Nicole Bushnell
Nicole Bushnell

San Diego-based Garden Fresh Restaurant Corp., known for its 97 Souplantation and Sweet Tomatoes restaurants in nine states, has appointed Nicole Bushnell as chief marketing officer.

Bushnell comes to the Garden Fresh team from San Diego-based Luna Grill restaurants, where she served as vice president of marketing for the last four years and was responsible for brand strategy, e-commerce and loyalty platforms, creative and content direction and product development. During her tenure, the chain grew from 18 to 51 locations in California and Texas.

Garden Fresh said that Bushnell will lead branding and marketing activities, positioning the company for growth and category development opportunities, including the launch later this year of restaurant’s first point-of-sale integrated loyalty program.

Prior to her work at Luna Grill, Bushnell was vice president of marketing at Ladeki Restaurant Group, operator of Sammy’s Woodfired Pizza, from 2012 to October 2015. From 2004 to 2012, she was with Pat & Oscar’s Restaurants, rising from marketing brand manager to director of marketing and brand development, where she was responsible for creative direction and execution of a menu evolution that led to an increase in guest check averages by 30 percent.

She holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration and marketing from San Francisco State University. She also is an executive board member with San Diego chapter of the California Restaurant Association.

Garden Fresh opened its first Souplantation in 1978 and Sweet Tomatoes in 1990. The restaurants, which serve more than 25 million guests annually, are known for 50-foot-long salad bars, made-from-scratch soups, hot pastas and freshly-based focaccia pizzas, muffins and desserts.

V Digital Services Names San Diego Sales Director

The Phoenix-based digital marketing agency V Digital Services has named Chris Reed as sales director for San Diego. Reed spent the past 10 years at the San Diego Reader, joining as inside sales manager and recently serving as general manager.

“I’m excited about introducing more San Diego businesses to our incredible suite of products,” said Reed. “This is such a great city with such incredible energy on the local scene.”

Chris Reed

A native of Los Angeles, Reed earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology in 2002 from Sonoma State University.

“We’re thrilled to have someone with Chris’ skills steering the ship in San Diego,” said Stuart Folb, executive vice president of digital sales at Voice Media Group, the parent company of V Digital. “He was the obvious choice given his strong roots in the community and his track record of customer service.”

VDS operates in 25 U.S. markets with three offices in California, including Los Angeles, Orange County and San Diego. VDS employs analysts and account managers who specialize in helping clients polish their online presence through organic SEO, paid media, social media management, web development and both programmatic and pay-per-click advertising.

The company said Inc. Magazine recently named it one of the 5,000 fastest-growing private companies in the U.S. for the third consecutive year.

DC-based REQ Acquires Internet Marketing Inc. of San Diego

San Diego-based Internet Marketing Inc. announced it has been acquired by digital marketing company REQ of Washington, D.C. IMI’s two offices in San Diego and Las Vegas now will be known by the REQ name. REQ also operates offices in New York City, Boston and San Francisco.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed, although the combined company reportedly will feature 120 employees across six offices and annual revenues of $50 million.

A statement said REQ will integrate its expertise and proprietary technology in SEO, search marketing, digital advocacy and brand management with IMI’s advertising, earned media and social media capabilities.

“With expanded resources and coast-to-coast footprint, the combined company will bring a new level of innovation, scale and creativity to our clients, giving us global reach with regional expertise,” said Tripp Donnelly, REQ CEO and founder. “We know the IMI team, platform and experience will be a great complement to our suite of services and our culture.”

“REQ has become well-known for working with some of the world’s most-recognized brands and companies, and we are thrilled to join forces with that team and help further its drive for innovation at the cross-section of creativity and technology,” said Jason Brigham, CEO of IMI. “We are proud of the team we have built and the clients we serve. We look forward to creating and seizing new market opportunities with the talent and capability in this unique combination.”

IMI, founded in 2008, counts among its clients MasterCard, Navitas, Arizona State University and Hard Rock Hotels International. REQ, also founded in 2008, works with Bayer, Red Hat, Disney, Intel, PayPal and Skanska. In 2018, REQ marked its 10th anniversary with a name change from RepEquity.

San Diego AMA Talks Strategies With Michael Marckx

The American Marketing Association’s San Diego chapter will host “Finding Your True North, Harnessing The Power of Your Mind for Marketing Success,” a presentation from Michael Marckx, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 12, at Little Italy’s Loading Dock, 2400 Kettner Blvd.. Cost to attend is $25 for members, $35 for nonmembers, which includes one drink and appetizers.

Marckx, vice president of Nixon Watches and global general manager of the Adidas watch brand, is a former amateur world champion and U.S. National team member in cycling. He also is an avid surfer and musician. Before Nixon, he was chief development officer of Creative Disruption, an agency with a focus on helping organizations creatively disrupt the status quo through the prism of organizational, branding, marketing, event or culture-based initiatives.

Rick Griffin

Rick Griffin is a San Diego-based public relations and marketing consultant. His MarketInk column appears weekly on Mondays in Times of San Diego.