gladys-declouet_web.jpgGladys DeClouet is taking her career in the fast-food industry to the next level.

DeClouet, 50, was recently named Burger King's senior vice president of North America Company Operations, where she will be responsible for all operations and profits of company-owned restaurants in the United States and Canada. She will also oversee Burger King's re-imaging efforts as the company strives to increase customer traffic.

DeClouet, a Jacksonville native, said she is ready to tackle the new role. "[Burger King] is entering a new growth stage which is very exciting," she said.

Burger King North America President Chuck Fallon said DeClouet is an asset to the Miami-based company. "Gladys' strong operations and finance  background will ensure that our restaurants continue to grow. We are excited to add Gladys to our executive team and we are proud to embrace her as part of our Burger King family." 

DeClouet, who recently relocated from San Diego to Miami, is no stranger to boosting profits in the fast-food restaurant business. For nearly a decade, DeClouet worked for Jack in the Box, Inc., a California-based restaurant chain where she started out as Regional Vice President for the Los Angeles area and oversaw the opening of 100 new restaurants in 18 months, with double-digit sales increases.

A year later, she was promoted to vice president of operations, where she was responsible for 900 restaurants, 70 company-owned convenience store locations and $1.8 billion in sales. During her tenure, profits climbed significantly each year.

 "I accomplished a lot in those nine years," DeClouet said. 

 DeClouet, who earned her mechanical engineering degree at Tuskegee University, started her career in the oil industry in 1979 when she was a reservoir and production engineer for Conoco, Inc.

She designed and supervised the installation of two offshore production facilities and negotiated reserve sharing agreements with competing companies, among other duties.

Donning work boots, DeClouet was often the lone female as she flew helicopters and worked on dirt barges along the Gulf of Mexico. Being a black woman in a male-dominated field was tough, she said. 

"I had two strikes against me," DeClouet said. "I was a pioneer in the truest sense of the word. There were no women out there. We were not wanted. It was a constant battle to prove myself."

 After spending five years working at Conoco, she earned her master's degree in finance and investment banking at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, one of the nation's top business schools. She then went to work for British Petroleum (BP) Oil Company, where she eventually was promoted to Marketing Division Manager. There, she was responsible for $500 million in annual sales through the company's convenience stores. In the mid-1990s, BP was one of the first companies to combine gas stations with convenience stores.

"BP was the leader in the U.S. with having convenience stores in gas stations," DeClouet said, adding that the experience paved the way for her to enter the fast-food industry.

Throughout her career, DeClouet has learned to balance work and home life. The key to raising a family while achieving career goals is staying organized, said DeClouet, who has a close relationship with her daughter, Jeanne-Marie, 25, and son Bradford, 19.

"It's all about putting together a schedule, learning to manage it and sticking to it," she said.
Prior to accepting her position at Burger King, DeClouet took a year off to relax and spend time with her son, who attends college in San Diego. The hiatus was a great way to recharge for her new role, she said.

 "I needed to stop and smell the roses for awhile," she said. "But I'm not ready to stop yet."

Photo: Gladys DeClouet