Brett Itterman

Chief Executive Officer

Brett Itterman serves as the Chief Executive Office of Pentex Restaurant Group. A graduate of North Dakota State University and Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management, he is responsible for the company’s management, operations and development. He is a member of Taco John’s Presidential Council and serves on the Board of Directors of the Association of Taco John’s Franchisees.

Prior to joining Pentex Restaurant Group he worked for Huron Consulting Group, United Health Group and MBA Building Supplies. Brett lives in Fargo with his wife, Katie, and their children; he enjoys skiing, hunting and spending time at the lake.

Damien Varela

Damien Varela

Chief Financial Officer

Damien Varela serves as the Chief Financial Officer of Pentex Restaurant Group. He is responsible for leading all financial aspects of the organization and driving profitable growth. Damien is a graduate of the University of Florida and Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management.

Prior to Pentex Restaurant Group, Damien spent 15 years with McDonald’s Corporation in a variety of financial and leadership roles. Damien lives in Fargo, ND and in his free time enjoys traveling, spending time with dogs and watching sports. 


Benjamin Anderson

Vice President Operations

Benjamin Anderson serves as the Vice President of Operations of Pentex Restaurant Group. He is responsible for leading the company’s operations and training, to deliver on the company values and create a people first environment.

Prior to joining Pentex Restaurant Group he worked for Caribou Coffee and Jamba Juice for over 20 years, in a variety of operations leadership roles throughout the country. Benjamin lives in Minneapolis with his wife, Jenna, and his four children and when he’s not at work you can often find him coaching a youth basketball team or driving to a violin or dance lesson for the kids.


Michael Tharp

Construction Operations Manager

Mike has worked in the construction industry since he was 16 years old, working for his uncles building hog confinements. Since then, he has done everything from finishing concrete to helping run $150 million multiyear projects. Mike was fortunate to play college football for the University of Wisconsin – Platteville prior to returning to the Quad Cities to start his construction management career.

When Mike is not working, he is spending time working on home improvement projects, gardening, hunting, and fishing. He has always had a passion for cooking and construction, so Pentex provides a great opportunity to combine the two and learn about the fast-paced restaurant industry. Mike really enjoys meeting and learning from new people within the industry from CEO’s to the men and women working in the trades and it is always exciting to see everyone work together to accomplish the goal of completing each individual project.

Mike currently resides in Milan Illinois with his finance Emilie, stepson Grayson and pets Margot and Clark.


Marcy Barrett

District Manager

Marcy Barrett is District Manager for Pentex’s MinnDak Taco John’s. She joined Pentex Restaurant Group in 1979; her experience began as team member and has included positions as General Manager and Quality and Service Lead. In 2015, Marcy was honored with Taco John’s Manager of the Year Award.

Marcy is a graduate of Northern State University. In her free time, she enjoys spending Sundays with her granddaughters.

Jason Locken

Jason Locken

District Manager

Jason Locken is the District Manager for Pentex’s HuHot Mongolian Grills. Jason started with Pentex in 2013. Jason has over 24 years of restaurant industry experience working with Ground Round, Green Mill and HuHot. He also holds degrees in both Accounting and Business.  Jason was the GM at our Bismarck, ND HuHot and was promoted to District Manager February 2020. 

The fast pace of the restaurant industry, working with people and helping them grow and become successful in life is what Jason likes best about his career.  In his spare time, Jason enjoys coaching youth football and serves as the President of Youth Football in Mandan, ND.  In addition, he is likes working out and spending time outdoors, fishing and biking and traveling for fun and his kids sporting activities.

Jason, his wife, Patty, children Dylan, Cierra, Paige, and Turner and their two dogs Jaxson and Jack reside in Mandan, ND.   


Irene Zinniel

District Manager

Irene Zinniel is District Manager for Pentex’s South Dakota Taco John’s. Irene joined the Pentex team in March 2021. Irene brings 25+ years of experience to the team, she started as a QSR assistant manager and then progressed into multi-unit management in the hospitality/restaurant/people industry overseeing up to 72 locations at a time. 

Irene currently lives in Sioux Falls SD. When she is not working, she is spending time with her 3 kids and 2 grandchildren. Irene also enjoys gardening, camping, and has a strong love for traveling.

Irene holds a degree from South Central College for Emergency Medicine where she spent 15 years as an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT).

Ron Steiner

Ron Steiner

District Manager

Ron Steiner is District Manager for Pentex’s Wisconsin Taco John’s.  Ron joined the Pentex team in June 2022 with over 20 years in the restaurant industry, including owning his own restaurant. Ron has a resume of building strong teams, amazing leaders, and creating a positive work environment. Ron has achieved multiple awards ranging from Manager of the Year, Restaurant of the Year, and District Manager of the Year.  Ron is very passionate about training and moving his team to the next level in their careers.

In his free time, Ron likes to attend all types of sporting events inside and out of the country.


Mindy LeBlanc

District Manager

Mindy LeBlanc is District Manager for Pentex’s Iowa Taco John’s. Mindy joined the Pentex team in June 2022, although it was a reunion to the Taco John’s brand as her first restaurant job at the age of 16 was at the Taco John’s in Sauk Rapids, MN. Mindy attended culinary school with an emphasis on Restaurant Management -studying the Le Cordon Bleu program under Chef Jay Thomas at St. Cloud Technical College.

After Culinary School, Mindy was Head Chef at two privately owned restaurants, where she worked coaching owners on how to eliminate added costs by recreating efficient menus and focusing on cross utilization of menu items, showing extreme savings to food costs while producing cost-effective recipes. After 20 years those recipes and menu items she helped create are still found at both restaurants.

Mindy worked as a General Manager/Multi-Unit manager for 9 years for a frozen yogurt franchise and was involved with opening 5 new locations for that QSR before taking on a District Manager role with a growing coffee business in 2018. In that DM role, she was leading 12 operations in the state of Iowa.

In Mindy’s spare time, she enjoys, cooking (creating new recipes) crafting, hunting for rocks, hiking, spending time with family, playing Frisbee with her rescue dog Gigi, and car riding with her pug, Mr. Pickles.


Michelle Millen

District Manager

Michelle Millen is District Manager for Pentex’s Missouri and Illinois Taco John’s. Michelle joined the Pentex team in October 2022. Michelle started as an assistant manager and then progressed into multi-unit management in the QSR industry. Along with her QSR operations leadership roles, she also spent time working in corporate franchising as a Franchise Business Consultant.

Michelle currently lives in Kansas City MO. (But escapes to Florida as often as she can) In her free time, Michelle enjoys spending time with her 3 kids and granddaughter. Michelle also enjoys shopping, thrifting, crafts, and interior decorating.


Michelle Uthe

Training and Support Operations Manager

Michelle Uthe serves as Pentex’s Taco John’s Training and Support Operations Manager. Michelle has been in the service industry for 35+ years. Her career started with OSI (Outback) where she spent the bulk of her career. Michelle is proud to say she worked in every single position, including dish & bussing, with the company working her way up to a corporate position. Michelle is so proud of watching staff she has hired or trained take on leadership roles or become GMs. Michelle loves what she does as it allows her to meet “new friends” every single day.

Michelle is a very Proud Iowa Hawkeye Alum (GO HAWKS), studying Business & Marketing. Michelle loves passing on how we use marketing in our everyday life.

Michelle enjoys spending time with her grandbabies, riding her Harley, and boating.