Red Lobster taps industry veteran as next CEO

Marianne Wilson
Marianne Wilson profile picture
Kelli Valade
Kelli Valade

That didn’t take very long.

Several days after Red Lobster CEO Kim Lopdrup announced his plans to retire, the company named Kelli Valade as its next chief executive, effective Aug. 2. Lopdrup is stepping down from his post after leading the iconic seafood restaurant brand for 14 years.

Valade joins Red Lobster from restaurant analytics and insights products company Black Box Intelligence, where she served as president and CEO since 2019. Prior to joining Black Box Intelligence, Kelli spent over 22 years at Brinker International, including most recently serving as brand president for Chili's Grill & Bar, responsible for more than 1,600 restaurants. While at Brinker, she previously held leadership positions, including COO and senior VP of human resources. 

"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. She is the ideal leader to help fulfill our vision of making Red Lobster.” 

Valade currently serves on the boards of the National Restaurant Association Education Foundation and Seasoned as well as on the executive committee of the board of the Women's Foodservice Forum. She also currently sits on the board of trustees for the Shelton School in Dallas.