Our 2020 Like a Boss issue features the women changing how we cook and eat. Get to know innovator Frances Allen, the fast-casual fixer.

portrait of frances allen
Photography by Craig Barritt/Stringer/Getty
| Credit: Photography by Craig Barritt/Stringer/Getty

She's the defibrillator of food brands. Before becoming CEO of drive-through burger joints Checkers and Rally's earlier this year, Frances Allen spent three decades using her marketing know-how to zap the life back into restaurant chains like Dunkin' Donuts, Jack in the Box, Denny's, and Boston Market. She refreshed Denny's as "America's Diner" with savvy social campaigns, like a web series featuring Maya Rudolph and Jason Bateman ("Denny's Is Suddenly Cool Again," a 2014 Business Insider headline read). 

"I love the process of determining a brand's core DNA, what makes it particularly unique," says the English native. "Once you define that, it dictates everything else the company does, from marketing to the menu." 

But captaining national chains can also mean weathering hardships: In her first month at Checkers and Rally's, Allen had to face down the global coronavirus pandemic. "There's nothing like a crisis to get a leadership team focused on what matters most," says Allen, who quickly expanded paid sick leave and instated an internal relief fund for her employees. "My role is to lead: calmly, decisively, creating clarity and a sense of urgency, not panic." 

Being a woman in the C-suite adds to the stress. "Women are judged to a higher standard. We have to prove ourselves every day," says Allen. "But overcoming obstacles makes me a better leader. If I set the tone, our teams will be motivated, our food will be delicious, and we will deliver on our expectations for success."

This article originally appeared in our Summer 2020 issue. Get the magazine here.