MADISON Ga. Paul J. Seidman has been named president and chief executive of Rita Restaurant Corp., the parent company of the Don Pablo’s and Hops Grill & Brewery casual-dining brands.
Seidman had been the company’s brand president and chief operating officer since February 2008, when Rita Restaurant Corp. was created to purchase the Don Pablo’s and Hops brands at a bankruptcy auction for undisclosed terms from Avado Brands Inc. Rita Restaurant Corp. is owned by funds managed by investment advisoer DDJ Capital Management LLC of Waltham, Mass.
“During the last 12 months, Paul has led the organization to achieve great improvements in guest satisfaction, sales trends and profit margins,” said David Barr, chairman of RRC. “He has accomplished this while providing reassuring stability during a very turbulent time for the industry.”
Even before the current economic crisis began battering the casual-dining segment, Don Pablo’s, a Tex-Mex concept, and Hops, a microbrewery serving made-from-scratch food, were already facing challenges.
The two brands were acquired in the 1990s by Apple South, once the largest Applebee’s franchisee, as the company chased its ambitions to become a major multiconcept operator. In time overbuilding forced Apple South, which had changed its name to Avado to reflect its diverse portfolio, to sell off some brands and resuscitate those that remained.
In the next several years, Avado was forced to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection from creditors twice: in February 2004 and again in September 2007. In May 2005, Avado emerged from bankruptcy with DDJ as its majority equity owner. During that reorganization, the company shuttered 10 Don Pablo’s and 40 Hops restaurants. While reorganizing in 2007, the company sold another 83 restaurants.
Today, Madison, Ga.-based Rita’s Restaurant Corp. owns and operates 40 Don Pablo’s in 15 states, down from a high of 139 units in 2000, and seven Hops restaurants in four states, down from a high of 75 units in 2000.
Seidman, a 30-year veteran of the foodservice industry, has held senior management positions in marketing, food and beverage, purchasing and product development with casual-dining chains and private dining clubs. He is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America.
“The board of directors and shareholders believe Paul’s approach to the business leverages his multi-disciplined background in the restaurant industry, in connection with the strengths of our brands, and will lead to continued success,” Barr said.