East of Chicago Pizza Company founder Scott Granneman announced that he has named Cory Washburn as the company’s first Chief Executive Officer. Washburn, who started at East of Chicago in 1992 behind the counter at its Tiffin, Ohio location, has previously served as both Director of Operations and Vice President of Operations.

At age 31, Washburn is a comparatively young man to take on corporate leadership. Granneman has the utmost confidence in him, though. “Because of his long-time experience with the company and his proven leadership abilities, Cory Washburn is the most logical choice for a smooth transition,” said Granneman. “I know he can lead East of Chicago into a future of growth and success.”

Washburn really did start at the bottom and work his way to the top. After attending Heidelberg College, Washburn took a job making pizzas at the Tiffin store to make extra money.

He didn’t know at the time that East of Chicago would become his career, but he did know that the company was something special. “It felt as if I were getting in on the ground floor of a chain with huge potential even though there were only 11 locations,” he said. Today there are more than 135 locations in five states.

After being hired as manager of the Fremont restaurant in 1993, Washburn felt even more strongly about the company. “It seemed like an unmolded piece of clay, and I thought it would be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to help shape it,” he said. To achieve that end, he kept in contact with Granneman, who hired him as Director of Operations later that year. In 2000, he named Washburn as the company’s first Vice President of Operations.

Granneman’s decision to name him CEO was prompted by a desire to be a continuing innovator in the pizza industry. “I want to keep East of Chicago on the cutting edge of the industry, so I have to focus on keeping the company moving forward. I can’t do that from my office at corporate headquarters, focused on day-to-day details,” he said. He plans to “keep his fingers on the pulse of the company” by meeting regularly with franchisees and entry-level employees.

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“Cory has done wonders with the Operations Department,” Granneman continued. “I know he’ll duplicate that success and share his philosophy with the entire company.”

Washburn already has plans to develop methods to react quickly to market forces. “In the next 12 months,” he predicted, “we’ll be building momentum. We’ll welcome our franchise community to work with us to obtain a high level of productivity and exceed customer expectation.”

Washburn grew up in Upper Sandusky, Ohio, where he graduated from Upper Sandusky High School in 1988. He currently resides in Willard, Ohio.

East of Chicago Pizza Company is one of the fastest growing pizza chains in America, and it has gained national recognition within the last two years. It was ranked 217 in Entrepreneur Magazine’s 20th annual Franchise 500 list, and the trade publication Pizza Today rated the company 33 in its Hot 100 Franchises List. East of Chicago Pizza Company has more than 3,000 employees and more than 135 dine-in and delivery/carryout locations in five states.