American Blue Ribbon CEO resigns

Hazem Ouf helped turn O’Charley’s, Bakers Square owner into $1.2 billion company

Hazem Ouf is stepping down as the CEO of American Blue Ribbon Holdings LLC after six years helming the owner of O’Charley’s and Bakers Square chains, Ouf said on Thursday.

Ouf sent out the release, saying it was “time to move on,” and said that the resignation is effective Oct. 1 

Late on Thursday, a spokeswoman said that Ouf had actually left as CEO back in May, and that he just recently resigned his position as vice chairman of American Blue Ribbon. The spokeswoman did not respond when asked who replaced Ouf as CEO. And the company’s website still lists Ouf as the chief executive. A spokeswoman for Ouf, meanwhile, said the former CEO is “unaware of the company’s plans” for his replacement.

“My seven years with ABRH were the most exciting and rewarding of my career, but it is now time for me to move on to explore what is next for me professionally and continue my passion to serve,” Ouf said in a statement. “By having a clear, compelling and consistent strategy, ABRH attained financial success that exceeded all expectations and created significant shareholder value.”

The longtime industry executive has led the Nashville-based company since its creation in 2009 when Fidelity Newport Holdings LLC acquired several restaurant chains in bankruptcy sales or auctions. Fidelity acquired Bakers Square, Village Inn and Legendary Baking.

The next year it acquired Max & Erma’s and in 2012 it acquired O’Charley’s Inc., Ninety Nine Restaurants and Stoney River Legendary Steaks. The company’s annual revenue grew to $1.2 billion, and the company currently oversees 648 company-operated and franchise locations in 42 states.

Yet earlier this year it sold Max & Erma’s, which had been struggling and closed locations.

Stoney River, meanwhile, was folded into another Fidelity acquisition, J. Alexander’s, which has since been spun off into a public company.

Last year, Fidelity planned to spin off American Blue Ribbon, too, but those plans have yet to come to fruition.

Ouf’s resignation comes amid a remarkably fluid time in the c-suite at many restaurant companies. Several public and private restaurant chains have replaced their CEOs, while many others have replaced top executives.

The changes come amid a sharp drop in industry same-store sales and traffic this year, according to various industry sales trackers and surveys.

Ouf is a 35-year industry veteran, and before taking over at ABRH held the CEO roles at Souper Salad and Grandy’s, and before that Constellation Concepts out of California.

Update: Sept. 23, 2016 This story has been updated to include a statement from American Blue Ribbon. 

Contact Jonathan Maze at [email protected]
Follow him on Twitter at @jonathanmaze

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