Melman Wins Nation’s Restaurant News Pioneer Award for ’09

Nation's Restaurant News |
Jul 26, 2009

Dallas- Long recognized as one of the pre-eminent developers of inventive and profitable restaurant concepts, Richard Melman, founder and chairman of Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises, will be celebrated as Nation’s Restaurant News’ 2009 Pioneer Award Winner. Melman will be honored together with six multiunit restaurant executives receiving Golden Chain awards at the 50th annual Multi-Unit Foodservice Operators, or MUFSO, conference to be held at the Hilton Anatole Hotel here from Oct. 4-6.

The 2009 Golden Chain award recipients are Chuck Fallon, president of Burger King Corp.; Phil Friedman, chairman and chief executive of McAlister’s Corp.; James Greco, chief executive of Bruegger’s Bagels; Jeffrey Harvey, president and chief executive of Burgerville; Randy Kibler; president and chief executive of Bojangles’ Famous Chicken ‘n Biscuits; and Cameron Mitchell, president and chief executive of Cameron Mitchell Restaurants.

Melman and this year’s Golden Chain recipients will be feted during MUFSO’s Golden Anniversary Celebration on Oct. 5. They also will participate in a panel discussion Oct. 6. The panel will be sponsored by American Express.

“Congratulations to Richard Melman, whose creative vision has provided exciting new dining experiences for consumers across all industry segments,” said Curtis Wilson, vice president and general manager, restaurant and hotel National Client Group for The American Express Company.

Wilson also praised this year’s Golden Chain winners, saying: “The success and innovation these outstanding leaders have achieved is truly inspiring. We look forward to celebrating their significant achievements at MUFSO.”

The Pioneer award honors veteran restaurateurs for innovation, dedication and contributions that have helped to advance the foodservice industry. Melman joins such previous honorees as Colonel Harland Sanders of Kentucky Friend Chicken, Norman Brinker of Brinker International and Ray Kroc of McDonald’s.

Melman opened his first concept in Chicago nearly 40 years ago and since then has applied his tireless creativity, wry sense of humor and deep-rooted understanding of the business to building a mini empire that today spans 80 locations. LEYE, which generated revenue of $336 million in 2008, operates such trendsetting restaurants as Big Bowl, Cafe Ba Ba Reeba!, foodlife, Mity Nice Grill, R.J. Grunts, Scoozi!, Wildfire and Wow Bao.

“The Pioneer Award recognizes an industry trailblazer, someone who has had a long-lasting and powerful impact on the foodservice industry,” said Tom Larranaga, publisher of Nation’s Restaurant News. “Richard Melman has truly broken the mold for chain restaurant companies having successfully engineered so many innovative restaurant concepts.”

Ellen Koteff, editor of Nation’s Restaurant News, cited Melman as being “not only one of the most creative and inspirational forces in foodservice, but also a mentor, teacher and advisor to many.”

“I have always enjoyed interviewing him because he is bright, insightful and willing to share so much with the industry,” she said. “It makes sense that he is in the hospitality industry because he is so hospitable himself.”

Golden Chain recipients will be honored for their vision, dedication and operational skills during the MUFSO 50th anniversary event.

“Outstanding leadership skills are paramount to running a successful company, regardless of economic times,” Larranaga said. “This year’s Golden Chain Award honorees are a testament to keeping their organizations focused and their employees dedicated to providing customers with excellent service and the highest-quality dining experience, resulting in solid financial performance for their companies during very challenging economic times.”

Chuck Fallon joined Burger King in 2006. As president of Burger King North America, Fallon is responsible for overseeing Burger King’s U.S. and Canadian operations and reports directly to Burger King chief executive John W. Chidsey. Previously, Fallon was executive vice president of revenue generation for Cendant Car Rental Group Inc. Miami-based Burger King’s 2008 systemwide sales were more than $13 billion.

The fast-casual McAlister’s Deli concept began in a converted gas station in Oxford, Miss., in 1989 and quickly became one of the country’s fastest-growing privately owned companies. In 1999 veteran chain operator Phil Friedman became president and chief executive of McAlister’s Corp. and has since grown the deli concept to 300 units, 262 of which are franchised.

When Bruegger’s Bagels was founded in 1983, bagels were considered an ethnic food, and at the time less than one-third of Americans had ever tasted one. The company expanded the concept from a traditional bagel bakery into a quick-service shop with custom spreads and sandwiches. James Greco joined Bruegger’s Bagels as chief executive in 2003, and the Burlington, Vt-based company has since expanded to 256 units.

Jeff Harvey joined Burgerville parent The Holland Inc. in 2004 and became Burgerville’s president and chief executive in January 2008. The Vancouver, Wash.-based chain is known for sustainable business practices and serving food purchased from local businesses. Those socially responsible initiatives make sense for the company’s culture and finances, and the chain has grown to 39 units.

Randy Kibler was a 37-year old veteran of the quick-service restaurant industry when he took over as president and chief executive of Charlotte, N.C.-based Bojangles’ Restaurants Inc. in 2007. Kibler began his restaurant career in 1970 as an hourly employee at a Hardee’s in Columbia, S.C. Bojangle’s was founded in 1977 with a menu centered on spicy, Cajun-style chicken and buttermilk biscuits. Today, it operates 430 stores in the United States and abroad.

Cameron Mitchell went without paycheck for 14 months while putting together his first restaurant, Cameron’s, in Columbus, Ohio. The American bistro was just the beginning, and since 1993 Cameron Mitchell Restaurants has grown to comprise of 15 units and seven different concepts with locations in Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, Florida and Arizona.

Chose from one of our six Golden Chain honorees to vote for the Nation’s Restaurant News Operator of the Year Award winner. To vote, visit www.mufso.com and click on the Vote for Operator of the Year link. The winner will be announced at the MEFSO Golden Anniversary Celebration Oct.5.

Media Contact

Emily Clark pr@leye.com 773-907-7347

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