Tijuana Flats Announces Executive Leadership Changes; Tex-Mex Brand Names New CEO, CFO, Sr. VP of Operations To Spearhead Evolution
ORLANDO, Fl – May 29, 2019 – Tijuana Flats has appointed several leading restaurant industry veterans to manage the growing fast-casual, 135-restaurant company into its next chapter of expansion. Brian Wright, who has spent 35 years in restaurant management, now serves as chief executive officer. Louie Psallidas, who has over two decades of experience in the restaurant sector, has been appointed chief financial officer, and Steve Culbert, a highly regarded industry veteran who has worked for brands such as Carrabba’s and Au Bon Pain, has been named senior vice president of operations.
These appointments reflect the commitment by AUA Private Equity, who through its investment fund owns a majority stake in Tijuana Flats, to develop and grow the brand, while also renewing its emphasis on technology, convenience and continued level of service. As evidenced by the caliber of these recently hired executives, Tijuana Flats remains a brand that is committed to hospitality and exceptional quality.
Wright most recently served as CEO and board member at Bertucci’s Italian Restaurant, a 58-unit, casual dining brand based in Northborough, Mass. He succeeds longtime board member Rick Van Warner, who served as interim CEO for over a year. Van Warner will continue to serve on the board.
“Tijuana Flats is a unique brand with a fantastic people-first culture,” said Wright. “I’m honored to have the opportunity to continue moving the company forward alongside Louie, Steve, and the rest of our dedicated and passionate team and franchisees.”
Wright has held several senior executive leadership roles, including serving as COO of Au Bon Pain, a $270-million fast-casual brand and President of Chevy’s Restaurants, a full-service California-based Mexican chain. Wright previously led operations for national fast-casual brands Einstein Noah’s Bagels (now Einstein Bros. Bagels) and Boston Market, where he opened more than 50 restaurants.
Psallidas joins Tijuana Flats from Uno Restaurant Holdings, parent of Uno Pizzeria & Grill, which has more than 100 company-owned and franchised full-service units in 32 states and in several international markets. At Uno, Psallidas served as CEO, president and CFO for over a decade.
“Tijuana Flats has an incredible history and is an engaging brand that has had successful growth over the past 20+ years,” said Psallidas. “I look forward to helping the company reach new heights.”
At Uno, Psallidas oversaw franchised and company restaurants, the fast-casual division, the retail channel and was instrumental in the sale of the company during his tenure. Earlier in his career, he spent eight years as CFO and SVP of PGHC Holdings, parent of Papa Gino’s Pizzeria and D’Angelos Sandwich Shop restaurants.
Culbert most recently served as Vice President of Operations with Au Bon Pain, based in Boston. In that role, he oversaw more than $140-million revenue base across multiple trade channels. Prior to that, he was a regional vice president with the Einstein Noah Restaurant Group and a managing partner for Carrabba’s under the Bloomin Brands umbrella.
“It’s no secret that Tijuana Flats has one of the most fun and best-known brands in the fast-casual space, being one of the first concepts to delight consumers and industry veterans alike with their innovation and over the top hospitality,” stated Culbert. “It’s an honor to now be a part of the team that is charged with continuing that momentum well into the future.”
About Tijuana Flats
Established in 1995 in Winter Park, Florida, Tijuana Flats is a unique, fast-casual Tex-Mex dining experience featuring superior guest service and fresh, made-to-order food. Tijuana Flats has 135 locations in Florida, Georgia, Indiana, North Carolina, and Virginia. The brand has been named to Fast Casual Magazine’s 2015 & 2016 Top 100 Movers & Shakers list. For more information on Tijuana Flats, please visit tijuanaflats.com.
Lauren Leetun, APR
Findsome & Winmore