Red Lobster promotes General Counsel Horace Dawson to CEO

The struggling chain has not had a permanent CEO since last April. Dawson has led its legal department since 2014.
Red Lobster sign
Red Lobster looked in-house for its next CEO. | Photo: Shutterstock

After nearly a year and a half without a permanent chief executive, Red Lobster has promoted EVP and General Counsel Horace Dawson to the role. 

Dawson has been in charge of legal affairs, communications, risk management and government relations at the seafood chain since 2014. He has 30 years of restaurant industry experience that has included general counsel roles at Darden Restaurants and Hard Rock Cafe. He has also worked for Telemundo and for New York City law firms.

Horace Dawson

Horace Dawson joined Red Lobster in 2014. | Photo courtesy of Red Lobster

"I am very excited to be stepping into the role of CEO for Red Lobster," Dawson said in a statement. "This is an important time for our brand. We are continuing to evolve our menu and guest experience to give our guests more of what they want every time they visit one of our restaurants." 

Along with the promotion, Dawson will join the chain's board, and interim CEO Paul Kenny will become board chairman.

Red Lobster's last permanent CEO was Kelli Valade, who left in April 2022 after less than a year to become CEO of Denny's. 

The 670-unit chain has struggled with falling traffic and rising costs. Thai Union Group, the Thailand-based seafood company that owns Red Lobster, said in February that it closed 16 locations in the last quarter of 2022. It was also reportedly working to renegotiate rents at some of its restaurants. But the company has said it’s determined to turn the ailing business around and has been investing more in marketing and promotions.

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