Leadership

Red Robin fills out C-suite with marketing, development chiefs

New CMO Kevin Mayer comes from BJ’s, while Chief Business Development Officer Jason Rusk has spent 25 years at Red Robin. The chain also hired an interim chief people officer.
Red Robin exterior
CEO G.J. Hart is continuing to put his imprint on Red Robin. / Photo: Shutterstock

Red Robin is appointing a new CMO, chief development officer and interim chief people officer as it continues to fill out its C-suite under new CEO G.J. Hart.

The new leaders are CMO Kevin Mayer, Chief Business Development Officer Jason Rusk and Interim Chief People Officer Mark Simpson.

Mayer joins the casual-dining chain after a brief stint as CMO of Pedego, an electric bike company. Before that, he spent nearly eight years as chief growth and brand officer of BJ’s Restaurants, helping it grow from a regional favorite to a national brand. The bulk of his experience is in automobile marketing, with stops at Volkswagen, GM, Subaru, Mitsubishi and Hyundai.

Rusk has been with Red Robin for more than 25 years, getting his start as a manager in 1997. He has spent the past 2.5 years as SVP of transformation and business development. In his new role, he’ll continue his work in a number of areas, including franchise development, culinary, off-premise, supply chain, real estate and restaurant growth. 

Simpson recently retired from Texas Roadhouse, where he was the longtime VP of Legendary People. He will take over for Red Robin’s former chief people officer, Wayne Davis, as the company searches for a permanent replacement. Davis is leaving effective May 1 to “pursue other personal and career interests.” 

The moves flesh out an executive team that as of last week was down to just three people: Hart, CFO Todd Wilson and Chief Legal Officer Sarah Mussetter. The chain has shed its COO, CIO and chief concept officer since Hart took over in September.

“I’m pleased to announce the addition of three talented leaders to Red Robin’s executive leadership team who will provide tremendous expertise to our organization as we continue to execute our strategic North Star growth plan,” Hart said in a statement. 

Hart was hired off of Red Robin’s board to help turn the chain around. His five-part North Star plan includes improvements to the chain’s food, labor model, marketing and operations. But some of the most immediate changes have come in the leadership ranks, where Hart has completely cleaned house after replacing former CEO Paul Murphy.

“With these crucial leadership positions in place, we are well-positioned to deliver on our goal to establish Red Robin as a most loved restaurant brand in the communities we serve and drive growth and value for our team members, partners and shareholders,” Hart said in a statement.

The 510-unit, Bloomfield, Colo.-based chain will soon share more about a new chief technology officer as well, he said.

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