Mexican Restaurants' longtime chairman steps down

HOUSTON Industry veteran Louis “Lou” P. Neeb is resigning as the non-executive chairman at Mexican Restaurants Inc. at its May shareholders’ meeting, ending a 15-year role with the company, he said.

In addition to serving on MRI’s board, Neeb, 70, was its chief executive from April 1996 through May 2000 and its interim CEO in late 2006 and early 2007. Since 1982, he also has operated Neeb Enterprises, a restaurant consultancy in Dallas, where he lives.Industry veteran Louis “Lou” P. Neeb is resigning as the non-executive chairman at Mexican Restaurants Inc. at its May shareholders’ meeting, ending a 15-year role with the company, he said.

Industry veteran Louis “Lou” P. Neeb is resigning as the non-executive chairman at Mexican Restaurants Inc. at its May shareholders’ meeting, ending a 15-year role with the company, he said.

Industry veteran Louis “Lou” P. Neeb is resigning as the non-executive chairman at Mexican Restaurants Inc. at its May shareholders’ meeting, ending a 15-year role with the company, he said.

The departing MRI board chairman has nearly four decades of foodservice leadership experience, beginning in 1973, when he was recruited by the late Norman Brinker to work at Steak and Ale Restaurants. He held a variety of posts at Steak and Ale through 1980, including the presidency, and while there directed development of the Bennigan’s concept. Industry veteran Louis “Lou” P. Neeb is resigning as the non-executive chairman at Mexican Restaurants Inc. at its May shareholders’ meeting, ending a 15-year role with the company, he said.

Industry veteran Louis “Lou” P. Neeb is resigning as the non-executive chairman at Mexican Restaurants Inc. at its May shareholders’ meeting, ending a 15-year role with the company, he said.

Industry veteran Louis “Lou” P. Neeb is resigning as the non-executive chairman at Mexican Restaurants Inc. at its May shareholders’ meeting, ending a 15-year role with the company, he said.

Among other industry posts, Neeb was chairman and chief executive of Burger King Corp. in its early days, president of W.R. Grace’s Creative Food ‘N’ Fun division, where he oversaw the conversion of the T.J. Applebee’s Edibles & Elixirs concept into the more chainable Applebee’s Neighborhood Grill & Bar, and president of Spaghetti Warehouse Inc.Industry veteran Louis “Lou” P. Neeb is resigning as the non-executive chairman at Mexican Restaurants Inc. at its May shareholders’ meeting, ending a 15-year role with the company, he said.

Industry veteran Louis “Lou” P. Neeb is resigning as the non-executive chairman at Mexican Restaurants Inc. at its May shareholders’ meeting, ending a 15-year role with the company, he said.

Industry veteran Louis “Lou” P. Neeb is resigning as the non-executive chairman at Mexican Restaurants Inc. at its May shareholders’ meeting, ending a 15-year role with the company, he said.

Mexican Restaurants executives have said that Neeb will be named chairman emeritus.Industry veteran Louis “Lou” P. Neeb is resigning as the non-executive chairman at Mexican Restaurants Inc. at its May shareholders’ meeting, ending a 15-year role with the company, he said.

Industry veteran Louis “Lou” P. Neeb is resigning as the non-executive chairman at Mexican Restaurants Inc. at its May shareholders’ meeting, ending a 15-year role with the company, he said.

Industry veteran Louis “Lou” P. Neeb is resigning as the non-executive chairman at Mexican Restaurants Inc. at its May shareholders’ meeting, ending a 15-year role with the company, he said.

The company, led for all but four months since 2000 by chief executive Curt Glowacki, who left briefly to work at Outback Steakhouse, operates 49 and franchises or licenses 18 casual-dining Mexican restaurants, primarily under the Casa Ole and Monterey’s Little Mexico brands. It also owns six fast-casual Mission Burrito stores. Industry veteran Louis “Lou” P. Neeb is resigning as the non-executive chairman at Mexican Restaurants Inc. at its May shareholders’ meeting, ending a 15-year role with the company, he said.

Industry veteran Louis “Lou” P. Neeb is resigning as the non-executive chairman at Mexican Restaurants Inc. at its May shareholders’ meeting, ending a 15-year role with the company, he said.

Industry veteran Louis “Lou” P. Neeb is resigning as the non-executive chairman at Mexican Restaurants Inc. at its May shareholders’ meeting, ending a 15-year role with the company, he said.

Neeb said he will remain on the boards of Chuck E. Cheese’s parent CEC Entertainment Inc. and Denny’s Corp., but felt it was “time for me to step down from the board at Mexican Restaurants,” as he has been chairman since 1995. Leaving the MRI board is part of a move to “simplify” his life a bit and free up his schedule to spend more time with his family, he said. Industry veteran Louis “Lou” P. Neeb is resigning as the non-executive chairman at Mexican Restaurants Inc. at its May shareholders’ meeting, ending a 15-year role with the company, he said.

Industry veteran Louis “Lou” P. Neeb is resigning as the non-executive chairman at Mexican Restaurants Inc. at its May shareholders’ meeting, ending a 15-year role with the company, he said.

Industry veteran Louis “Lou” P. Neeb is resigning as the non-executive chairman at Mexican Restaurants Inc. at its May shareholders’ meeting, ending a 15-year role with the company, he said.

Neeb spoke with NRN about his time at Mexican Restaurants, which changed its name from Casa Ole Restaurants Inc. in 1998. The company acquired 26-unit Monterey’s Acquisition Corp. and six-unit La Senorita in 1997 but has since sold La Senorita, picked up 10 franchised Casa Ole and three Crazy Jose’s locations in 2004 and bought then two-unit Mission Burrito in 2006.Industry veteran Louis “Lou” P. Neeb is resigning as the non-executive chairman at Mexican Restaurants Inc. at its May shareholders’ meeting, ending a 15-year role with the company, he said.

Industry veteran Louis “Lou” P. Neeb is resigning as the non-executive chairman at Mexican Restaurants Inc. at its May shareholders’ meeting, ending a 15-year role with the company, he said.

Industry veteran Louis “Lou” P. Neeb is resigning as the non-executive chairman at Mexican Restaurants Inc. at its May shareholders’ meeting, ending a 15-year role with the company, he said.

What lured you to Mexican Restaurants?Industry veteran Louis “Lou” P. Neeb is resigning as the non-executive chairman at Mexican Restaurants Inc. at its May shareholders’ meeting, ending a 15-year role with the company, he said.

Industry veteran Louis “Lou” P. Neeb is resigning as the non-executive chairman at Mexican Restaurants Inc. at its May shareholders’ meeting, ending a 15-year role with the company, he said.

Industry veteran Louis “Lou” P. Neeb is resigning as the non-executive chairman at Mexican Restaurants Inc. at its May shareholders’ meeting, ending a 15-year role with the company, he said.

I was brought in by an investor group [Tex-Mex Partners LC] that was interested in acquiring it and taking it public. The objective was to develop a national family Mexican chain. In a sense, we were trying to follow on some of the success that Taco Bell had had.Industry veteran Louis “Lou” P. Neeb is resigning as the non-executive chairman at Mexican Restaurants Inc. at its May shareholders’ meeting, ending a 15-year role with the company, he said.

Industry veteran Louis “Lou” P. Neeb is resigning as the non-executive chairman at Mexican Restaurants Inc. at its May shareholders’ meeting, ending a 15-year role with the company, he said.

Industry veteran Louis “Lou” P. Neeb is resigning as the non-executive chairman at Mexican Restaurants Inc. at its May shareholders’ meeting, ending a 15-year role with the company, he said.

Among your contributions to MRI, which do you consider key?Industry veteran Louis “Lou” P. Neeb is resigning as the non-executive chairman at Mexican Restaurants Inc. at its May shareholders’ meeting, ending a 15-year role with the company, he said.

Industry veteran Louis “Lou” P. Neeb is resigning as the non-executive chairman at Mexican Restaurants Inc. at its May shareholders’ meeting, ending a 15-year role with the company, he said.

Industry veteran Louis “Lou” P. Neeb is resigning as the non-executive chairman at Mexican Restaurants Inc. at its May shareholders’ meeting, ending a 15-year role with the company, he said.

I think that my best contributions probably were managing the going-public process [in 1996], putting together a quality board and doing the right things for the shareholders, in terms of corporate governance. I think the acquisitions we made were some of the biggest gains for the company.Industry veteran Louis “Lou” P. Neeb is resigning as the non-executive chairman at Mexican Restaurants Inc. at its May shareholders’ meeting, ending a 15-year role with the company, he said.

Industry veteran Louis “Lou” P. Neeb is resigning as the non-executive chairman at Mexican Restaurants Inc. at its May shareholders’ meeting, ending a 15-year role with the company, he said.

Industry veteran Louis “Lou” P. Neeb is resigning as the non-executive chairman at Mexican Restaurants Inc. at its May shareholders’ meeting, ending a 15-year role with the company, he said.

Why?Industry veteran Louis “Lou” P. Neeb is resigning as the non-executive chairman at Mexican Restaurants Inc. at its May shareholders’ meeting, ending a 15-year role with the company, he said.

Industry veteran Louis “Lou” P. Neeb is resigning as the non-executive chairman at Mexican Restaurants Inc. at its May shareholders’ meeting, ending a 15-year role with the company, he said.

Industry veteran Louis “Lou” P. Neeb is resigning as the non-executive chairman at Mexican Restaurants Inc. at its May shareholders’ meeting, ending a 15-year role with the company, he said.

We grew the company in the end [by acquisitions], not by new-store development in new markets. That was primarily because of the taste-profile problem that we thought we could avoid that had hit El Torito, Chevys, On the Border and other Mexican chains in casual dining trying to go national.Industry veteran Louis “Lou” P. Neeb is resigning as the non-executive chairman at Mexican Restaurants Inc. at its May shareholders’ meeting, ending a 15-year role with the company, he said.

Industry veteran Louis “Lou” P. Neeb is resigning as the non-executive chairman at Mexican Restaurants Inc. at its May shareholders’ meeting, ending a 15-year role with the company, he said.

Industry veteran Louis “Lou” P. Neeb is resigning as the non-executive chairman at Mexican Restaurants Inc. at its May shareholders’ meeting, ending a 15-year role with the company, he said.

What was the biggest challenge at MRI during your tenure?Industry veteran Louis “Lou” P. Neeb is resigning as the non-executive chairman at Mexican Restaurants Inc. at its May shareholders’ meeting, ending a 15-year role with the company, he said.

Industry veteran Louis “Lou” P. Neeb is resigning as the non-executive chairman at Mexican Restaurants Inc. at its May shareholders’ meeting, ending a 15-year role with the company, he said.

Industry veteran Louis “Lou” P. Neeb is resigning as the non-executive chairman at Mexican Restaurants Inc. at its May shareholders’ meeting, ending a 15-year role with the company, he said.

The biggest challenge was the inability to find a [single] taste profile that would give national travel. [Fast-casual] Chipotle appeals to a specific higher economic and younger demographic group, but we just could not make it work -- a family Mexican restaurant chain -- on a national basis.Industry veteran Louis “Lou” P. Neeb is resigning as the non-executive chairman at Mexican Restaurants Inc. at its May shareholders’ meeting, ending a 15-year role with the company, he said.

Industry veteran Louis “Lou” P. Neeb is resigning as the non-executive chairman at Mexican Restaurants Inc. at its May shareholders’ meeting, ending a 15-year role with the company, he said.

Industry veteran Louis “Lou” P. Neeb is resigning as the non-executive chairman at Mexican Restaurants Inc. at its May shareholders’ meeting, ending a 15-year role with the company, he said.

Name some other noteworthy developments on your watch.Industry veteran Louis “Lou” P. Neeb is resigning as the non-executive chairman at Mexican Restaurants Inc. at its May shareholders’ meeting, ending a 15-year role with the company, he said.

Industry veteran Louis “Lou” P. Neeb is resigning as the non-executive chairman at Mexican Restaurants Inc. at its May shareholders’ meeting, ending a 15-year role with the company, he said.

Industry veteran Louis “Lou” P. Neeb is resigning as the non-executive chairman at Mexican Restaurants Inc. at its May shareholders’ meeting, ending a 15-year role with the company, he said.

We brought in a good management team. The people that are there right now are solid operators, and the board is strong. We were lucky when our major investor, who came in after we had gone public, wanted out and one of our founders had an interest in buying back in. That's Mike Domec; he understands the concept and I think he will do what it takes to make sure it is a very successful regional [player].Industry veteran Louis “Lou” P. Neeb is resigning as the non-executive chairman at Mexican Restaurants Inc. at its May shareholders’ meeting, ending a 15-year role with the company, he said.

Industry veteran Louis “Lou” P. Neeb is resigning as the non-executive chairman at Mexican Restaurants Inc. at its May shareholders’ meeting, ending a 15-year role with the company, he said.

Industry veteran Louis “Lou” P. Neeb is resigning as the non-executive chairman at Mexican Restaurants Inc. at its May shareholders’ meeting, ending a 15-year role with the company, he said.

What about your experience at MRI did you enjoy the most?Industry veteran Louis “Lou” P. Neeb is resigning as the non-executive chairman at Mexican Restaurants Inc. at its May shareholders’ meeting, ending a 15-year role with the company, he said.

Industry veteran Louis “Lou” P. Neeb is resigning as the non-executive chairman at Mexican Restaurants Inc. at its May shareholders’ meeting, ending a 15-year role with the company, he said.

Industry veteran Louis “Lou” P. Neeb is resigning as the non-executive chairman at Mexican Restaurants Inc. at its May shareholders’ meeting, ending a 15-year role with the company, he said.

The biggest pleasure for me has been working with all the people there.Industry veteran Louis “Lou” P. Neeb is resigning as the non-executive chairman at Mexican Restaurants Inc. at its May shareholders’ meeting, ending a 15-year role with the company, he said.

Industry veteran Louis “Lou” P. Neeb is resigning as the non-executive chairman at Mexican Restaurants Inc. at its May shareholders’ meeting, ending a 15-year role with the company, he said.

Industry veteran Louis “Lou” P. Neeb is resigning as the non-executive chairman at Mexican Restaurants Inc. at its May shareholders’ meeting, ending a 15-year role with the company, he said.

Contact Alan J. Liddle at [email protected] [3].Industry veteran Louis “Lou” P. Neeb is resigning as the non-executive chairman at Mexican Restaurants Inc. at its May shareholders’ meeting, ending a 15-year role with the company, he said.

Industry veteran Louis “Lou” P. Neeb is resigning as the non-executive chairman at Mexican Restaurants Inc. at its May shareholders’ meeting, ending a 15-year role with the company, he said.

Industry veteran Louis “Lou” P. Neeb is resigning as the non-executive chairman at Mexican Restaurants Inc. at its May shareholders’ meeting, ending a 15-year role with the company, he said.