Real Mex Restaurants has overhauled its executive team, including six new appointments, following a recent shift in ownership, the company said Thursday.

Last month, private-equity firm Z Capital Partners LLC said it had increased its equity stake in the Cypress, Calif.-based operator of the El Torito, Acapulco and Chevys Fresh Mex brands.

After buying out an unnamed “non-strategic minority holder,” Z Capital said in November it was the largest shareholder of Real Mex. The private-equity firm’s founder, James Zenni, who is also president and chief executive of Z Capital, was named chairman of Real Mex’s board.

Z Capital is known for its investments in companies in need of revitalization or restructuring. It first acquired a stake in Real Mex in 2012 in a bankruptcy auction, along with Tennenbaum Capital Partners, which remains an investor.


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Real Mex has improved operations and efficiencies since Charly Robinson was appointed as chief executive in January, Zenni said in a statement after taking a majority equity position.

At the time, Zenni said the management team was “laser-focused on the current turnaround strategy to drive profitability and enhance customer relationships. We remain dedicated to supporting Real Mex and are confident that, with Charly and his talented management team, the company is positioned for future growth and success.”

This week, however, Real Mex appointed several new members to its management team. The company declined to comment on who the new executives are replacing.

• Blake Barnett, former chief financial officer of Kraco Enterprises, was named CFO of Real Mex. Barnett’s prior experience included stints as CFO for the Albertsons grocery chain, as well as serving as a division chief for Yum! Brands Inc.

• Rio Gueli, the former director of food and beverage for Bass Pro Group, was named executive vice president of operations. He will oversee the El Torito chain, as well as the single-unit Las Brisas and Who Song & Larry’s, and various training programs.

• Mark Bartholomay, former chief development officer for Hurricane Grill and Wings, has also been named executive vice president of operations. Bartholomay is responsible for Chevys, Acapulco, El Torito Grill, Sinigual and El Paso Cantina, as well as banquets and catering, beverage development, and construction and facilities.

• Jared Dougherty was named senior vice president of marketing at Real Mex. He served most recently as senior vice president of global brand management for Playboy Enterprises.

• Thanh Ninh, most recently vice president of human resources for Yard House Restaurants, was named senior vice president of human resources.

• Andy Mai was named senior vice president and chief information officer. Previously, Mai was the executive vice president for Elephant Bar Restaurant.

Real Mex owns and operates 125 restaurants, and franchises another 15 units. In addition to the three core chains, the company’s single-unit concepts include Las Brisas in Laguna Beach, Calif.; Sinigual Restaurant in New York; Who Song & Larry’s in Vancouver, Wash.; and El Paso Cantina in Torrance, Calif.

The company also owns Real Mex Foods, a co-packer and custom manufacturer of foodservice and private-label products.

Contact Lisa Jennings at lisa.jennings@penton.com.
Follow her on Twitter: @livetodineout