Coming from a high school in Illinois to enroll at UT was the first step toward a college experience that would shape the future of Rick Federico (’76), who today is board chairman and CEO for P. F. Chang Brands Inc.—a global company that produces $1.3 billion in annual revenue.
Believing he would end up in law school, Federico began pursuing a degree in sociology. When not in class, Federico worked at Steak and Ale as a cook, bartender, and server. He met two successful Knoxville restaurateurs, Bill Regas and Mike Connor, who became influential mentors and eventual partners in Federico’s career path in the restaurant industry following graduation. Law school was no longer in the cards.
“I have chosen in my career to surround myself with great business minds,” Federico says. “I complement the team with my understanding of consumers, what they are looking for and how to deliver it to them.”
Today, in his leadership of P. F. Chang Brands, Federico oversees a corporation that includes the 211 P. F. Chang’s restaurants and 182 Pei Wei Asian Diner restaurants around the world, as well as the P. F. Chang’s Home Menu line of products.
Federico says his time at the college was instrumental in his life and career, helping him develop critical and creative thinking skills. But most importantly: UT is the place where he met his wife of thirty-six years.