Yorgo Koutsogiorgas – CEO
Yorgo Koutsogiorgas is the CEO of Giordano’s, a Chicago based operator and franchisor of seventy restaurants, featuring the ” Giordano’s Famous Deep-Dish Pizza” along with a popular menu of contemporary Italian-inspired recipes.
Koutsogiorgas was born in Athens, Greece. Following his graduation from the University of Athens with a B.A. in Economics, he moved to the U.S. in 1980 to pursue graduate studies at Southern Methodist University (SMU), in Dallas, Texas. He graduated in 1982 with a M.A. in Public Administration.
Koutsogiorgas’ career in the restaurant industry began when he was recruited by the Greek Islands Restaurant company in Chicago. Koutsogiorgas rose through the company’s management ranks quickly and became Managing Partner. In 1984, he led the Greek Islands Restaurant company in expanding its operations beyond its original location in Chicago, to Lombard, a suburban community west of Chicago. Koutsogiorgas was instrumental in doubling the annual sales and profits of the company and he remained as Managing Partner and head of operations in both restaurant locations until 1989.
In 1989, Yorgo Koutsogiorgas joined Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises (LEYE) – a multi-concept restaurant company — to lead the development team of a new concept, Papagus Greek Taverna. The restaurant opened in 1991 in Chicago’s River North neighborhood. Serving as Director of Operations, Koutsogiorgas became the driving force behind the development of a second Papagus Greek Taverna in Oak Brook, Illinois, a suburban community west of Chicago. Koutsogiorgas was instrumental in establishing Papagus Greek Taverna as the leading ethnic restaurant within the LEYE group. The Chicago Tribune called Papagus the “Best Greek restaurant in Chicago,” and Esquire magazine hailed Papagus as one of the “Best 25 Restaurants in the United States”.
In early 1994, Koutsogiorgas was appointed Managing Partner and Vice President of Operations by the Board of Directors of LEYE. Later that same year, he joined forces with three other LEYE partners and together they formed the core leadership team of Maggiano’s Little Italy, a new LEYE restaurant concept which the company positioned, from the outset, for multi-unit growth. He served as Vice President of Operations, with a focus on growing Maggiano’s. Koutsogiorgas was instrumental in developing and nurturing a strong culture within Maggiano’s Little Italy, which served as the foundation for the company’s success and subsequent growth.
In 1996, Brinker International, a publicly traded restaurant corporation (NYSE-EAT), with headquarters in Dallas, Texas, purchased Maggiano’s Little Italy. Under this new ownership, Koutsogiorgas was appointed Senior Vice President of Operations and Chief People Officer of Maggiano’s Little Italy. During his tenure with Brinker International, Maggiano’s grew to thirty restaurants with locations in several states within the continental U.S. and annual sales which exceeded $250 million. At the time of his departure in 2004, Koutsogiorgas had led Maggiano’s Little Italy to earn one of the best employee retention records in the restaurant industry. The restaurant group was recognized nationally and received acclaim for its “Best People Practices” every year during his tenure. In 2013, several years after his departure from his Maggiano’s leadership position, Koutsogiorgas was inducted into the ‘ Maggiano’s Hall of Fame’.
In 2004, Koutsogiorgas joined forces with three restaurant industry veterans with whom he had worked throughout his years at LEYE and Brinker International, and co-founded Go Roma, a ‘fast casual’ restaurant with a menu featuring made-from-scratch pizza, pasta, salads, sandwiches and other popular Italian specialties. The first restaurant opened in Warrenville, Illinois, in March 2004, and it was followed by the opening of a second restaurant in July 2004, in Northbrook, Illinois. In early 2005, GESD Capital Partners, LLC, a private equity group based in San Francisco, California, purchased the company. Under the new ownership Koutsogiorgas served as President and COO of Go Roma and expanded its operations to include six restaurants in the greater Chicago area. Under his leadership, the restaurant group received media and peer attention and accolades for its high-quality of food, service, and focus in hospitality. In 2006, The Nation’s Restaurant News (NRN) recognized Go Roma as a ‘Hot Concept of 2006’.
In 2007, Koutsogiorgas was given the additional responsibility to lead the operations and growth of Austin Entertainment Center, LP, a family entertainment company in the portfolio of companies of GESD Capital Partners, LLC. He served as President and COO of Austin Entertainment Center, LP, until the end of 2011, when he resigned in order to accept the CEO position of Giordano’s.
Yorgo Koutsogiorgas was asked to take the overall leadership of Giordano’s, as the company’s CEO, by the Board of Directors of Victory Park Capital Advisors LLC, at the time when Victory Park Capital Advisors LLC took over the ownership of Giordano’s, in November 2011. During his tenure as CEO Koutsogiorgas has built an exceptional team and has led Giordano’s impressive growth of the number of its restaurants as well as of its sales volume and profits.