The awards, which recognize excellence in operations on both the franchise and supplier level, were given at the company’s 2014 Franchise Conference in Niagara Falls, New York, in October.
“Year after year, I’m amazed at how our franchisees continue to ensure that excellence takes center stage in their restaurants,” said Tom Sacco, CEO and President, Homestyle Dining LLC. “This year is no different. Our award winners continue to showcase the best of what our steakhouse brands offer, and why our guests continue to be so loyal after all these years.”
The 2014 award winners include:
U.S. Franchise Operator of the Year: Franchisee Jim Buxton is no stranger to awards. He earned his first in 1979 followed by several more during the past three decades – all reflecting his high standards both as a corporate employee and later as a franchisee. Buxton started with the company as a Production Manager, rising to General Manager and then Training General Manager. In 1998, he became a franchisee and opened a Ponderosa Steakhouse in Carrollton, Ohio, where his focus on the guest, his employees and overall excellence consistently produces record sales and enduring guest loyalty.International Franchise Operator of the Year: Franchisee John Mathew opened his first Ponderosa Steakhouse in Qatar nearly 20 years ago, the first casual dining restaurant in that country. Since then, he has opened seven Ponderosa restaurants in the United Arab Emirates, including a second unit in Dubai in October 2014. A respected restaurant leader in the area, he has effectively helped change the way people “dine out” in the Middle East.
Pioneer Lifetime Achievement Award: It was on the day that Apollo 11 landed on the moon, July 20, 1969, that Ponderosa Steakhouse franchisees Gene McGarvey and Keith Vial opened their first restaurant in Mishawaka, Indiana. Over the past 45 years, the team has opened three additional Ponderosa restaurants with the support of their colleague Bob Blanche. Their enduring success emanates from their dedication to the brand’s values of servicing guests with great-tasting food and attentive service.Outstanding Community Service Award: In the midst of a crisis, franchisee Tim Hopkins, owner of the Elkview, West Virginia, Ponderosa Steakhouse, did not rest on his laurels. Instead when a local coal processing plant spilled deadly toxin into the town’s water supply, Hopkins and his team jumped into action, reached deep in his own pocketbook and spent an entire weekend handing out truckload after truckload of bottled water to thousands of his West Virginia neighbors in need.
Outstanding Local Store Marketer: The local management team behind the Ponderosa Steakhouse in Warren, Ohio, owned by franchisee Armstrong Foods, was recognized for their outstanding localized marketing efforts throughout their community for their ongoing support of Inspiring Minds, a non-profit organization that supports and inspires inner city children and young adults to find personal success. General Manager Duane Roberts and Manager Carolyn Beck also have supported several other non-profits, including the American Legion, American Cancer Society, the MS Society, the Warren Family Mission, and the United Way.Outstanding General Manager of the Year: Stacey Ashley has served as the General Manager of the Ponderosa Steakhouse in Beechgrove, Indiana, for more than a decade. During that time her restaurant has consistently ranked high in sales, profit and quality. More importantly, Ashley is a true leader — solution-based, motivational and inclusive. She is often called upon to present and train management at other locations, and her restaurant is often the site of corporate road shows, marketing meetings, food shows and training classes. Ashley is the epitome of CMR Partners, the Ponderosa franchisee in the greater Indianapolis area, making a positive impact on her guests, her team, and the brand. Outstanding Supervisor, Multi-Unit Operator: Larry Thomas of Armstrong Foods was an immediate success when he started his career with Ponderosa Steakhouse as an Operations Manager in Pittsburgh’s Lower Burrell. Within a year, he was promoted to General Manager, and then joined franchisee Armstrong Foods in 1994 as a Training General Manager. High volume and sales records and a hands-on leadership style have led to many company awards over the years. In addition to his supervisory role at five locations, Thomas serves as a Franchise Association Board member as well as a member of the Marketing Committee and the Food Cost Task Force.
Supplier of the Year: Midas Foods received the Supplier of the Year award for 2014 as a result of consistently providing high-quality products, excellent overall customer service, as well as offering research and development support. The team at Midas Foods has worked extensively with Homestyle Dining’s culinary team and leadership for many years, helping to develop new menu items and ensuring that they meet the company’s rigorous standards.
No one franchises steak better than Homestyle Dining LLC. The Plano, Texas-based restaurant company owns, operates and franchises three successful steakhouse brands catering to modern diners, who crave high-quality food and attentive service at reasonable prices: a family-dining experience at the recently revitalized Ponderosa Steakhouse; a full-service option at the new Bonanza Steak & BBQ (formerly Bonanza Steakhouse); and at a Bo’s Steak & Grill, new, contemporary Fresh Casual concept. Each brand operates under a unified vision of providing excellence on every level.