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Red Lobster names general counsel Horace Dawson its CEO

The seafood restaurant chain had been without a chief executive since Kelli Valade left in 2022


Red Lobster has named Horace Dawson its new CEO, filling a position that has been vacant since Kelli Valade stepped down in April of last year.

Dawson has been the Orlando, Fla.-based casual dining chain’s executive vice president and general counsel since 2014.

The chain, which is owned by seafood producer Thai Union Group, also appointed Paul Kenny its new chairman of the board.

Dawson previously was vice president and division general counsel for Darden Restaurants Inc., which sold Red Lobster in 2014. Prior to that he was vice president of business affairs and general counsel of Hard Rock Cafe International.

He also has worked in securities and communications for the Spanish-language television network Telemundo as well as New York City law firms.

He currently serves on the boards of directors of the National Restaurant Association, the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation, Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association, Restaurant Law Center, and Stronger America Through Seafood.

He has undergraduate, MBA, and law degrees from Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass.

"I am very excited to be stepping into the role of CEO for Red Lobster. This is an important time for our brand. We are continuing to evolve our menu and guest experience to give our guests more of what they want every time they visit one of our restaurants," Dawson said in a press release announcing his appointment. "We have some of the most passionate customers and dedicated employees in the restaurant industry and I am looking forward to working with my teams to address the challenges we face in light of industry headwinds and to execute on our plans and deliver results."

Kenny, the new board chairman, most recently was CEO and executive advisor of Minor Food Group.

"I have served on the Red Lobster Board for several years and strongly believe that Horace is the right leader for this iconic brand at this time in the company's history and I look forward to continuing a strong and productive working relationship," Kenny said.

There are around 670 Red Lobster locations in the United States.


Contact Bret Thorn at [email protected] 


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