Rick Van Warner has been named CEO of Tijuana Flats, the 135-unit fast-casual Mexican chain.
Van Warner had been serving as interim CEO since March and has been a director of the regional chain for more than a decade. His involvement with the brand began in 2001, working with the concept’s founders as a consultant. He was also a joint-venture partner in a single store.
Before being named interim CEO, Van Warner ran The Parquet Group, a restaurant consulting firm, and Parquet Crisis Management, a crisis management concern.
Earlier, he served in a senior management position for Darden Restaurants, the parent of Olive Garden, The Capital Grille and LongHorn Steakhouse. Van Warner came to that position after serving for a number of years as the editor of Nation’s Restaurant News.
Van Warner says his mission as CEO “is pretty simple.” He cites three imperatives:
- “Getting the obstacles out of the way of providing great service and a great guest experience.”
- “Getting the right people in the right spots, so we really engage with guests and each other.”
- “Refreshing the brand to make sure to remind people we’re here and what we’re all about.”
Tijuana Flats was started in 1995 by Brian Wheeler. Its restaurants are located in Florida, Georgia, Indiana, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia.