Irving-based Uncle Julio’s Restaurant Group has named Scott Lawson as CEO and RJ Thomas as president and chief operating officer to accelerate the company’s growth.
“Uncle Julio’s commitment to authentic, one-of-kind dining experiences has created an incredibly loyal following and I’m honored to assume the role of CEO,” Lawton said in a statement. “The company’s legacy and culture built around attention to detail in every part of the dining experience will continue to serve as the foundation for Uncle Julio’s during this next phase of growth. Bringing a deep commitment to brand building and innovation, I’m excited to leverage my experience at bartaco to create a truly memorable experience for every guest who walks into our restaurants. In partnership with RJ and the entire team, I look forward to leading Uncle Julio’s in this next chapter.”
Lawson, an experienced restaurant exec with more than 20 years in leadership and operations, co-founded Port Chester, New York-based bartaco, an upscale street food restaurant with 29 locations, in 2011. Next, he served as president and chief operating officer of Barteca —the Connecticut-based parent company of bartaco— until its sale to Del Frisco’s Restaurant Group in 2018. Then he rejoined bartaco as CEO after the company was acquired by L Catterton, where he will continue his duties, along with leading Uncle Julio’s.
L Catterton, a private equity firm in Greenwich, Conn. focused on consumer brands in numerous market segments, acquired Uncle Julio’s in 2017.
‘A new and exciting chapter’
Thomas has more than two decades of restaurant industry leadership expertise, most recently serving as president and COO of King’s Seafood Company where he led operations for all 24 locations. There, he implemented several new restaurant concepts and reconceptualized the company’s Water Grill brand, which opened six new locations and generated revenue of $100M.
Thomas said, “I have long admired Uncle Julio’s for its unique take on Mexican dining — making authentic recipes from scratch using the freshest ingredients in a welcoming atmosphere. I’m proud to join Scott and the incredibly talented Uncle Julio’s team to help guide the company to continued success by combining great food and great service to drive great experiences.”
Andrew C. Taub, a Managing Partner in L Catterton’s Buyout Fund, said that Lawton and Thomas are “proven leaders with the vision and operational capabilities necessary to develop and run best-in-class restaurants.”
He said that Lawton’s success with elevating the customer experience at bartaco and Thomas’s track record of introducing new concepts and innovations to support restaurant brand growth will “create a new and exciting chapter in Uncle Julio’s story.”
Founded in 1986, Uncle Julio’s serves scratch-made Mexican cuisine at more than 30 locations in 11 states.