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NRN names Phil Hickey The Norman Award winner

Award honors the late Norman Brinker’s leadership skills, celebration to take place at MUFSO

Philip J. Hickey Jr., an acclaimed restaurateur with a unique talent for helping others discover their leadership potential, has been selected as this year’s winner of The Norman Award from Nation’s Restaurant News.

The award is named for the late Norman Brinker, and honors a restaurant executive for extraordinary leadership skills. Winners are selected for their consistent mentoring of others and serving as an inspiration for future industry leaders. Hickey will be recognized during the 52nd annual Multi-Unit Foodservice Operators Conference, which is held at the Gaylord Texan Resort in Grapevine, Texas. The conference takes place Sept. 25-27, and Hickey will be honored at an awards reception the evening of Sept. 26.

Hickey’s career in foodservice spans more than 35 years, from entrepreneur and single restaurant owner-operator to chairman and chief executive of RARE Hospitality International Inc., the former owner of LongHorn Steakhouse, prior to RARE’s acquisition by Darden Restaurants.

“Not only was Norman Brinker a legendary restaurant operator but his gift for developing future leaders has enriched the industry to an incredible degree,” Nation’s Restaurant News publisher Randall Friedman said. “It will be a special privilege to present the second annual The Norman Award to Phil Hickey, whose passion for mentoring has had a remarkable impact on scores of up-and-coming restaurateurs.”

This year’s award is sponsored by Mindshare Technologies, a Salt Lake City-based provider of Customer Feedback Management. Richard D. Hanks, chairman and president, said, “It is a great pleasure to sponsor this award that recognizes one of the foodservice industry’s most inspiring leaders, Norman Brinker, and honors this year’s recipient, another outstanding restaurateur, Phil Hickey.”

Norman Brinker, chairman emeritus and former chief executive of Brinker International, died June 9, 2009 at age 78. He joined the company in 1983, retiring in 2001 after building it into one of the world’s leading casual-dining restaurant organizations.

“Phil Hickey is an outstanding representative of the qualities that made Norman Brinker such a special leader. He is not just an outstanding leader, but he also mentors leadership skills to his team,” Lane Cardwell, who spent many years at Brinker International and is now president of P.F. Chang's China Bistro, said. “Many of his direct reports are leading other restaurant companies very successfully. Norman would be very proud of Phil receiving this award.”

During his career, Hickey has experienced the restaurant business from many perspectives. He has been an entrepreneur and single restaurant owner-operator. He co-founded the Cooker Bar & Grille and led the rejuvenation of Rio Bravo Cantina from 6 to more than 30 restaurants. From 1997 to 2007, he was chairman and chief executive of RARE Hospitality until it was acquired by Darden Restaurants. RARE operated more than 300 restaurants, employed more than 20,000 people, and served over 55 million guests per year. When RARE operated as a public company, Hickey and his team grew its market capitalization from $90 million to $1.3 billion.

Since June 2009, Hickey has served as chairman of O’Charley’s Inc., which owns and operates about 300 restaurants in the casual-dining segment, including O’Charley’s, Ninety Nine, and Stoney River Legendary Steaks.

The recipient of many industry honors, Hickey earned a Golden Chain Award from Nation’s Restaurant News in 2005 while at RARE Hospitality. As a board member and treasurer of the National Restaurant Association, he is dedicated to the restaurant industry, and, as Cardwell notes, “Phil is both a leader of organizations and a leader within our industry. He realizes that it is not enough to have a successful company, but that you must help protect the industry from legislative and special interest threats.”

The Norman Award debuted in 2010. The first recipient was Doug Brooks, chairman, president and chief executive of Brinker International.

For information about MUFSO and to register, visit or call 813-627-6992.

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