Executive Chat featuring David Crabtree of Planet Hollywood International and Earl of Sandwich

Robert Earl and David Crabtree

Planet Hollywood International and Earl of Sandwich USA chairman Robert Earl with CEO David Crabtree

David Crabtree is the energetic, passionate chief executive officer of Planet Hollywood International, overseeing the Planet Hollywood family of brands and the Italian restaurant chain Buca di Beppo, and he doesn’t stop there. He’s also Chairman of the Earl of Sandwich USA company, the operator and franchisor of the fast-casual Earl of Sandwich. These entities share the same owner, Robert Earl, Chairman of Planet Hollywood International.

David gave me the scoop on the many big developments now happening within this dynamic business empire and shared a little bit about what makes him tick.

What are the growth plans for Earl of Sandwich?

We recently hired new President and CEO, Steve Heeley [another stellar placement by Wray Executive Search]. He’s been in restaurant and hospitality industry for 20 years, most recently as Chief Operating Officer of Au Bon Pain. We are in expansion mode with Earl of Sandwich and have recently opened two Earl of Sandwiches in New York. We are in the middle of developing four new locations, the Showboat Casino in Atlantic City; at the Boston Commons; at the Las Vegas Palms Casino; and one in Downtown Disney in Anaheim.

There are 20 Earl of Sandwich locations currently, and 13 are corporately owned and seven are licensed. With the addition of Steve Heeley, and with the existing staff, we are looking to expand dramatically.

What sets Earl of Sandwich apart?

What sets it apart is Earl of Sandwich is that it is the world’s greatest hot sandwich. The Earl of Sandwich brand is collaborative venture with the descendants of the creator of the original sandwich.

What’s the latest news with Planet Hollywood?

Planet Hollywood currently has nine restaurants. Six are corporately owned and three are franchised. We also have an agreement with Caesar’s Entertainment to license our name for use in their casino in Las Vegas, and we have an agreement with Wyndham Hotel Group to expand the Planet Hollywood name in hotels across the world.

We have one other brand within Planet Hollywood called Planet Dailies. We have two of them, one at the Planet Hollywood casino in Las Vegas, the other in the Farmers Market in Los Angeles. Planet Dailies has a very extensive menu with breakfast, lunch and dinner. It has the Hollywood theme without the memorabilia. It has a bar attached to it called Mixology 101.

Planet Hollywood International acquired Buca di Beppo in 2008. What’s new with Buca?

We just hired a new president and COO to lead us into next phase, Rick Tasman, who was President and COO of P.F. Chang’s. We have ten sites under development with General Growth Properties that will be open this year. We are looking at other opportunities domestically and internationally.

Because we have multiple brands, I am in the process of moving all of our company’s headquarters to Orlando. On August1st, we move in to new building with 28,000 sq ft. office space. This is putting us so we have all of our companies under one roof. I think we are positioned very well for growth and continued success in each.

What qualities do you look for when recruiting people for your team?

Very experienced individuals who have a lot of drive and who are full of integrity.

Before Planet Hollywood, you were COO of Westgate Resorts, which offers resort properties around the country. How does your background in resorts influence your perspective in your current ventures?

My whole background is in the hospitality business. I have an undergraduate degree in Hotel and Restaurant Management. I started in the restaurant business, then casinos, then the resort and timeshare industry. They all revolve around catering to people and fulfilling people’s needs. The restaurant business and resort business are very similar. I’ve surrounded myself with very experienced, strong leaders in each our brands to help bring success in delivering the hospitality that our customers desire and expect.

What inspired you to get into the restaurant and hospitality business?

The truth is my fast ball was five miles per hour short. I was a pitcher all through college and I didn’t quite throw hard enough. If I didn’t make it in baseball, this was the business I wanted to get involved in. I like helping people and serving people.

What is an interesting little known fact about you?

I’m from Chicago, and I don’t think there’s anyone who is a bigger Cubs fan than me.

Want to have an Executive Chat with Rebecca Patt? Contact her at Rebecca.patt@wraysearch.com.

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