Christopher O’Donnell, the president and chief operating officer of Famous Dave’s of America Inc., has been notified that his employment will end as of March 31, according to a Monday filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The announcement comes just weeks after Famous Dave’s chief executive John Gilbert III resigned without explanation and was replaced by interim CEO Ed Rensi, a former McDonald’s USA chief executive who joined the Minneapolis-based company’s board of directors in January.

Gilbert’s departure came less than 18 months after he took the job with the barbecue chain in October 2012, replacing O’Donnell, who at the time also held the title of chief executive. O’Donnell stayed on as president and COO.


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Officials with Famous Dave’s did not respond to requests for further information, and it was not clear whether O’Donnell would be replaced.

Dean Riesen, nonexecutive chairman of the board, said Gilbert’s departure came as a complete surprise. Riesen said there was no hurry to find a permanent replacement for the CEO role because “we have such a talented leader with Ed [Rensi].”

After reporting fourth-quarter financial results last month, Famous Dave’s executives said the strategies implemented during the “transition year” of 2013 would remain in place under the company’s new leadership. During Gilbert’s tenure, the company made changes to the menu and marketing strategies and restructured at the corporate level to reduce expenses.

The company reported a 9.1-percent increase in net income to $4.8 million for fiscal 2013, though revenues and same-store sales were relatively flat.

Famous Dave’s operates 54 company-owned stores and franchises another 142 locations in 34 sates, Puerto Rico and Canada.

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