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Fiesta names Richard Stockinger CEO

Former Benihana executive tapped to lead Pollo Tropical, Taco Cabana parent

Fiesta Restaurant Group Inc., parent to the Pollo Tropical and Taco Cabana chains, has named Richard Stockinger as president and CEO, the company said after releasing fourth-quarter earnings on Monday.

Stockinger, who served as president and CEO of Miami-based Benihana Inc. from 2009 to 2014, succeeds Tim Taft, who resigned last August.

Before joining Benihana, Stockinger worked for more than two decades at The Patina Restaurant Group LLC and its predecessor, Restaurant Associates Inc.

Most recently, Stockinger has been a consultant with Bruckmann, Rosser, Sherrill & Co., a private-equity firm, and Not Your Average Joe’s, a private restaurant company, for which he served on the board.

In October, Fiesta closed 10 Pollo Tropical locations in a review of the chain’s portfolio.

For the fourth quarter ended Jan. 1, Fiesta reported net income of $2.4 million, down from $8.8 million in the same quarter last year. Revenue declined 4.6 percent, to $171.3 million, from $179.5 million the previous year. 

Same-store sales at Pollo Tropical declined 4 percent in the fourth quarter, and fell 3.5 percent at Taco Cabana. 

In addition to Stockinger’s appointment, Fiesta said it had appointed Paul Twohig as a non-executive member of the board. Twohig joined Dunkin’ Brands Group Inc. in 2009, and serves as president of its U.S. and Canada division. Prior to joining Dunkin’ Brands, Twohig served as a senior vice president for Starbucks Corp.’s Eastern Division. 

Fiesta’s board also named Stacey Rauch as non-executive chairman. She had served as a director since 2012. Rauch is a director emeritus of McKinsey & Co. and its retail and consumer goods practice. 

In a statement, Rauch said Stockinger “is a respected, results-driven industry veteran who understands the value of our Pollo Tropical and Taco Cabana brands, and has the skills and experience necessary to be a strong and effective leader in advancing our strategic initiatives at this critical juncture.” 

The company also promoted Danny Meisenheimer, who had served as Fiesta’s interim CEO, to chief operating officer. Previously, Meisenheimer served as chief brand officer of Pollo Tropical, in 2012. 

The company said in a statement that it would focus on Pollo Tropical development in Florida markets and Taco Cabana in Texas markets. In 2017, the company expects to open 12 new company-owned Pollo Tropical restaurants in Florida and 10 new Taco Cabana restaurants in Texas. 

“While our expansion into Texas for Pollo Tropical has been challenging, we continue to believe in the long-term attractiveness of the business model and its potential beyond its traditional markets,” Rauch said. 

As of Jan. 1, Fiesta had 177 company-owned Pollo Tropical restaurants and 166 company-owned Taco Cabana restaurants. The company also franchised 35 Pollo Tropical units and seven Taco Cabana locations.

Contact Ron Ruggless at [email protected]

Follow him on Twitter: @RonRuggless

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