Emerging chains are snapping up restaurant executives with big chain pedigrees as these c-suiters seek new challenges with well-capitalized young concepts. It’s a strategic move for scrappy upstart concepts, bringing on big-league talent with comprehensive experience, extensive LinkedIn contacts and track records of growth. And for the veteran execs, shifting to an emerging brand can give them the business control they might have lacked at a Top 100 concept.
Here are some such moves that happened in just the past several weeks:
- Maxwell Piet, formerly of The Meatball Shop, Ruby Tuesday and Darden Restaurants, was named CEO of deli concept TooJay’s.
- Peter D’Amelio of The Cheesecake Factory and Cooper’s Hawk became the first president of casual-dining chain Not Your Average Joe’s.
- Daniel del Olmo, former president of DineEquity’s international division, was named CEO of SBE Group’s Disruptive Restaurant Group and Umami Burger.
- Denyelle Bruno, who has worked with both Drybar and Apple Stores, was named president of fast casual Tender Greens.
Looking to grow
“For myself, the opportunity to get on board of something on the ground floor and take it and grow it and evolve it and bring on my own team, that excited me,” says Jeffrey Carcara, CEO of Barteca Restaurant Group. Carcara joined Barteca (parent company of the emerging Bartaco chain) in 2015, after working for Seasons 52 and Del Frisco’s Restaurant Group.
“It’s a little bit more entrepreneurial,” he says. “The opportunity to work with founders is enticing.”
Tender Greens, which is launching an aggressive expansion after securing a minority investment from Union Square Hospitality Group in 2015, specifically sought out an executive who had taken “other like-minded brands from where we’re at right now to where we’d like to go,” says Erik Oberholtzer, the chain’s co-founder and CEO.
“It’s important to have that track record of success and that playbook to refer back to as we navigate the challenges ahead,” Oberholtzer says.
Adding to the knowledge coffer
As it ramps up, Tender Greens looked for a leader with experience in choosing real estate as well as someone who would lend confidence and credibility to their decision-making process.
“Me and my partners, this is the first time we’re doing this and we’re way outside of our comfort zone,” Oberholtzer says.
Having a board packed with chain vets is also helpful to emerging concepts, he says. “As brands form their boards, it’s important those boards are strategic and not just watching their investment.”
As an executive moving from a big brand to a growing concept, Carcara feels a renewed energy in his work—which translates, he says, into his day-to-day operations. “I’ve been in the business 30 years,” he says. “You never stop learning, but sometimes that learning curve slows. I’ve felt like a new student again.”