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Restaurant group appoints new chief executive

Charles Robinson will lead the industry’s largest group of Mexican restaurants

by Caitlin AdamsPublished: January 21, 2013 12:45 PM

Cypress-based Real Mex Restaurants has named Charles Robinson as the company’s new president and chief executive officer. Real Mex is the parent restaurant group for such popular full-service Mexican restaurant brands as El Torito, El Torito Grill, Chevy’s and Acapulco.

"This is an exciting challenge and I look forward to helping Real Mex realize its full potential," Robinson said. "We have the most recognized brands in Mexican full-serve dining and a loyal guest base, which provides a solid platform for future growth."

Robinson, a dining industry executive and veteran of restaurant companies from Orlando to Las Vegas, succeeds interim CEO Christopher Thomas, who took on the leadership role in May 2012 following the departure of then-CEO David Goronkin. Thomas will remain on the company’s board of directors.

Mark Holdsworth, Real Mex Restaurant’s chairman and managing partner of Tennenbaum Capital Partners, one of the company's owners, welcomed Robinson’s appointment. "Charly's proven leadership abilities and business acumen are exactly what we need to further boost the performance improvements underway," Holdsworth said. "His decades of experience operating restaurants, including several Mexican brands, will be invaluable as we move forward."

Most recently, Robinson served as executive vice president of Food & Beverage for Warner Hospitality, which entailed overseeing the development and refurbishing of restaurants attached to high-profile casinos, such as the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. Before that, Robinson was president and chief operations officer for multi-concept operator E-Brands Restaurants in Orlando, which owns a number of full-service brands, including Taqueria Canonita, Timpano Italian Chophouses, and Salsa Taqueria & Tequila Bar. Robinson is credited with doubling the company’s revenues and developing an infrastructure for growth.

"We are excited to have Charly, a seasoned executive with more than 35 years of experience in the hospitality and restaurant industries, join the Real Mex team," said James Zenni, president and CEO of Z Capital Partners, also part of the company's ownership group. "He has a strong track record of building and significantly improving restaurants, and we are confident that under his guidance Real Mex will continue to execute on its strategic plan while it enhances the experience it provides its customers."

Other positions in Robinson’s long career in the restaurant industry include senior vice president of operations roles at both Planet Hollywood and Rainforest Café, as well as president of the Caliente Grill Tex-Mex division of Ryan’s Family Steakhouses. He graduated from the Hotel, Restaurant and Institutional Management School at Purdue University, and began his career in the hotel industry.


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