Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Red Robin plays personnel hawk

There’s no confirmation that Red Robin hired a special forces team to pull off today’s stunning raid, but the evidence speaks for itself: In one big swoosh, the full-service burger chain stole a new culinary chief from Cheesecake Factory, a better-foods specialist from Chipotle, and a new master mixologist from T.G.I. Friday’s.

If the chain had landed Sir Paul McCartney as its new musical director, the sweep would’ve been complete.  

But, ob-la-di, ob-la-da. Instead, Red Robin ended up with a kitchen R&D staff of New York Yankees star power.

Already on the roster were two well-known figures in the R&D world: Scott   Schooler, a 25-year veteran  of the chain, who continues as vice president of food and beverage; and Dave Woolley, executive chef.

Bolstering the team are Scott Weaver, director of culinary and previously executive manager of culinary operations for The Cheesecake Factory; Laurie Scanlin, director of R&D, formerly manager of nutrition and food improvement for Chipotle; and Donna Ruch, master mixologist, who came to the post after heading Friday’s food and beverage innovation team.

There have been some high-profile executive changes in recent months, including the appointment of new CEOs for Wendy’s, McDonald’s, Baja Fresh and even Aramark, the contract-feeding giant where Joe Neubauer occupied the corner office for 29 years. The remake of Red Robin’s menu development team may be the biggest jaw-dropper of all.

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