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THE MAGAZINE OF FLORIDA INTERNATIONAL UNIVERSITY'S COLLEGE OF BUSINESS
 
Food and Figures: A Winning Combo for Hospitality Leadership

Food and Figures: A Winning Combo for Hospitality Leadership

By Karen-Janine Cohen

Within weeks of being named chief operating and insights officer of Subway in March 2020, Michael Kappitt (BAcc '92) found himself under a white-hot spotlight as the iconic chain faced COVID-19 pandemic fallout.

"It was an interesting, surreal way to start a new job and make connections and relationships," said Kappitt, who moved in March from Tampa to company headquarters in Milford, Conn.

The challenge was clear, and called on the analytics, marketing and accounting skills he first learned at FIU Business and has honed across his career.

Unlike some competitors, Subway had few drive-thru locations, which were a huge advantage when going inside restaurants was forbidden. A pivot to curbside service was the answer, and the task was to quickly update and refine apps that give customers a seamless transaction from order to pickup.

"Under normal circumstances, curbside would take 18 to 24 months," Kappitt said. "We needed to do it in 90 days – and we chose progress over perfection." It took 120 days for Subway to establish curbside pickup in 13,000 North American stores.

A born-and-bred South Floridian, Kappitt has always welcomed a professional challenge, and sought opportunities to build his skill set and enlarge the parameters of what 21st century marketing can be.

In 2002, he was tapped by Miami-based Burger King Corp., where he started as director of field marketing for all companyowned restaurants. By 2010 he was chief marketing officer for North America, managing a $400 million budget.

He joined Bloomin' Brands Inc. in 2011 as chief marketing officer of its Outback Steakhouse chain, became global chief marketing officer of the parent company, and then was named president of its Carrabba's Italian Grill. He credits an ability to combine a variety of skills for his career opportunities.

"I've joked about my accounting degree. It actually makes me a good marketer - the analytical rigor and fact-based decisionmaking and data driven marketing has provided a very nice career," he said.

At Subway, Kappitt is working with other executives and teams to apply cuttingedge analytic rigor to understanding customer behavior. Also on his plate is digital e-commerce, catering, delivery and non-traditional development, as well as overseeing public relations and communications.

Along the way, Kappitt has remained committed to FIU. He serves on the FIU Foundation board and its executive committee and was named to the FIU Hall of Fame in 2015, when he was presented with the Innovation Award. Meanwhile, Subway is opening a corporate presence in South Florida, so Kappitt and his family will soon be coming home, and he hopes to spend more time with FIU students.

"I love to share the obvious advice," he said. "Find something you are passionate about and do that. I'm passionate about hospitality and restaurants, and I love what I do."