Sharing the top spot: More co-CEOs emerge

DENVER Two major restaurant companies named co-chief executives on Monday, elevating seasoned lieutenants into top-rung roles in the first major management changes of 2009.

Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. promoted president and chief operating officer Monty Moran to co-CEO with brand founder Steve Ells, and P.F. Chang’s China Bistro Inc. named company president Robert “Bert” Vivian co-CEO with longtime head Rick Federico.

In a recent story in NRN [2], the co-CEOs at Mrs. Fields and California Pizza Kitchen discussed the benefits of splitting executive roles.

At Chipotle, the company’s board of directors and its founder and chairman Ells offered the promotion to recognize Moran’s positive impact on the 800-unit, fast-casual company. Ells said that Moran had established an extraordinary people culture at Chipotle during his tenure.

Moran joined Chipotle as president four years ago. Before that, he had been the company’s general counsel and the chief executive of the Denver-based law firm Messner & Reeves LLC.

In other management news, Chipotle said it hired Mark Crumpacker as chief marketing officer. Crumpacker was previously with Sequence, a brand consulting firm in San Francisco that he co-founded.

In addition, Chipotle appointed Bill Niman, the founder of Niman Ranch, as its sustainable agriculture adviser. Niman Ranch is a San Francisco Bay-area based meat processor and distributor of all-natural beef, lamb and pork. Niman Ranch supplies Chipotle with naturally raised pork.

Niman will consult with Chipotle on ways to improve its ingredients and broaden its commitment to sustainable agriculture, Ells reported.

The company also announced plans on Monday to enter the European market with the opening of a Chipotle in London in late 2009.

At P.F. Chang’s, Federico will retain operational control over the company’s two restaurant brands, the 182-unit P.F. Chang’s China Bistro and the 165-unit Pei Wei Asian Diner, as well as marketing and people services. Vivian will assume responsibility for finance, legal, development, supply chain management and information systems. Vivian also will be added to the company’s board of directors.

“Bert and I have always worked as partners, in every sense of what that word means,” Federico said in a statement. “Having Bert assume a co-CEO role is merely an institutional recognition of that relationship, while, at the same time, allowing us to allocate CEO-level responsibilities in a way that we think plays to our respective strengths.”

Vivian joined P.F. Chang’s in 1996 as chief financial officer and has been president since December 2000.

Spokesman Mark Mumford said the company had no plans to name a president to fill Vivian’s post. The chief operating officer of each concept -- Rick Tasman at China Bistro and K.C. Moylan at Pei Wei -- will be reporting to Federico. Russell Owens resigned in November as president of the Pei Wei Asian Diner division.

“Rick and I have worked together for the better part of our professional careers,” Vivian said. “We are both extremely dedicated to the success of our brands, as well as providing a meaningful return to our stockholders, employees and other stakeholders. I look forward to continuing to work with Rick, the rest of our talented management team and our board, as we navigate these challenging times and help P.F. Chang’s achieve its full potential.”