Famous Dave’s of America Inc. said Monday it has named board member John F. Gilbert III chief executive, replacing Christopher O’Donnell, who will remain with the company as president and chief operating officer.
Most recently, Gilbert had been the chief executive of retailer Vermont Teddy Bear, and has been on Famous Dave’s board of directors for about a year. He also serves on the board of Ignite Restaurant Group, the parent to Joe’s Crab Shack and Brick House Tavern + Tap. Prior to leading Vermont Teddy Bear he was chief marketing officer for TJX Companies, which own several clothing retailers like T.J. Maxx and Marshalls.
Gilbert also has nearly 20 years of experience in the restaurant industry, including marketing and branding positions with Dunkin’ Donuts, KFC and T.G.I. Friday’s.
“I am excited for the opportunity to lead Famous Dave’s at this juncture....” Gilbert said. “My experience, both in the restaurant industry and on the Famous Dave’s board, tells me that this brand, with its unique barbecue expertise, is well-positioned for tremendous growth in the near future.”
O’Donnell, who first was elected to the board of directors in 2008, has been with Famous Dave’s for 15 years in several operations and executive roles, including as CEO since September 2008, when he took over after Wilson Craft’s sudden resignation.
“I believe this team of leaders will create a dynamic opportunity for Famous Dave’s to leverage its great food and service to an even higher level,” said Dean Riesen, chairman of Famous Dave’s board of directors. “We are very pleased to be able to combine the marketing, brand and growth capabilities with unsurpassed operational excellence.”
Among Famous Dave’s biggest initiatives for 2012 are international expansion and the further testing of a “BBQ shack” fast-casual prototype. The company opened its first Canadian restaurant in Winnipeg on July 16. The first fast-casual location opened in December in Minneapolis suburb Eden Prairie, Minn.
Minneapolis-based Famous Dave’s operates 53 restaurants and franchises another 134 units in 34 states and one Canadian province.