Famous Dave’s CEO Ed Rensi Is Out After 17 Months


Live by the sword, die by the sword. 

Executive heads began rolling after Ed Rensi became Interim CEO at Famous Dave's of America early last year. Today, his own was “transitioned” out the door, the troubled BBQ chain announced on June 18. Independent board member and investor Adam J. Wright was appointed Interim CEO until a permanent replacement is found.

Last December, the 70-year-old executive told the Chicago Sun-Times: “When you’re running a company that’s in stress, you’ve got to do a lot of things differently than you might otherwise do.”

Rensi’s 17-month tenure at the publicly traded company (DAVE) was marred by falling comparable sales and traffic. Despite introducing a new decor, up-dating menu items and local-store marketing, Rensi couldn't boost revenue or guest counts enough to gain investor confidence. Shares of DAVE are now worth $18 each, or about a dollar less than the day Rensi became chief executive. 

In the most recent quarter (ended March 29) the company reported comps sales at company stores tumbled 4.9% compared to 4.9% for the ams period in 2014. Comparable sales at franchise restaurants decreased by 0.1% compared to a decrease of 3.3% for the same period in 2014.

“People liked Ed when he came on board,” recalled restaurant analyst Mark Smith of Felti and Company, . “He brought a ton of experience and would be able to turn this thing around by getting franchisees on board to make changes in operations. It was a dated concept.”

Rensi, by the way, spent his entire career at McDonalds. Starting as a grill man in 1965, he rose to President and CEO of McDonald’s USA in the early 1990s, retiring 14 years later.

Smith, who has followed Famous Dave's for a decade, speculates that Rensi didn’t have to be asked to leave. “Ed might have said, “I don’t have to put up this,’ and walked away,” he said. "He might have also realized he burned some bridges early on.”

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