Homestyle Dining LLC, which owns, operates and franchises the Ponderosa Steakhouse, Bonanza Steakhouse and Cole’s Backyard Grill restaurant brands, honored several exceptional franchisees and suppliers at its annual franchisee conference, held at the Caesars Palace, Paris & Bally’s Resorts in Las Vegas, from Sept. 8-10, 2015.
The conference celebrated three key milestones: Ponderosa Steakhouse’s 50th Anniversary this year while laying out the vision of Ponderosa’s future; the official launch of Bonanza Steak & BBQ, the next step in the evolution of the Bonanza Steakhouse legacy brand; and the success of Cole’s Backyard Grill, a new premium fast-casual concept launched by Homestyle Dining in East Texas last year. Each brand caters to modern diners, who crave top quality American food and a welcoming guest experience at reasonable prices.
Prior to the awards ceremony, Homestyle Dining’s CEO Tom Sacco presented an enthusiastic and extremely uplifting keynote with special emphasis on the positive comparable sales the system has been experiencing month over month for more than a year. The positive nature of the brands allowed him to present his detailed vision for the company highlighting how each of the three steakhouse brands would grow and play a significant role in expanding their unique steakhouse brands nationally and internationally while looking forward to another successful 50 years.
“As Homestyle Dining continues to evolve by updating our legacy brands and introducing a new premium fast casual concept, we are always grateful to our loyal franchisees, who have remained dedicated to our restaurant brands for so many years,” said Tom Sacco, CEO, Homestyle Dining LLC. “This year’s conference was extra special as we revisited memories from the past 50-plus years, and looked ahead to a reinvigorated future.”
The awards, which were presented at the conference by Sacco, recognized franchisees and suppliers, who consistently performed beyond expectations during the past year.
The 2015 award winners include:
U.S. Franchise Operator of the Year: The team of Jerry Deming and Fred Thompson of FJ Foods Inc. was honored as U.S. Franchise Operator of the Year. They operate a Ponderosa Steakhouse in Bay City, Mich., that has recorded substantial sales growth during the past six years. The team was lauded for their reinvestment in their restaurant and participating in the New Vision program, a cohesive and inclusive management style, strategic menu rotations, targeted and consistent marketing initiatives, and staff that are dedicated to service excellence.International Franchise Operator of the Year: A 31-year Ponderosa Steakhouse franchisee, Sam Jove, President of BMJ Foods P.R, Inc., was selected as International Franchise Operator of the Year. Jove now owns and operates 25 Ponderosa Steakhouse and Ponderosa Express restaurants throughout Puerto Rico. He has been a pioneer and leader among the island commonwealth’s restaurant industry having been named a Top 10 business leader on three occasions. Jove, with his two sons, Sammy Jr. and Luis, and his daughter Nilka, also provide support as the Area Developer for an additional seven Bonanza Steakhouse restaurants. While battling a struggling economy in Puerto Rico, Jove continues to innovate operationally and implement successful marketing programs to promote success.
Pioneer Lifetime Achievement Awards: The Pioneer Lifetime Achievement Award winner for 2015 was given to two exemplary outstanding restaurant operators.The first Lifetime Achievement Award went to John Mason, who opened his first Bonanza Steakhouse in Tupelo, Miss., in 1973. Since then, he has owned and operated 11 Bonanza Steakhouses and became an Area Developer in 1989. According to Mason, the “Bonanza brand is in his blood” as evidenced by legacy of success during the past five decades. John and his wife Dot were moved by the honor bestowed on them, but were saddened because their long-term operating partner, Marshall Cotton, could not attend due to family matters.
A second Lifetime Achievement Award was awarded to Conrad Knape, who has been part of the Ponderosa family in and around Detroit, Mich., for more than 45 years. Conrad started first as a restaurant manager in Dayton, Ohio, in 1970, working for Dan Lasater the founder of the Ponderosa concept, before becoming a Bonanza franchise owner in 1972. In the early 1990s, Knape became a Ponderosa Steakhouse franchisee and continues to be an active, hands-on, community involved owner/operator today.
Outstanding Community Service Award: The 2015 recipient of the Outstanding Community Service Award is Geoff Titherington from Sanford, Maine, where he has operated a Bonanza Steakhouse since 1985. For more than three decades, Titherington has been an avid and willing supporter of dozens of charitable organizations, youth and adult sports leagues, and civic committees and foundations. In addition to being a Salvation Army Bell Ringer for the past 10 years, and playing Santa for his local Chamber of Commerce, he donates blood each month and encourages his staff to become involved with United Way’s Day of Caring.Outstanding Local Store Marketer: Kay Miller has been a part of the Ponderosa and Bonanza Steakhouse brands since 1989, and has served as General Manager of the Hazard, Ky., Ponderosa Steakhouse since 1996. Miller continues to find ways to combine her love of community with marketing and has touched thousands of people, young and old, with her generosity. She volunteers at the local senior citizens facility, delivers ice cream each summer to local vacation Bible schools and library programs, and supports several community groups. And for Christmas and Halloween, she delivers thousands of goodie bags with free kid’s coupons, and serves as donation coordinator for Operation Christmas Child. Moreover, she provides free food for low-income and special needs children. Outstanding General Manager of the Year: Ed Zaremba, Training General Manager for Armstrong Foods Inc. started his foodservice career at the Ponderosa Steakhouse in Washington, Penn., in 1986 in the back of the house. Shortly thereafter, he joined Armstrong Foods as an Assistant Manager of the Ponderosa Steakhouse in Butler, Penn., and was promoted to General Manager in a few short years, and then Training General Manager. Zaremba has earned Homestyle Dining’s Circle of Excellence distinction several times, and today is a member of both the Food Cost Task Force and the Operations Committee.
Outstanding Supervisor, Multi-Unit Operator: The Outstanding Supervisor, Multi-Unit Operator for 2015 went to two exemplary Multi-Unit Operators.The first award winner was given to Ryan Barton of CMR Restaurants as a result of his 19-year history of success. Now serving in his role as Director of Operations, he manages marketing, human resources, and special projects for CMR. Barton enjoys consistently high Quality, Service and Cleanliness (QSC) scores, serves as a ServSafe instructor, is a two-time inductee of his franchise group’s Circle of Excellence, and continues to achieve significant financial results. The second award winner was presented to another deserving professional from within the ranks of company operations at Homestyle Dining. Bob Lane, Director of Ponderosa Company Operations, has contributed and continues to contribute on many varied levels for over 39 years, focusing on the fundamentals to promote success for all locations. Bob was also a winner of the prestigious General Manager of the Year Award a few years ago. He also serves as a member of the Operations Committee and the Food Cost Task Force. Supplier of the Year: Two loyal suppliers received Supplier of the Year awards: JPS Graphics Corporation and PepsiCo. Both are long-time suppliers that continually and positively contribute to the overall success of Homestyle Dining and its brands.
Plano, Texas-based Homestyle Dining LLC owns, operates and franchises family-focused restaurants throughout the United States and internationally under the Ponderosa Steakhouse and Bonanza Steakhouse brands, where guests enjoy flame-grilled steaks and entrees along with a high-quality buffet featuring an endless selection of salads, soups, appetizers, vegetables, and desserts at affordable prices. The soon-to-debut Bonanza Steak & BBQ in Eureka, Mo., will be a modern casual dining concept that celebrates Bonanza’s American steakhouse heritage and modernizes it with an updated menu including new authentic, Southern-style BBQ offerings, an interior redesign around a butcher house theme, and full-service dining. Homestyle Dining recently introduced Cole’s Backyard Grill, a truly unique experience around a rich, flavorful and creative American menu at fast casual pricing in an eclectic and comfortable environment. The first Cole’s Backyard Grill opened in Lindale, Tex., in May 2014, with plans to open up to 250 restaurants in the next five years.