Torchy's Tacos announced Friday that CEO GJ Hart is retiring, effective immediately.
Founder Mike Rypka will serve as interim CEO, and Hart will remain as a consultant.
Under Hart, Torchy's grew from 45 to 96 locations, including the opening of nearly 30 stores across 2020 and 2021.
“Torchy’s is by far one of the hottest brands in the industry today and I am so proud of the passionate team we have built," Hart said in a statement. "I have thoroughly enjoyed my time leading the organization to this point, and I am grateful to our employees and investors for their support and partnership as we have grown the business. I believe that Torchy’s will continue to have incredible success far into the future and I look forward to providing support throughout that journey.”
Hart joined Torchy's in January 2018 after more than 25 years in the restaurant industry. Prior to his tenure at the taco fast casual, he served as CEO of California Pizza Kitchen, where he spent 11 years leading the brand through a new look, menu, and service model. He also spent time as chief executive of Texas Roadhouse, where he led the chain through an IPO in 2004 and revenue growth from $63 million to more than $1 billion.
“GJ has provided tremendous value to Torchy’s during his four years as CEO," Rykpa said in a statement. "He has contributed significantly to the growth and success of the brand, and his leadership has enabled us to attract some of the finest talent in the restaurant industry. We are incredibly proud of the Torchy’s team and excited about the many opportunities ahead of us. We thank GJ for all he has helped us achieve, and we wish him the very best as he embarks on his retirement.”
In November 2020, Torchy's sold a $400 million stake to an investor group led by General Atlantic, a majority shareholder that came onboard in 2017. Other firms in the consortium include D1 Capital Partners, T. Rowe Price, Lone Pine Capital, and XN. The brand is leveraging the investment to enter 10 more states in the next four years. In January 2020, Hart said Torchy's wanted to reach at least 160 stores in the next three years.
In March, Bloomberg reported that Torchy's was moving forward with plans for an IPO. The chain was reportedly working with Morgan Stanley, Bank of America Corp, and JPMorgan Chase & Co. Sources told the media outlet that Torchy’s could raise about $300 million and be valued at about $1 billion.