Director of Operations, East Coast

Burlington, NJ /
Operations /
Who we are:

Founded in 2013, Thistle is an early-stage food-tech startup empowering our customers to get and stay healthy while improving the sustainability of our food system. We deliver delicious, organic, healthy, plant-forward meals, cold-pressed juices, and snacks to customers on the West Coast who want to put their nutrition on auto-pilot.

We don’t want to be just another food delivery startup. Our focus is on the health and happiness of our customers, and we are revolutionizing how fresh, nutritious, high-quality food is purchased, manufactured, and delivered at scale. Thistle is a remote-first company with much of the team based in the Bay Area. We are backed by some fantastic investors who have joined us on our journey to fundamentally change how food is designed, prepared, and distributed to improve human and planetary health. Our goal is to build a business that lasts for decades, taking a long-term approach over easy, short-term wins. We’ve invested in our team, business, and infrastructure for almost eight years and have laid the foundation for thoughtful expansion through culture and product that instills pride in all involved.

About the Role:

Reporting directly to the CEO, the Director of Operations' primary responsibilities include the daily management and coordination of plant and fulfillment operations while ensuring profitability of operations and compliance with all labor, safety, environmental and corporate policies, and regulations. This position oversees all activities related to plant operations, namely: food prep, cooking, production(plate and pack operations), warehouse, and sanitation. You will be responsible for product quality, labor efficiency, ingredient costs, food safety, workplace safety, regulatory compliance, and employee development. You will lead a team of over 200 employees. 

We are looking for a proven leader with deep operational experience in food manufacturing at scale. You should be data- and process-driven, able to thrive in a fast-paced, dynamic environment, and an empathetic servant leader with experience building and scaling large teams and bringing operations to the highest levels of food safety, employee safety, and operational efficiency. This role is a key link between our team on the ground and company leadership, providing steadfast and motivating leadership to our front-line employees while ensuring efficient communications between plant departments, cross-functional partners, and the exec team. 

This is not a desk job - we are looking for hands-on candidates who enjoy getting in the trenches with the team and understanding the challenges they face, identifying opportunities, and working to thoroughly oversee the implementation of new practices and initiatives. If you are results-driven, people-focused, and supportive in your approach to operations, this role offers the opportunity to build a future for yourself and make a tremendous impact. 

This role is on-site, based in Burlington, NJ.  

What you'll do:


    • Work with organizational leadership to devise the annual plan and budget based on company goals and objectives
    • Define OKRs and strategic plan for key initiatives, including the setting of meaningful metrics(COGS drivers, efficiency, waste, etc) for reporting, meeting operational and financial goals, and communicating goals and progress against them to the team
    • Work with team toplan, organize resources, monitor production and quality, coordinate priorities, resolve issues, and participate in special projects 
    • Build capacity for future growth, including people, process, equipment, and tools 
    • Help define and lead the execution of facilities improvement projects, including build outs and equipment automation
    • Recommend and implement continuous improvement initiatives in order to increase quality, efficiency, and safety 
    • Analyze and control plant expenditures to ensure conformity with budgetary requirements
    • Ensure site compliance to all labor, safety, and environmental regulations
    • Work with R&D to develop new product launch strategies 
    • Instill a data-driven culture that rigorously measures key operational metrics and set and meet targets that represent the highest standard of delivery performance/quality, efficiency, and workplace safety
    • Support the strategy and execution of fulfillment operations and our fleet of drivers, dispatchers, and logistics managers


    • Lead, supervise, and monitor the execution of all plant production activities, including receiving, prep, cook, plate, pack, and warehouse operations, to ensure the safe and efficient operation of people, equipment, and facilities
    • Plan, organize, implement, and monitors work schedules and external suppliers consistent with plant needs, production volume, and growth forecasts
    • Rigorously measure operational metrics and KPIs and build a data-driven culture of high performance, accountability, quality, and food/workplace safety in operations
    • Ensure effective preventive maintenance and repair of all material handling systems and equipment to minimize downtime
    • Analyze problems in the production chain, identify their root cause, and establish procedures to reduce or eliminate them
    • Ensure production schedules are met in a timely, efficient, and safe manner
    • Ensure that Health and Safety requirements are being met by supporting and participating in regular Health & Safety meetings
    • Provide support to internal and external audits; assist the QA Director in ensuring proper team member training, compliance, and enforcement of all company policies including food safety, GMPs, SOPs, SSOPs, HACCP, and all local, state, and federal laws
    • Travel frequently to distribution centers and cross-dock locations throughout the East Coast; be a visible leader and the personification of our Core Values for our teams in all geographies
    • Ensure compliance with Company policies, as well as all Federal, State, and Local Employment laws and OSHA regulations

People Management

    • Lead a diverse supervisory and management team, creating top-down transparency, alignment, and accountability by regularly sharing goals, vision, and progress, holding appropriate trainings, communicating clear objectives and expectations, and providing appropriate coaching, mentorship, and feedback along the way
    • Foster a culture of inclusion, high performance, accountability, and safety; ensure appropriate team recognition and support learning opportunities for all employees by modeling behavior in line with company Core Values
    • Ensure all direct reports and entire plant management team is held to high expectations for driving employee engagement and retention, ensuring great people management cascades down to all levels of leadership
    • Participate in regular reviews of organizational structure and headcount planning, and lead performance, talent, and compensation review processes for plant teams
    • In partnership with QA and People Operations team, ensure sufficient training programs are in place for all new and existing employees
    • In partnership with People Operations team, ensure regular monitoring of key people-related metrics such as turnover and retention, keep key stakeholders informed, and allow this data to inform decisions around relevant policies, programs and practices
    • Collaborate with our People Operations team to continuously reevaluate and improve how we recruit, onboard, schedule, and retain with our driver teammates to meet the demands of our growing business, including cost and quality goals
    • Recruit and build a great team; coach, develop, and monitor performance; ensure that reports have active growth plans, have access to strong coaching, and are given regular feedback to support their career progression

What you'll bring

    • 10+ years in manufacturing operations, with 7+ years or more in food manufacturing(preferably fresh / perishables)
    • 7+ years of people/team management experience, with demonstrated experience leading large teams(200+)
    • Bachelor's Degree in an applicable discipline preferred(i.e. Business, Industrial Management, Engineering, Food Science, Management, Operations)
    • Strong leadership skills with proven ability to motivate people, assess and develop employee skills, provide support, communication, direction, and feedback(positive and negative) to direct reports and employees at all levels of the organization
    • A proven track record of building new systems and scaling for rapid growth, including making sure the right people are in the right seats, the right processes and trainings are in place, and the right equipment and tools have landed 
    • Excellent planning and organizational skills, with the ability to balance production and maintenance needs
    • Previous experience/strong understanding of budgeting/expense management with a basic understanding of financial and accounting practices
    • Previous experience/broad understanding of safety systems and enforcement of safety rules and policies
    • Ability to set, work towards, and achieve aggressive COGS driver and KPI goals
    • Proven track record of continuous improvement successes and efficiencies, familiar with lean manufacturing principles including 5-S, Kaizen, Six Sigma, and Root Cause Analysis
    • Tech savviness; comfort with data analysis and proficiency in Excel / Google Sheets 
    • Strong knowledge of OSHA/HACCP/GMP/SSOP/FDA/3rd party GSF/Food Safetywith experience in the SQF or BRC certification journey

Who you are

    • A high EQ, people-first leader and an executor: you successfully set strategy & influence peers while also being able to translate that vision into actionable plans with clear goals, timelines, and accountability
    • An excellent verbal and written communicator displaying clarity, confidence, and empathy(bonus for working with digital mediums to communicate internally and cross-functionally)
    • Proactive, self-starter, resilient, and goal-oriented; able to work effectively under pressure with high energy and proactive style, embodies a sense of urgency in all facets of the job
    • Ability to analyze, priority plan, multi-function, and manage time effectively
    • Ability to effectively work with, lead, and facilitate cross-functional teams
    • Highly responsive to team needs willing to work outside of normal business hours and be on the floor motivating the team as needed(note this is not a 9a-5p job — we operate around the clock with high weekend volume)
    • Flexible with the ability to adapt to changing organizational and operational needs and leading others through change or difficult periods
    • Conversational in both English and Spanish(preferred but not required)

Life at Thistle

    • Join a diverse, passionate & driven team of all backgrounds
    • Delicious & nutritious meals, snacks & juice to help keep you feeling healthy and energized
    • Casual work environment
    • Fun team outings(BBQs, happy hours, etc.)
    • Comprehensive health benefits(medical, dental, vision, 401K) to fit your needs
    • Flexible vacation & sick policy
    • Competitive salary & equity package
Diversity, equity, and inclusion are essential values at Thistle. We know we do our best and most impactful work when we feel we are represented and belong. We're proud to actively recruit and hire talented people from a wide variety of backgrounds and experiences. We do not discriminate based on race, religion, color, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, age, marital status, veteran status, or disability status.