Kelli Valade has resigned as Red Lobster’s chief executive officer after only eight months in the role.
The seafood restaurant chain, which operates more than 700 locations globally, received a USD 575 million (EUR 516 million) investment from Bangkok, Thailand-based seafood company Thai Union in 2016, and was purchased outright in 2020 by Thai Union, Red Lobster management, and an investor group named the Seafood Alliance in 2020.
“I have truly loved my time here at Red Lobster. This was an incredibly difficult, but necessary, decision,” Valade said in a press release. Her resignation is effective 15 April.
“We respect Kelli’s decision and thank her for her service and accomplishments during her tenure as CEO,” Red Lobster said in a statement emailed to SeafoodSource. “Red Lobster is a strong, iconic brand that has withstood the test of time and continues to have a bright future. During this time of transition, we are grateful to have an incredibly smart and talented leadership team in place to lead us forward as we search for a successor.”
Valade joined Red Lobster in August 2021, after former CEO Kim Lopdrup announced his retirement. Valade was the former president and CEO of Black Box Intelligence and brand president of Chili's Grill and Bar, owned by Brinker International.
Under her leadership at Red Lobster, Valade created “a new strategic framework and go-forward plan with a focus on the core guest and the need for value, as well as built out the executive team, adding the newly-created roles of chief marketing officer and chief information officer and recruiting a new chief financial officer,” Red Lobster said in the press release.
"Red Lobster is a beloved, iconic brand with a loyal guest following and incredibly smart and talented employees," Valade said. "My job as the brand's leader has been to inspire and develop our people, while also leveraging the brand's strengths and finding ways to build on them for even greater success. We've accomplished a lot in a short period of time, including building a great leadership team that, alongside the board, will carry the business forward to achieve our vision.”
Red Lobster will immediately begin a search for a successor who can lead the company in achieving its vision of being "where the world goes for seafood, now and for generations,” the company said.
Red Lobster's executive team will work closely with its board of directors to continue to drive the brand forward and ensure business continuity during the search for a permanent replacement. Paul Kenny, a member of Red Lobster's Board, will serve as the liaison between Red Lobster's leadership and the Board during the transition.
“On behalf of the board, we thank Kelli for her service and accomplishments during her tenure as CEO, including navigating through the most recent wave of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Red Lobster Board Chair Rittirong Boonmechote said. “She has helped us assemble a talented and highly capable leadership team to lead us forward. We wish Kelli the very best in the future.”
Photo courtesy of Red Lobster