Bruegger’s Greco named Operator of Year at MUFSO’s 50th anniversary celebration

Bruegger’s Greco named Operator of Year at MUFSO’s 50th anniversary celebration

DALLAS Bruegger’s Bagels [3], took top honors at the recent Nation’s Restaurant News’ Multi-Unit Foodservice Operators conference here, earning this year’s Operator of the Year award. —James Greco, chief executive of

The announcement was the culmination of a 50th anniversary celebration party at the Hilton Anatole hotel on the last night of the conference. In addition to the presentation of Greco’s award, the evening featured music and food from the past five decades as well as a tribute to the late Norman Brinker, founder of Brinker International [4]. —James Greco, chief executive of

Greco was selected as Operator of the Year by the readers of Nation’s Restaurant News from among this year’s six Golden Chain award winners. In addition to Greco, the honorees were Chuck Fallon, president of Burger King [5] North America; Phil Friedman, chairman and chief executive of McAlister’s Deli [6]; Jeffrey Harvey, president and chief executive of Burgerville [7]; Randy Kibler, president and chief executive of Bojangles’ Famous Chicken ’n Biscuits [8]; and Cameron Mitchell, president and chief executive of Cameron Mitchell Restaurants [9]. —James Greco, chief executive of

Since joining the Burlington, Vt.-based company in 2003, Greco has overseen a turnaround of the then-struggling chain. During his tenure, the chain has grown to 290 units and now has annual systemwide sales of $200 million. He has also overseen the evolution of the chain’s menu. —James Greco, chief executive of

“This is not so much a recognition of me, but of the 3,400 members of my team who work to create memorable guest experiences 600,000 times a week,” Greco said earlier in the evening, when he accepted his Golden Chain award. —James Greco, chief executive of

After being announced as Operator of the Year, Greco said he was honored to be in the same company as the Pioneer and Golden Chain winners from across the decades, many of whom were in attendance. —James Greco, chief executive of

Greco also gave a nod to Brinker’s reputation as a mentor to others the foodservice industry. —James Greco, chief executive of

“I hope some day I can help others to further their careers in the same way he did,” Greco said. —James Greco, chief executive of

The evening included a formal tribute to Brinker as well. Brinker, an industry icon who founded such chains as Chili’s Grill & Bar [10] and Steak & Ale [11], served as the chairman to this year’s MUFSO conference until his death in June. He was responsible for the careers and education of many in the industry, and a few of his protégés shared their memories. —James Greco, chief executive of

“The man was a hero in every sense of the word,” said Rick Berman, an industry public affairs consultant and friend to Brinker. “People didn’t like Norman; they loved Norman.” —James Greco, chief executive of

Doug Brooks, the chairman and chief executive of the company that bears Brinker’s name, Brinker International Inc., said that Brinker’s legacy is much more than the restaurant chains or companies he founded and led for so many years. —James Greco, chief executive of

“He taught us how to build a restaurant, how to build a restaurant chain, how to build a restaurant company,” Brooks said. “But at the heart of it all, he really taught us how to build great people.” —James Greco, chief executive of

To continue that legacy, Nation’s Restaurant News has created The Norman, an industry award that will celebrate foodservice leaders who have distinguished themselves through the mentoring of tomorrow’s executives, much as Brinker did throughout his career. The first Norman award will be given at next year’s Multi-Unit Foodservice Operators conference in Orlando, Fla. An advisory board has been created to help identify who in the industry’s ranks are finding and shaping tomorrow’s leaders, and is therefore worthy of The Norman. The advisory board includes Brooks; Richard Melman, founder and chairman of Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises [12]; Dick Rivera, chief executive of Real Mex Restaurants [13]; and Lane Cardwell, chief executive of Boston Market [14]. —James Greco, chief executive of

Brinker’s wife, Toni, gave a speech about her memories of her husband and received a standing ovation from the crowd. —James Greco, chief executive of

Also honored during the evening was Richard Melman, founder and chief executive of Chicago’s Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises, who accepted NRN’s 2009 Pioneer Award. Melman’s trailblazing restaurant company, which has 78 restaurants representing more than 30 brands, has served as a model for numerous multiconcept operators nationwide. —James Greco, chief executive of

Calling his life “charmed,” Melman thanked his wife of 34 years, Martha, for her support and also cited the many others who had helped him on his path to success. —James Greco, chief executive of

“The restaurant business can be very humbling,” Melman said in his acceptance speech. “I think of all the people who work so hard and never get recognition, and I am so grateful to them.”— [email protected] [15] —James Greco, chief executive of