Red Robin today announced the appointment of Kevin Mayer to chief marketing officer, Mark Simpson as interim chief people officer, and Jason Rusk as chief business development officer.
“With these crucial leadership positions in place, we are well-positioned to deliver on our goal to establish Red Robin as a most loved restaurant brand in the communities we serve and drive growth and value for our team members, partners and shareholders,” GJ Hart, president and CEO, said in a statement.
Mayer most recently served as CMO of Pedego Electric Bikes, where he led sales and digital marketing initiatives for the private equity-backed company. Prior, he served as EVP, CMO and chief growth officer at BJ’s Restaurants Inc., where he oversaw cross-functional innovation, marketing, product development, off-premises, digital and earned media, and local marketing. He also has experience at Volkswagen, Subaru and Chevrolet. At Red Robin, Mayer will be responsible for brand development, marketing, digital, innovation and menu development at Red Robin.
Simpson is a 35-year human resources and hospitality industry veteran and will fill the role of chief people officer on an interim basis with incumbent Wayne Davis’ recent departure to pursue other interests. Simpson recently retired from Texas Roadhouse, where he served as vice president of Legendary People and assisted in guiding the success of the company’s growth and culture, including administering its market and managing partner program, executive and senior-level staffing, benefits and compensation, field HR and employee relations, HR administration and more. He also has served in senior HR roles with Al Copeland Investments, Tia’s Tex-Mex (Ruby Tuesday Inc.) and Peasant Restaurants (Quantum/Morton’s Restaurant Group) and has served on the boards of the Multicultural Foodservice and Hospitality Alliance, the National Council of Chain Restaurants and the Kentucky Restaurant Association. Simpson will provide senior leadership on key people initiatives during this transition and assist in the search for Red Robin’s permanent CPO.
Rusk has been promoted to chief business development officer. Most recently serving as SVP of transformation and business development, he has played a leadership role in a number of key initiatives impacting operations, franchise, marketing and branding during his 25 years with Red Robin. In his expanded role, he will continue to spearhead initiatives including franchise development, culinary upgrades, off-premises channel growth, supply chain, in-restaurant guest experience, real estate and new restaurant growth, as well as deepening key brand partnerships with Donatos and others.
Hart said the company will share more information regarding a permanent chief technology “in the near future.”
These appointments come as Red Robin executes its “North Star” growth plan, put into place in January that includes transforming to an operations-focused company, elevating the guest experience, removing costs and complexity, optimizing guest engagement, and driving growth in comp restaurant revenue and unit-level profitability. Since the announcement of that plan, shares have nearly doubled, though traffic and profits were down during the last reported quarter.
Hart, who came on board in September 2022, recently said, “Transformations are difficult, and you need time to do them (but) there are fundamental things in this brand that are powerful that we can bring back to life.”
Red Robin will host its annual shareholder meeting May 18.
Contact Alicia Kelso at [email protected]