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What drives the nation’s top foodservice operators? We asked the 2017 Silver Plate Class a few questions to get the inside scoop. Find out what they had to say about career accomplishments and what it means to be part of a legendary group of operators.

G.J. Hart, Executive Chairman & CEO of California Pizza Kitchen, received the 2017 Silver Plate Award in the Chain Full Service category. Nominated by Wayne Farms.


What do you enjoy most about your career in foodservice?

In the restaurant business, we have the incredible opportunity each and every day to directly influence and change people’s lives in a positive way, by offering our guests a great meal and warm, genuine hospitality, and also importantly, by giving our time and support out in the communities we serve. We get to make people happy! Is there anything more rewarding than that?

Tell us about your biggest career accomplishment.

Throughout my career, I’ve strived to create environments where people feel free to be themselves, where they feel valued, and to provide the tools and atmosphere to help them accomplish their goals. Seeing people exceed their own expectations and helping our team members to be successful and grow has been my highest aspiration, and I’ve been proud to create that kind of culture at California Pizza Kitchen and at Texas Roadhouse prior.

I’ve also been proud to work alongside our teams to create two, for-employee-by-employee 501c3 emergency funds that take care of our people in their greatest time of need – the Kindness Fund at California Pizza Kitchen and Andy’s Outreach at Texas Roadhouse. All of us coming together to lend a helping hand to our team members when they need it the most is the ultimate in selflessness.

How is your segment making a difference for the foodservice industry?

The restaurant business is continuing to weather some of the most challenging headwinds of our time, that’s creating incredibly stiff competition for our guests’ business. As a polished casual dining brand, at California Pizza Kitchen we are striving to provide an exceptional and personalized dining experience that differentiates us from the segment – caring for our guests through amazing hospitality, quality of ingredients and innovation on our menu – and providing all of that at a price that offers value to our guests.

It’s an approach driven to catering each guest experience to their expectation. Whether it’s a night out with friends, a family dinner or lunch hour from the office, our mission is an approach we call “time and occasion,” gearing each experience to the needs of our guests. We balance our approach to hospitality by a commitment to serve only fresh, high-quality food that aspires to continue our legacy of daring to be different. It’s a unique approach to culinary development that has been the foundation of our menu for 32 years, and we’re pursuing innovation that reaches beyond pizza to deliver exciting new dishes to our guests and appeal to a wide range of tastes.

What advice do you have for someone new to the foodservice industry?

Positive attitude, perseverance and collaboration truly can take you anywhere. Reach out to others, work cross-functionally to reach solutions to challenges and never be too proud to realize when you might need a helping hand. Great leaders know that this is part of their journeys and will always seek others to help them overcome obstacles.

What does being an IFMA Silver Plate recipient mean to you?

Receiving an IFMA Silver Plate Award is a tremendous honor for me and for our team at California Pizza Kitchen. To me, this special recognition from our industry peers is a testament that the transformational work that we have accomplished together as a team to invigorate, inspire and carry forward an already great brand is resonating and is working. We are very proud and honored.

Join us at the 2017 IFMA Gold & Silver Plate Awards Celebration and help us in honoring G.J Hart and the rest of the Silver Plate Recipients.