COLUMBUS, Ohio – Mike Ellis has been named chief development officer for FoodFirst Global Restaurants Inc., adding another Darden Restaurants Inc. veteran to the Bravo and Brio parent company’s team.
The restaurant company was formed in late May by investment firm GP Investments Ltd. and Bradley D. Blum, who previously served as a board director for Darden as well as president of Olive Garden. Ellis also once held the role of Olive Garden president and was senior vice president of development for Darden.
In his new role, Ellis will be responsible for executing a “disciplined” real estate strategy, establishing relationships with developers and real estate owners, managing the company’s leases and ensuring all restaurant facilities are in order, FoodFirst said. He will report to chairman and CEO Blum and work with him on the design of restaurant remodels and plans for new unit growth.
“This is a great moment,” Ellis said. “I am so pleased to join the FoodFirst team. The company has a compelling vision and a strong team of professionals who are dedicated to making a difference in the industry. I am ready to roll up my sleeves to begin refreshing our brands and profitably growing our business.”
Ellis was most recently chief development officer of Ruby Tuesday, a role he assumed in February 2016. Prior to that, he was chief development officer for Einstein Noah Restaurant Group Inc. and was executive vice president of franchise and restaurant development for Einstein Noah before that. Earlier in his career, Ellis was chief development officer for O’Charley’s Inc. and Burger King Corp.
“We are assembling a first-class team of leaders who are passionate about good food for the planet,” Blum said. “Mike brings both experience and wisdom when dealing with all aspects of real estate to set up our restaurant teams and company for success. He will play an integral role in our go-forward plans to thoroughly reinvigorate and then expand Brio and Bravo. We welcome Mike to our new company as he focuses on each of our current 110 restaurants.”
FoodFirst Global Restaurants acquired Brio Tuscan Grille and Bravo Cucina Italiana in a $100 million transaction that closed May 24. Brio and Bravo operate 110 locations in 32 states across the country and reported annual sales of more than $400 million in 2017. FoodFirst now plans to refresh the brands.
“We will do this by relentlessly focusing on the quality of the food, improving the menu, sharpening the operations, remodeling the restaurants and delivering a highly differentiated guest experience,” Blum said at the time of the acquisition.