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Red Lobster® Names Kelli Valade Next CEO

Orlando, Fla. (July 1, 2021) – Red Lobster® announced Kelli Valade will be the company’s next CEO. Valade will take on her new role on August 2, succeeding Kim Lopdrup, who plans to retire after leading the iconic seafood restaurant brand for 14 years.

Valade comes to Red Lobster from 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. While at Brinker, she previously held leadership positions including Chief Operating Officer and Senior Vice President of Human Resources. As President, Valade was responsible for 80,000+ ChiliHeads and more than 1,600 restaurants. She established a clear vision and bold strategies and cultivated a purpose-driven culture, all with uncompromising dedication to the guest and her team members.   

“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. “Her experience and deep industry insights coupled with her integrity and commitment to fostering a purpose-driven culture are the perfect fit as we begin this new chapter. I have never been more excited about Red Lobster’s future.”

Red Lobster Chairman Rittirong Boonmechote added, “We are delighted to welcome Kelli as Red Lobster’s next CEO. 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 ‘Where the world goes for seafood, now and for generations.’”

Valade has been passionate about the restaurant industry since the age of 16, when she landed her first restaurant job as a hostess. It was there she found the same hospitality, the same love of great food and the same connection around the table she experienced her entire childhood, cooking and eating food around her grandmother’s kitchen table in New York. Today, Valade continues to dedicate her career to living out that passion.

“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. “Red Lobster has incredible people and an amazing culture in place, along with a solid business model and a strong foundation as an iconic and differentiated brand. 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. I am looking forward to a very bright future together.”

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

Valade has also received several industry recognitions, including being named to the Nation’s Restaurant News Top 50 Power List several times. In addition, The Western Foodservice and Hospitality Expo gave her the Beacon Award in 2016 and Dallas Business Journal named her a Woman Worth Watching in 2013. In 2020, she earned the “Distinguished Alumni” award from Binghamton University and was honored for her impact in business and in the restaurant industry.

About Red Lobster Seafood Co.

Red Lobster is the world's largest and most-loved seafood restaurant company, headquartered in Orlando, Fla. With a proud heritage and an even brighter future, Red Lobster is focused on serving the highest quality, freshly prepared seafood that is traceable, sustainable and responsibly-sourced. To learn more about Red Lobster’s sourcing standards and where the seafood we serve comes from, please visit In 2021, Red Lobster was named to Forbes magazine’s list of America’s Best Large Employers and Newsweek magazine’s list of America’s Best Loyalty Programs. To learn more about Red Lobster, including locations and menu options, please visit or find us on Facebook or Twitter.

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