Chip Wade, a Red Lobster and Darden veteran who joined the team in May 2019, will become the new chief executive in September.
Union Square Hospitality Group announced Monday that founder Danny Meyer is stepping down as CEO in September.
He will be replaced by Chip Wade, who currently serves as COO and president. Meyer will continue as executive chairman, a role in which he will build new concepts, consult on innovation and expansion strategies, and mentor leadership teams.
"When Chip joined us three years ago, our hope was that he'd one day be prepared to succeed me as USHG's leader, and that day has unquestionably arrived," Meyer said in a statement. "He is an exemplary operational leader, wholly dedicated to our team members and committed to their professional and personal growth. We've partnered together and navigated the business through an incredibly challenging period emerging healthier than ever. This is the ideal time for me to hand Chip the baton."
Meyer founded the New York-based company in 1985 with the opening of Union Square Cafe, and in the years since, the multi-restaurant platform has collectively won 28 James Beard awards. USHG currently oversees 13 concepts in New York and Washington, D.C. In 2004, Meyer opened Shake Shack, which has grown to more than 250 U.S. locations and nearly 400 units worldwide. In addition to restaurants, USHG oversees Hospitality Quotient, an operations consultancy, Union Square Events, a catering and events business, Enlightened Hospitality Investments I and II, two investment growth funds, and USHG Acquisition Corp., a special purpose acquisition company.
"Starting this company 37 years ago—with aspirations to open just one successful restaurant—and seeing the outstanding and inspirational role our colleagues have come to play in our industry—has been the personal and professional joy of a lifetime," Meyer said.
Wade joined USHG in May 2019 after a 30-year career in the hospitality industry. The veteran spent 17 years with Red Lobster and Darden Restaurants, watching over operations and development, and spent time as COO for Legal Sea Foods and in development and human resources for Carlson Restaurants Worldwide.
After laying off 90 percent of its staff in 2020, USHG has bounced back in a major way. It opened new concept Ci Samo, doubled the footprint of fast casual Daily Provisions, and expanded the reach of Union Square Events and Hospitality Quotient. The company is now surpassing pre-pandemic sales.
Wade serves on the board of Cracker Barrel, Johnson & Wales University, Share Our Strength, and Youth Villages.
"I am honored and humbled by today's announcement," Wade said in a statement. "Working with Danny over the past three years has been a career highlight, and I am so proud of what we have accomplished together. Day in and day out, I have the unique privilege of witnessing the power of hospitality and the success of an employee-first model, evident across all USHG businesses. As CEO, I'm looking forward to accelerating our growth through cultural, operational and financial performance, in addition to driving new business priorities."
Meyer will also continue his work as managing partner of Enlightened Hospitality and board chairman of USHG Acquisition Corp. He also serves as board chairman of Shake Shack.