Wendy's International Inc. has named Brion Grube, a 15-year company veteran who expanded Wendy's reach in Canada, as chief executive of its troubled Baja Fresh chain of Mexican restaurants.

Grube replaces Bill Moreton, who became chief executive of Thousand Oaks-based Baja Fresh last year after serving as the chief financial and administrator office of Panera Bread Co. Grube, who was formerly chief executive of Wendy's Caf & #233; Express chain and executive vice president of the company's international division, will take over Baja Fresh immediately.

Grube oversaw Wendy's Canadian expansion from 150 to more than 320 restaurants, the company said.

The chief executive shake up is another move by Wendy's to breathe life into the underperforming Mexican food chain, which so far have failed despite initiatives by Moreton to soften the restaurant's interiors, expand menu offerings and increase its operational efficiency.

In February, Wendy's reported that year-over-year same-store sales at Baja Fresh declined by 6.3 percent in 2004. That followed a 4.6 percent drop the year earlier.

There are about 300 Baja Fresh locations nationwide. Dublin, Ohio,-based Wendy's bought Baja Fresh in 2002 for $275 million. The Mexican chain was founded in 1990.

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