GJ Hart, CEO of fast-casual taco chain Torchy’s Tacos, is retiring effective immediately, the chain announced Friday. Founder Mike Rypka has assumed the role of interim CEO.
Hart will stay on with the brand as a consultant for an undisclosed amount of time.
“Torchy’s is by far one of the hottest brands in the industry today and I am so proud of the passionate team we have built,” Hart said in a release. “I have thoroughly enjoyed my time leading the organization to this point, and I am grateful to our employees and investors for their support and partnership as we have grown the business. I believe that Torchy’s will continue to have incredible success far into the future and I look forward to providing support throughout that journey.”
Hart joined the 15-year-old brand in 2018, and under his leadership the Austin-based concept expanded from 45 units to 96. During the past 18 months of the pandemic, Torchy’s Tacos has opened 26 new units.
“GJ has provided tremendous value to Torchy’s during his four years as CEO. He has contributed significantly to the growth and success of the brand, and his leadership has enabled us to attract some of the finest talent in the restaurant industry,” said Rypka. “We are incredibly proud of the Torchy’s team and excited about the many opportunities ahead of us. We thank GJ for all he has helped us achieve, and we wish him the very best as he embarks on his retirement.”
Hart, who served as the CEO of California Pizza Kitchen from 2011 to 2018, is retiring to “spend more time with family” as the pandemic “catalyzed a shift in priorities for many of us.” He plans to “continue contributing to the hospitality industry, to which I’ve dedicated my career, by serving on boards and acting as a resource for leaders and entrepreneurs.”