G.J. Hart wasted no time making changes at Red Robin.
The 520-unit burger chain on Monday announced a slew of leadership moves, including a new CFO and chief legal officer and the departure of its CIO and chief concept officer, setting the stage for an almost entirely revamped C-suite under Hart, who took the reins last month.
Here are the changes:
- Todd Wilson will be the chain’s new CFO as of Nov. 7, replacing Lynn Schwienfurth, who is retiring.
- Sarah Mussetter is making her return to the company as chief legal officer after departing last year. She replaces Michael Kaplan, who left recently for another job.
- Chief Information Officer Darla Morse and Chief Concept Officer Jonathan Muhta are leaving to “pursue other career and personal interests.”
With the various hires and departures, five of Red Robin’s seven executive positions will have changed hands since the retirement of former CEO Paul Murphy last month.
Remaining from the former regime are COO Michael Buchmeier and Chief People Officer Wayne Davis. Murphy continues to be involved as an adviser to Hart.
“Since becoming CEO in early September, my focus has been to build upon the foundation that has been laid so we can best fulfill our brand promise and deliver a differentiated restaurant experience to our guests,” Hart said in a statement. “I believe both Todd and Sarah bring abundant experience and expertise to help us achieve these objectives.”
Wilson was most recently CFO of Hopdoddy Burger Bar from 2018 to 2022. Prior to that, he held finance leadership positions at Jamba, Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse and Carrabba’s Italian Grill.
He replaces Scweinfurth, who had been with the company since January 2019. Her nearly 30-year restaurant career has included stops at Pizza Hut, Yum Brands, Brinker International and Fiesta Restaurant Group.
“We express our sincere appreciation to Lynn and all of her work and dedication through some of the most challenging periods of our brand history,” Hart said. “During her tenure, we transitioned to a new CEO in Paul Murphy, dealt with the challenges of COVID-19, and most notably, established a new credit facility.”
Mussetter returns to Red Robin after a brief stint at technology company Skillsoft. Before that, she had been with Red Robin for 10 years as associate general counsel and then VP, deputy general counsel.
She’ll start Dec. 5, with Jeff Hoban continuing to serve as interim chief legal officer until then.
Mussetter’s predecessor, Kaplan, had been with Red Robin for more than nine years. He is now SVP and general counsel of home construction company MDC Holdings, according to his LinkedIn.
Morse joined Red Robin last April, while Muhtar had been with the chain for nearly seven years, first as CMO and then as chief concept officer.
Technology VP Deena DePhillips will lead the IT department while the company searches for a new CIO. Amy Woolen, VP of marketing and brand engagement, will be in charge of marketing until a new CMO is named.
Hart thanked Morse and Muhtar for their contributions, noting Morse helped launch a new app and scheduling platform and that Muhtar led menu innovations, LTOs and the chain’s large loyalty program, Red Robin Royalty.
“We wish them both well as they transition to new opportunities,” Hart said.
Hart has experience leading restaurant brands through periods of transition. He helped more than double Torchy's footprint after joining the chain in 2018, led improvements at California Pizza Kitchen and steered Texas Roadhouse through its initial public offering in 2004 as president.
He inherits a chain that has been slower than others to rebound from the pandemic. Sales last year remained down 10% compared to 2019. More recently, it has struggled with sales and traffic slowdowns and high commodity costs, much like many of its casual-dining counterparts.
Red Robin will report third-quarter results Wednesday. It will be the chain’s first earnings report with Hart at the helm.
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