LEXINGTON, Ky. (Jan. 31, 2019) — In honor of the Fazoli’s 30th anniversary last September, the Italian fast-food chain established a Hall of Fame to recognize team members, franchisees and suppliers whose vision, leadership and innovation have impacted the restaurant, making it the success it is today.
Fazoli’s held its inaugural Hall of Fame Luncheon on Feb. 5 at Marriott Griffin Gate Resort and Spa in Lexington. Fazoli’s honored six individuals who embody the brand’s rich history of innovation, unwavering commitment to excellence and iconic legacy of leadership.
The inaugural Class of 2018 Hall of Fame includes:
- Franz Ecker – An award-winning and renowned chef, Ecker joined Jerrico Inc. in the 1980s as vice president of food and beverage. During that time, Ecker and his team developed the entire original menu for the Fazoli’s concept, including many popular items that remain on the menu today. He went on to start his own food design and quality assurance consulting business, Industrial Food Design, which serviced many of the industry’s product design firms and restaurant chains until his retirement in 2014.
- Ernest Renaud (posthumously inducted) – Renaud is the first to serve Fazoli’s as both a member of its senior management team and board of directors. A recipient of the restaurant industry’s prestigious Silver Plate Award from the International Food Service Manufacturer’s Association and the Golden Chain Award from the Multi-unit Food Service Operators (MUFSO), he also served as president of Long John Silver’s Seafood Shoppes, Investor’s Management Corp. (Golden Corral) and Popeye’s Chicken & Biscuits. Renaud died in 2016 after a food service career spanning more than 50 years.
- Warren Rosenthal – Rosenthal served as president and CEO of Jerrico Inc. for decades (1952-1989). He created and developed the Long John Silver’s Seafood chain from one unit in 1969 to more than 1,500 when he left the company in 1989. He is also the creator of Fazoli’s, having designed and opened the first five units in Central Kentucky. A recipient of the restaurant industry’s top honor, the Gold Plate Award, along with many other awards and accolades, Rosenthal is a renowned entrepreneur, philanthropist, community activist and industry ambassador whose reach and impact have touched thousands locally, regionally, nationally and beyond. Rosenthal has since retired and now owns Patchen Wilkes Farm, a thoroughbred horse farm in Lexington.
- Kuni and Carol Toyoda – The Toyoda’s formed Seed Restaurant Group and acquired the 5-unit fast food Fazoli’s chain from Jerrico Inc. in 1990. They quickly began building Fazoli’s into what would become the nation’s largest quick-service Italian restaurant chain. Kuni Toyoda served as Fazoli’s president and CEO from 1990-2006 and is credited with introducing many of the service, product and marketing innovations that sparked the brand’s explosive growth throughout the 1990s. Carol Toyoda was honored for her critical behind-the-scenes work in building the infrastructure for growth, including accounting, administration, training and other corporate support. Currently, the Toyoda’s are the owners/operators of several independent restaurants in Lexington.
- Kathy Watkins – Watkins was the first employee of the original Fazoli’s location in Lexington. During her 19-year Fazoli’s career, Watkins would accomplish several other “firsts”, including becoming the company’s first-ever area supervisor, first director of HR and training, first group president of training and operations services, and first vice president of organizational learning and communication. Her efforts in building a people-first culture were recognized by awards from Nation’s Restaurant News in 2001 and the National Restaurant Association Education Foundation in 2003. After leaving Fazoli’s in 2006, she became vice president, learning and development and field communications for Panera Bread, where she remained until last year. Currently, Watkins is vice president of training and operations for Johnny Rockets.
“We couldn’t be more excited to host our first Hall of Fame Induction Luncheon,” said Carl Howard, president and chief executive officer of Fazoli’s. “Without the incredible dedication and accomplishments of these industry leaders, Fazoli’s could not have achieved or upheld the leadership status in the restaurant industry we’ve been fortunate to hold. This inaugural class is an exceptional group of inductees and we look forward to recognizing future inductees in the years to come.”