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Tracy Kosbau
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March 15, 2010

Restaurant Industry Leaders Honored at Annual Awards Dinner

The Wisconsin Restaurant Association recently announced the Association’s top awards at the annual WRA Awards Dinner, held at the Grain Exchange in Milwaukee on March 9th.

Mark Dougherty, owner and operator of Mark’s East Side in Appleton, was named Restaurateur of the Year, the industry’s top honor that is given to only one restaurant operator each year. 

Dougherty’s popular Appleton restaurant, Mark’s East Side, has been family owned and operated since 1967 when his father Bill purchased it and called it Chef Bill’s.  The restaurant is well known for their authentic German fare, steaks and daily made-from-scratch specials.  Loyal customers appreciate the attention to detail, friendly service and quality, fresh ingredients.  Customers also look forward to the restaurant’s festive St. Patrick’s Day celebration and special menu.

The Restaurateur of the Year award is given to an operator who demonstrates participation and service to the restaurant association, success within their own restaurant and participation in community activities.  The winner is selected at a private meeting of past Restaurateur of the Year recipients and kept a secret until the official announcement at the Awards Dinner.

Click here for more on Mark Dougherty

The Wisconsin Restaurant Association also presented Ward Torke, from Torke Coffee Roasting Co. in Sheboygan, with a Meritorious Service Award for his commitment to WRA and the foodservice industry.

In addition, Robert John of B.J. Clancy’s Grill & Bar in Appleton was honored with the Chapter Hero Award, recognizing his outstanding service to his local Wisconsin Restaurant Association chapter.

Wisconsin Restaurant Association regional Chapters awarded the following Outstanding Restaurateur of the Year Awards:

Big Four Chapter (Outagamie, Waupaca, Waushara and Winnebago Counties)
R.C. Schroeder, Jr.
Big Tomatoes
Green Bay

Eastern Shore (Winnebago, Calumet, Green Lake and Manitowoc Counties)
Jim Christensen
Kurtz’s Pub & Deli
Two Rivers

Green Bay Chapter (Shawano, Brown and Outagamie Counties)
Nancy Van Rite
The Rite View
Green Bay

La Crosse Chapter (La Crosse, Jackson, Monroe and Vernon Counties)
Kathy Call & Tom O’Brien
North County Steak Buffet
La Crosse

Lake-to-Lake Chapter (Fond du Lac, Dodge and Ozaukee Counties)
Jack & Jan Knipple
Sebastian’s Steak House
Fond du Lac


Madison Chapter (Dane and Jefferson Counties)
Chuck Taylor
Blue Marlin

Milwaukee Chapter (Ozaukee, Washington, Waukesha and Milwaukee Counties)
Steve Sazama
Saz’s State House

South Central Chapter (Marquette, Sauk, Columbia, Southern Juneau and Southern Adams counties)
Craig & Lea Culver
Culver Franchising System
Prairie du Sac

West Wisconsin Chapter (Buffalo, Chippewa, Clark, Eau Claire and Jackson Counties)
Carol Lien
Connell’s II at the Airport
Eau Claire

The Outstanding Restaurateur Award is given based on success in business, community service and dedication to the restaurant industry.

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Since 1933, the Wisconsin Restaurant Association has been dedicated to the promotion, protection and improvement of the foodservice industry.

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Wisconsin Restaurant Association • 2801 Fish Hatchery Rd. • Madison, WI 53713 • Tel: 608.270.9950 • Toll Free: 800.589.3211 • FAX: 608.270.9960