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Meet 33-Year-Old Damola Adamolekun, the First Black CEO of P.F. Chang’s

Damola Adamolekun made history when he became P.F. Chang's first Black CEO in 2020. Two years after his appointment of the popular Asian casual-dining restaurant chain, Adamolekun has been able to turn the company around, survive a pandemic and has seen sales surge during the last year.

Damola Adamolekun

Adamolekun earned his bachelor's degree in economics from Brown University and his MBA from Harvard Business School. The 33-year-old took over the Arizona-based concept in July of 2020. His takeover began after he helped lead the charge on a $700 million dollar deal with Paulson & Co. and TriArtisan Capital Advisors LLC, which acquired P.F. Chang's from Centerbridge Partners L.P. in 2019. Adamolekun continues to be a partner at Paulson & Co.

In the early days of his new position, Adamolekun is said to have focused on two areas; improving the in-restaurant experience and off-premise sales a priority. Adamolekun saw that the dine-in experience was suffering at P.F. Chang's and also saw an opportunity with delivery and to-go orders, as the service was only 18% of their sales.

"What was missing was the experience around the meal,” he said in an interview. "The lighting was too bright. The music was non-existent. The décor? Beige central."

Focusing on turning the business around, Adamolekun and his team made changes such as adding color to the dining rooms of their restaurants, making changes to their menus, which included taking off items such as Asian mac & cheese, and putting more effort into their off-premise concepts.

Sales at the chain climbed 31.7% in 2021 over the year before, with Adamolekun's leadership. Over the last two years, P.F. Chang's has changed everything from its technology to operating about a dozen of the small-footprint, fast-casual-type locations around the country. For Adamolekun, being back in the restaurant industry is a full-circle moment. The history maker used to be a server in his high school days.


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