Struggling Famous Dave's appoints 4th CEO in 4 years

There's more upheaval at struggling barbecue chain Famous Dave's, which has just appointed its fourth CEO in as many years.
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There's more upheaval at struggling barbecue chain Famous Dave's, which has just appointed its fourth CEO in as many years.

The Minnetonka-based restaurant group announced on Wednesday that Adam Wright has left the company after just 10 months as CEO, with 19-year veteran Michael W. Lister taking his place.

Lister owns several Famous Dave's franchises in Tennessee and was previously the senior vice president of operations between 1997 and 2001.

He takes his new position at the top at a time of continued struggles for the chain, with his appointment making him the sixth CEO the company has had since 2008. He's the most recent leader given the brief to turn the company around,

"Mike Lister’s deep expertise in the restaurant industry, along with his demonstrated success as a Famous Dave’s franchise owner, gives us full confidence that he is the right leader to continue the efforts to turn Famous Dave’s around,"said Famous Dave’s Chairman Joseph Jacobs.

The Star Tribune reports that under Wright's leadership, Famous Dave's sales fell 14 percent in the second quarter and has seen its stock price slashed by more than half, from around $12 a share a year ago to just $5.28 on Wednesday.

During his brief tenure, Wright did bring back company founder Dave Anderson into the fold, and the newspaper says he will be staying on as a consultant under Lister.

Attempts to boost business have not been a huge success

Much of Wright's time saw him reverse changes made by previous CEOs that the company referred to as "wrong," which included smaller portions, different plateware and changes to "iconic items" such as its cornbread muffins.

Since then, the company has brought back bigger portions and previously popular menu items, improved staff training, and added short-term special menu items including beef short-rib and fried chicken dishes developed by Anderson himself.

The Business Journal reports that the chain has also been working to add more lower-cost options, such as a fried chicken and cornbread meal for $10 on Sundays, though this has yet to have an impact on its bottom line.

Anderson opened his first BBQ shack in Hayward, Wisconsin, in 1994, before opening Famous Dave's BBQ and Blues in Minneapolis two years later, according to the company website.

It now has around 200 eateries nationwide, 16 of them in Minnesota.

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New CEO takes over Famous Dave's

Famous Dave's of America has appointed board member John Gilbert III as its new chief executive officer, the Pioneer Press reports. Current CEO Christopher O'Donnell will stay with the Minnetonka-based barbecue restaurant chain as its president and chief operating officer. Gilbert was most recently the CEO of Vermont Teddy Bear.