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Parent of Bravo, Brio brands taps another Darden executive

Mike Ellis named chief development officer of FoodFirst Global Restaurants

Newly formed restaurant company FoodFirst Global Restaurants has tapped another Darden Restaurants Inc. veteran for its executive team.

Columbus, Ohio-based FoodFirst, which recently acquired Brio Tuscan Grille and Bravo Cucina Italiana brands, named Mike Ellis as chief development officer. Ellis previously worked at Orlando-based Darden as head of development for the multiconcept operator, whose portfolio of brands include Olive Garden and Seasons 52. Ellis also previously worked for BP Convenience Stores.

Ellis will report directly to FoodFirst CEO Brad Blum, a longtime industry veteran and another former Darden executive. Blum served as president of Olive Garden from 1994 to 2002.

“We are assembling a first-class team of leaders who are passionate about Good Food for the Planet,” Blum said in a statement. “Mike brings both experience and wisdom when dealing with all aspects of real estate to set up our restaurant teams and company for success. He will play an integral role in our go-forward plans to thoroughly reinvigorate and then expand Brio and Bravo. We welcome Mike to our new company as he focuses on each of our current 110 restaurants.”

Ellis will execute the company’s real estate strategy and will work with Blum on restaurant remodels and growth strategy. Blum told Nation’s Restaurant News in May that the company plans to build new brands “from scratch” as well as look for brands to acquire.

 “This is a great moment. I am so pleased to join the FoodFirst team,” Ellis said in a statement. “The company has a compelling vision and a strong team of professionals who are dedicated to making a difference in the industry. I am ready to roll up my sleeves to begin refreshing our brands and profitably growing our business.”

Bravo Brio Restaurant Group went private earlier this year in a deal valued at about $100 million. The Columbus, Ohio-based company was acquired by Spice Private Equity Ltd., a division of Brazil-based investment firm GP Investments Ltd. FoodFirst Global Restaurants was created late last month as a partnership between Blum and GP Investments.

Contact Nancy Luna at [email protected]

Follow her on Twitter: @FastFoodMaven

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