- Brinker International CEO Wyman Roberts (pictured above left) will retire on June 5, the company said on Monday. He will serve in an advisory role for 12 months as part of the company’s succession plan. Roberts served as CEO since January 2013 and has held various roles at Brinker since August 2005.
- KFC U.S President and Chief Concept Officer Kevin Hochman (pictured above right) has been appointed as president, CEO and member of the board for Brinker International effective June 6. KFC Division President Dyke Shipp will oversee the KFC U.S. business until his replacement is appointed, Yum Brands said on Monday.
- Roberts joins a growing list of CEOs that have announced retirements within the last six months, including Gene Lee at Darden, Ritch Allison at Domino’s, Kevin Johnson at Starbucks and John Miller at Denny’s.
Hochman will take over Brinker as the company expands its technological emphasis, which includes testing drone delivery. The company is also upgrading kitchen technology for the first time in 10 years and testing more efficient equipment. Brinker has fully implemented its service model, which includes both handheld tech for waiters and food runners, executives said during the company’s Q3 2022 earnings call in May. It’s also expanding its partnership with Bear Robotics to bring its Rita the Robot to 51 more Chili’s restaurants. This robot leads guests to tables, runs food and sings a birthday song to guests.
Brinker is also expanding through virtual kitchens, and opened an off-premise-only kitchen in Manhattan in February to deliver items from Chili’s and It’s Just Wings. The company plans to open more of these units, which will be about 1,500 to 1,800 square feet, in areas near college campuses in the future. It’s Just Wings, a virtual concept it started in 2020, became a $170 million business within its first year.
Brinker’s same-store sales and revenue improved after declining during the pandemic. Chili’s same-store sales were up 10.3% during fiscal Q3 2022 compared to the year-ago quarter, while Maggiano’s same-store sales were up 50.5%, according to an earnings release. Overall company revenue is up 18.3% to $980.4 million during fiscal Q3 2022 compared to $828.4 million in the year-ago quarter.
"I've been very impressed with our operations and technology and see huge potential for growing our iconic Chili's and Maggiano's brands,” Hochman said in the press release. “I look forward to working with our Brinker team to accelerate growth by creating lasting and more frequent connections with our Guests and Team Members."
In addition to his position at KFC U.S., which he held since March 2017, Hochman served concurrently as Pizza Hut's U.S. president from December 2019 to January 2022. During his time at KFC, Hochman oversaw a move into urban locations, a redesign that features new back-of-house equipment and the deployment of digital drive-thru boards. At Pizza Hut, he oversaw the rollout of drive-thru lanes for digital order pickup, dubbed The Hut Lane. He also served as CMO at KFC U.S. for about three years.