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From emerging concepts to watch like Zoës Kitchen to the largest restaurant company in the world, McDonald's, leadership is always the driving force behind successful brands. Nation's Restaurant News points to 10 restaurant executives to watch in 2013 from brands such as Popeyes, California Pizza Kitchen, Sbarro and more.
CEO, Brinker International Inc.
Like G.J. Hart at California Pizza Kitchen, Roberts is stepping into large shoes, replacing Doug Brooks as chief executive at Brinker, the parent to Chili’s Grill & Bar and Maggiano’s Little Italy.
Roberts also has the distinction of being one of two new chief executives in casual dining that came up through marketing, the other being James J. “JJ” Buettgen at Ruby Tuesday Inc. The value placed on marketing is evident in casual dining since price, message, value and positioning are more important than ever as brands look to take share from within a crowded segment.
Roberts recently said Chili’s, which has been struggling, would stay the course with its customer-facing value proposition built around 2 for $20 at dinner and Lunch Combos. “We’re sticking with our strategies, and value has always been part of it at Chili’s,” he said this past fall. “We continue to outperform the category, and we think we’ll continue to take share, but it’s a softer segment than we’d seen this summer.”
Brinker’s system includes 1,540 Chili’s, 45 Maggiano’s and a minority interest in Romano’s Macaroni Grill.