Four senior directors, including the chief executive, have suddenly quit restaurant and bar chain TGI Fridays UK, just weeks before the start of the all-important festive season.
Karen Forrester, who has been with the business for 12 years, will leave on December 13, followed by Stuart Greener, chief financial officer; Jacqui McManus, HR director and Cain Savazzi, operations director.
It is understood that Ms Forrester quit after TGI’s private equity owners, Electra, attempted to make the boss sign a new five-year deal.
Her refusal and subsequent decision to quit led to the resignations of the three other directors.
She will be replaced by the former chief executive of Virgin Active gyms Robert Cook on December 2. Prior to Virgin Active, he has worked at Hotel-du-Vin, Malmaison, De Vere and MacDonald Hotels.
Ms Forrester said: “It has been an unbelievable honour and privilege to have led the magnificent TGI Fridays UK family over the last 12 years.
“It was an incredibly hard decision to hang up my stripes, but I’m excited to be handing over to new CEO Robert Cook who will steer the company on the next stage of its epic journey.
“I’m leaving a business which is strong and healthy. In the last few years we’ve opened a raft of new restaurants, welcomed thousands more Friday family members (employees) and served millions of satisfied guests. This year profits and sales have grown and led to some brilliant guest experience scores.”
During her tenure, Ms Forrester is credited with turning around TGI’s fortunes after years of decline, scrapping the tired image she described as “clown-like” and investing in open kitchens, oak floors and leather seating.
Her crowning glory was being named The Sunday Times best big company to work for in 2015.
However, in 2018, two branches went on strike over changes to tipping and service charge payments.
And in the same year, the Government revealed the company was one of several who had failed to pay staff the minimum wage, shortchanging 2,302 of its staff to the tune of £59,348.
TGI Fridays reported total sales of £208.8 million in 2018, down from £216 million the previous year. Pre-tax profits for the year stood at £3.7 million.
Electra could not be reached for comment.