John began working in his family's fine dining restaurant business in 1982. From 1982 to 1997, John, his mother Myrrl Bean, and brother Bernard Bean successfully opened four additional restaurants, before forming a new company, Columbus Deli, Inc. (CDI). CDI opened the first Sweet Peppers Deli in Columbus, MS, in November 1997, and the second unit in Tupelo, MS, in February 2000. As President of CDI, John oversees the continued development of the Sweet Peppers concept. In addition, he serves as President and CEO of University Management, Inc., which is the management company for the 14 corporate locations within the restaurant group. In July 2002, the owners of the restaurant group formed Sweet Peppers Franchise Systems, LLC (SPFS) in order to franchise the Sweet Peppers concept. John serves as the managing member of SPFS and is responsible for the executive supervision of the franchise company. He describes his job as "making sure everyone is doing his or her job."
John attended Mississippi State University and enjoys following his alma mater's sports teams and playing golf. His favorite Peppers sandwich is the Chicken Club.
Robin Fant has owned and operated the Bulldog Deli, in Starkville, MS, since April 1984. The Bulldog Deli has served as the inspiration and prototype model for the development of the Sweet Peppers Deli concept. Robin became Vice President of Columbus Deli, Inc. in 1997, while continuing to own and manage his restaurant, and has been a member of SPFS since its formation in July 2002. Robin and Bernard Bean are jointly responsible for the training, operations and field support of the franchisees of SPFS.
Chief Operations Officer
Bernard began working for his family's restaurant business in 1982, and became Secretary of Columbus Deli, Inc. (CDI) in 1997. He continues to supervise the daily management operations of the Sweet Peppers Deli units owned by CDI, and has also been a member of the SPFS franchise management team since July 2002. Bernard and Robin Fant coordinate franchise services for SPFS franchise owners.
Bernard enjoys running and following Mississippi State sports, the college from which he graduated. His favorite item to order at Sweet Peppers Deli is the Goat Cheese and Fire Roasted Pepper Sub.
Pat began his career at the Eat With Us Group in 1983. He manages systems, specifications and quality compliance for the full service restaurants within the organization. He reports to enjoy the challenges of the restaurant business and the sense of accomplishment in seeing repeat guests in our restaurants enjoying themselves.
He attended Mississippi State University and graduated from the University of South Alabama. Pat, too, enjoys following Bulldog sports as well as his family's activities, tennis and tinkering with and restoring BMWs. At Peppers, he is most likely to order the Waldorf Salad.
Chief Financial Officer
Robert began working with University Management, Inc., in 1985, in accounting and financial planning. He has been the Treasurer and a Director of Columbus Deli, Inc. since November 1997. He is a founding member of SPFS, responsible for financial planning for the franchise company and SPFS's franchisees, as well as the entire Eat With Us Group.
Hunting, fishing, gardening and sporting events are among his favorite pastimes. He is a 1990 graduate of Mississippi State University. His recommendation on the Peppers menu is the Cuban Panani.
Ms. Bean was the original founder, in 1982, of the Harveys fine dining restaurants, which are an important part of the family restaurant management group. Myrrl is the mother of both John and Bernard Bean, and brought them into the restaurant development business. Myrrl serves as an officer and Director of both University Management, Inc., and Columbus Deli, Inc (CDI), and is a founding member of SPFS. Ms. Bean serves as an advisor to the SPFS management team.
Director of Training & Development
Cory spent the first three years of his career as a manager of a successful fast food restaurant in the Tupelo, MS. In 1999, he joined the University Management team as the Assistant Manager of the Sweet Peppers Deli in Tupelo, MS. He worked in this location until January 2004, at which time he was promoted to his current position for Sweet Peppers Franchise Systems, LLC. He is currently responsible for opening franchise locations including new store set up, crew training, manager training and all fieldwork associated with existing corporate and franchise owned locations currently in operation.
Cory obtained his Bachelors of Science degree from Northwest Nazarene College in Nampo, Idaho. His Peppers favs are the Big Greek Hummus Salad and the Royale Cookie.
Arma de la Cruz
Director of Marketing
Arma joined the Eat With Us Group as Marketing Director in January 2009, after serving as Vice President of Tourism and Retirement Development for the Greater Starkville Development Partnership in Starkville, MS, for almost eight years. Although born in the Philippines, Arma was raised properly in the South.
She is a graduate of Mississippi State University and Mississippi University for Women. In 2005, she completed her Southeast Tourism Society Travel Marketing Professional Certification at North Georgia College and State University. Arma was awarded professionally and personally in 2007. Under her direction, the Starkville CVB was awarded the 2007 Governor’s Conference on Tourism "CVB of the Year" award and Arma was voted in the Starkville Daily News Community Poll as the "2007 Woman of the Year" as well as one of the "2007 Top 40 Under 40." She is a board member of the Mississippi Tourism Association and is also involved locally with Starkville Young Professionals, United Way and the Lions Club. De la Cruz’s two favorite Southern traditions are tailgating for the Mississippi State University Bulldogs and drinking sweet tea. Thus, she started the very first Sweet Tea Competition in Starkville and has conducted several other competitions all over the Southeast. At Peppers you can bet she's going to order the Southwestern Quesadilla and a Chocolate Chip Cookie.
A vital part of the Eat With Us Group and Sweet Peppers Franchise Systems, Meredith keeps business running smoothly. She began her employment in 2005. Her self-moniker, "Gal Monday through Friday," is appropriate for her work in processing daily sales packets, coding and inputting invoices, supply requisitioning, overseeing the guest recovery program and managing online gift card orders.
Meredith spends her leisure time gardening, cooking and spending time with family and friends. She attended Heritage Academy and Mississippi State University. When asked her top choice on the Peppers menu, she'll tell you the Shrimp Salad Scoop.
Human Resources Coordinator
The most recent addition to Eat With Us Group's corporate team is Lindsey Nicholson. She began in 2010. Lindsey handles all payroll, recruiting and direct billing functions.
She attended Mississippi State University, and her hobbies include yoga/pilates, watching reality TV and playing with her dogs. The Bacon Cheesy Tater is her Peppers pick.
A member of the team since 2000, Charlotte's responsibilities include financial reporting, budgeting, accounts payable, tax compliance, asset management and maintenance and vendor management. One of her favorite aspects of working at the Eat With Us Group and Columbus Deli Inc. is that it is a "small but large" company that has provided her with many challenges and rewards throughout the years.
Charlotte holds a BS degree in accounting from Mississippi University for Women and an MBA from Mississippi State University. She enjoys traveling the U.S., golf, reading, puzzles, camping and searching for wildlife. Chili is her meal of choice at Sweet Peppers Deli.
Corporate Chef, Matt Bronski, is originally from Detroit, MI. He attributes his inspiration for cooking to his mother who insisted the family eat together every night and enjoy home cooked meals. With that habit instilled from home and curiosity from a high school culinary class, Bronski developed his chef skills. He worked and trained under a European chef through the American Culinary Federation apprenticeship program and graduated with a Certified Cook Certificate and Associates Degree in 1992 from the Oakland Community College in Farmington, MI.
In order to balance out his creative side, Bronski pursed a bachelor’s degree in business at the Detroit College of Business in Warren, MI. During this time he continued to cook by competing in the Culinary Olympics in Europe. There he competed against 35 different countries and won gold in 1992 and silver in 1996 and 2000. Other accomplishments include achieving his Certified Executive Chef Certification.
Bronski has held various chef positions. Industries of experience include private clubs, hotel/conference centers, and casual and upscale restaurants as well as large volume feeding houses and off site catering. A move to Raleigh, NC, in 2003 resulted in the opening of Dry Aged Steakhouse followed by working back in the kitchen as Executive Chef with Chops Steakhouse. Further expanding his experience and diversity, Bronski delved into the sales industry working for Sysco Food Services, Live Nation and Reinhart Food Service.
Experience in the kitchen along with working with national manufacturing representatives, regional brokerage firms and other food service companies allows Bronski to fulfill the tasks at hand with the Eat With Us Group and Sweet Peppers Franchise Systems in order to enhance the level of business.