The 2013 Golden Chain award winners represent the best the restaurant industry has to offer. To celebrate the winners, NRN outlines each executive’s road to the top and dives into the strategies they used to build brands and inspire people. Find out more about this year's winners >>
Ray Blanchette, chief executive of Joe's Crab Shack
When Ray Blanchette joined Joe’s Crab Shack as chief executive in May 2007, the brand had been cut loose a year earlier from Landry’s Restaurants Inc. and was shedding underperforming stores.
But in the months and years that followed, Blanchette and his team rolled out several rebranding initiatives that successfully gained traction — such as emphasizing crab on its menu as a major differentiator in casual dining, upgrading service and transitioning marketing spending to more national television. Beginning with the fourth quarter of 2008, Joe’s Crab Shack commenced a run of 18 consecutive quarters of same-store sales growth.
In the meantime, the company changed its name to Ignite Restaurant Group, which went public in May 2012. It now encompasses Joe’s Crab Shack, Brick House Tavern + Tap and Romano’s Macaroni Grill, which Blanchette and his team see as a turnaround opportunity similar to Joe’s Crab Shack at the start of his tenure.