TGI Fridays bolsters C-suite with two new execs

The former CEO of Via 313 Pizzeria is named U.S. president and COO; and the former COO of Papa Murphy's becomes CFO and president of international for the casual dining brand.
TGI Fridays
The 700-unit chain is in the midst of a brand revitalization effort. | Photo: Shutterstock.

TGI Fridays on Wednesday brought two new executives to its leadership team, just months after naming its second CEO in a year.

Ray Risley, the former CEO of Via 313 Pizzeria, was named U.S. president and COO, overseeing both company owned and franchised domestic units.

In addition, Nik Rupp, the former COO of Papa Murphy’s International, has been appointed to the role of CFO and president of international. The 700-unit chain has more international units (381 in 51 countries) than domestic.

The moves come just months after Weldon Spangler was named CEO of the Dallas-based casual dining chain in October, replacing Brandon Coleman, who had taken the helm in August, only to step down weeks later for personal reasons. Spangler was a Fridays board member with three decades of restaurant chain experience, including serving for a couple of years as CEO at Papa Murphy’s.

Coleman had begun a revitalization plan for the 700-unit chain that Spangler planned to continue. This year, for example, the chain has rolled out some menu refresh efforts, like a new bar menu for the holiday season and a revamped appetizers menu, and the loyalty program was tweaked to allow guests to earn more “everyday rewards.”

In a statement, Spangler said, “We have a significant opportunity to lead this much-loved, heritage brand through a revitalized new chapter, and by bringing on Ray and Nik to our leadership team, we are confident in what we can accomplish in the coming year.

“Not only do Ray and Nik have tremendous experience in the restaurant industry that will drive growth for our brand and our franchisees, but their enthusiasm and passion for TGI Fridays will also become a cornerstone to our vision for the company,” he added.

At Via 313, Risley doubled the number of units for that brand and positioned the pizza chain for further expansion, the company said. Before that, he was president and COO of Front Burner Society, where he helped grow the Whiskey Cake Kitchen and Bar concept. He also spent about two decades in leadership roles at Del Frisco’s Restaurant Group Inc., serving most recently as president of Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steakhouse.

Rupp, meanwhile, will lead Fridays’ financial strategy and focus on growth, managing relationships with international franchisees. He previously served as COO of Papa Murphy’s, where he was CFO before that. His resume also includes leadership stints at the retail companies Specialized, Nike and Converse.

Fridays systemwide sales topped $1.6 billion in 2022 with U.S. sales up 8% over 2019, the company said. Last year, the company signed its “most significant” deal, which included an agreement for 75 new franchised units in South and Southeast Asia over the next decade, which the company said represented about $500 million in revenue.

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