The Georgia Restaurant Association announced the finalists for the 2016 Georgia Restaurant Association Crystal of Excellence Awards. All finalists are peer nominated.

The winners are then decided by the GRACE Academy, which consists of all past GRACE nominees and current GRA Board Members.

On November 13, the GRACE Awards Gala, an exclusive event honoring leaders who have made outstanding contributions to Georgia’s restaurant industry, will take place at the Delta Flight Museum in Atlanta. At the event, winners for Restaurateur of the Year (Small/Independent, Franchisee, Large/Corporate), Industry Partner of the Year and the Distinguished Service Award will be announced. The GRA will also honor the Restaurant Employee of the Year, Manager of the Year, ProStart Student of the Year, and this year’s Lifetime Achievement Award winner, Bob Amick of Concentrics Restaurants.

In addition, Jim Stacy, TV host and owner of Pallookaville Fine Foods, will serve as the master of ceremonies. Live entertainment will be provided by the jazz group the Joe Gransden Duo.

“This is a very special year, as we celebrate the 10th Annual GRACE Awards Gala. Through this event we remember and recognize the last decade of GRACE Awards winners and their achievements as well as look to the bright future we face in the restaurant industry in Georgia,” says Karen Bremer, CEO of the Georgia Restaurant Association.

A portion of the proceeds from this event will go to benefit the Atlanta Community Food Bank, whose mission is to fight hunger by engaging, educating, and empowering the community.


Restaurateur of the Year: Small/Independent

Federico Castellucci, Castellucci Hospitality Group

Jamie Durrence, Daniel-Reed Hospitality

Jeff Landau, Metrotainment Cafes

Restaurateur of the Year: Franchisee

Shawn Hooks, Firehouse Subs

Donnell Thompson, RWDT Foods DBA Denny’s

Mack Wilbourn, Mack II, Inc.

Restaurateur of the Year: Large/Corporate

Arby’s Restaurant Group, Inc.


Waffle House

Industry Partner of the Year



US Foods

Distinguished Service Award

Willy Bitter, Willy’s Mexicana Grill

Van Jakes, Jake 22 Management

Regynald Washington, Hojeij Branded Foods

ProStart Student of the Year

To be determined by the Hospitality Education Foundation of Georgia (HEFG)

Manager of the Year

Yvette Pearson, The Public Kitchen and Bar

Restaurant Employee of the Year

Valita Drayton, Krystal

Lifetime Achievement Award

Bob Amick, Concentrics Restaurants

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