- Red Robin has hired G.J. Hart as its president and CEO, effective Sept. 6, the company announced Thursday. Hart has served on Red Robin’s board since August 2019 and will continue to be a member of a board alongside his two new roles.
- Hart most recently served as CEO at fast casual chain Torchy’s Tacos from 2018 to 2021. Hart announced he was retiring in 2021.
- Hart will succeed Paul Murphy, who will retire at the end of the year when his employment agreement expires. Murphy, who came on as CEO following Denny Marie Post’s retirement in 2019, will remain as special advisor to the company until March 31, 2023.
Hart boasts nearly 35 years of industry experience, many of which included top leadership roles as well as contributing to Red Robin’s strategy as board member.
He will take over during a time of recovery at the chain. As of Q1 2022, Red Robin’s comparable restauant revenue increased 19.7% compared to the year-ago quarter. In Q2 2020, same-store restaurant revenue declined as much as 41.4%, comparably.
Hart’s succesful expansion of Torchy’s store footprint bodes well for Red Robin’s future. While at the taco chain, Hart grew the chain from 45 restaurants to 96 in 10 states. Twenty-six of these locations opened between 2020 and 2021 despite pandemic pressure.
”He has contributed significantly to the growth and success of the brand, and his leadership has enabled us to attract some of the finest talent in the restaurant industry,” Mike Rypka, founder of Torchy’s Tacos, said in a statement at the time of Hart’s retirement.
Prior to Torchy’s Tacos, Hart served as executive chairman and CEO of California Pizza Kitchen for seven years, from 2011 to 2018. He worked for 11 years at Texas Roadhouse, which included four years as president and seven years in the additional roles of CEO and member of the board. Hart also held leadership roles at companies like AI Copeland Investments, TriFoods International, New Zealand Lamb Company and Shenandoah Valley Poultry.
“During the past 3 years, G.J. has distinguished himself as a thoughtful and effective Board member in supporting Paul and the Red Robin team as they navigated an exceptionally tumultuous period in our industry’s history,” Dave Pace, Red Robin’s board chair, said in a statement. When Hart expressed interest in the role, Pace said the company quickly determined that he had the necessary skills to serve as Red Robin’s latest leader.