Paul Murphy, the president and CEO of Red Robin Gourmet Burgers Inc., plans to retire at the end of 2022 when his employment agreement expires, the company announced Wednesday.
Murphy told the board he would assist with the search for a successor and will remain as a “special advisor” until March 31, 2023, to ensure a smooth transition.
An industry veteran who began his career at Bennigan’s and has worked in leadership with Einstein/Noah Restaurant Group, Del Taco and Noodles & Company, Murphy joined Red Robin in 2019, serving initially as an advisor to the board.
It was his intention at the time to serve for three years as a transitionary leader to “quickly improve operating execution and overall performance,” the company said.
What he probably didn’t anticipate at the time was leading the 520-unit chain through a global pandemic.
Even before the pandemic closed restaurants to indoor dining, Murphy as CEO in January 2020 unveiled plans to transform the business — to recapture Red Robin’s soul — by downsizing the menu and improving quality of core items, increasing beverage sales and correcting operational missteps, like eliminating bussers
During his tenure, Murphy led the brand is it managed the impact of COVID, pivoting to off-premises and implementing an enhanced service model. The Greenwood Village, Colo.-based chain has streamlined its menu and simplified operations. Murphy also helped secure a new five-year credit facility.
Murphy also moved forward with a planned partnership with Donatos Pizza that allowed Red Robin to expand its menu beyond burgers. Starting in 2020, Red Robin began adding the Donatos menu to restaurants. By the first quarter this year, about 200 Red Robin locations offered Donatos, and sales for the pizza brand alone reached more than $7 million.
For the April 17-ended first quarter, Red Robin narrowed its loss to $3.1 million. Revenues increased to $395.6 million, from $326.3 million in the first quarter last year, with same-store sales up 3.9 percent compared with the pre-pandemic first quarter of 2019.
Dave Pace, chairman of the board, expressed appreciation for helping the burger brand navigate the storm of the past three years, saying Murphy “stabilized the foundation and positioned the brand for renewed growth.”
“It has been my pleasure and privilege to lead this iconic brand,” said Murphy in a statement. “While the events experienced during my tenure were certainly not what I had anticipated when I accepted the role in 2019, I’m proud of the work that we have done in strengthening the core of the brand and positioning it for the future. I look forward to working with the board to identify, recruit and integrate my successor and ensure a seamless changeover in leadership. Red Robin has a bright future ahead.”
Contact Lisa Jennings at [email protected]
Follow her on Twitter: @livetodineout