Looking to “reinvigorate and update its portfolio,” South Florida-based Shula’s Restaurant Group revamped its leadership team, the company announced Monday, adding four new executives, including a fresh chief executive officer. The 30-year-old company, founded by legendary Miami Dolphins coach Don Shula, runs five concepts and 29 locations across the U.S. It said in a release that the leadership shuffle will help it grow in existing and new markets.
Bill Freeman, who previously served as CEO of celebrity-chef owned MINA Group, is assuming the same role at Shula’s Restaurant Group. At MINA Group, he oversaw the addition of Michael Mina’s 10 new restaurants and secured venture capital to launch a new multi-unit premium casual brand, International Smoke.
Prior stops include: CEO and chairman of Bertucci’s Italian Restaurants (91 locations) and CEO of McCormick & Schmick’s Seafood Restaurants (97 outlets). Freeman also clocked time as founder and CEO of Fox Sports Grill; CEO of Sundance Entertainment; CFO and COO of DAKA International; and senior VP at the Walt Disney Company.
“Shula’s Restaurants has built a strong legacy and quality product over the last three decades, just like Coach Shula did on the field. I am looking forward to leading this dynamic organization and finding ways to enhance our offerings in order to further appeal to our existing and new potential guests,” Freeman said in a statement.
The company said its new leadership team “represents a diverse set of experience and talents touching all skills needed to restructure and successfully grow a hospitality brand, including HR, culinary, logistics, finance, and marketing.”
“We are confident that Bill Freeman is the perfect person to lead Shula’s Restaurant Group into the future,” added Mary Anne Shula, wife of Don Shula and the former CEO and current chairman of the board of the company. “Under his leadership and with his wide experience in management and hospitality, we know that we are putting our family’s corporate legacy in capable hands.”
The five concepts currently include: Shula’s Steak House, Shula’s 2 Steak & Sports, Shula’s 347 Grill, Shula’s Bar & Grill, and Shula Burger.
Other executive changes:
Shardul Kiri is taking the reins as chief brand and marketing officer. His background includes developing campaigns for Old Navy and Expedia.com. Kiri worked in the biotech, retail, travel, technology, and culinary/hospitality markets. Most recently, he held the position of VP of marketing, sales, and brand development at MINA Group, where he oversaw the development of 20 new brands, as well as the successful launch of 14 new restaurants and a loyalty program. During his tenure, the company saw a 200 percent increase in private dining sales. He will manage all marketing and branding activities related to Shula’s portfolio of restaurants and will work to create new consumer-facing initiatives “that will propel the brand into an exciting new era,” it said.
Chef Demetrio Zavala is assuming the role of corporate culinary director. He has previously worked and been inspired by fine-dining icons such as Daniel Humm of Eleven Madison Park, Eric Ripert of Le Bernardin, Charlie Palmer of Aureole, Rocco DiSpirito of Union Pacific, Daniel Boulud of Café Boulud, Pierre Viau of Maxxaluna, and Gordon Ramsey of Cielo. Guests might also recognize Zavala from Food Network’s “Chopped,” “Chopped: Beat Bobby Flay,” and “Chopped Champions,” as well as “Beat Bobby Flay.” He will lead the creative vision and menu development across all Shula’s brands, including seasonal updates.
Gordon Gilbert will take over as director of operators. He has served as general manager at several Nobu locations worldwide in the past. Shula’s said he was instrumental in opening new locations for Nobu, including onboarding and training of all staff and management. He’s a Level 2 Sommelier and served as lead wine professional at Wynn Resorts in Las Vegas, consulting with acclaimed restaurants Lakeside, Bartolotta Ristorante di Mare, Alex, and Daniel Boulud Brasserie. He has also overseen the elevation to AAA five diamond status of The Ventana Room in Tucson, Arizona, and was assistant general manager at the Michelin-starred restaurant, L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. In his new role, Gilbert will focus on setting the standard for all front-of-house operations across all of Shula’s brands and will assist in developing a more robust and refined wine program across the Shula’s Restaurant Group portfolio.