After 11 years leading Fogo de Chão, chief executive officer Larry Johnson is retiring from the position on December 31, the company announced. At the beginning of 2019, the Brazilian steakhouse’s current president, Barry McGowan, will move into the CEO role and join the board of directors. Johnson’s involvement with the company will not end completely when he retires as he will become chairman of the board of directors at the beginning of 2019.
Johnson believes his successor is the right choice to continue the company’s vision. He said in a statement, “It has been my privilege and honor to be a part of the Fogo family for the past 11 years. The time is right to pass the reins to Barry to continue to execute our shared strategic vision for this tremendous brand. Barry’s vast operating experience and deep understanding of Fogo and its people make him the ideal choice to lead Fogo into its next phase of growth.”
During his time as CEO, Johnson helped take the company public in 2015 and broker the $560 million sale of Fogo to Rhône Capital earlier this year. Over the past 11 years, Johnson grew the brand from 11 locations to 51, “increasing revenue by a factor of two and one half times, from $132 million to more than $330 million,” the company said.
“Larry Johnson is an exceptional leader who has guided Fogo through extraordinary growth from a local Brazilian steakhouse to a world-renowned restaurant brand,” added Eytan Tigay, board director and managing director and chief investment officer of Rhône Capital, whose affiliated funds acquired Fogo in 2018. “In that time, he also developed the foundation for long-term success, building an enduring brand and an outstanding leadership team that is poised to continue delivering superior performance. On behalf of the board of directors and everyone at Fogo, we want to thank Larry for his leadership and look forward to his continued contributions as chairman.”
McGowan is “honored” to step into this new role with Fogo.
“Fogo is a unique company unlike any other in the restaurant industry, and it has been my distinct pleasure these past five years to work alongside a high-performing team of people who care about delivering an authentic, Brazilian churrasco experience that makes Fogo what it is,” McGowan said in a statement. “I thank Larry for his leadership and our collaboration, and I am confident that we are going to build upon our existing accomplishments to further elevate this iconic brand.”
The 51-unit chain recently was named as one of the best restaurant chains in America by TripAdvisor. Over the last couple of years, Fogo broadened its brand to offer brunch on the weekends. It also rolled out a Bar Fogo menu to offer guests a chance to come in for a lighter-dining experience. There are small plates, like Braised Beef Rib Sliders and Brazilian Empanadas, and a Monday to Friday (4:30 to 6:30 p.m.) Happy Hour that offers $4 Brazilian Bites and Beers, $6 South American Wines, and $8 Brazilian Inspired Cocktails.