James Spragg has been appointed chief executive of the Casual Dining Group, taking the reins from Steve Richards who is set to depart in May.
Casual Dining Group (CDG) has about 290 sites under brands including Las Iguanas, Bella Italia and Café Rouge.
Spragg has been promoted internally to the position, from that of chief operating officer, effective from 29 April.
Before joining Casual Dining Group five years ago he was managing director of Pizza Express. Prior to that he held roles at Pizza Hut, Scottish & Newcastle and Whitbread.
CDG chairman, Rooney Anand, said: "I am delighted to announce this appointment and to welcome James to the board. We conducted an extensive search and selection process that left us in no doubt that James is the right leader for this company.
"He has an intimate understanding of the business, having most recently served as chief operating officer, and will bring fresh ideas and energy to the role of CEO. Our industry continues to face challenges, however we see a host of exciting opportunities that we believe CDG can capitalise on under James' seasoned leadership."
Spragg added: "CDG is at an exciting time in its journey. We have great restaurant brands, a talented team including a highly experienced new chairman, and high-quality and supportive shareholders. I am delighted to accept this new role and to push forward with a series of new initiatives and growth opportunities."
Richards is leaving the group to take up the role of chief executive at Parkdean Resorts.
CDG's most recent financials highlight the difficulty faced by casual dining companies. In the 52 weeks to 28 May 2017, the group revealed an overall pre-tax loss of £60m, while total revenue was up 10% year on year to £329m, with like-for-like sales increasing by 2.2%. It blamed the loss on increased costs, with the national living wage, apprenticeship levy, pension contributions, food cost rises, the devaluation of the pound and higher business rates all taking their toll.
In July 2018 the restaurant group agreed a refinancing deal with American private equity company KKR including a cash injection of £30m to "fund growth opportunities".