Bloomin’ Brands Inc. has hired Stephen Judge, a former Darden Restaurants Inc. executive, to become the next president of its Bonefish Grill concept.
Judge, who was previously president at Seasons 52, part of Darden’s Specialty Restaurant Group, will assume the position on Jan. 1, 2013. He succeeds John Cooper, who is retiring after 23 years with Bloomin’ Brands.
Cooper became president of Bonefish Grill in 2001. Prior to 2001, he worked in area development for Outback Steakhouse. In addition, he was named Nation’s Restaurant News’ Operator of the Year at the 2012 MUFSO Conference.
“Stephen's proven leadership and dedication to unparalleled quality is aligned with our commitment to providing a 360-degree customer service experience," said Bloomin' Brands chairwoman and chief executive Elizabeth Smith in a statement. "His balanced, strong operations experience, and respect for our founder-inspired brands, will help guide the growth of Bonefish Grill."
The company declined an interview request to discuss the new hire.
Tampa-based Bloomin’ Brands operates or franchises 1,456 restaurants under the Outback Steakhouse, Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse and Wine Bar, Bonefish Grill, and Carrabba’s Italian Grill brands. The company’s 167 Bonefish Grill restaurants experienced same-store sales increases of 3.5 percent during the quarter ended Sept. 30.
“Bonefish Grill's unique position and exceptional quality is the result of a dedicated leadership team and very well-trained team members,” Judge said in a statement. “And I look forward to working with them."
Judge is the second Darden executive to leave his position for another casual-dining restaurant company within the past month. In November, James J. “JJ” Buettgen stepped down as chief marketing officer at Darden to become chief executive at Ruby Tuesday Inc.