Baja Fresh Parent Names Chuck Rink CEO

Fresh Enterprises LLC, parent to the Baja Fresh and La Salsa Mexican grill chains, said chief executive David Kim has left the company and Chuck Rink has assumed his position as chief executive.

Rink, who has served as president of Fresh Enterprises since January 2008, will carry the titles of both president and chief executive, the company said in a statement Thursday.

Kim, who had served as chief executive since November 2006, has "left the company effective immediately to pursue other personal interests," the company said.

Kim acquired Baja Fresh from Wendy's International in 2006 for $31 million, just four years after Wendy's itself acquired the chain for $275 million. The company was reported for sale last April.

Irvine, Calif.-based Fresh Enterprises operates and franchises 230 Baja Fresh restaurants in 25 states, as well as Dubai and Singapore. Fresh Enterprises also operates the Canyons Burger concept.

Under Kim, Baja Fresh had declined to disclose sales data. According to the Nation's Restaurant News Top 200 census, Baja Fresh systemwide sales have been declining with system size, from $336 million in 2008 to $292 million in 2010, a trend partially offset by growth in estimated same-store sales per unit reflecting the culling of poorer performing restaurants and the possible impact of new products and marketing efforts.

"While we recognize the challenges of our competitive environment, the brands have strong consumer recognition and are situated in today's most exciting restaurant business segment," Rink said in a statement.

Rink will focus on improving the performance of Baja Fresh by focusing on the importance of the customer experience and by improving the design and execution of the brand's products, the company said.

In March, Baja Fresh opened its first Singapore location, a 2,000-square-foot unit in the Rendezvous Gallery, operated by franchisee Gloria Foods Pte. Ltd.

Alan J. Liddle contributed to this report.

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