Tender Greens has named president Denyelle Bruno, left, to the additional role of CEO, replacing co-founder Erik Oberholtzer, who was named executive chairman of the fast-casual brand.
The 28-unit “slow food done fast” concept from Los Angeles said Bruno will serve in her new dual role effective immediately.
The company said it was “always the plan when they hired Denyelle” to have her take over as CEO.
Oberholtzer is “passionate about food policy so he's going to be putting more focus on speaking and driving reform in food policy issues, which serves his higher purpose,” the company told Nation’s Restaurant News. “This move is a total win for the company and for Erik.”
Bruno is a veteran retail executive who came to Tender Greens in 2017 after stints at Apple, Drybar, Peet’s Coffee, Macy’s and Design Within Reach.
She is charged with leading Tender Greens into its “next level of performance and growth,” which includes plans to triple its footprint over the next four years.
Scaling emerging or new brands is Bruno’s specialty. At Apple, she launched the first 25 Apple Stores. Drybar, a Southern California-based salon that provides only hair blowout services opened 55 locations during her three-year tenure.
Oberholzer, the face of the brand since it opened its first store in Culver City in 2006, said Tender Greens has just begun as a company under Bruno’s stewardship.
“As we continue to bring Tender Greens to more communities, we could not imagine a better leader than Denyelle. Her experience in taking iconic brands of our size to best-in-class companies is without comparison, and she also embodies the heart and culture of Tender Greens,” he said in a statement.
Tender Greens has earned a regional following for its salads, sandwiches and entrée plates featuring grilled proteins such as free-range chicken, salmon and marinated steak. Meals are scratch made in an exhibition kitchen that is typically led by a trained chef using premium ingredients.
From the beginning, Oberholtzer set out to provide fine dining quality foods to diners living on a fast-casual budget. Most meals range in price between $12-$13.
The regional Southern California brand in recent years has caught the attention of high-profile backers.
In July 2015, Danny Meyer’s New York-based Union Square Hospitality Group became an investor along with equity investment firm Alliance Consumer Growth. Meyer, founder of the Shake Shack chain, also joined the Tender Greens board.
Bruno said she’s honored to take the brand to the next level.
“We’re at the right place with the right team to further our movement and make Tender Greens a household name in cities and neighborhoods all across the country. I could not be more excited for what lies ahead,” she said in a statement.
The company operates 26 units in California stretching from San Diego to the Bay Area. It has two locations in the East Coast – one in New York City and the other in Boston. A second Boston restaurant is slated to open later this year.
The company said co-founder David Dressler will continue as chief people officer.
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