Jack and Linda Williams of Richie’s Real American Diner received a Silver Plate Award at the 2014 National Restaurant Show and Convention, which is held annually at the Great Hall at Union Station in Chicago, Illinois. Members of the restaurant industry from throughout the country attend the event.
The Silver Plate Award is the foodservice industry’s equivalent to the movie industry’s Academy Awards. It was presented by the IFMA (International Food- Service Association) which acknowledges the most outstanding operator in the $600 billion foodservice industry.
“We are privileged to award this year’s class of Silver Plate recipients,” said Larry Oberkfell, president and CEO of IFMA. “The Gold and Silver Plate Awards are the IFMA community’s way of celebrating greatness within the operator community and acknowledging the leadership and dedication these particular individuals have put forth to advance the foodservice industry.”
There are eight categories. Richie’s won in the Independent Restaurants category after being nominated by Idahoan Foods. Past winners include Col. Harland Sanders (KFC), Carl Karcher (Carl’s Jr.) Norm Brinker (Chili’s), Ray Kroc (McDonalds) and Jim Collins (Sizzler), Etc.
The foodservice industry is the second largest employer group in America next to the Federal Government. The Silver Plate awardees are the highest possible operator talents in that food service industry, recognizing “Excellence to Encourage Excellence.”
Each year eight Silver Plate winners are chosen by a rigorous process that includes: pre-screening by a peer jury of past Silver Plate winners, chief editors from leading foodservice publications and industry experts.
Jack and Linda Williams and Richie’s Real American Diner
Jack and Linda Williams know what it takes to run a successful restaurant. Richie’s is just the latest of their successful ventures, which include dozens of Sizzlers and KFCs.
Jack and Linda opened their first Richie’s real American Diner in Temecula in 1991. Currently they own and operate Temecula and Murrieta Richie’s and are joined by Gary and Sally Myers (son-in-law and daughter) who own and operate Richie’s in Palm Desert and Rancho Cucamonga (The Myers also are also franchisees of 25 Sizzlers)
Richie’s was named after Jack and Linda’s closest friend in the restaurant industry; Rich Snyder, owner of the In-N-Out Burger. (Rich was killed in a plane crash in 1993).They have been married almost 60 years—of which 57 years has been in the food industry.
Linda was raised in Alabama, and Jack was born in Texas. It is apparent that they were raised with old-fashioned manners and courtesy, which is strongly reflected in numerous ways at Richie’s.
Jack said their diner is different from other restaurants in a variety of ways besides the great food.
“It’s the little things that make a big difference, like warm coffee cups and freshly ground coffee, Linda’s homemade pies and cakes, and our award-winning jams and jellies,” Jack said.
“It’s a seasoned crew with people who have been with us 10-26 years; It’s our General Manager, Jorge Chavez, who is the best in the country,” Jack added. Chavez has worked with the Williams for 31 years.
They always come back to their crew and their belief in God.
“We really appreciate and respect the culture that God’s given us at the restaurant,” Jack said.
Jack and Linda explained that people may not remember what they paid or ate, “but they remember how they felt and that’s important.” That’s why Jack spends a lot of his time talking to customers.
Linda, who also spends time with customers, agrees the culture of the restaurant is special. She concentrates on hiring and training the right staff to support that culture.
“Conversation is important, especially if it’s one person,” Linda said. “The staff may be the only people they talk to all day.” She added that the staff must be friendly and consistent.
“We really started doing well in our business when we discovered that we were not in the food business but we are in the people business,” Jack said, adding that their mission statement is “pleasin’ people”.
That commitment to quality and customer service has not slipped the attention of many of the customers at Richie’s.
“Our family down here took us to Richie’s Diner when we first started visiting and then house-hunting in the area,” said Jack Callahan, a former northern California resident. “Now we have been coming here regularly every week since 2010. This is the typical mom-and-pop and home-made pie diner that we grew up with.”
Jack’s wife, Linda, agrees.
“We have visited many of the fine restaurants in the area, but we always come back to Richie’s for the great food and Southern cuisine,” she said
“The quality of the food is only surpassed by the quality of the service and the attention of Jack and Linda who can be frequently found individually visiting with the guests. They make you feel at home,” Jack added.
Good customer service may come second nature to Jack and Linda, but being in the restaurant business isn’t something they necessarily considered earlier in their lives.
”We never dreamed we’d be in the restaurant business,” Jack said. “We don’t plan on slowing down until God takes us home.”
Some may wonder why a restaurant like Richie’s hasn’t opted to franchise, but Jack said the decision not to is for a simple reason.
“We’ve developed this incredible culture and culture is hard to transfer,” he said.
And Jack and Linda do have experience in the franchise world.
Jack said he joined Jim Collins and Col. Sanders when they brought KFC to Southern California. Collins would later spend 25 years helping develop the Sizzler concept, which would become their largest franchisee with 35 locations.
Jack and Linda proudly live in Temecula and think Temecula Valley is God’s gift to California. They have 4 children—Sally (Richie’s & Sizzler), Gregg (In Richie’s with them), Todd (Janitorial Company in Murrieta) and Cindy (Lives in Torrance and husband is general contractor of custom homes.) They have 12 grandchildren and 4 great grandchildren. Linda was a long distance bike rider for many years. Jack frequently rides horses and was given his first horse on his third birthday.