- Red Lobster CEO Kelli Valade will resign from her position effective April 15, the company announced Monday. Valade joined Red Lobster in August.
- The company has begun a search for a new CEO and its executive team will work with the board of directors to maintain business continuity. Board member Paul Kenny will act as liaison between Red Lobster's leadership and the board during this transition.
- Valade joins a growing list of restaurant CEOs who have resigned within the last few months, including Gene Lee at Darden, Charles Morrison at Wingstop and Kevin Johnson at Starbucks.
During her time at the company, Valade developed a strategy that centered on Red Lobster's target diner and creating value for customers. She also expanded the restaurant's executive team by adding the newly created roles of CMO and CIO, and also recruited a new CFO. Valade, who has decades of restaurant industry experience, took the helm at the company following Kim Lopdrup's retirement. Lopdrup led the company for 14 years.
"We've accomplished a lot in a short period of time, including building a great leadership team that alongside the board will carry the business forward to achieve our vision," Valade said in the press release. "This was an incredibly difficult, but necessary, decision."
Changing chief executives less than a year after Valade's entry could disrupt the company's recovery, especially since Valade was instrumental in bringing on several top executives. Valade won't be able to see through her pivots to the company, either, which means Red Lobster will be leaning on its newest executives to maintain its strategy. It is also possible the company's future CEO could scrap Valade's plans to create a new ones, which could further strain the restaurant. Red Lobster was hit particularly hard in 2020 alongside other full-service chains. It has also been facing rising seafood prices and supply chain issues.
The full-service chain is also facing criticism regarding a lack of access to consistent sick leave among its store employees. Some Red Lobster workers told Business Insider in January that managers forced them to work while sick if the employees couldn't find someone to take over their shifts. Only 12% of Red Lobster staff said they had access to paid sick leave, according to a fall 2021 survey by Harvard University's Shift Project. Red Lobster said its PTO policies are consistent with the industry and most of its hourly workforce has flexible scheduling.