A diverse group of restaurant leaders who are growing their companies with energy and optimism, producing strong results, has been selected as the 2012 Nation’s Restaurant News Golden Chain Award winners. They will be honored during the 53rd annual Multi-Unit Foodservice Operators Conference, or MUFSO, which will be held Sept. 30-Oct. 2 at the Hilton Anatole Hotel in Dallas.
“It takes vision and confidence in your strategy to stay the course and prosper through changing and challenging times, and that’s what this year’s Golden Chain winners have been doing,” NRN publisher Randall Friedman said. “We will be honoring these executives at MUFSO not only for their outstanding recent accomplishments but also for career achievements that have benefited our industry and the consumers we serve.”
The 2012 Golden Chain Award honorees will be celebrated during the MUFSO Super Show on Oct. 1, with an awards presentation and panel discussion sponsored by American Express. From this year's lineup, NRN readers can vote for the Operator of the Year, which will be announced on MUFSO's final night.
Meet the 2012 Golden Chain honorees:
Chief executive, Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen/AFC Enterprises Inc.
Bachelder has been chief executive of Atlanta-based AFC Enterprises since October 2007 and served as president of its Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen brand from November 2007 until earlier this year.” Previously, she served as president and chief concept officer of KFC Corp., where she was responsible for leading their U.S. restaurants.
Under Bachelder’s direction, Popeyes, the world’s second largest quick-service chicken concept, totaling 2,044 restaurants worldwide, is poised for strong growth as it celebrates its 40th anniversary. During the first quarter of 2012, global same-stores sales increased for the eighth consecutive quarter, while same-store sales growth outpaced competitors in the quick-service chicken segment for the 16th consecutive quarter.
President, Bonefish Grill
After a 15-year career with Outback Steakhouse Inc., where he developed 13 Outback restaurants in the Orlando area, Cooper joined Bonefish Grill in 2001 as president. He came aboard to assist founders Tim Curci and Chris Parker with their vision of taking Bonefish to the next level.
As head of the casual-dining restaurant, best known for its big-city bar and market-fresh fish, he has been instrumental in the evolution of the concept. Under Cooper’s guidance and through the partnership with parent company OSI Restaurants, now Bloomin’ Brands, Tampa-based Bonefish Grill has grown from two restaurants to more than 158 throughout the Southeast and Northeast. As noted in NRN’s recent Top 100 Special Report, Bonefish, with $459 million in U.S. systemwide sales last year, ranks fifth in percentage sales growth among casual-dining chains.
Meet more winners
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Jimmy John Liautaud
Founder and chief executive, Jimmy John’s Gourmet Sandwiches
Liautaud founded Jimmy John's in 1983, using a $25,000 loan from his father to initially start a hot dog business. After realizing a hot dog venture would cost more than anticipated, Liautaud opened a sandwich shop. Today, his simple-to-execute concept has become the second fastest-growing sandwich chain in the U.S. based on percentage growth in systemwide sales, according to NRN’s most recent Top 100 special report.
U.S. systemwide sales for the Champaign, Illinois-based operation hit $1.01 billion last year, an increase of 30 percent from the prior year. Unit growth has also been impressive as the chain reached 1,329 units at a growth rate of 17.6 percent. Looking ahead, Liautaud says the company has 2,300 new units in its development pipeline.
Founder and chief executive, Papa John’s International Inc.
At age 22, Schnatter knocked down the broom closet in his father’s tavern, installed an oven and began delivering pizza out of the back of the bar. The first Papa John's company-owned restaurant opened in 1985. Today, this Louisville, Ky.-based chain is the third-largest pizza company in the world, tallying 3,933 restaurants in 50 states and 33 countries.
With optimism high, the company is off to a fast start in 2012. “We had an excellent first quarter,” says Schnatter, who also received a Golden Chain Award from NRN in 1996. He adds, “Our operators delivered solid comparable sales results rolling over very strong first quarter 2011 results, making our two-year combined first quarter comparable sales 7.2 percent in North America and 14 percent internationally.”
Chief executive, Sheetz Inc.
One of America’s fastest growing family-owned convenience restaurant chains, Sheetz Inc. was founded in 1952 in Altoona, Pa. by Bob Sheetz, Stan Sheetz’ father. Today, with more than $5 billion in annual revenue, the chain has grown to 425 locations in six states. That growth will continue, says Sheetz, who took the reins in 1995.
Despite tough economic conditions during the past few years, the company has opened between 25 and 30 new units a year. “We have not slowed down, and our food sales have been unusually strong,” he says. To this day, Sheetz maintains a successful family business with five family members serving on its executive committee.
President and chief executive, Caribou Coffee Co.
Mike Tattersfield joined Caribou Coffee in 2008 as president and chief executive. His career spans 20 years of leadership in finance, operations and general management within the restaurant and specialty retail industries.
Founded in 1992, Caribou is the second largest company-operated premium coffeehouse operator in the U.S., boasting 585 coffeehouses in 21 states, the District of Columbia and nine international markets. The company recently opened its 100th international location, which, according to Tattersfield, “is part of a strategy to develop the brand in the countries where we exist before growing in new markets. We plan to increase our total store count by 10 to 12 percent in 2012."
Editor's Note: A previous version of this story has been updated to note that Cheryl Bachelder is no longer president of Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen.