Following the thoughtful expansion of the award-winning, Miami-based Yardbird brand into markets across the globe since its inception in 2011, Chief Executive Officer John Kunkel is pleased to welcome Joe Essa, former president and CEO of Wolfgang Puck Worldwide and The Thomas Keller Restaurant Group, to the Yardbird Group as President and Chief Operating Officer. Effective February 2024, Essa will work alongside Yardbird’s current executive team as he focuses on bringing increased operational excellence and strategic growth to the company in its next phase of development.


Tapped for his decades of experience growing the size, scope, and portfolio for some of the most revered names in the restaurant world (Wolfgang Puck, Thomas Keller, Gordon Ramsay), Essa brings a dynamic background of executive leadership spanning focuses including ownership, management, operations, marketing, business development, and strategy to his role as COO of Yardbird. As one of the most agile, adaptable, and well-respected multi-unit companies in the industry, Yardbird will lean on Essa’s expertise as it continues to strategically advance its footprint across key markets in the United States, Singapore and beyond.


Essa is peerless in the breadth of experience and success he’s had leading top industry names in their expansion plans, in addition to manning day-to-day operational optimization and excellence onsite,” says Kunkel. “His help will be invaluable in continuing to make each of our restaurants a place that provides outstanding service and quality to each of our guests, as well as a familial and supportive work environment for our employees.”


I’ve dedicated my whole career to advancing and enhancing the relationships beloved brands have with their teams and communities. From mapping detailed growth plans to streamlining daily operations, I’m eager to combine a bit of everything from the past in this new role with such an exciting, internationally growing brand,” says Essa.


Essa serves on the board for a variety of other key national organizations and businesses in the industry including the National Restaurant Association, Fransmart, GOOD PLANeT Foods, and Apex Supply Chain among others.


ABOUT YARDBIRD: Synonymous with Southern decadence, James Beard Award-recognized Yardbird is the brainchild of 50 Eggs Hospitality Group founder John Kunkel. Since its inception in the heart of Miami Beach in 2011, Yardbird quickly gained fame for its unapologetically indulgent dishes and heady bourbon cocktails. Serving up nationally acclaimed comfort food for over a decade, Yardbird is a tribute to all the craveable American classics that bring people together, where guests can indulge in brunch, lunch, dinner, and a curated cocktail program highlighting a dynamic collection of bourbons. From Los Angeles to Singapore and everywhere in between, Yardbird has spread its wings on a global scale, upholding a current total of eight locations, each featuring a menu tailored to reflect the unique tastes of the city it calls home. Outposts include Miami Beach, Los Angeles, Dallas, Washington D.C., Las Vegas, Denver, Chicago, and Singapore. For more information, visit RunChickenRun.com and follow Yardbird on Instagram @yardbirdrestaurants.


ABOUT 50 EGGS HOSPITALITY GROUP: Founded in 2001 by seasoned restaurateur John Kunkel, 50 Eggs Hospitality Group is a globally acclaimed restaurant company known for its game-changing concepts, critically-acclaimed chef partners, signature warmth and hospitality, authentically curated menus, and innovative approach to programming and design. Named Restaurant Hospitality Magazine’s“Coolest Multi-Concept Companies in the Land,” 50 Eggs focuses its efforts on developing cutting-edge brands that deliver unparalleled dining experiences throughout the United States and abroad. The multi-faceted full-service creative firm has 15 successful restaurants in its current portfolio, and several more brands and location expansions on the horizon. Signature concepts include the James Beard Foundation Award-nominated Yardbird, with eight eateries located across the country in Miami, Las Vegas, Singapore, Los Angeles, Dallas, Washington, D.C., Chicago, and Denver. The group’s first Mexican concept, CHICA, in collaboration with Celebrity Chef, Lorena Garcia, debuted at The Venetian Resort Las Vegas in 2017 followed by Miami in late-2019 and Aspen in 2021. Lastly, the group’s fast-casual Spring Chicken concept delights guests in both Miami International Airport and Las Vegas’ Allegiant Stadium. 50 Eggs’ newest concept, WAKUDA, a Japanese restaurant created in collaboration with world-renowned, two-Michelin-starred chef Tetsuya Wakuda opened at Singapore’s Marina Bay Sands in and in Las Vegas in 2022. For more information, visit: https://www.50EggsInc.com, and follow@50EggsInc on Instagram and 50EggsInc on Facebook.