New England Authentic Eats, LLC, parent company of iconic hometown brands Papa Gino’s and D’Angelo Grilled Sandwiches, is creating a seamless guest experience – online and in-person – and has engaged two senior restaurant industry executives to lead the charge. Deena McKinley, who has served as NEAE’s Chief Marketing Officer since 2019, has been promoted to the new position of Chief Experience Officer. Kevin Bentley, who has an extensive technology and management background in the restaurant industry, has joined the company as Vice President of Technology & Automation.
“Our core menu items – like Papa Gino’s pizza and D’Angelo’s classic Steak & Cheese – have been fan favorites for generations of New Englanders who have grown up with them. While our recipes and quality of ingredients haven’t changed, the way guests interact with our brands has shifted dramatically during the past two years,” said NEAE President and CEO Tom Sterrett. “Recognizing the importance of Deena and Kevin’s positions aligns with our plans for growth as we build the Papa Gino’s and D’Angelo of the future to exceed guest expectations for service, selection and speed. I look forward to working with both of them to accomplish that vision.”
During the pandemic, McKinley quickly immersed the company in best practices for guest communication around digital ordering, third-party delivery platforms, contactless carryout and in-restaurant ordering, while revamping the brands’ presence across channels. Since joining the company as CMO, McKinley has elevated the visibility of Papa Gino’s and D’Angelo through numerous initiatives – an ongoing food delivery program to community heroes; personalized guest journeys through digital marketing; growth of social platforms and use of influencers to increase following and engagement; community programs and large-scale giveaways to solidify positioning as neighborhood staples; and a successful campaign to celebrate a milestone 60th birthday for Papa Gino’s.
“It’s been an incredible journey with these two iconic brands since 2019. I’m continuously motivated by the love of our guests and commitment of our team members,” said McKinley. “We’ve quietly accomplished a lot, and now, with Kevin onboard, we can accelerate our plans for a modernized Papa Gino’s and D’Angelo that reaches our guests where they are, meeting their expectations for consistency, quality, speed and accessibility in our digital world. I couldn’t be more excited about partnering with Kevin to advance our company’s connection with our guests.”
Prior to joining NEAE, McKinley served as Chief Experience Officer at Mobivity, a customer engagement marketing platform, working with national multi-unit restaurant companies such as Subway, Jamba Juice and Dairy Queen. Previously, she was Chief Client Officer at Zimmerman Advertising, working with restaurant clients such as Papa John’s Pizza, Boston Market and Firehouse Subs.
Kevin Bentley, who has an extensive technology and management background in the restaurant industry, has joined the company as Vice President of Technology & Automation.
In his new role, Bentley will lead NEAE’s technology team and work closely with McKinley to optimize restaurant, company and guest experiences through digital automation and innovation, from back office to data analytics, mobile ordering, website, and loyalty. He will partner with McKinley to define and execute on the vision for a seamless guest experience to drive performance, profitability, and efficiency.
“This is an ideal opportunity for me to bring my years of technology, innovation, automation and analytics experience, as well as my entrepreneurial mindset to this growing company,” said Bentley. “I was excited about coming to New England Authentic Eats because of the enthusiasm of the guests – on a level I’ve never seen before – and the enthusiasm of the team. I’m looking forward to partnering with Tom, Deena and everyone at the company to help drive us to the next level.”
McKinley and Bentley’s first joint effort was the selection of its new digital operating system, Lunchbox. As NEAE’s latest digital strategic partner, Lunchbox will be a key in developing a website and app that represents NEAE’s mission to build a frictionless guest experience and enhanced digital journey, offering innovative and accessible ordering solutions. Lunchbox is an innovative restaurant technology company building a centralized digital ordering solution to allow brands to build and enhance its customer database. Lunchbox’s technology is helping enterprise restaurant chains simplify and centralize their digital tech stack, and NEAE is excited to be building on this scalable foundation.
Before joining NEAE, Bentley served as director of automation technology and innovation at Inspire Brands (whose brands include Dunkin’, Baskin Robbins, Arby’s, Buffalo Wild Wings, Jimmy John’s, Rusty Taco, and Sonic Drive-In), where he leveraged data and consumer-facing and backend technology platforms to support everything from ordering to operations, driving profitability and a streamlined customer experience.
Bentley began his career as a professional football player after being drafted by the Cleveland Browns, where he was voted 2002 Team Rookie of the Year for exceptional performance. He played for a few other teams and reached the pinnacle of the sport, making it to the Super Bowl with the Seattle Seahawks. He was known as a fierce competitor and leader, achieving the honor of being voted team captain by his peers. Kevin had an amazing 10-year run before retiring from the league in 2012.
After leaving the NFL, he earned an MBA from Rice University and a Master of Information Systems from Northwestern University. He was recognized as the number one MBA candidate in the country in 2015 by Poets & Quants. Bentley brings over 20 years of leadership, technology, and marketing experience, holding prior positions at Tropical Smoothie, Infosys, Owens Corning, and Arby’s, where he rolled out PAR-POS to over 1100 corporate restaurants and oversaw the franchise business for two years.
Bentley is a devoted husband to his wife, Christina, and proud father of four daughters (Kennedy, Kayden, Kendal, and Kaylani) and a son (Kevin Jr). He has certifications as a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt, a Scrum Master, and is a PSIA-AASI Certified Level 3 Snowboard Instructor working with Olympic athletes.