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K&N Management wins Baldrige Award

Mighty Fine Burgers parent the second restaurant company to receive honor

K&N Management, parent of the Mighty Fine Burgers, Fries and Shakes concept, has become only the second restaurant company to earn the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award in its 23-year history.

Austin, Texas-based K&N, which franchises four Rudy’s Country Store & Bar-B-Q units and created the three-unit Mighty Fine Burgers concept in 2007, is one of seven organizations to receive the 2010 presidential award recognizing innovation, excellence and leadership. The award is overseen by the Department of Commerce.

The only other restaurant company to receive the Baldrige award was Pal’s Sudden Service of Kingsport, Tenn., which won in 2002.

“This recognition establishes us as a role-model business, but it would not have been possible without our team members' commitment to guaranteeing that every guest is not only pleased, but delighted,” said Ken Schiller, co-owner of K&N Management.

Schiller and Brian Nolen started K&N Management in Austin in 1993 and purchased the rights to the Austin-area Rudy’s Country Store & Bar-B-Q franchise from Phil Romano, founder of Romano's Macaroni Grill and Fuddruckers. The Rudy’s restaurants in Austin also sell gas and convenience-store items.

K&N Management employs nearly 500 people, and its Rudy’s in North Austin ranks No. 1 in food sales per square foot out of about 67,000 restaurants in Texas. The company also created a breakfast program for the concept.

K&N's Mighty Fine brand, created in 2007, does more than $3.5 million in annual sales per unit, Schiller said. A fourth Mighty Fine is planned for the Austin area in 2011.

Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell said the K&N honor reflected well on the Texas capital city.

"Not only is this a compliment for the organization and its nearly 500 employees here in Austin, but as the first Austin-based organization to earn a Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, this recognition is a great honor for the city as well,” Leffingwell said.

The Baldrige Award is named for Malcolm Baldrige, who served as secretary of commerce from 1981 to 1987. It is managed by the Commerce Department's National Institute of Standards and Technology in conjunction with the private sector. The program evaluates the recipients in seven areas: leadership; strategic planning; customer focus; measurement, analysis and knowledge management; workforce focus; process management; and results.

“We began the Baldrige process nine years ago as part of our commitment to excellence, and improved as a company and business by using the organization's framework and assessment tools,” Schiller said.

This year’s competition received 83 applications, which were reviewed by an independent board of examiners. Applicant underwent nearly 1,000 hours of evaluation and an on-site visit.

The winners will be presented their awards in a ceremony with President Barack Obama at the White House next year.

Contact Ron Ruggless at [email protected].

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