry, and he continues to excel at it as the CEO of Sizzling Platter. 

His love of food came from his mom and her parents. “My mom was an excellent cook, and I helped her quite a bit,” he recalls. “She was really into food, and she would save up, and we would go to good restaurants.”

His mom’s parents traveled a great deal and were also foodies. “They would go into the city from Brooklyn and try the latest and greatest restaurant,” Balis says. His dishwashing job was at their favorite restaurant. “Back then, I would sit during breaks with the owner, and once I told her, ‘You are not charging enough for drinks,’” he says. The owner was interested in his opinion, and even though he was still a teenager, she sat with him and talked about the business aspects of running a restaurant.

As an adult, Balis formed a restaurant management group. Unlike typical consulting groups, his did assessments of restaurants and then helped them to improve operations and profitability. “We only got paid if they improved,” he explains. “They loved that.”

At Sizzling Platter, he and his team oversee a large portfolio with multiple brands, and they are poised for further growth. “We want to create unparalleled experiences for our team members and guests of our restaurants while driving strong financial performance,” Balis says. “At the same time, we’re trying to become the world’s premier franchise platform. But having our guests and team members be the first on that list is intentional. We spent a lot of time focusing on that.”

Balis brings a wide range of experience to the food industry. He knows what it means to be a frontline worker, an owner, and a multi-unit franchisee. All of that history in the business has made him a well-rounded operator. “I’ve had all the perspectives,” he says, “and that has really helped me.” 


Why do you think you were recognized with this award? Leadership and focus on team members, culture, and people at all levels.

How have you raised the bar in your own company? Through our revised mission statement: “We provide unparalleled experiences for our team members, guests, and brands while driving strong financial performance to become the world’s premier franchise platform.”

What core values do you think helped you win this award? GRIT: growth, integrity, respect, and teamwork (our core values).

How important is community involvement to you and your company? Very–we can share all we do at Sizzling Platter. Separately, I started FeedUSToday, which is now in year four. We try to feed more than 150,000 people on a single day.

What leadership qualities are most important to you and your company? Valuing our team members first and foremost. Fostering an environment of personal and professional growth. Collaboration, fact-based decision-making, truth-seeking, and sharing the success and wealth of the company.


Key accomplishments: Raising two wonderful children, helping my wife start two very successful businesses, opening two independent restaurants, and starting my own advisory firm.

Next big goal: Spend less time working and more time doing hobbies I enjoy.

Hardest lesson learned: It’s okay to take days off from email while on vacation.

Best advice you ever got: Don’t be frustrated by what you can’t control.

Favorite book: Too many to name one. The last one I read was Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann.

What’s your passion in business? Having a positive impact on people’s lives.


Business philosophy: Listen first, process information second, collaborate on an action plan third, hold yourself accountable fourth, and share your success fifth.

Management method or style: Collaborative, fact based, truth seeking, and constructive.

Greatest challenge: Starting an advisory firm from scratch.

How close are you to operations? Very–I love visiting stores, spending time back of house, and going through training programs.

How do you hire and fire, train and retain? Hire: Zoom interview, in-person interview, have candidate meet our team/assess culture fit, ask for a case study, and then collaborate with the team on decision to hire. Fire: It is rare for someone I fire to be surprised. Train and retain: Training is often the most under-invested department of our business. 


What have been the biggest impacts of Covid-19 on your business? It certainly varies by brand. In Jamba, we saw a big uptick from the government subsidies, but when they expired, we tried to maintain the momentum. In Red Robin, it was trying to retain off-premises use cases that skyrocketed during Covid. For all brands, it has been managing the new people dynamic post-Covid.


Annual revenue: $1.2 billion.

2024 goals: Overachieve our mission statement.

Growth meter: How do you measure your growth? Unit count, sales, EBITDA, retention, and employee sentiment.

Vision meter: Where do you want to be in five years? 10 years? Be the employer of choice as one of the top five largest franchise operations in the world.

What kind of exit strategy do you have in place? Either sale to private equity or IPO.

Published: May 10th, 2024

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