Famous Dave’s of America Inc. has officially named Ed Rensi chief executive, following his three-month stint as interim CEO.

Rensi’s lengthy career in the restaurant industry began with McDonald’s Corp., where he eventually rose to chief executive of McDonald’s USA. More recently, he founded better-burger chain Tom & Eddie’s with Tom Dentice, another longtime McDonald’s executive, and has grown it to five locations in suburban Chicago.

Minneapolis-based Famous Dave’s also said that Richard Pawlowski would join the company as chief financial officer, effective June 2. Most recently, Pawlowski was co-founder and chief executive of Capitol C Holdings LLC, a restaurant acquisition and development company.


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Pawlowski replaces Diana Purcel, who will leave the company to pursue other opportunities but remain in a transitional role through July 1.

“Diana has demonstrated outstanding leadership during her 10-plus years with Famous Dave’s,” Rensi said in a statement. “I have great respect for her talents, and on behalf of the management team and the board, I want to thank Diana for her contributions and dedication and wish her every success in her future endeavors. Additionally, we welcome Richard to the team as we prepare for our next chapter of growth.”

The executive moves are two of the latest in a year of near-constant shakeups in the C-suite for Famous Dave’s. After holding the job for about a year and a half, John Gilbert III abruptly resigned as chief executive of Famous Dave’s on Feb. 10, elevating Rensi to interim CEO less than a month after Rensi had joined the board of directors. Gilbert is now president of Romano’s Macaroni Grill.

On March 4, Christopher O’Donnell was asked to resign from his roles as president and chief operating officer. O’Donnell had been chief executive before Gilbert was hired in October 2012, but stayed with Famous Dave’s as president and COO.

Famous Dave’s also will replace two directors on its board. Richard Monfort and Lisa Kro, who have served on the company’s board since 1996 and 2009, respectively, have resigned and will be replaced by Jonathan Lennon and Brett Heffes.

Lennon is the founder and portfolio manager of Pleasant Lake Partners, which owns 12.8 percent of Famous Dave’s. Heffes is president of Winmark Corp., a franchisor of five value-oriented retail stores and a technology equipment leasing company. He will chair the board’s audit committee.

“Both Dick and Lisa have made significant contributions to Famous Dave’s over the years, and their insights and expertise have been invaluable,” Dean Riesen, board chairman for Famous Dave’s, said in a statement. “We thank them both for their years of service and will miss them. Our company continues to evolve, however, and as such, we welcome new members, Jonathan and Brett, to our board. I look forward to their contributions and working with them in building and growing this brand.”

Barbecue specialist Famous Dave’s owns 53 casual-dining restaurants and franchises another 141 locations in 34 states, Puerto Rico and Canada.

Contact Mark Brandau at mark.brandau@penton.com.
Follow him on Twitter: @Mark_from_NRN