CEOs as a rule don’t stick around in their jobs for long, but the amount of turnover in the restaurant business of late has been ridiculous.
With the firing of McDonald’s Steve Easterbrook and the upcoming retirement of Yum Brands’ Greg Creed, 11 of the 15 largest restaurant chains will start the year with CEOs who weren't there two years earlier.
Expand that list further and you find several other big-name chief executives who’ve left their jobs.
Here’s a look at some of the more notable recent departures.
The Yum Brands CEO is retiring at the end of the year, ceding the job to David Gibbs. He will be known for reorganizing the owner of Pizza Hut, KFC and Taco Bell into a franchise behemoth.
The Restaurant Brands International CEO who guided Burger King through its merger with Tim Hortons, and then its purchase of Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen, left early this year, handing the keys to Jose Cil. Schwartz had served as executive chairman, but now that title is gone, too, and he works for Restaurant Brands’ top shareholder, 3G Capital.
This is another example of a CEO leaving the way a CEO would want to leave. The former Domino’s chief executive stepped down last year, handing the reins to Ritch Allison after eight remarkably successful years.
The founder of Chipotle Mexican Grill helped popularize fast-casual restaurants and for a time inspired a gold rush of similar concepts. But a series of food safety problems in 2015 led to steep declines in sales. The chain’s weak recovery ultimately led him to step down two years ago. His successor, Brian Niccol, has righted the ship.
This is another way to go: Engineer a sale to a highly regarded company and then retire. Hudson, the longtime Sonic Corp. CEO, guided the chain through its sale to Arby’s owner Inspire Brands last year and then retired. Claudia San Pedro is now Sonic’s president.
The longtime Buffalo Wild Wings CEO announced her plans to step down in June 2017 after her company lost a battle with an activist investor. Investors panicked. The stock plunged. Smith then engineered a sale to Arby’s, leading to the creation of Inspire Brands. She then left on her own terms. As for the activist? Marcato Capital made a decent return before legal costs associated with the proxy were factored in, but bad bets in other areas led it to lose most of its assets.
John Schnatter and Steve Ritchie
Then there is Schnatter (pictured), who at one point was the chairman, CEO, largest shareholder and marketing persona for Louisville, Ky.-based Papa John’s. He then blamed NFL player protests for his chain’s sales problemsand stepped down in favor of Ritchie, his hand-picked lieutenant. Then Schnatter made a racial slur and ultimately lost all of the rest of his titles. Earlier this year, Ritchie left the company, handing the title to Rob Lynch.