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Grill Concepts CEO Philip Gay steps down

Grill Concepts Inc., parent company to 28 restaurants under the Daily Grill and Grill on the Alley brands, said Friday its president and chief executive Philip Gay has stepped down and has been replaced by company co-founder Robert Spivak.

The shift in leadership for the company was effective June 2. Gay’s departure was not explained in the brief statement from the company.

In a phone interview, Gay said he was looking for a new challenge, “something I can grow even more than I did Grill Concepts.” He said it was too soon to disclose his plans.

Los Angeles-based Grill Concepts owns, manages and licenses 21 casual-dining Daily Grill locations across the country, as well as seven more upscale Grill on the Alley-branded restaurants. The company also launched a quick-service variant called In Short Order, designed for hotels or non-traditional locations.

Spivak, who co-founded the company in 1984, served as president and chief executive from 1995 until his retirement in 2006, when he launched a consulting firm to work with emerging new brands, such as the fast-casual Take a Bao concept, in which he is an investor-partner.

At the time, Spivak also served as a consultant to Grill Concepts and he remained a board member. In 2007, he was named co-chairman of the board.

With his return to the company Spivak will no longer serve as a consultant to Grill Concepts, the company said.

“We thank Philip for his valued contributions to date,” Spivak said in a statement. “He has led the company through a most challenging economic recession, and we wish him well in his future endeavors.”

Gay was named president and chief executive of Grill Concepts in June 2006, replacing Spivak in a planned transition. Previously, Gay served as the company’s executive vice president and chief financial officer. He had been with Grill Concepts for six years.

During Gay’s tenure at the helm, the formerly public company voluntarily delisted its stock from NASDAQ in a move aimed at eliminating the expense of public reporting. The company’s shares are quoted on the Pink Sheets Electronic OTC Markets.

When he began as chief executive, the company had four Grill on the Alley locations, which he helped to grow to seven locations. The company also launched the new In Short Order concept in Seattle, as well as its newest Daily Grill at the Westin Los Angeles Airport Hotel which offers three daypart service, a lobby bar and room service for the 800-room property.

Gay said he also led the financing of $40 million in debt and equity funding for the company and brought the brands to new markets.

Like most in the casual- and fine-dining segments, Grill Concepts restaurants took a hit during the recession, but Gay noted that the outlook was improving.

For its first quarter ended March 28, the company reported a net loss of $1.3 million, or 15 cents per share, compared with a net loss of $1.3 million, or 14 cents per share, for the year-ago first quarter. Latest-quarter revenue fell 4.3 percent to $17.6 million.

Same-store sales for the Grill on the Alley concept increased 2.7 percent for the quarter, compared with a decrease of 21.4 percent in the same quarter a year ago. Daily Grill same-store sales declined 3.7 percent in the first quarter, an improvement over the 15.2 percent decline in the first quarter of 2009, the company reported.

Contact Lisa Jennings at [email protected].


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