Papa Murphy’s Holdings Inc. CEO Ken Calwell has resigned, the company said Thursday. The company has named chairman Jean Birch as interim CEO as it starts to search for a permanent replacement.
The move comes amid same-store sales challenges at the Vancouver, Wash.-based take-and-bake pizza chain. Same-store sales fell 5.3 percent in the third quarter ended Sept. 26, and the company’s stock price fell 62 percent in 2016 — among the worst performances of the year for publicly traded restaurant companies.
“While the general climate in the quarter continued to be challenging, we believe we are at a key inflection point at Papa Murphy’s, having successfully laid the groundwork for many of our long-term strategic initiatives,” Birch said in a statement.
“We appreciate the many years of leadership and service that Ken has provided to Papa Murphy’s. His efforts have positioned us well for the future and we wish him all the best as he begins the next chapter in his career.”
Callwell’s departure comes amid a period of remarkable turmoil among restaurant industry chief executives, both publicly traded and private companies, following a year in which traffic and same-store sales industrywide were weak. A number of companies, including Noodles & Company and Ruby Tuesday Inc., are operating with interim CEOs.
Birch is an experienced executive who has been with Papa Murphy’s board since 2015, and was named chairman in September. She is a former president at IHOP Restaurants Inc., Romano’s Macaroni Grill and Corner Bakery Cafe, and has held leadership positions with Yum! Brands Inc., Taco Bell and Pizza Hut.
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