Torchy’s Tacos announced today that G.J. Hart has been named its chief executive officer, effective January 29. “Thanks to all of our taco junkies, Torchy’s has experienced incredible growth in the past 11 years,” says Michael Rypka, founder and vice president of Marketing & Culinary at Torchy’s Tacos. “We have been engaged in a CEO search to find a leading executive with the operational and strategic expertise to take Torchy’s to the next level. We are thrilled to have G.J. join the Torchy’s family. He is a highly respected industry leader with a proven track record that will be instrumental in our future success and growth. Most importantly, he is committed to helping us continue to grow our business while staying committed to doing what we do best, which is to serve our guests ‘Damn Good Tacos’.”
Torchy’s Tacos was founded in Austin in 2006 by former corporate chef Michael Rypka, who was inspired by a love for tacos and a passion for experimenting with food to bring an untraditional taco experience to the people of Texas. Born out of a food truck, the concept was welcomed with enthusiasm by taco lovers in the Austin market. Today, Torchy’s serves innovative, unconventional tacos to customers in over 50 locations across three states, offering a unique and edgy dining experience.
“Torchy’s has significant growth potential and I cannot imagine a more exciting time to join the team,” says Hart. “Torchy’s is a unique and dynamic brand with a talented leadership team and team members whose success is anchored by a strong culture that can’t be matched in the fast-casual space. I look forward to working closely with the company’s leadership team to continue to build on its already successful efforts of originality and quality as the company enters its next phase of growth.”
With over 25 years of experience as an operator and executive within the restaurant industry, Hart is a proven leader and innovator. Previously, he served as president, chief executive officer, and executive chairman of California Pizza Kitchen, the authority in creative dining with a California vibe, since 2011. Since G.J. took the helm, he led the 32-year old brand to its “Next Chapter” of growth with a program that infuses a fresh, contemporary look, innovative menu, and world-class service model.
Before that, Hart served as the CEO and president of Texas Roadhouse Inc. During his 11 years at Texas Roadhouse, he led the company through unprecedented growth, a successful initial public offering in October of 2004 and revenue growth from $63 million to over $1 billion. In 2012, G.J. was the first to be named into the James Madison University (JMU) Hospitality School Hall of Fame. In 2015, he and his wife, Heather Hart, jointly announced a $3 million gift commitment to JMU resulting the newly renamed Hart School of Hospitality, Sport and Recreation Management.
He is on the National Board of Directors for Make-A-Wish Foundation and serves advisory board memberships with the following organizations: Bellarmine University Trustee, Advisory Board at James Madison University Business School, Thornton Oil and University of Louisville’s College of Business and Public Administration. He has been an active member of Habitat for Humanity, Volunteers of America, the Special Olympics and the Boys & Girls Clubs of America and is the Founder of the Louisville Metro Police Department. 2 | P a g e 2017 has been marked by significant growth for Torchy’s along with the achievement of several significant milestones.
In March, Torchy’s opened a location in the newly designed centerfield at Minute Maid Park, the home of the now World Series champion Houston Astros. This is the first professional sports stadium location for Torchy’s. In July, Torchy’s launched a new menu featuring the addition of six new items including the Airstream salad, the first salad offering in Torchy’s history. Finally, in October, Torchy’s celebrated the grand opening of its 50th location in spring, Texas. In its next phase of growth, Torchy’s plans to continue to capitalize on its loyal brand following and will continue its journey to grow in not only the places it does business today but throughout the U.S.