Who is Tom Ryan? You may not have heard of him, but odds are you DO know him, or rather his work. If you’ve ever had a Stuffed Crust Pizza, a McGriddle, a Shaker Salad or any other number of restaurant items, you’ve tasted his work. To answer the question, Tom Ryan is not your typical restaurateur. He’s not a chef, didn’t study Restaurant Management and in fact, never expected to find himself in the restaurant business. By training, he’s a food scientist - earning degrees in flavor and fragrance chemistry from Michigan State University. During his Doctoral studies he became intrigued by marketing and consumer research which set him on the path of a lifetime.
Taking positions at P&G and Pillsbury, Ryan recognized the force of combining his technical knowledge with consumer insights. He spent hours chasing and evaluating restaurant trends, searching for the next big idea to bring to grocery store shelves. Along the way, he fell in love with restaurants, menu innovation and the creativity emerging in the restaurant landscape.
Ryan joined Pizza Hut in the late ‘80s, creating products such as The Lover’s Line, Breadsticks, Chicken Wings, Sicilian Pizza and Stuffed Crust Pizza. In the ‘90s he joined McDonald’s, bringing more products to the market place and around the world - McFlurries, The Dollar Menu and McGriddles, just to name a few. Searching for new challenges Ryan moved on to Colorado. He joined the Quiznos team and brought record setting sandwiches to the marketplace while planning his next move.
In 2007 Smashburger was born, a new concept Ryan and his partners designed to focus on the next generation of burger consumers. It became an industry icon for quality, growth and business acumen and was twice named by Forbes as “America’s Most Promising Company.” Smashburger has won countless awards for best burgers and earned Ryan a spot on Gourmet Magazine’s, “Top 25 Food Entrepreneurs of the Last 25 Years” list. In 2018 Smashburger was acquired by Jollibee Foods Corporation, a Manilla based restaurant powerhouse.
In 2012, Tom’s Urban - a full service, urban concept designed to provide great multi-ethnic food, craft beers and cocktails was opened by Ryan and partners. This namesake concept opened its second site in Los Angeles at LA Live in 2014. Later that year, they opened on the Las Vegas Strip followed by three more Tom’s across the country. Currently Tom’s Urban is reconcepting to Tom’s Watch Bar, a premium viewing sports experience.
Today Tom holds the title of Global Taste Advisor to Jollibee Foods Corporation, focusing on optimizing concept and menu elements. He also contributes strategic and growth based support to his namesake, Tom’s Watch Bar Concept. When not focusing on his other work, Ryan spends his time thinking about his next monumental menu idea you may never ever know he created.