Mr. Merritt’s has served as our Chief Executive Officer since November 2015. Mr. Merritt's career in the restaurant industry has spanned over three decades. He was an original member of the senior management team of Outback Steakhouse Inc. (currently, Bloomin' Brands, Inc. (NASDAQ: BLMN)) where he oversaw their initial public offering and helped to expand the company's initial operations from five restaurants in Florida in 1990 to over 1250 restaurants in 22 countries by his retirement in 2005. Mr. Merritt served on the Outback Steakhouse, Inc. board of directors from 1991 to 2005, and served on the boards of each of Outback's operating subsidiaries and joint ventures. Mr. Merritt also served as President of and Chief Executive Officer of Benjamin Moore & Co., a producer of high-quality paints and finishes from June 2012 until September 2013.
David Catalano Chief Operating Officer
Mr. Catalano has served as our Chief Operating Officer since April 2015. He joined Ignite in April 2013 to lead the Macaroni Grill brand and became President of Brick House in March 2014. Prior to joining Ignite, Mr. Catalano held senior operating roles at TGI Fridays, Hard Rock Café and Apple Gold (one of the largest Applebee’s franchise groups). In his new role, Mr. Catalano will be responsible for all aspects of operations for Joe’s Crab Shack and Brick House Tavern + Tap.
Brad Leist Chief Financial Officer
Mr. Leist has served as our Chief Financial Officer since April 2015. He joined Ignite in 2012 and most recently served as Senior Vice President of Accounting and Finance. Prior to joining Ignite, Mr. Leist served in a variety of positions, most recently as Vice President Corporate Controller at Builders FirstSource, Inc. from 2004 to 2012. He also worked for seven years in public accounting for PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP. Mr. Leist holds a Masters in Accounting and a Bachelors of Business Administration from Texas A&M University.
Ellen Clarry Chief Supply Officer
Ellen Clarry has more than thirty years of product development and management, quality assurance, planning, pricing, and procurement experience in the restaurant and food processing industries. Prior to joining Ignite in 2006, Ellen held leadership roles with Tyson Foods, Ventura Foods, Carlson Restaurants Worldwide, S&A Restaurant Corp. and Ingredient Technology Corporation. Ellen serves on the board of directors and executive committee of National Fisheries Institute, a trade Association committed to helping its members succeed in the global seafood marketplace.
Ellen holds a bachelor of arts degree. from Excelsior College, in Albany, New York.
Robyn Martin General Counsel
Ms. Martin has served as our General Counsel since April 2015. Most recently, she served as Ignite’s Senior Counsel and has been with the Company since August 2012. Ms. Martin was a labor and employment lawyer with Adams and Reese LLP prior to joining Ignite. She earned both her bachelor’s and law degrees from St. Louis University.
Edward J. McGraw Senior Vice President and Chief Development Officer
Mr. McGraw has served as our Chief Development Officer since February 2013. He previously served as Senior Vice President of Development since December 2010 and has over 20 years of business experience with a focus on restaurant real estate and legal matters. He has extensive tenant-side retail and restaurant deal making experience throughout the country where he has developed hundreds of restaurant and retail stores. Prior to joining Ignite in 2009, Mr. McGraw held senior level development positions with Carlson Restaurants Worldwide (T.G.I. Friday's, Pick up Stix), Wagamama and David's Bridal. He is also an attorney with civil litigation experience in Philadelphia.
Mr. McGraw received B.A. and M.B.A. degrees from SUNY at Buffalo, and has a J.D. from Widener University School of Law, where he graduated Cum Laude and was a member of Law Review. He lives in Syracuse, NY.
Kevin Cottingim Senior Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer
Mr. Cottingim has served as our Senior Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer since May 2015. He joined Ignite Restaurant Group in 2008 as Chief Administrative Officer. Mr. Cottingim has had a long career in the restaurant industry, holding positions from server, busser, cook, and general manager to executive positions at Darden Restaurants, Carlson Restaurants, Batrus Hollweg International, and Ameristar Casinos. Over the years, he has served on a variety of boards, including the Women’s Foodservice Forum. Kevin holds a Master of Psychology degree from the, University of Southern Mississippi and a Master of Business Administration from the University of Central Florida. His B.A. is from Sophia University in Tokyo, Japan.