Salli Setta, President, Red Lobster Seafood Co.
Salli Setta was named President of Red Lobster in July 2013. In this role, Salli leads all of Restaurant Operations, Marketing, and Culinary and Beverage for the iconic brand, which operates more than 700 restaurants in North America and has more than 55,000 employees.
As President, Salli developed and aligned the company to a simple strategy — Great Seafood, Great People and Great Results – that seeks to play to Red Lobster’s strengths, helps the company build on its strong foundation and ultimately grow the company long-term. Under Salli’s leadership, Red Lobster introduced a new, simpler, seafood and lobster-centric menu and implemented numerous operations initiatives and simplifications that have led to best ever levels of guest satisfaction. Salli was also part of the leadership team that helped Red Lobster become an independent, privately-held company, leading the organization through significant change.
Prior to being named President, Salli served as the brand’s Executive Vice President of Marketing for eight years, where she led a comprehensive brand refresh. Under her leadership, Red Lobster has made extensive culinary changes, including introducing its Today’s Fresh Fish menu, Wood Fire Grill cooking platform and Quick Catch Lunch program, and created and launched its well-received “Sea Food Differently” advertising campaign.
Salli is the recipient of multiple industry awards. She is a three-time Menu Masters Award winner for her work on Red Lobster’s Today’s Fresh Fish Program and Menu Refresh initiatives and Olive Garden’s Menu Revitalization. In 2003, she was named Restaurant Business’ “Menu Strategist of the Year” and one of Nation’s Restaurant News’ “Top 50 R&D Culinarians.” She is also the recipient of a Silver Effie for Olive Garden’s “Hospitaliano” advertising campaign.
Salli began her career in 1990 as a sales promotion assistant at Olive Garden and held positions of increasing responsibility during her 15 year tenure with the brand. As Vice President of Brand Marketing, she expanded their “Hospitaliano” advertising campaign, developed their lunch business, and identified the RevItalia remodel design. As Senior Vice President of Culinary and Beverage, she led the development of Olive Garden’s award-winning menu and wine list, delivering more approachably authentic Italian dishes and greatly expanding their wine selection.
Salli holds a bachelor’s degree in Organizational Communication from the University of Central Florida and an MBA from Florida Institute of Technology. She also completed the Women’s Senior Leadership Program at the Kellogg School of Management. Salli is currently on the Board of the Women’s Foodservice Forum, the foodservice industry’s premier Leadership Development resource, and a member of the Restaurant Industry Executive Council. She has served on the board of the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra, the Lake Highland Preparatory School Board of Visitors and the Women’s Food Service Forum Strategic Marketing Council.
Red Lobster is the world’s largest seafood restaurant company, headquartered in Orlando, Fla., with an impressive heritage and an even brighter future. As a private company, owned by Golden Gate Capital, Red Lobster is focused on delivering freshly-prepared seafood at reasonable prices served in a lively, contemporary seaside atmosphere. With 55,000 employees in over 700 restaurants in the U.S. and Canada, and a growing international footprint, Red Lobster is more committed than ever to being not just the biggest seafood restaurant, but the best.
John Rivers, Founder & CEO, 4Rivers Smokehouse
Retiring as president of a $1.5 billion dollar company, John Rivers left a career of twenty years in Healthcare to follow a lifelong dream of running a restaurant. In 2009 John opened his first concept, 4 Rivers Smokehouse, which quickly became one of the fastest growing restaurants in the southeast. With thirteen locations in Florida and one soon to open in Atlanta, the success and popularity of his 4 Rivers Smokehouse and his second concept, the Southern-inspired COOP, have garnered national recognition. Nation’s Restaurant News, the industry’s lead trade publication, recognized 4 Rivers as one of their top five breakout brands. Restaurant Business named John as one of the Power 20 Leaders in the restaurant industry, Orlando Magazine included him among Orlando’s “50 Most Powerful, 15 to Watch” and in 2013, John was named a finalist for the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award.
John has twice been honored to cook at the prestigious James Beard House in New York City and has enjoyed participating at the Food Network South Beach Wine & Food Festival and the Atlanta Food & Wine Festival for the last 6 consecutive years. He has appeared on numerous television shows and has been featured in national publications including Food & Wine, Bon Appetit, Zagat.com, USA Today, Cigar Aficionado, Business Insider, Cooking Light Magazine, and Paula Deen Magazine. John also authored his first book, “The Southern Cowboy Cookbook,” that has enjoyed success at Barnes & Noble, Costco and Amazon.com and launched a line of retail and manufactured products currently enjoying shelf space at Publix & Fresh Market and being distributed nationally by partners such as Sysco and Aramark.
A graduate of Florida State University College of Business, where he serves on the Board of Governors, John chairs the 4R Foundation and serves on the boards of numerous school, church, and charity organizations. He is the co-founder of two annual charity festivals: “Cows ‘n Cabs” in Winter Park, FL and “Pink & Swine” in Tallahassee, FL, and lives in Winter Park with his wife Monica and two children, Jared and Cameron.
The Central Florida Hospitality Hall of Fame® is a distinguished group of hospitality and tourism industry leaders who have made a significant impact on Central Florida throughout their professional careers. Each year, UCF’s Rosen College of Hospitality Management selects two new members in consultation with its faculty members and industry advisory boards. These individuals are officially inducted into the Central Florida Hospitality Hall of Fame® at Rosen College’s annual celebration, The Pineapple Ball®.