Kelli Valade headshot
Red Lobster

As CEO, Kelli Valade created the roles of CMO and CIO, and hired a new CFO. 

Red Lobster CEO Kelli Valade to Resign

The leader led the seafood restaurant for only eight months. 

Red Lobster announced Monday that CEO Kelli Valade will resign April 15, just eight months after starting the position. 

The casual-dining giant didn't provide a reason for her departure. Valade described the move as "an incredibly difficult, but necessary decision." 

"Red Lobster is a beloved, iconic brand with a loyal guest following and incredibly smart and talented employees," Valade said in a statement. "My job as the brand's leader has been to inspire and develop our people, while also leveraging the brand's strengths and finding ways to build on them for even greater success. We've accomplished a lot in a short period of time, including building a great leadership team that alongside the board will carry the business forward to achieve our vision. I have truly loved my time here at Red Lobster."

Valade's tenure began August 2 when she replaced Kim Lopdrup, who served as CEO for 14 years across 2004-2011 and from 2014-2021. Before Red Lobster, she spent two years as president and CEO of Black Box Intelligence and more than 22 years at Brinker International as brand president of Chili's, COO, and SVP of human resources. 

In her short time at the seafood concept, Valade filled the C-suite with industry leaders, including CFO David Schmidt, a Bloomin' Brands veteran with more than 30 years of experience, CMO Patty Trevino, who previously worked for Hardee's and Carl's Jr. and Bonefish Grill, and CIO Cijoy Olickal, who came from Fogo de Chão. The roles of CMO and CIO were both created under Valade. 

"On behalf of the Board, we thank Kelli for her service and accomplishments during her tenure as CEO, including navigating through the most recent wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. She has helped us assemble a talented and highly capable leadership team to lead us forward. We wish Kelli the very best in the future," Rittirong Boonmechote, chairman of the Red Lobster Board of Directors, said in a statement. 

Red Lobster said it will now look for a successor who can achieve its vision of  being "Where the world goes for seafood, now and for generations." While the search moves forward, the executive team will work with the board of directors to keep the brand steady and ensure continuity. Paul Kenny, a member of the board, will serve as the liaison between the two bodies.