Red Lobster names Kelli Valade as next CEO

By Helen Adams
Outgoing Red Lobster CEO 'never been more excited about Red Lobster’s future', as Kelli Valade takes over as CEO for the seafood restaurant

Kelli Valade will be Red Lobster’s next CEO, succeeding Kim Lopdrup, who plans to retire after 14 years.

Red Lobster is the world's largest seafood restaurant company, headquartered in Orlando, Florida, with a revenue of $2.6b, the company is focused on serving ‘traceable, sustainable and responsibly-sourced’ seafood.


A Red Lobster leader to inspire frontline restaurant heroes

Valade has been passionate about the restaurant industry since the age of 16, when she landed her first restaurant job as a hostess.

“I love the restaurant industry because it’s about so much more than great food – it’s about the great people who are truly heroes on the frontlines of the restaurants delivering a great experience to guests every day”, said Valade. “Red Lobster has incredible people and an amazing culture in place, along with a solid business model and a strong foundation as an iconic and differentiated brand. My job as the brand’s new leader is to inspire and develop our people while also leveraging the brand’s strengths and finding ways to build on them for even greater success. I am looking forward to a very bright future together.”

After her entry level job as a hostess, Kelli spent 22 years at Brinker International, serving as:

  • Brand President for Chili's Grill & Bar
  • Chief Operating Officer and Senior Vice President of Human Resources.
  • Later, as President, Valade was responsible for 80,000+ ChiliHeads and 1,600 restaurants.

From 2019, Valade then served as President and CEO at Black Box Intelligence.


Integrity and commitment are top qualities for a CEO

“When I announced my plan to retire, I promised our people we would recruit an outstanding new CEO to lead Red Lobster to even greater success over the next generation, and I absolutely believe Kelli is that person,” said Lopdrup. “Her experience and deep industry insights coupled with her integrity and commitment to fostering a purpose-driven culture are the perfect fit as we begin this new chapter. I have never been more excited about Red Lobster’s future.”

“We are delighted to welcome Kelli as Red Lobster’s next CEO”, said Rittirong Boonmechote, Red Lobster Chairman. “She has proven that she can lead large casual dining companies very successfully, and she brings all the key skills that we were hoping to find. She is the ideal leader to help fulfill our vision of making Red Lobster ‘Where the world goes for seafood, now and for generations.’”

Valade currently serves on the boards of:

  • The National Restaurant Association Education Foundation (NRAEF)
  • Women’s Foodservice Forum (WFF)
  • The Board of Trustees for the Shelton School in Dallas.

In addition, she has also received several industry recognitions:

  • The Western Foodservice and Hospitality Expo’s Beacon Award, in 2016
  • Named Woman Worth Watching by The Dallas Business Journal, in 2013
  • The “Distinguished Alumni” award from Binghamton University, where she was also honoured for her impact in business and in the restaurant industry, in 2020.

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