Dan Accordino, who guided Carrols Restaurant Group through a corporate split, massive growth and then a brutal pandemic, is retiring as the big Burger King franchisee’s chairman and CEO, the company said on Thursday.
The move will be effective June 30, 2022. The Syracuse, N.Y.-based company said it has hired a top executive search firm to look for his replacement.
The 71-year-old Accordino’s retirement will end a long and active career. He has been the company’s CEO since 2012 and was its president and chief operating officer between 1993 and 2011. He has worked with the company since 1972, when it was a regional restaurant chain based in Syracuse. It would begin buying Burger King locations three years later.
“With Carrols well positioned for continued success, I believe now is the right time, both for me and for Carrols, to begin a transition to the next generation of leadership,” Accordino said in a statement.
He will leave behind one of the biggest restaurant franchisees in the U.S., one built with years of acquisitions of both smaller operators and larger ones.
Accordino became CEO in 2012, the year it spun off what is now Fiesta Restaurant Group, which owned both the Pollo Tropical and Taco Cabana chains, though it has since sold the latter concept. That year, the company engineered a unique deal with its franchisor, Burger King, that gave it the right to buy any location in that brand that was put up for sale in several states.
That right, along with a massive deal to acquire locations from Burger King, helped fuel incredible growth in the years since then. It grew to more than 1,000 Burger King locations and more recently had been getting into the Popeyes business. Carrols is Burger King’s largest franchisee and one of the largest franchisees of any kind in the U.S., generating about $1.5 billion in sales a year.
Yet the company ran into some debt problems going into the pandemic and gave up that right while it also cut back on its rate of acquisitions and remodels. Carrols turned its profitability around since, however, and has started buying restaurants again.
That hasn’t helped the company’s stock, which is down by more than a third this year. Questions about the company’s debt and its stock price weakness prompted Accordino to go on a vigorous defense of the business. “We certainly believe our current stock price doesn’t reflect our current level of free-cash-flow generation,” he said back in March.
“Dan has been instrumental in helping transform Carrols from a regional quick-service restaurant chain to the largest Burger King franchisee in the United States,” Carrols board member David Harris said in a statement. He said the board is “committed to finding a world-class successor.”