The board of directors of Cracker Barrel Old Country Store grew to 11 last week thanks to the election of the president of Union Square Hospitality Group, the holding company for restaurants run by Shake Shack founder Danny Meyer.
The addition of Darryl “Chip” Wade comes five months after Cracker Barrel CEO Sandy Cochran and the company’s board saw off the latest proxy challenge from activist investor Sardar Biglari. The latter, who has been a major shareholder of Lebanon-based Cracker Barrel for a decade, had called on the company to add more specific restaurant operating experience to its board and had unsuccessfully nominated a New Jersey-based industry veteran.
Wade, 58, has been president of Union Square for two years and before that was executive vice president of operations at Red Lobster for nearly six years and a senior VP of operations at Red Lobster parent company Darden Restaurants for another six years, among other roles. He also is on the advisory board of USHG Acquisition, an affiliated special-purpose acquisition company that two months ago wrapped up a $288 million initial offering with the goal of acquiring businesses in the technology, e-commerce, food and beverage, health, retail or consumer goods sectors.
“Chip brings with him a deep knowledge of the casual dining industry and a wealth of experience with various concepts, including as the current leader of one of the country’s most innovative and admired restaurant and food-service organizations,” Cracker Barrel Chairman William McCarten said in a statement. “He understands the strategic imperatives of Cracker Barrel and the casual dining industry. A long-time admirer and guest of Cracker Barrel, he knows our brand well. We anticipate Chip’s deep industry expertise will add not only a highly-relevant strategic perspective to our board room but also meaningful insight for our management team.”
Wade is the third addition to the Cracker Barrel board in the past year. The others are former Sam’s Club and Disney executives.
Shares of the company (Ticker: CBRL) were down 1.4 percent to $168.30 Monday afternoon. They have risen about 30 percent over the past six months and some 75 percent from a year ago.