Women in Business: Q&A With Renae Scott, Chief Marketing Officer for Togo's

Renae Scott joined Togo's as Vice President of Brand and Marketing in March of 2009 and oversees new product development, marketing and managing the almost 40-year old brand. She is now the brand's Chief Marketing Officer. An experienced senior executive and strategic marketer, Ms. Scott served as Vice President of Media and Field Marketing at Carl's Jr. where she managed all media and marketing for the 1185 -unit chain. Following her thirteen years with Carl's Jr., Ms. Scott served as Chief Marketing Officer for Round Table Pizza, a top five pizza chain with 500+ locations.

Renae Scott has served as a Board of Director for several charities including the Junior Giants/San Francisco Giants and helped for raise over $500,000 for the Breast Cancer Foundation on the CKE Star Board. Ms. Scott has a B.A. in Communications with a minor in Journalism from California State University at Sacramento.

How has your previous employment experience aided your position as the VP of Branding and Marketing for Togo's?
My entire working life has been spent in the food and restaurant industry. At 16, I got my first job as a waitress at a local ice cream parlor and I worked through college waiting tables. Eventually I moved into advertising agency work for Pepsi and then on to restaurant marketing roles with Carl's Jr., Roundtable Pizza and Togo's. Working in the foodservice industry gives you a unique perspective into what it means to "serve" guests, as well as how truly difficult it is to run a restaurant. My experience has given me the ability to empathize with our franchisees, as I understand the challenges of providing best-in-class food and service while also focusing on profits and growth.

How do you maintain a work/life balance?
It's an interesting question for all working parents, not just women. I have a wonderful husband and two terrific children (now 17 and 20). My job is very demanding of my time and travel. My husbands' is less so. His role naturally evolved into more time spent on the "administrative" duties at home and family (e.g. cleaning, doctor appointments, sports, bills). Of course I do some of that, but he definitely has the larger share of work around the house. We do things as a family on Sundays -- road trips, hikes, surfing -- as well as family dinners a few nights a week. I also finally came to a place in my life and career where I make time each day for me. (It helps that the kids are older). I work out almost everyday with the Bar Method and I spend weekly time with my friends catching up and sharing a glass of wine.

What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at Togo's?
When I came to Togo's five years ago, it was a brand that had been "dormant" for many years. Since we were founded in 1971, several ownership changes had left Togo's without a clear brand positioning. Bringing the soul of our brand forward has been a very rewarding challenge. I grew up with the brand and knew Togo's as the fun, irreverent place to get a big, meaty sandwich. I worked with various teams to create a whole new brand identity -- including new logo, menu, uniforms and restaurant design -- and then set off to bring the brand to life for consumers with our "Big, Fresh and Meaty" marketing campaign in both traditional and digital media. Bringing Togo's back into the minds of consumers and seeing sales grow over the past five years has been extremely rewarding.

What advice can you offer women seeking a career in the foodservice industry?
Start from the ground up early on. You will quickly see if this fast-paced and demanding industry is for you. I love to see folks who have a background as a server or host. They are on the front lines dealing with guests. Then look to where your own passion lies. Are you intrigued by the latest menu innovations? Perhaps culinary development is for you. Do you love the rush of a line out the door and serving happy guests? Then restaurant operations can be a great field. Finally, if you are intrigued by the design and messaging of a restaurant concept then, of course, there is nothing more exciting and fast paced than restaurant marketing!

What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
There is still the presumption that female employees have different limitations than men based on their family situation and whether they have small children. I have been in organizations where someone, while evaluating a potential employee, has said, "I believe she has small children, so travel will be an issue." That presumption that you can't travel, or you won't be a dedicated employee who can go the extra mile if you have children, can hold women back. Women and men deserve equal opportunity. How they manage their family and home life is entirely up to them.

What are your thoughts on Sheryl Sandberg's Lean In book and movement?
I loved the book. I think it took courage to bring up the issues we face and the limitations women bring on themselves. Thirty years ago, being part of the women's movement and seeking equality was an open topic of conversation. Somehow along the way it seems we adopted an attitude as women of "Everything is fine. We got this handled." Inequality became something you didn't discuss at work. Sheryl's book opened up the conversation again.

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
In my professional life, I looked to leaders who were making a difference in the various companies I worked and then I was fearless in requesting visibility of their work and in asking for their guidance. I am very open with my opinion. Some people would embrace that and would take me under their wing. Others, not so much. I would say that one of the most important relationships in my career were early on when I partnered with a woman in operations and together we opened new markets and learned and supported one another. Each year, I watched as she would get promoted and then turn around and offer me a hand up. The next year would be my turn. We took two restaurant disciplines that are usually somewhat at odds and grew and learned from one another. Mentors aren't always senior-level people; they are often in the office next door.

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
I really admire the everyday leaders that are on my own team. These are women who strive to be the best in what they do and they have a positive outlook and always say, "We can do that!" They embrace possibilities even when they know there will be challenges.

What are your hopes for the future of Togo's?
Togo's is in growth mode and we are opening this year in several new markets like Utah, Idaho and Colorado. We are further enhancing our brand and improving our guest experience. We have a strong focus on franchisee profitability, which ultimately drives success for Togo's. I see in the future that Togo's is the premium sandwich chain serving big, fresh and meaty sandwiches to happy guests through out the West.