From WHS to CEO

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When he was a teenager growing up in Waterloo, David Hoffmann’s first job was stuffing inserts for the Republic-Times newspaper on Saturdays.

He soon moved on to work at John’s Tavern – now JV’s Downtown Bar & Grill – and then worked at McDonald’s in south St. Louis County. 

From those humble beginnings, Hoffman has risen to become the CEO of Dunkin’ Brands and President of Dunkin’ U.S.

He said his early jobs helped prepare him for that role.  

“They were all great, and I learned a lot of life skills like hard work, being on time, having a service-first attitude and always presenting myself with professionalism and pride,” Hoffman said. 

Hoffmann’s family moved to Waterloo in the 1940s. 

His father, Lee, worked at a marine and automotive company in Fenton, Mo. His mother, Grace, was active in the community, volunteering with the Red Cross, PTA and Cub Scouts. 

Hoffmann said his childhood was “amazing.” 

“I wouldn’t trade it for anything,” he said. “I absolutely loved it. And I continue to feel at home and at peace when I return. My only regret was not working harder at maintaining the friendships and relationships.” 

Hoffmann came up through the Waterloo school system, attending Zahnow Elementary School and Waterloo Junior High School before graduating from Waterloo High School in 1986. 

While at WHS, Hoffman was a member of the student council, golf team, baseball team and participated in Boys State with the American Legion.

He said his favorite part of high school was the friends and connections he made along the way, highlighting his appreciation for his teachers.   

After spending the first 18 years of his life in Waterloo, Hoffmann went to Indiana University and earned a bachelor’s in accounting. 

He then went to work for Arthur Andersen, an accounting company based in Chicago. While there, he became a certified personal accountant.  

After working there for four years, Hoffmann went back to school at the University of Chicago and obtained his Master of Business Administration. 

He then returned to McDonald’s, rising through the ranks in his 22 years with the company.

Two of his highest positions were as president of high growth markets and president of McDonald’s Asia Pacific Middle East Africa. 

In that former position, Hoffman supervised markets that included China, South Korea, Russia and other European markets. In the latter job, he oversaw 8,900 restaurants across 37 countries. 

“I have been blessed to be able to see the world and experience the rich diversity of its different people and cultures, all while selling burgers and fries and now, coffee, doughnuts and ice cream,” Hoffmann said. 

In October 2016, Hoffmann became President of Dunkin’ U.S. In that role, he oversaw all operations, marketing and development for Dunkin’ Donuts in this country. 

“I love it,” Hoffmann said of his job. “I love the culture, employees, franchises and suppliers of the two brands. They both have such great heritage, nostalgia and tremendous customer loyalty.” 

About two years later, Hoffman was promoted to CEO of Dunkin’ Brands, which extended his responsibilities to include Baskin-Robbins and the international businesses of both brands. 

“I never thought about my next role,” Hoffmann noted. “It was always about keeping my head down and being successful, doing the best I could, developing talent and trying to make a difference in my current position. I worked for two companies that focused on and rewarded that type of behavior.” 

Although his career has taken him across the globe, Hoffman still frequently visits this area to see family, who he thanked for being there for him and supporting him through his life. 

He also credits the community with helping to make him the leader he is. 

“I’ve always felt that my time in Waterloo and Monroe County taught me the value of hard work and perseverance, but also maintaining a sense of humility,” Hoffman said. “I believe Waterloo and the surrounding towns are filled with warm, caring people, and I always tried to emulate that kindness with the people I dealt with in business and in the restaurants. 

“No matter the uniform or the suit, I could relate, and I believe I developed that growing up in Monroe County. Good people with good values; that’s always been Waterloo.”

Now, the community is honoring Hoffmann by inducting him as part of the sixth class for the WHS Legacy Wall.

An open house, which Hoffman plans to attend, will be held to honor that class tomorrow from 6:30-8 p.m. in the WHS foyer outside the auditorium.

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