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Smokey Bones aims for turnaround with new hires

ORLANDO Fla. Smokey Bones Barbeque & Grill, which private-equity firm Sun Capital Partners Inc. recently acquired from Darden Restaurants Inc., is embarking on a turnaround effort with a new management team, officials of the 73-unit chain said Friday.


Smokey Bones officials said the chain's turnaround strategy also would include tests of new menu items and alcoholic drinks, as well as revamped uniforms, lighting and decor.



Ian Baines, who ran the chain under Darden and will continue in his roles as president and chief executive, has appointed six executives whose backgrounds include stints at such concepts as Romano's Macaroni Grill, Houlihan's, Friendly Ice Cream and Marie Callender's.



The new executives and their positions are Louis Jehl as chief financial officer; Mike Hackney, executive vice president of operations; Julie Klinger, vice president of human resources; Peter Bell, vice president of marketing; Drew Stafford, director of information technology services; and Jay Bunkowske, manager of training.



Jehl, who began his career as a certified public accountant with Arthur Andersen LLP, most recently held executive-level finance positions at Memphis, Tenn.-based Carlisle Corp., a 99-unit Wendy’s franchisee. Before that, he worked for The Restaurant Co., owner of 500 Perkins Restaurant and Bakery units.



Hackney, an operations veteran, most recently oversaw seven concepts at Toronto-based SIRCorp. Prior to that, he held positions at Boston’s John Harvard’s Brew House; Grisanti’s, a Louisville, Ky.-based Italian chain; and El Torito Restaurants.



Klinger was most recently a human resources leader for Brinker International Inc.’s Romano’s Macaroni Grill restaurants. Before that, she held HR positions at Houlihan’s Restaurant Group, Planet Hollywood International and Hard Rock Cafe International.



Bell joins Smokey Bones from Friendly Ice Cream Corp., where he oversaw marketing. He also has served in a marketing role for Boston Chicken Inc., which is now known as Boston Market.



Stafford, the new director of IT, was recently a senior managing consultant for IBM Internet Security Systems and has worked as a senior project manager for Darden as well as at several organizations outside the industry.



Bunkowske, the new training manager, most recently created field training programs for more than 500 restaurants in the Marie Callender’s and Perkins restaurant chains. He also served as food and beverage director for Ground Round Restaurants.



Smokey Bones, which shed 54 underperforming branches early last year under Darden’s ownership, was purchased last month for $80 million by a newly formed Sun Capital holding called Barbecue Integrated Inc.



“Our goal is to make Smokey Bones a spirited and genuine place to enjoy great barbeque and more,” CEO Baines said in a statement. “We have much work ahead to bring our vision to life and this tremendous team is energized by the challenge.”


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