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Chain LeaderChain Leader Execution Awards — Awards

Chain Leader magazine presented its 2005 Execution Awards on November 18, 2005 as part of Chain Leader LIVE, an educational and networking conference for chain restaurant executives.

Designed to honor leaders in the chain restaurant industry, the program comprises three separate awards:

Joe Lee

Legend: All of the chain restaurant executives who have appeared on the cover of Chain Leader since its debut in August 1996 were asked to name the industry leader who has inspired them the most in their career and has the greatest influence on today’s chain leaders and the chain restaurant industry at large.

The winner is Joe Lee, chairman of Darden Restaurants Inc.  A member of the founding team of Red Lobster, Lee was its first manager.  He assumed increasing responsibilities at Red Lobster and then General Mills, which purchased the fledgling chain in 1970.  Lee was was president and CEO of General Mills Restaurants Inc. from December 1994 until it separated into two public companies in June 1995.  He then served as Darden Restaurants’ schairman and CEO, and turned over the CEO title in 2004. Lee will retire his position as chairman at the end of this year.

Philip J. Hickey, Jr.

Chain Leadership: The executives who have appeared on the cover of Chain Leader also voted for the person who currently has great influence on their company and the industry, taking into account his or her leadership, financial results and restaurant industry participation.

The winner is Philip J. Hickey Jr., chairman and CEO of RARE Hospitality International Inc.  A 30-year veteran of the restaurant industry, Hickey joined RARE as president and chief operating officer in October 1997, was appointed CEO in August 1998, and assumed the chairman’s title in January 2001. Prior to that, he was president of Rio Bravo International Inc. He co-founded and became president of H&M Restaurants Inc. which was acquired by Rio Bravo in 1992. In 1984, he co-founded the Cooker Bar & Grille.

Billy Downs

Protégé: Chain Leader’s readers were invited to nominate a young up-and-comer who is under 40 years old and has shown measurable achievement, strong leadership and great promise.  Chain Leader’s editorial staff selected the winner.

The winner is Billy Downs, founder and president of bd’s Mongolian Barbeque.  Downs was introduced to the “create your own stir-fry” concept while working with a Mongolian barbecue chain in London.  He brought it to Royal Oak, Mich., in 1992 and has overseen its growth to 27 restaurants in 10 states.

2005 Chain Leader Execution Award Winners
Legend: Norman Brinker, founder and former chairman, Brinker International
Chain Leadership: Rick Federico, chairman and CEO, P.F. Chang’s China Bistro
Protégé: Jeff Sinelli, founder and president, Which Wich

Call For Protégé Award Nominations

Do you know of a young up-and-comer who is ready to take the next step and join the senior-executive ranks? Nominate him or her for the Protégé Award.


  • under 40 years of age
  • exceptional achievements in the chain restaurant industry
  • measurable achievement, strong leadership and great promise

Tell us in 250 words or less about the nominee and why they deserve the award.


Nominations due Sept. 1, 2006

Award will be presented at Chain Leader LIVE.


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