Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen Inc. president-U.S. Ralph Bower has been named chief executive of Pei Wei Asian Diner, the company said Tuesday.

The CEO role is a newly created position at the Scottsdale, Ariz.-based fast-casual chain, which is operated by Wok HoldCo LLC, which also owns casual-dining P.F. Chang’s China Bistro and holds a majority stake in healthful concept True Food Kitchen. Bower is scheduled to resign from Popeyes effective Aug. 8, and starts at Pei Wei on Aug. 18.

Bower will replace Pei Wei president K.C. Moylan, who will leave the company at the end of the month after 13 years, a company spokesman said. Bower will assume his responsibilities.

Rick Federico, chairman and CEO of Wok HoldCo, said in a statement that Bower brings a “wealth of experience to the organization and has demonstrated success in leading business transformation that generates positive momentum and growth.”

Pei Wei is owned by private equity firm Centerbridge Partners L.P., and has 192 domestic locations in 24 states and the District of Columbia. The brand is also licensed for use in airports and international locations.

Pei Wei has been reworking its restaurant design in recent months, along with menu upgrades that have included the introduction of sushi.

Bower was promoted to the new position of president of Popeyes’ U.S. division in March 2012, taking on some responsibilities of chief executive Cheryl Bachelder, who shifted her focus to long-term strategic planning.

Before that promotion, Bower served as the Atlanta-based chain’s chief operating officer for the U.S. since February 2008. His experience prior to joining Popeyes included six years at KFC and as a regional director for Domino’s Pizza.

He leaves Popeyes at a time of great momentum for the chicken chain, which recorded a more than 10-percent increase in net income in the first quarter ended April 20, to $11.1 million, or 46 cents per share. Systemwide same-store sales rose 4.5 percent.

Bachelder will take over Bower’s responsibilities while the company seeks a replacement.

“On behalf of everyone at Popeyes, I want to thank Ralph for his contributions over the past six years,” Bachelder said in a statement. “Ralph has been an important member of the leadership team that has led the transformation of the company’s performance — improving franchise profitability, remodeling the system, accelerating new unit growth and strengthening our company-restaurant operating competencies.

“Our exceptional people, together with our strong business strategies, make me confident that our momentum will continue through this transition of leadership,” she added.

At the end of its first quarter, Popeyes had 2,248 franchised and company-owned restaurants in the United States, three U.S. territories and 27 other countries.

The company changed its name earlier this year from AFC Enterprises Inc. to Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen Inc.

Contact Lisa Jennings at lisa.jennings@penton.com
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