B.A., Denison University, 1976
M.B.A., Northwestern University, 1978
Citation awarded June, 2010
Brad Blum has earned a well deserved reputation as a visionary and innovator in the restaurant industry. He has demonstrated the ability to create growth, to lead the significant turnarounds of various major restaurant companies and to consistently achieve outstanding financial performance.
In 1978, Brad began a productive 16-year tenure with General Mills, first with Betty Crocker, then with the Big “G” cereal division, leading brands such as Cheerios and Wheaties, and creating Cinnamon Toast Crunch. By 1990, he was a top marketing executive, domestically and internationally. His accomplishments include the successful start-up of Cereal Partners Worldwide (CPW) in Switzerland, a 50/50 joint venture with Nestle, at that time the largest food company in the world.
Brad joined Darden Restaurants in 1994. As the parent company of Olive Garden and Red Lobster, Darden is the largest casual dining restaurant company in the world. Brad was the driving force behind the hugely successful turnaround of Olive Garden, serving as its President from 1994 until 2002. Under his leadership, Olive Garden achieved 33 consecutive quarters of same-restaurant sales increases and an increase in operating profits of approximately 600%. He also created Olive Garden’s renowned Culinary Institute of Tuscany in Italy.
By 2002, Brad took on another major challenge as CEO of Burger King, adding a fast-food component to his extensive knowledge of the business. There, he re-positioned the brand and again significantly turned around sales and profits.
In 2005, Brad forged new territory by forming his own company, BLUM Enterprises, LLC, offering two distinct areas of expertise in the restaurant industry- enhancing the brand value of established restaurant companies to accelerate business performance and developing and operating progressive new restaurant brands. Dogmatic, a new type of “fast food” restaurantcommitted to serving artisan products that are truly delicious and better for you, opened to rave reviews in New York City in October 2008.
Brad is currently CEO of Romano’s Macaroni Grill, leading its renaissance as the premier Italian Mediterranean brand in the casual dining industry. Since taking over the reigns in 2008, in 15 months, the company completely transformed its food by creating an all-new, popular menu inspired by the Mediterranean way of cooking. It features exceptionally flavorful food that is remarkably good for you because of its freshness, high quality, simplicity and authenticity. The entire team’s nimbleness and innovation has quickly led to moving the brand’s sales performance from -12% to +5%, with strong momentum in place to achieve excellent future growth.
Brad puts it this way: “I love the restaurant business. Through my career, I have always enjoyed the thrill of unleashing a brand’s potential and enabling people to tap into their entrepreneurial spirit to achieve extraordinary results.”
In the Orlando area, Brad has been a Director of Sun Trust Bank, and Atlantic Center for the Arts, a nonprofit, interdisciplinary artists’ community and arts education facility. He is also an accomplished competitive race car driver, placing in the top ten at the 2005 Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona.
As a Denison volunteer, Brad has served on class reunion gift committees, hosted alumni gatherings and been a presenter to the Organizational Studies program.
We honor Brad Blum ’76 for the clarity of vision with which he has shaped his life’s work and selected the passions which fulfill his non-working life.