Red Lobster appoints new CEO

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Kelli Valade will be boss of world’s largest seafood restaurant chain. She will succeed Kim Lopdrup, who plans to retire.

Red Lobster writes that it has appointed Kelli Valade as its new CEO.

Valade was president of the restaurant analytics and insights products company Black Box Intelligence. Prior to that, Valade spent over 22 years at Brinker International, including most recently serving as brand president for Chili’s Grill & Bar.

While at Brinker, she previously held leadership positions including COO and senior vice president of human resources.

“When I announced my plan to retire, I promised our people we would recruit an outstanding new CEO to lead Red Lobster to even greater success over the next generation, and I absolutely believe Kelli is that person,” said Red Lobster longtime boss Kim Lopdrup in a press release on Friday. Lopdrup announced his retirement on Friday.

Kim Lopdrup. PHOTO: Red Lobster

He had been the CEO of the seafood chain since its spinoff from Darden Restaurants in 2014.

“Her experience and deep industry insights coupled with her integrity and commitment to fostering a purpose-driven culture are the perfect fit as we begin this new chapter. I have never been more excited about Red Lobster’s future,” added Lopdrup.

Red Lobster chairman and Thai Union president global frozen and related units Rittirong Boonmechote said he is “delighted to welcome Kelli as Red Lobster’s next CEO”.

“She has proven that she can lead large casual dining companies very successfully, and she brings all the key skills that we were hoping to find. She is the ideal leader to help fulfill our vision of making Red Lobster ‘Where the world goes for seafood, now and for generations,” said Boonmechote.

Thai Union’s involvement in Red Lobster began with a USD 575 million strategic investment in 2016.

In 2020, San Francisco-based private equity firm Golden Gate Capital, which has owned Red Lobster since 2014, sold its remaining stake in the seafood restaurant to Seafood Alliance, a consortium comprised of existing Red Lobster investors from Thai Union Group.