Our values and vision start with our leadership. Read on to learn more about the team behind the chicken.

Zach McLeroy, Chief Executive Officer, Chairman of the Board

Zach is our one and only. He’s been our one and only CEO and President since the Zaxby’s concept began. In fact, he and childhood friend Tony Townley dreamed up Zaxby’s in the first place. The two came up with the idea for an upbeat, fun, relaxing place that served terrific chicken. Now, three decades later, the chain is flourishing and poised to grow beyond anyone’s expectations. And it’s Zach’s vision that keeps us on that phenomenal growth track today. Passionately committed to this vision, Zach even put his burgeoning music career on hold, selling his beloved drum set in order to open the first store. As more and more Zaxby’s fans are won over every day, we can be grateful that Zach traded in one set of drumsticks for another. Zach is a stockholder in more than 100 Zaxby’s restaurants. An Athens, GA, native, Zach is also an alumnus of the University of Georgia in Athens. When he isn’t evangelizing for Zaxby’s, he’s relaxing with his wife and three children. He also loves hitting the links and the slopes. Asked to pick his absolute favorite Zaxby’s menu item, he hesitates like a man asked to choose his favorite child. "Since I have to approve every single item," he says, "I like it all. But if I have to pick, I’d go with the Kickin’ Chicken Sandwich, because anything messy is usually good."

David Waters, Chief Operating Officer

David and his team develop, implement, and measure progress towards Zaxby’s strategic goals. Since his start at Zaxby’s in 2005, and most recently as vice president of Strategy, David has worked at the intersection of Zaxby’s marketing, operations, and finance teams to drive unit-level profitability. Before Zaxby’s, David held leadership, management, and analyst positions at both large and small organizations, most notably at the University of Georgia’s Terry College of Business and The Home Depot. David is a graduate of Georgia Tech and received his MBA from UGA’s Terry College of Business. He resides in the Athens, Georgia, area with his wife and two children.

Blake Bailey, Chief Financial Officer

Blake came to Zaxby’s Franchising LLC, in August 2000 from Smithfield foods in Virginia. He began his career with Zaxby’s as a corporate controller when Zaxby’s consisted of 85 restaurants. He has been instrumental in building the financial infrastructure that supports this rapidly growing franchise system. In 2012, Blake received the title of Chief Financial Officer, for his leadership, innovation and genuine desire to make a difference. He serves on the board of Downtown Ministries, Inc., in Athens. In his spare time, you can find Blake busy at home with his wife and four children. They reside in Colbert, Georgia and love the outdoors. He is an avid snowboarder and musician.

Joel Bulger, Chief Marketing Officer

Joel’s team oversees Zaxby’s national media and marketing strategies, including digital, broadcast, social, in-store, and local marketing initiatives. Before being named as Zaxby’s first CMO, Joel spent more than 25 years in the restaurant industry, most recently as Johnny Rockets’ chief marketing officer. Before that, he held senior marketing leadership positions with Wendy’s, Church’s Chicken, Moe’s Southwest Grill, and Darden Restaurants. Joel has a B.A. in Journalism and Advertising from the University of Georgia and holds an M.B.A. in International Business from Mercer University’s Stetson School of Business and Economics. He has two amazing children, Jack & Chloe, and lives in Athens with his wife, Jennifer and rescue dog, Baxter.

Vanessa Fox, Chief Development Officer

In September 2020, Vanessa Fox joined Zaxby’s as the first Chief Development Officer (CDO) in the company’s thirty-year history. In this new role, Fox manages the franchise licensing and development teams and fosters continuity with the design & construction function. Fox was formerly senior vice president, CDO at Jack in the Box where she worked with business stakeholders to build, maintain and execute the company’s real estate strategy. Prior to that, she worked with Qdoba on restaurant development including construction, architecture and design as well as facility management. Along with a degree in business administration and an MBA, she also holds a Culinary Certificate from the San Diego Culinary Institute. Whether it’s snow skiing or laying on the beach, Vanessa, her husband Brandon and their two sons enjoy spending family time together outdoors. In her free time you can find her reading, cooking or practicing photography.