Real Mex names David Goronkin CEO

Industry veteran David Goronkin has been named president, chief executive and chairman of Real Mex Restaurants Inc., replacing Richard Rivera, the company said late Friday.

Rivera said earlier this year that he planned to retire on April 1 after fulfilling a two-year contract with the Cypress, Calif.-based Real Mex, the parent company of the El Torito, Acapulco and Chevys restaurant brands. Rick Dutkiewicz, Real Mex chief financial officer, was appointed interim president and chief executive.

Goronkin will begin his new rule June 1. A 25-year industry veteran, Goronkin has spent the last two years as president and chief executive of Bennigan’s Franchising Co., focusing on revitalizing the brand.

Previously, he was chief executive, president and director of the multi-concept company Redstone American Grill, and he also spent more than four years as chief executive of Famous Dave’s of America. His prior experience includes executive positions at Buffet Inc., and Chi Chi’s Mexican Restaurants.

“I am a real fan of the Real Mex family of restaurants and look forward to working with the team to move the brands forward,” Goronkin said in a statement.

The change in leadership comes at a time when Real Mex is still struggling to reverse the negative impact of the recession, though the fourth quarter ended last December showed positive sales results.

Same-store sales for the quarter rose 0.1 percent, including a 0.3 percent increase in average check offset by a 0.2 decrease in check count, the company said.

Total revenue declined 2.4 percent to $109.3 million during the quarter, but the company’s net loss narrowed to $11.5 million compared with $23.1 million in the prior year fourth quarter.

In June 2010, the majority ownership of Real Mex was reclaimed by its previous owner, private-equity firm Sun Capital Partners Inc.

At the end of the recent quarter, Real Mex operated 181 restaurants and franchised or licensed 31 locations.

In addition to the three primary chains, the company operates two Sinigual Restaurants and smaller regional concepts Who-Song and Larry’s, Casa Gallardo and El Paso Cantina, as well as one-off Las Brisas Restaurant in Laguna Beach, Calif.

Rivera said Goronkin’s decision to take the helm at Real Mex bodes well for the company’s future.

“David is an industry leader who is in touch with consumer trends and thoroughly grounded in the fundamentals of the business, having led several organizations through significant change and brand repositioning efforts,” he said. “David is a person of character, who brings energy, focus, a sense of optimism and fun to what he does.”

Contact Lisa Jennings at [email protected]