When Babalu Tapas & Tacos hired industry veteran Abe Ruiz in December 2017 to take on the role of chief operating officer at the Spanish-meets-Southern-style tapas restaurant, they were confident he was the right person for the job. In just five months, his restaurant expertise and leadership skills spoke volumes for parent company Eat Here Brands and has inspired his promotion to CEO of the growing Babalu Tapas & Tacos restaurant concept. Ruiz takes over the CEO reins from company co-founder Bill Latham, who remains on the board with vice-president and co-founder Al Roberts and will assist with day-to-day operations as needed.
“Abe likes to kid about his mediocrity on the golf course, but it’s impossible to imagine him and mediocrity belonging in a sentence together,” says Latham. “From the moment Abe took on the role as COO, he began demonstrating his deep understanding of every aspect of the business. His passion is contagious. Al and I are incredibly excited to have Abe lead the company and help us continue growing Babalu into one of the finest restaurant brands in the Southeast and the nation.”
Prior to his arrival at Babalu, Ruiz spent two years as COO of Famous Dave’s of America, where he was responsible for the company’s brand strategy and operations. He led the building of the company’s international franchising platform and key initiatives that reinvigorated business performance including opening new restaurants in the UAE. Previously, he was the COO of Colon Gerena Restaurant Group, the parent franchisee for Famous Dave’s of America, Applebee’s, Longhorn Steakhouse, Olive Garden, Sizzler and Wendy’s in Puerto Rico. Ruiz’s career also includes a role as vice president of marketing and operations for Il Mulino NYC, a fine dining concept that has been rated as the top Italian dining destination in New York City for 27 years.
From Eat Here Brands’ offices in Roswell, not too far from Babalu’s Atlanta location at 33 Peachtree Place in Midtown, Ruiz will continue driving the restaurant’s growth across the Southeast and Midwest, which includes three new locations planned for 2018.