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Rivera to retire as Real Mex chair, CEO

Richard Rivera plans to retire as chair and chief executive of Real Mex Restaurants Inc. on April 1, the company said.

The Cypress, Calif.-based parent of the El Torito, Acapulco and Chevys brands has begun a search for his replacement, the company said in filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

Rivera joined Real Mex as chair, president and chief executive in April 2009. Rivera, who was then 62, had served most recently as president and chief executive of Rubicon Enterprises LLC, a Sarasota, Fla.-based restaurant management and investment company that owned four T.G.I. Friday’s locations and six Marlow’s Taverns.

Prior to Rubicon, Rivera spent many years with Darden Restaurants Inc., where he was vice chairman, president and chief operating officer from 2002 to 2004. From 1997 to 2002, he served as president of Darden's Red Lobster chain.

Rivera also previously had served as chief executive of T.G.I. Friday’s, president and chief executive of LongHorn Steaks Inc., and president of El Chico Corp.

In addition, he served as chairman of the National Restaurant Association in 2007 and 2008.

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

Over the past two years, Rivera has been shifting the company’s brands away from the use of coupons and discounting, instead using promotional events like happy hours, brunch and three-course meal deals to drive traffic. Earlier this year, the company announced plans to overhaul its 87-unit Chevys Fresh Mex brand.

In its third quarter ended Sept. 10, Real Mex reported a narrowed loss of $6.3 million, compared with a loss of $13.4 million in the third quarter a year ago. Revenues declined 4.5 percent to $118.6 million, in part because of the closure of seven restaurants, mostly El Torito locations outside California.

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

Contact Lisa Jennings at [email protected].

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