Riverside: Farmer Boys Exec Still has Ideas Cooking

CMO Karen EadonThe Press Enterprise
By: Laurie Lucas
June 25, 2014

Long before Karen Eadon worked for Farmer Boys Food, she never forgot how much she loved its homemade zucchini.

Now, as the new vice president/chief marketing officer of that company, she can indulge in its farm-fresh food as often as she likes.

Eadon, 60, works at corporate headquarters at 3452 University Ave. in Riverside. She commutes from La Quinta, where she lives with her writer husband, Jack, and their two “fur babies,” a dog and a cat.

“In the morning I tend to listen to the news,” she said of the commute. “On my way home, I listen to music on Sirius radio.”

Founded by the five Havadjias brothers, the first Farmer Boys restaurant opened in Perris in 1981 and by 1997, seven more family-owned restaurants appeared across Southern California. At last count, there were more than 70 Farmer Boys restaurants all over Southern and Central California and in Nevada.

Eadon, a Chicago native, earned her MBA from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management before starting her career in consumer-packaged goods at Quaker Oats, followed by Frito-Lay. After switching into restaurants, she moved to California in 1985 to join Taco Bell for eight years, where she developed the “Run for the Border” ad campaign. Eadon moved on to a succession of high-level marketing jobs at Carl’s Jr., ARCO Products Co., Applebee’s, McDonald’s, El Pollo Loco and Mimi’s Cafe, respectively.

“When (Mimi’s) moved their headquarters to Dallas, I retired,” Eadon wrote in an email. “It took me only 3 months to realize that I was not ready to retire. That’s when I joined Farmer Boys.”

Eadon answered a few questions via email about her new position, expectations and goals.

Q. Tell us what marketing ideas and strategies you’re introducing. A. My focus will be on strengthening the Farmer Boys brand. We have an outstanding product. We are committed to delivering a farm-to-table food experience with farm fresh produce that we source locally (whenever possible), high quality beef in our burgers, ample portions (a Farmer Boys signature) in an environment that is warm, welcoming and comfortable. Farmer Boys service model is what I call Fast Casual plus – while we are counter service for ordering, our dining room team members provide a level of service you do not find in other fast casual restaurants – they deliver your food to your table, get drink refills, bus your table and bring you anything else you might need. I want to make sure we are telling our story.

Q. How will you beef up the brand, so to speak? A. We have a very strong core menu. Our award-winning burgers are the centerpiece with breakfast playing a supporting role. My focus will be to build on that equity and innovate in a way that is consistent with the brand positioning. So I don’t think you’ll see a lot of permanent menu additions, but you’ll probably see some promotional menu items that are available for a limited time.

Q. What’s your favorite menu item? A. I have two favorites depending on my mood. I love the Cobb salad – it’s loaded with protein (much more than Cobb salads you can get at other fast casual places). And the Avocado, Bacon and Cheese Natural Burger. I love adding jalapenos to it for an added kick.

Q. Do you like to cook? Are you a foodie? A. I love to cook. It’s my passion. My favorite thing about traveling (especially to New York or Chicago) is to try restaurants that I’ve read about. I guess I could be considered a foodie, but I’m not a food snob. I love all types of foods.

Q. What’s the best part of the job? A. For me, the best part of the job is being able to make a difference and help a strong brand become even stronger. And a lucky strike extra is the team here at Farmer Boys. I work with a great group of people. It’s a pleasure coming to work every day.

Contact the writer: llucas@pe.com, 951-368-9559

“For me, the best part of the job is being able to make a difference and help a strong brand become even stronger.”
Karen Eadon, Vice President/ Chief Marketing Officer for Farmer Boys