May 16, 2012
Four Wisconsin Restaurants Honored with Restaurant Neighbor Awards
Maxsell’s/Encore on Central, Cougar Enterprises, Inc., Cousins Subs and Chef Fred Griesbach were honored as Wisconsin finalists for the National Restaurant Association Restaurant Neighbor Award. Krishna Pradhan from Himal Chuli in Madison was honored as Wisconsin’s finalist for the Faces of Diversity American Dream award.
Maxsell’s/Encore on Central, located in Florence (owner Rachel Egelseer), was honored in the small business category.
In 2010 Egelseer was voted "Citizen of the Year" for Florence County for her efforts to beautify and revitalize Florence. She has worked to restore more than ten buildings on Main Street, making the town more appealing for businesses and visitors alike. By making use of existing downtown buildings they are not only cleaning up eyesores, they are helping to create a small business incubator. Currently, space is donated to the county Historical Society and minimal rent is charged to tenants including a small bakery, chiropractor, beautician, attorneys and an insurance office. One of the renovations included the restoration of a large ballroom – Encore on Central, which is the site of many community events, including the annual Fireman’s Ball – the event that is probably closest to Egelseer’s heart. Years ago when renovating another historic property, the 100 year old house went up in flames and would have been lost if not for the bravery of a firefighter who went up the winding staircase and contained the fire to the second floor. The Fireman’s Ball offers the community a great social event and the firefighters typically clear a profit of close to $6,000 which helps with equipment and educational certifications. The local volunteer firefighting company is unique in that there is actually a waiting list to get on the department. Egelseer says “we feel honored to help them.”
Cougar Enterprises, Inc. in Medford (dba Hardee’s), (owners Mary and Al Williams) was honored in the mid-size business category.
Cougar Enterprises, with three Hardee’s locations, is a proud supporter of The Highground in Neillsville. The Highground Veteran’s Memorial Park is a place where veterans, military families and the general public can gather to honor those who serve our country, learn about past wars and find comfort and healing. Located near one of the Hardee’s owned by the Williams, it features statues, memorials, walking trails, a learning center and special events like fireworks. For four years Cougar Enterprises has held an event in July selling food and offering prize drawings to benefit The Highground. Additionally star icons are sold in all of their locations several times a year with proceeds donated to The Highground and “share nights” with a portion of restaurant sales going to the cause. In-kind food donations are provided to volunteers who work cleaning up the grounds each spring. The business also supports local VFWs, community non-profits and the local chamber of commerce. Staff loves to participate in The Highground fundraising, particularly the celebration night in July. Satisfaction comes to the Williams and their team of employees not just from raising thousands for a worthy cause but sharing in the sentiment their marketing director Colleen Sayre described as “it just gives everyone a great feeling that they were able to help in some way and give back.”
Cousins Subs, based in Menomonee Falls (Christine Specht, Pres./COO), was honored in the National Chain category.
While Cousins Subs supports a number of community projects through clever and effective fundraising strategies like the popular Moo-la-palooza annual mooing contest which raises money for Wisconsin 4-H groups and a coupon program to encourage guests to donate to The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Light the Night cause, their relationship with Special Olympics Wisconsin is particularly significant. Over the seven years that Cousins has been involved, the level of their participation has grown. In 2011 Cousins Subs provided nearly 4,000 athletes and volunteers with healthy meals at tournaments around the state. Additionally, this year 30 stores in Wisconsin are participating in local Polar Plunges (in which fundraising teams jump into freezing water each February). The locations hold a month long campaign selling icons to customers – raising both funds and awareness. Regional directors at Special Olympics Wisconsin wrote in a letter of support “if you are looking to reward a restaurant that cares a great deal about community involvement and has creative ideas for marketing potential and increasing the awareness of community fundraising events, Cousins Subs ranks high on the list.”
Chef Fred Griesbach, CEC, AAC, sous chef at the Sky Club in Plover, was honored as the Cornerstone Humanitarian.
On behalf of his local American Culinary Federation Middle Wisconsin Chefs Association, of which he was a founding member, Griesbach has been an active fundraiser and ardent champion of the industry. The ACF MWCA has raised impressive amounts of money for Operation Bootstrap, Lincoln High Culinary program, Big Brothers – Big Sisters, Childrens Society/Parents' Place of Central Wisconsin and school food programs. Much of this has been through successful chef dinners with local chefs. While Griesbach has been honored by local non-profits, named local ACF MWCA Chef of the Year several times and was a 2011 WRA Education Foundation Salute to Excellence winner, he is motivated by a desire to help, not for acclaim. Describing an exchange with a young child at a bake sale Griesbach points out “caring about others is what life is all about.” It’s clear that he is as passionate about helping those in need in his community as he is about serving “basics with an added twist” prepared with love from scratch.
The Restaurant Neighbor Award recognizes foodservice businesses throughout the U.S. for their commitment to community service and innovative community projects in four categories (Small Business, Medium to Large Business, National Chain, and Cornerstone Humanitarian). Each participating state restaurant association selects winners in their respective states that compete with winners from other states for the national award.
A panel of industry leaders selects four national award recipients from winners of participating states. The national winners of the 2012 Restaurant Neighbor Award each receive a $5,000 contribution to continue their community programs and are presented the awards at a ceremony in Washington, D.C. Both national and state winners are also recognized on the National Restaurant Association website.
The National Restaurant Association and Restaurant Neighbor Award founding partner American Express developed the award to raise awareness about the restaurant industry’s contributions in local communities across the country and to inspire other restaurant owners and operators to showcase their enormous contributions in their communities.
“The recipients of this year’s Restaurant Neighbor Award embody our mission to enhance the quality of life for all we serve,” said Dawn Sweeney, National Restaurant Association President and CEO. “We are proud to recognize the incredible efforts of this year’s winners, whose generosity and commitment to bettering their communities has touched the lives of countless individuals. Their stories exemplify the restaurant industry’s dedication to community service."
The national winners for the Restaurant Neighbor Awards were recently announced by the National Restaurant Association. Wisconsin finalists did not win at the national level this year.
For more information and for a list of the national winners, visit the National Restaurant Association’s web site at http://www.restaurant.org/sustainability/industryawards.
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Since 1933, the Wisconsin Restaurant Association has been dedicated to the promotion, protection and improvement of the foodservice industry.