good, healthy food being served  
Professional Highlights

Career

General Mills
After graduate school, Blum found a home with General Mills as a marketing executive. He worked at General Mills on both a national and international level. He quickly rose through the ranks, and as a 29-year-old, Blum became Director of Marketing in the company's largest division – the Big G Division – responsible for established cereals. Prior to that, he invented and introduced Cinnamon Toast Crunch, which became one of General Mills' most popular and profitable cereals. Perhaps Blum's greatest legacy at General Mills was for being the person who put the first female athlete on the front of the Wheaties box (Mary Lou Retton), and soon thereafter he put the first African American athlete on Wheaties (Walter Payton) [7], honoring these exceptional athletes and broadening the brand's appeal through diversity. Blum then ventured overseas from General Mills' headquarters in Minneapolis to help launch Cereal Partners Worldwide (CPW), a 50/50 global joint venture of Nestlé and General Mills, established in Morges, Switzerland. This organization went from an entrepreneurial start-up to a major, high growth operating company selling breakfast cereals around the world (excluding the United States) with annual sales in 2011 exceeding 2.6 billion Swiss francs ($2.9 billion), and is now the second biggest cereal producer in the world after Kellogg's. [8]

Olive Garden
In 1994, after the success of CPW, Blum was asked to return to the United States to join the General Mills Restaurant Group to reverse the double-digit declines in same-restaurant sales at Olive Garden [9]. He became the new president of Olive Garden in December of that year, at which time it was also announced that the restaurant group would spin out as a separate publicly traded company named Darden Restaurants. [10] For the next eight years to 2002, Blum led Olive Garden from 'the brink of extinction' through a total transformation, achieving record levels of guest satisfaction ratings while significantly reducing management and employee turnover. [11] He is credited with reviving Darden's flagship Olive Garden chain, turning the brand around in the 1990's, one of the biggest turnarounds in restaurant history. [12,13] When Blum was named President of the then-struggling company, he opted to up the quality and try to return Olive Garden to its true Italian heritage. [14] Partnering with EVP of Operations Bob Mock, he elevated operations standards dramatically and increased the importance placed on the restaurant general manager position. Blum established an innovative joint partnership with a major, family-owned winery in Italy when Olive Garden opened the Culinary Institute of Tuscany and the Olive Garden Riserva di Fizzano restaurant in a resorted 11th century village, which helped bring the company vision to life by further raising standards and serving as a symbol of authenticity for the brand [15,16]. Blum even brought in authentic recipes from all over Italy [14] (90 percent of the Olive Garden menu was either new or improved while he was president). He introduced a new advertising campaign and the long-standing 'When You're Here, You're Family' slogan, which underscored the qualities of a genuine Italian dining experience. [17] It worked. Olive Garden notched 29 consecutive quarters of same-restaurant sales increases under his tenure. That might have gone on longer – and Blum had a serious shot at becoming CEO of Darden – except that he jumped at an even bigger offer, to become CEO of Burger King. [14]

Darden Restaurants
In March 2002, Blum had moved further up the ladder to Vice Chairman of Darden Restaurants, the owner of the Olive Garden restaurant chain. Because of Blum's leadership, Olive Garden became the most successful and valuable part of the Darden portfolio of brands. Some of Blum's responsibilities were to oversee Olive Garden and Smokey Bones (considered one of Darden's most promising new restaurant companies). Darden was and is the largest casual dining restaurant company in the world. Blum oversaw the quality assurance, purchasing, and distribution for all the brand name restaurants that Darden owned. The purchasing included the very fickle and unpredictable business of global fish and seafood supply for Red Lobster. The last notable responsibility Blum had as the Vice Chairman for Darden Restaurants was the evaluation of up and coming restaurants for newly prospective acquisitions. [18]‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

Burger King
In late 2002, he was named the new CEO of Burger King Corporation—an $11 billion global fast food restaurant company. Blum's mission ... to turn around the quickly declining company and bring back its bottom line. Burger King Corporation changed ownership after Diageo sold it to private equity partners Texas Pacific Group, Bain Capital and Goldman Sachs. Blum ran Burger King (the number two burger restaurant chain in the world) as its CEO and was instrumental in significantly improving the firm's financial performance. [19] After Blum's first year at Burger King, the average same-restaurant sales performance turned around, trending from negative 7 percent to monthly increases of more than positive 7 percent. [20] Several actions led to this significantly improved performance. Blum initiated a bold move to eliminate deep discounting of signature products, in hopes of restoring competition in the market around quality and innovation. He moved the company away from 99-cent Whoppers back to a regular suggested price of $1.99 to $2.19. [21] McDonald's and Wendy's followed this pricing strategy, and Burger King doubled profits in Blum's first year at the helm [18]. In turn, he enlisted the help of Burger King co-founder David Edgerton to see that every aspect of the Whopper sandwich was improved (meat, cheese, bun, tomatoes, pickles, onions, mayonnaise) – everything except the Heinz ketchup. [22] Blum also led the development and national introduction of a new, premium product in an unheard timetable of just three months. The TenderCrisp Chicken Sandwich achieved over a half billion dollars of sales in its first year after introduction. [22,23] Blum then hired a new advertising agency and re-introduced 'Have It Your Way', which established a clear point of difference and also featured the benefits of Burger King's Fire-Grilled cooking advantage [24]. Although some in the franchisee ranks, and even among the new ownership, did not initially embrace some of his bold moves, Blum accomplished a lot in a short time frame to reposition the brand and turn around its fortunes. This proved advantageous to a very successful IPO for Burger King in 2006. [15, 25, 26]

BLUM Enterprises
Blum has been in the food and restaurant business his entire career, always dedicated to quality, innovation and authenticity. He decided to ‘up his game’ and fully devote his career going forward to bettering the food supply, particularly in the U.S. restaurant industry. When he founded BLUM Enterprises in 2005, he soon thereafter created and trademarked Good Food for the Planet™. [27] It is defined as restaurant food that follows five specific principles: 1. Exceptionally Good Tasting; 2. Remarkably Good for You; 3. Leaves You Feeling Good; 4. Good Everyday Value; 5. Good for the Environment. [28] He is encouraging leaders and companies to make decisions using these five filters. With this mission, his company focused its efforts on restaurant strategy, concept development and investing. Blum entered into a strategic partnership with Ruby Tuesday and created ‘Simple Fresh American Dining’ as the new brand positioning – with greater freshness upgrades to its menu and development of various high quality new products. “He has a proven track record of building strong brands in the restaurant industry,” said Sandy Beall, founder, chairman & CEO of Ruby Tuesday. [29] The company’s stock increased 57 percent during this intensive ‘on the ground’ partnership, with several Wall Street analysts noting BLUM Enterprises’ involvement as a key factor for its increased value. [30] Blum developed and introduced a new branded restaurant named Dogmatic. The delicious European-inspired Dogmatic Dogs are made of sustainable grass-fed beef, free-range chicken, pasture-raised lamb or all-natural pork, and they contain no hormones, no antibiotics, no nitrates and no preservatives. [31] Blum discovered and has invested in a brand that was started in London, LEON Naturally Fast Food, whose restaurants are described by The Times as ‘The Future of Fast Food’ because of using sustainable ingredients, having great tasting food and providing fast speed of service in a new modern environment. [32] Five to Seven is a transatlantic partnership co-founded by Blum and John Vincent in May 2013, which has goodness at its core and as its goal. [33] Good Food for the Planet™ is the tagline, and the goal is to invest in brands that promote healthy eating, cut down on obesity levels and help make ‘good food’ be more of an easily attainable commodity all over the world. [34] “I have worked with Brad over the years,” said Malcolm Knapp, president of Malcolm M. Knapp, Inc., a leading advisor to the restaurant industry. “Brad combines two qualities that make him unique. One is his ability to conceptualize core brand equities that have sustainable resonance with consumers, and the other is organizational skill to create and lead teams to consistently implement strategies that result in long-term profit growth.” [29]       

Romano’s Macaroni Grill
In late 2008, Romano’s Macaroni Grill had been suffering accelerated declines in sales, profits and market share of the casual dining industry throughout the previous five years. At that point, Brinker International chose to sell the company to a private equity firm, Golden Gate Capital. They made a move to hire Blum as its CEO. Immediately, Blum began leading what resulted in a turnaround of the same-restaurant sales trend from negative 11 percent to a positive 3 percent from the previous year, outperforming the industry for the first time in over five years. Essential to Macaroni Grill's quick uptick in business was Blum's decision to completely revamp the menu with the heralded Mediterranean way of preparing and cooking food. In the first fifteen months that Blum was there, each food item was either significantly improved or new to the menu – enhancing taste, freshness and guest satisfaction. Not only were the quality of the meals improved, but he was also able to lower the costs of these recipes as they were prepared in open kitchens visible to customers. On top of these benefits, a total of 42,000 calories were eliminated from the menu – a 49 percent reduction in calories, a 59 percent reduction in fat, and a 46 percent reduction in sodium – [18] for customers to enjoy better tasting food and not ‘pay the price’. Blum titled the menu change as ‘Quality up. Cost down’, with a vision of ‘Fresh. Simple. Authentic.’ [35] As a result of these moves, the customers enjoyed a higher satisfaction rate and they were visiting the restaurants more frequently, to outperform the industry. Then, in July 2010, the private equity company abruptly fired Blum. [36] It was the biggest disappointment of his career as his strategy to provide Good Food for the Planet™ was clearly working and beginning to gain public acceptance, evidenced just weeks before when David Zinczenko, Editor of Men’s Health, praised Blum’s efforts to Matt Laurer on the NBC Today Show. [37] After Blum left Romano’s Macaroni Grill, the new management team that was brought in retreated to a different strategy and the company has since been sold twice at a far reduced value each time [38] … and with more calories, fat and sodium added back into their food. [39] “Once one of the hottest restaurant brands in the country, the Italian chain’s value has fallen by more than 95 percent in less than seven years,” said Jonathon Maze, Nation’s Restaurant News. [38]  


Controversy

Cosi
In 2011, Blum established BLUM Growth Fund and became an activist for the first time in his career. With the encouragement of Cosi shareholders, evidenced through their near-unanimous survey results and accompanying comments overwhelmingly showing no confidence in the board of directors, he called for ‘Shareholder Democracy’ at Cosi and made a valiant attempt to refresh the board to turn around the company’s ailing performance. [40] Cosi had lost over $200 million since going public, resulting in a 95 percent decline in shareholder value and notification that its stock was at risk of being de-listed from NASDAQ if performance did not improve. [41,42] BLUM Growth Fund purchased almost 7 percent of the company’s stock (spending $4 million of Blum’s own net worth) and Blum, a noted restaurant brand turnaround expert, offered to serve as CEO for $1 a year. [42] Analysts and shareholders spoke out. “No shareholder has endorsed the current board of directors or feels confident in the fate of Cosi if left in their hands,” said Howard Penney, a leading restaurant security analyst and Managing Partner at Hedgeye Risk Management. [43] Eric Kuby, Chief Investment Officer at Northstar Investment Corporation in Chicago, who owns approximately one million shares added, “We want shareholder democracy to prevail at Cosi. We believe that the BLUM Growth Fund plan is a good solution. Based on his past track record of results, we would like Brad Blum to be the chairman & CEO of Cosi. We are surprised that the Board hasn’t eagerly embraced his offer, since he seems exactly what the doctor ordered.” [43] It did not happen. The board remained in place and ultimately hired another CEO, and then after 18 months fired that CEO and appointed an interim CEO, who then left, and then the board hired yet another CEO. The company has still not made an annual profit. [44]

Starboard Value
Hedge Fund Activist Investor Starboard Value and its CEO, Jeff Smith, led a highly contested proxy fight in 2014. It resulted in an entire roster of the full-service restaurant company’s board of directors at Darden Restaurants, Inc. being wiped out and replaced by a suite of candidates hand-picked by Starboard Value. [45] Among the most interesting names on the list of twelve board director replacements is Brad Blum. [14] Starboard hired Blum in February 2014 to become their lead advisor on the Darden project “in view of Mr. Blum’s unique skill set, broad restaurant industry experience and extensive restaurant industry knowledge.” [46,47] Analysts say his hiring gave Starboard more credibility. [48] Blum is the longest tenured president in Olive Garden’s recent history, led Olive Garden through its very successful turnaround in the 1990’s and early 2000’s, and served as Vice Chairman of Darden’s board; eventually leaving to become CEO of Burger King in order to turn around their business. [49] Blum’s hiring “sends a message to the other side that we’ve got someone in our stable who can run the company if it comes to that so you’d better listen to us,” said Chris Muller, a former University of Central Florida restaurant professor now at Boston University. [48] Darden announced on July 28, 2014 that Clarence Otis, its embattled chief executive and chairman, would step down as CEO at year end. He immediately resigned as chairman and indicated he was not running for re-election to the board. [13,50] Starboard released its plan for Darden to the public on September 11, 2014 as a 296-page presentation. A key focus highlighted the deficiencies of its flagship business, Olive Garden, which has struggled with disappointing sales since 2011. [48] Starboard’s presentation detailed what its board would do if it won the shareholder election – steps as small as salting pasta water and not serving too many breadsticks at once, and as broad as breaking up the company’s brands and selling its real estate. [48,51,52] Shareholders elected the completely new board on October 10, 2014. Looking to the company’s future, analysts said the only sure thing was that Starboard had achieved what it had always wanted: a say in the future of Olive Garden. What it does with Darden’s biggest brand, along with the rest of the company, is still very much for debate. [45] In the first nine months since Starboard’s slate of board directors was elected, Darden’s stock price increased 53 percent. [53]


Awards

In October 2000, to recognize the impressive turnaround of Olive Garden while he was still leading the company as President, his restaurant peers honored Blum with the MUFSO Operator of the Year Award, one of the highest honors in the restaurant industry. He also received a Golden Chain Award in that same year. [54] In May 2010, Nation’s Restaurant News awarded Blum as the MenuMasters Innovator of the Year in the restaurant industry for the leading-edge changes he made at Romano’s Macaroni Grill. [35] Blum was awarded the Alumni Citation for Excellence by the President of Denison University in 2010 for a lifetime of achievement as a visionary and innovator in the restaurant industry. [55]


Personal

Single. Age 62. Blum was previously married and he and his former wife divorced in 2005. He is an accomplished endurance road course racecar driver, having won five national championships in the HSR Racing Series and raced several times among the world's top professionals in the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona, once achieving a top ten finish in the GT class [56]. Blum actively supports the arts and also serves on the board of The Himalayan Youth Foundation, a global organization dedicated to helping house and educate children in Nepal. [57]

 

   

References

1 Blum: I’d Work as Cosi’s CEO for $1 a Year | By Lori Ann LaRocco | CNBC | September 27, 2011

2 Bradley D. Blum ’76 – Alumni Citation for Excellence Award | By President Dale Knoebel | Denison University | June 2010

3 Former Burger King CEO signs with UK-based LEON | FastCasual.com

4 Former Burger King CEO signs with UK-based LEON | FastCasual.com
 
5 AmRest Holdings SE website | www.amrest.eu | Supervisory Board

6 Darden Restaurants, Inc. website | www.darden.com | Board of Directors

7 Wheaties looking for ‘healthy lifestyle’ | Chicago Tribune | January 3, 1988 [Bradley Blum, the marketing director most responsible since 1984 for selecting athletes to grace the Wheaties package]

8 Cereals – The Next Frontier | Wall Street Journal – The Source | February 3, 2011 [2.6 billion Swiss Francs]

9 Burger King Signs Bradley Blum as New CEO | QSR Magazine | December 20, 2002

10 General Mills’ Stock Splits – Restaurant Group Spins Off | By Hal Silliman | Lodi News – Sentinel | May 31, 1995

11 Ex-Darden leader Blum takes key role in activist investor battle | By Sandra Pedicini | Orlando Sentinel | March 2, 2014

12 Darden Analyst: Brad Blum is ‘my pick’ for new CEO | By Anjali Fluker | Orlando Business Journal | October 2014

13 Darden Board Vulnerable as Activists Circle | By Lisa Baertlein | Reuters - Markets | August 12, 2014

14 ‘Olive Garden: Is it next?” | By Bruce Horowitz | USA Today | May 23, 2014

15 What’s Cooking at Olive Garden | By Jerry Jackson | Orlando Sentinel | October 20, 1999

16 Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? | By Bob Bradley | Restaurant Report | October 1999

17 Olive Garden Changed ‘When You’re Here, You’re Family’ to Something Awful | By Laura Sampler | Business Insider | October 5, 2012

18 http://www.blumgrowthfund.com/background.html

19 Cosi’s Turnaround Story is On; New CEO Buys Stock | By Zack Miller | Seeking Alpha | February 2, 2012

20 Burger King CEO Brad Blum Steps Down | By Heather Williams | Market Watch | July 2, 2004 [the company reported that domestic year-over-year sales rose 7.5 percent in May and said it expects increased gains for June]

21 Burger War intensifies with 99-cent Whopper | Bloomberg, AP & Staff Reports | January 3, 2003

22 Burger King Zaps Menu, Image | By Bruce Horowitz | USA Today | March 21, 2004

23 Burger King promotes tongue-in-beak Chicken Fight | By Theresa Howard | USA Today | November 5, 2004

24 Burger King Wikipedia | Advertising | [In 2002, its new CEO Brad Blum set about by initiating an overhaul of its flailing advertising programs. One of the first moves by the company was to re-instate its famous ‘Have It Your Way’ slogan]

25 Burger King IPO set to fire up | By Grace Wong | CNN Money | May 12, 2006

26 Burger King’s IPO declared ‘a success’ | By Bruce Horowitz | USA Today | May 19, 2006

27 Good Food for the Planet™ | Justia Trademarks | Trademark of BLUM Enterprises LLC | filed August 30, 2006

28 Good Food for ALL | By Julie Ann Patty | QSR | June 2013

29 Brad Blum Announces formation of New company and partnership with Ruby Tuesday, Inc. | PR News Wire | September 19, 2005

30 Wall Street Restaurant Analyst Reports

31 Greenwich Village’s Dogmatic Redefines What a Hot Dog Can Be | By Scott Haines | Food Gothamist | February 7, 2014

32 “The Future of Fast Food” | By Giles Coran | The Times | LEON website www.leonrestaurants.co.uk

33 Good Food for All | By Juli Anne Patty | QSR | June 2013

34 Vincent and Blum to take good food global | Peach Report | May 8, 2013

35 MenuMasters Award Winners Are Visionaries | Romano’s Macaroni Grill CEO aims to boost quality, cut costs | By Mary Caldwell | Nation’s Restaurant News | May 2010 

36 Macaroni Grill Shakes Up Leadership | Restaurant Operations Professionals | http://damiandining.com/our-blog23-macaronigrillshakesupleadership

37 NBC Today Show | May 2010

38 Why Ignite Sold Macaroni Grill For So Little | By Jonathon Maze | Nation’s Restaurant News | March 11, 2015 [Golden Gate Capital purchased company from Brinker International for $131 million and sold to Ignite for $55 million; Ignite sold to Red Rock Partners eighteen months later for $8 million]

39 Romano’s Macaroni Grill website | www.macaronigrill.com | Nutrition

40 BLUM Growth fund Announces Cosi Shareholder Survey Results | Business Wire | November 2, 2011

41 Cosi Investor Wants To Be CEO | Wall Street Journal | By Julie Jargon | September 28, 2011 [“shares traded at $11.21 in March of 2006 and have fallen as a low as 56 cents earlier this month”]

42 Blum: I’d Work as Cosi’s CEO for $1 a Year | By Lori Ann LaRocco | CNBC | September 27, 2011 [“In March 2006 the stock was $11.21 a share and now the stock is trading around 69 cents.”]

43 BLUM Growth Fund Announces Cosi Shareholder Survey Results | Business Wire | November 2, 2011

44 Cosi 2014 Annual Report

45 As It Leans Starboard, Will Darden Sink? | By Jacob Passy | Freelance Journalist | http://coveringcompanies.2014.journalism.cuny.edu/2014/10/11leans-starboard-will-darden-sink | October 11, 2014

46 Activist Darden Investor Hires Brad Blum as Advisor | By Mark Brandau | Nation’s Restaurant News | February 21, 2014

47 Starboard has hired none other than Brad Blum as an advisor | By Jonathon Maze | Restaurant Finance Monitor | February 2014

48 Ex-Darden leader Blum takes key role in activist investor battle | By Sandra Pedicini | Orlando Sentinel | March 2, 2014

49 Brad Blum, the longest tenured president in Olive Garden’s recent history | newyork.citybizlist.com | September 20, 2014

50 Darden Board Vulnerable as Activists Circle – analysts | By Lisa Baertlein in Los Angeles and Ross Kerber in Boston | Markets | August 12, 2014

51 Transforming Darden Restaurants | By Starboard Value | September 11, 2014

52 Darden Bondholders Protest Plan to Spin Off Real Estate | By David Benoit and Matt Jarzensky | Wall Street Journal | July 22, 2015

53 DRI Historical Prices | Darden Restaurants, Inc. | [$47.15 on October 10, 2014 to $72.16 on July 10, 2015]

54 Olive Garden’s Blum is Operator of the Year | By Jack Hayes | Nation’s Restaurant News | October 9, 2000

55 Bradley D. Blum ’76 | Alumni Citation for Excellence Award | By President Dale Knoebel | Denison University | June 2010

56 2005 Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series Results | Racing-Reference.info | [9th in GT class; overall 21st out of 62 cars]

57 Nepal Earthquake Aid Goes from Winter Park to Kathmandu | By Kate Santich | Orlando Sentinel | May 12, 2015      

     

 

 

     
 

BLUM GROWTH FUND
©2016 - All Rights Reserved