Shake Shack names Rob Lynch CEO

The fast-casual burger chain is plucking the Papa Johns chief executive to take over for Randy Garutti in May. Ravi Thanawala will become the pizza chain’s interim CEO.
Shake Shack
Shake Shack is hiring Papa Johns' Rob Lynch to be its new CEO. | Photo: Shutterstock.

Shake Shack on Thursday said that it has hired Rob Lynch away from Papa Johns to be its next CEO.

The fast-casual burger chain has been looking for a successor to Randy Garutti, who announced his retirement late last year. Lynch will take over management of the New York-based Shake Shack on May 20.

Papa Johns said that CFO Ravi Thanawala would be interim CEO as the pizza chain looks for Lynch’s replacement.

Shake Shack cited Lynch’s track record with Papa Johns in the decision. Lynch took over as Papa Johns CEO in 2019 and guided the company to its recovery from a brutal sales slump following controversial comments by its founder and longtime chairman John Schnatter.

“Rob’s appointment as CEO marks the beginning of our next chapter of growth as we seek to further elevate Shake Shack as a leading global brand,” Danny Meyer, Shake Shake’s founder and chairman, said in a statement.

Garutti guided Shake Shack from its early days as a New York City phenomenon through its 2015 IPO. The company generated just under $1.1 billion in revenue last year, up 21% over 2022.

Under Lynch, Papa Johns reversed its sales trends, largely through innovation. The company used new products such as stuffed crust pizza to win over consumers looking for something more in their pizza concepts.

The company used third-party delivery services to great effect, enabling the company to weather pre-pandemic difficulties and then during a brutal driver shortage in 2021 and 2022. Papa Johns was gearing to generate stronger sales later in the year, thanks to an agreement with franchisees to increase their marketing fund contributions.

The company also created an incentive program designed to spur unit development in the U.S.

“This was an incredibly difficult decision for me, as I see all of the upside potential that exists for this great company,” Lynch said in a statement. “That being said, I feel good about this decision, knowing that Papa Johns is very well positioned for both the short and long term.”

For Shake Shack, the appointment of Lynch signals a new era. The company had been led by Garutti for just about its entire history. His task will be to take a popular brand founded by one of the industry’s most revered figures in Meyer and guide it to the next level.

“Shake Shack is special in the restaurant space,” Lynch said. “I love the food, the thoughtful Shack designs and the soul of the brand.”

Thanawala was named Papa Johns CFO last year after having served in that position for Nike North America. Papa Johns said that Lynch will serve as an advisor with the company until April 30 as the company searches for his replacement.

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