Red Lobster taps Kelli Valade to succeed Kim Lopdrup as CEO

Former head of Black Box Intelligence returns to casual-dining segment restaurant c-suite

Red Lobster has chosen Black Box Intelligence executive Kelli Valade as its new CEO effective August 2, 2021. Valade, who held the role of president and chief executive at Black Box, will succeed outgoing Red Lobster CEO Kim Lopdrup, who announced his retirement.

A seasoned executive, she worked for Brinkers for over two decades. There, Valade served as Chili’s Grill & Bar brand president, establishing a “clear vision and bold strategies.” Before that role, she also held the positions of chief operating officer and senior vice president, Human Resources.

“When I announced my plan to retire, I promised our people we would recruit an outstanding new CEO to lead Red Lobster to even greater success over the next generation, and I absolutely believe Kelli is that person,” said Lopdrup.

Valade currently serves on the boards of the National Restaurant Association Education Foundation (NRAEF) and Seasoned. In addition, she serves on the executive committee of the board of the Women’s Foodservice Forum (WFF). Valade also currently sits on the Board of Trustees for the Shelton School in Dallas.


“I love the restaurant industry because it’s about so much more than great food—it’s about the great people who are truly heroes on the frontlines of the restaurants delivering a great experience to guests every day,” said Valade. “My job as the brand’s new leader is to inspire and develop our people while also leveraging the brand’s strengths and finding ways to build on them for even greater success.”

Valade has been recognized for excellence throughout her career, including being named to the Nation’s Restaurant News Top 50 Power List several times. Plus, The Western Foodservice and Hospitality Expo gave her the Beacon Award in 2016. In addition, the Dallas Business Journal named her a Woman Worth Watching in 2013.


“We are delighted to welcome Kelli as Red Lobster’s next CEO,” said Red Lobster Chairman Rittirong Boonmechote. “She has proven that she can lead large casual dining companies very successfully, and she brings all the key skills that we were hoping to find.”

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