Kelli Valade is Chief Executive Officer of Red Lobster, the world’s largest seafood restaurant company. She came to Red Lobster in August 2021 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 where she was responsible for 80,000+ ChiliHeads and more than 1,600 restaurants. In this role, 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. While at Brinker, she previously held other leadership positions including Chief Operating Officer and Senior Vice President of Human Resources.
Kelli 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.
Kelli has 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.
Kelli earned her bachelor’s degree from Binghamton University and an MBA from Syracuse University. She is married and has two adult children.
Joel Chick is Executive Vice President, Operations for Orlando, FL based Red Lobster Seafood Company. Red Lobster is the world’s largest seafood restaurant company, with more than 700 restaurants and 45,000 employees around the world. In his capacity, Joel has responsibility for overall restaurant execution, including oversight of a team of seven Vice Presidents of Operations.
Joel started with Red Lobster as an hourly employee nearly 20 years ago and has demonstrated excellent performance and invaluable leadership in roles of progressive responsibility throughout his tenure, from Restaurant Manager to General Manager, to Director of Operations and Vice President of Operations. In his most recent role as Vice President, Operations Finance, Joel was instrumental in engineering Red Lobster’s off-premise guest experience and other Operations strategies during the COVID-19 pandemic. His knowledge and leadership helped the brand not only navigate great uncertainty with constrained resources but also brought to life changes that set the brand up well for future recovery and growth.
Joel earned his BBA in Business Administration and Management from Eastern Kentucky University. He and his wife, Sonya, have two boys.
Horace G. Dawson, III
Horace Dawson is Executive Vice President and General Counsel of Red Lobster, the world’s largest seafood restaurant company with more than 700 restaurants around the world and nearly 45,000 employees. Horace leads legal affairs and is also responsible for communications and government relations.
Prior to joining Red Lobster in July 2014, Horace was Vice President and Division General Counsel for Darden Restaurants, Inc. During his eleven years at Darden, his practice areas included litigation, employment, intellectual property, advertising, licensing, mergers and acquisitions, international, commercial, purchasing, distribution and new business development.
Horace also has experience in private practice, having handled matters in the corporate and securities areas in the Orlando office of Akerman LLP, a national law firm.
From 1996 to 2001, Horace served as Vice President of Business Affairs and General Counsel of Hard Rock Cafe International, the restaurant, merchandising, hotel and live music venue chain. Horace led restaurant and hotel development during a period of rapid expansion from 37 restaurants to 104 restaurants and three hotels. Prior to joining Hard Rock, Horace practiced in the entertainment, securities, corporate, and communications areas for Telemundo Network, the Spanish language television broadcaster and for New York City law firms.
Horace serves on the Boards of Directors of the National Restaurant Association, the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association, the Restaurant Law Center, Stronger America Through Seafood, Global Seafood Assurances and the Boys and Girls Club of Central Florida and on the Board of Trustees of the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation. He also serves as a member of the City National Bank of Florida-Orlando Region Advisory Committee.
Horace received his undergraduate, law and Master of Business Administration degrees from Harvard University.
Nelson Griffin is the Executive Vice President, Chief Procurement and Real Estate Officer for Red Lobster, the world’s largest seafood restaurant company. In his current role, Nelson is responsible for leading all the supply chain related activities, including over $900MM of food and beverages as well as all supplies such as kitchen equipment, product distribution, real estate, facilities services and travel services for over 700 locations globally. In addition, Nelson oversees the Total Quality department that is responsible for food safety, product quality and restaurant inspections.
Prior to Red Lobster, Nelson joined Darden Restaurants, Inc. in October 2011 as Director, Poultry and Commodities Purchasing, and later served as the Senior Director of Land-Based Protein Purchasing responsible for more than $400MM of protein products for the more than 2100 Darden restaurants throughout the United States and Canada. He was promoted to Vice President of Supply Chain in April 2014.
Previously, Nelson was Director of Strategic Procurement for Kellogg’s in Battle Creek, Michigan where he was accountable for annual purchases of $1.2B, primarily focused on grain-based commodities for 29 North American manufacturing facilities.
Nelson also spent 19 years with Cracker Barrel Old Country Store, Inc. in Lebanon, TN serving in a variety of roles including Vice President of Purchasing, where his team was responsible for procurement, distribution, quality assurance, fleet management, travel and print services along with all capital equipment needs for 500+ locations across the U.S.
Nelson currently serves on the Board of Directors for Global Aquaculture Alliance (GAA), National Fisheries Institute (NFI) and Seafood Nutrition Partnership (SNP).
Nelson is a veteran of the U.S. Navy. After his military service, he attended Eastern Oklahoma State College and completed his B.S. in Business Management through the University of Phoenix.
Nelson and his wife Teresa currently reside in Orlando, FL. They are the proud parents of two sons and a daughter and even prouder grandparents of one 10-year-old grandson and a newborn granddaughter.