Real Mex taps new CFO

CYPRESS Calif. Richard Dutkiewicz, most recently chief financial officer for bagel specialist Einstein Noah Restaurant Group, has been hired to fill that post at Mexican casual-dining leader Real Mex Restaurants Inc.

Dutkiewicz succeeds Steve Tanner, who stepped down in February after five years with Real Mex, the operator of 188 and franchisor of 35 full-service restaurants primarily branded as Chevys Fresh Mex, El Torito and Acapulco. A Real Mex subsidiary, Real Mex Foods, in addition to supporting company operations, also manufactures specialty products for sale to outside customers.

Tanner had worked in a dual role as Real Mex interim chief executive and CFO for the four months leading up to April 2009, when the board hired industry veteran Richard “Dick” Rivera as president and CEO.

“[Dutkiewicz's] experience in both restaurant and manufacturing environments make him a particularly good fit with the needs of the company,” Rivera said in a statement Friday. “He has worked in public companies as well as with private-equity groups and is a strong leader with a broad business perspective who will complement our team and help us build value for all of our stakeholders.”

Dutkiewicz joins Real Mex at a time when it has a $13 million offering of 14-percent senior secured notes under way and is plagued by large losses and the same sales challenges facing nearly all players in the casual-dining segment.

For the quarter ended Sept. 27, Real Mex saw total revenues fall 9.6 percent from a year ago to $124.2 million, which reflected a same-store sales drop of 9.8 percent. The sales dive and higher interest expense drove the company to a wider net loss of $13.4 million, compared with a loss of $1.1 million a year ago.

From fiscal 2006 through September 2009, the company’s average sales per restaurant had fallen by 11.1 percent, to approximately $2.5 million, while its number of company restaurants decreased from 195 to 188 and its franchise store count shrank from 49 to 35.

April 9 is officially Dutkiewicz’s last day at Lakewood, Colo.-based Einstein Noah, which operates, licenses or franchises 683 fast-casual restaurants under the Einstein Bros. Bagels, Noah New York Bagels and Manhattan Bagel brands. Officials there said they have engaged an executive search firm to help find a new CFO.

Before joining Einstein Noah, Dutkiewicz worked for electronics manufacturer Vari-L Co., where he reorganized the finance department, including personnel and systems, prior to that firm’s sale and transition to Sirenza Microdevices, Real Mex said. For the six years prior to his work at Vari-L, he was chief financial officer for beef supplier Coleman Natural Products, where he was helped orchestrate an initial public offering in 1996.

Contact Alan J. Liddle at [email protected] [3].