Emil J. Brolick ’69, ’72
President & Chief Executive Officer, The Wendy’s Company
College of Business Administration
Emil J. Brolick ’69, ’72 is one of the masterminds of branding and strategy in the fast food business. He earned a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in Economics from University of Detroit and began his business career in the auto industry, working in marketing, corporate development, finance and investor relations for Chrysler Corporation and later at Copeland Corporation. With his broad business background, he then switched to the food service industry when he joined Ponderosa, Inc.
In 1988, Wendy’s needed a strategic leader who could bolster sales. Brolick was their choice, and he served there in numerous capacities. As senior vice president of New Product Marketing, Research and Strategic Planning, he was a key part of the turnaround team that fueled 16 consecutive years of growth for Wendy’s. During his tenure, Brolick became friends with CEO Dave Thomas, founder of the restaurant chain.
As a result of his success at Wendy’s, Brolick was recruited in 2000 to join Yum! Brands. At that fast food giant, he served as president and chief concept officer of Taco Bell until 2006 and as president of U.S. Brand Building until 2008. He then served as CEO of Yum! Brands and as president of the A&W and Long John Silver’s chains from 2008-2011. He retired in 2011, but not for long.
Wendy’s recruited him back to re-establish the company’s brand identity, realign the strategic vision and upgrade its operations. He became CEO and president of Wendy’s and a member of the company’s board of directors.
Giving back to the community is another integral part of Brolick’s career. He is a trustee of the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, and chairman emeritus of the board of governors of the Boys & Girls Clubs of America. In addition, he and his wife, Maureen, support the MIND Research Institute, a nonprofit that teaches science and math to children using musically based software. The Brolicks are residents of Columbus, Ohio, and have a vacation home in Leland, Mich.
Below is an excerpt from Emil Brolick’s remarks upon accepting his award at the Spirit of UDM: Alumni Achievement Awards, April 11, 2014. View a video of his remarks and those of the other awardees.
“Maureen and I loved our time in Detroit and, certainly, the University has played an invaluable role in preparing me for a satisfying career. I’m forever grateful to Desire Barath, Len Maliet and Bruce Brorby for the academic encouragement they provided me in the classroom and the many conversations in their Commerce and Finance offices. Under their watch, I learned the joy of learning. In short, University of Detroit Mercy instilled in me the desire to grow personally and professionally…fundamental aspects to my leadership journey and to a rewarding career.
But, of course, not all of life takes place in the business world. One does not pass through life without facing significant challenges: health issues, the loss of loved ones and more. Here is where University of Detroit Mercy gave me something extra. I value my Catholic faith more than ever, and our support of UDM is a reflection of the University’s commitment to the Catholic faith in the Jesuit and Mercy traditions.”