40 Under 40 2018 | Luke DeRouen

Arby’s has come a long way in the past four years, and Luke DeRouen was a driving force behind that evolution. Prior to his current role at Buffalo Wild Wings, DeRouen produced award-winning marketing programs for Arby’s that delivered on the business front — global sales rose 20% since 2013. 

His tongue-in-cheek approach has helped reenergize the fast-food chain after years of underperformance. Arby’s was often the butt of the joke on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, but rather than get defensive, DeRouen took a fun offensive stance with a witty tweet to Stewart when he announced his retirement: "Jon, feel free to reach out to us at careers@arbys.com" and followed with a thank you ad that ran on Stewart’s second-to-last episode. The approach was a slam dunk.

Just within the past year, DeRouen’s team executed a number of activations that upped the chain’s cultural relevance quotient. As an April Fools’ joke, Arby’s partnered with eyeglass brand Warby Parker to create WArby’s, a fusion concept between the two brands. WArby’s offered consumers merchandise and the opportunity to receive a free "onion ring monocle."

After Tiger Woods noted in his book that he ate at Arby’s every night during his historic win at the 1997 Masters, Arby’s celebrated his return to Augusta by reserving a table for the golfing great, just in case he wanted to relive that record-setting tournament. Arby’s celebrated the season finale of Game of Thrones by adding a giant smoked turkey leg to the menu for one day only in nine cities across the country that resembled the "kingdoms" found in the show.

DeRouen’s clever strategies keep people talking about the once-floundering brand and provide a ton of good will for the fast-food brand in the bargain.

This past summer, he moved into a new role with Buffalo Wild Wings, which was purchased by Arby’s in February. Both chains are part of newly-created parent company Inspire Brands.

- He developed a limited-edition Meat Sweats clothing line for the chain in reference to a phrase coined by Joey from Friends.

- After Arby’s found a strong overlap between its core guest customers and hunting, DeRouen lobbied successfully to make Arby’s the first fast-food brand to offer venison.

- He is an avid duck hunter.

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