Brad Blum is a brand turnaround expert in the restaurant industry who, as chief executive, has led multiple companies back to profitability, consistently creating real, sustainable value for guests, employees and investors. Blum’s success is founded on the pervasive business philosophy that SUPERIOR financial results come from inspired, principled leadership; a clear compelling vision; a consumer-driven culture; innovation; measureable operational excellence; distinctive brand consistency; appropriate cost controls; and realistic funding and timing expectations from owners.
Evidence of the validity of this philosophy includes a list of successes leading some of the most recognized brands in the restaurant industry including Olive Garden, Burger King and Macaroni Grill.
As president of Olive Garden, Blum spearheaded a dramatic turnaround in the business from the brink of extinction and built the company into the leading casual dining restaurant generating annual sales in excess of $3 billion. During eight years of leadership, he created a premier brand, consistently increasing revenues, same-restaurant sales and profits for 33 consecutive quarters. This achievement resulted in an increase of average annual sales per restaurant from $2.4 million to $4.0 million and an increase in operating profits of hundreds of millions of dollars a year, a more than 900 percent increase, to create extraordinary shareholder value for Darden Restaurants.
Blum was named CEO of Burger King to turn around a troubled and significantly declining business during a particularly difficult time in the fast food industry. The company was experiencing significant decreases in sales and eroding margins with many franchisees at risk of going bankrupt. From late 2002 through July of 2004, he led the $11 billion company by re-positioning the brand, holding franchisees to higher operational standards, establishing much needed cost controls, introducing highly successful new product innovations and greatly improving the marketing. These actions doubled profitability during the first year after he joined the company. Under Blum’s leadership, the executive team turned same-restaurant sales positive with a more than +10 percent sales improvement by eliminating deep discounting of signature products and introducing a new $1 billion premium product, setting the stage for a hugely successful IPO in 2006 that achieved a return of more than five times the original private investment.
Blum became CEO of Romano’s Macaroni Grill to lead the turnaround of a restaurant brand that had suffered serious business declines and negative publicity throughout the previous five years with accelerated deterioration in sales and profits with closures of restaurants. Blum’s leadership dramatically reversed this spiral, creating a +14 percent improvement in same-restaurant sales from the previous trend, outperforming the industry for the first time in six years. This was accomplished by fully transforming the menu to offer significantly improved food with higher quality, much better taste and much greater nutritional responsibility while simultaneously reducing costs of goods sold, which along with improved operations contributed to major increases in guest satisfaction and more frequent customer visits.
Early in his career, Blum was a top Marketing Executive at General Mills, both domestically and internationally. His accomplishments include the successful start-up of Cereal Partners Worldwide (CPW), located in Switzerland, a 50/50 joint venture with Nestle, the largest food company in the world. Today it is a major, high-growth operating company with annual sales exceeding $2.5 billion. In the U.S., he was responsible for putting the first female athlete on the front of the Wheaties package (Mary Lou Retton), as well as the first African American (Walter Payton), which restored the luster and high profitability to this classic brand – The Breakfast of Champions. Among his many innovations, he created and developed Cinnamon Toast Crunch, one of the company’s top selling and most profitable cereals.
Following his tenure at General Mills, Blum served as President of Olive Garden from 1994 through early 2002, leading a remarkable renaissance at Olive Garden during his eight years as chief executive. He orchestrated a turnaround that moved the company to the top of the highly competitive Italian segment of the casual dining industry (the company ultimately achieved 57 consecutive quarters of same-restaurant sales increases with continually increasing profits). During his tenure as President, average annual sales per restaurant increased by +67 percent and today have doubled to $4.9 million annually. He established an innovative partnership when Olive Garden opened the Culinary Institute of Tuscany and the Olive Garden Riserva di Fizzano restaurant in a restored 11th century village in Italy, each of which continue to be key elements of the brand. Blum was elected 2000 MUFSO Operator of the Year, one of the highest honors in the restaurant industry.
Blum was then promoted to Vice Chairman of Darden Restaurants in March 2002, responsible for Olive Garden, the company’s most successful and profitable flagship business, and for Smokey Bones, the company’s most promising new business. At the largest casual dining restaurant company in the world, Blum also oversaw purchasing, distribution, and quality assurance for all of the company’s brands, including responsibility for the global fish and seafood supply for Red Lobster, as well as evaluating potential acquisitions for Darden.
Blum was then named CEO of Burger King Corporation to turn around a significantly declining business immediately after private equity partners Texas Pacific Group, Bain Capital and Goldman Sachs purchased the troubled company from Diageo. Blum led the #2 burger chain in the world from late 2002 through July of 2004 and achieved considerable improvement in financial performance. Under Blum’s leadership, profits doubled in the first year and positive growth was established as same-restaurant sales trends improved significantly from -7 percent to +4 percent versus the previous year, preparatory to a hugely successful IPO in 2006.
Blum recently served as CEO of Romano’s Macaroni Grill from late 2008 through July 2010 to lead the turnaround of a restaurant brand that had suffered serious declines in sales, market share and profits. Blum spearheaded a turnaround that resulted in positive same-restaurant sales, an improvement in the trend from -11 percent to +3 percent compared to the previous year. Central to Blum’s turnaround was the dramatic transformation of the menu, inspired by the Italian Mediterranean way of preparing food. In just fifteen months, each menu item was significantly improved or created, providing a much higher quality menu while simultaneously reducing costs of goods sold. A total of 42,000 calories were eliminated from the menu – a 49% reduction in calories, a 59% reduction in fat and a 46% reduction in sodium. Guest satisfaction increased significantly and various cost savings were implemented as part of a “Quality Up. Cost Down.” initiative. Blum was named Menu Master’s Innovator of the Year in the restaurant industry by Nation’s Restaurant News in May 2010 for his team’s accomplishments.
Blum is Founder and Owner of BLUM Enterprises, whose mission is to “Provide Good Food for the Planet.” Based in Winter Park, Florida, and with offices in New York City, BLUM Enterprises is a progressive company dedicated to creating and operating highly profitable brands that focus on providing good food with exceptional flavor and responsible nutrition. The company also invests entrepreneurial capital and works closely with other established brands to achieve outstanding profitability and shareholder value using this approach.
Dogmatic Restaurant, the company’s first new brand, opened in New York City during October 2008. It is a new type of “quick serve” restaurant committed to serving truly delicious, sustainable, all-natural artisan products that contain no hormones, no antibiotics, no nitrates and no preservatives. Consumer popularity, sales levels and financial performance have consistently increased since its opening in late 2008. Plans are in development to open additional Dogmatic restaurants. Blum also serves as Executive Chairman and Board Director of Boundary Waters Brands, a new company headquartered in Minneapolis, Minnesota, offering distinctive, all-natural sodas.
Blum earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics and Urban Studies from Denison University and an MBA from Northwestern University’s J.L. Kellogg Graduate School of Management, where he majored in Marketing and Finance. Blum resides in Winter Park, Florida and New York City. He has served on several boards including: former Chairman of the Economic Development Board for the City of Winter Park, Florida; the Board of Trustees for the Atlantic Center for the Arts in Central Florida; and the Advisory Board for Sun Trust Bank. Additionally, Blum is an accomplished endurance road course racecar driver, placing in the top ten at the 2005 Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona.