Golden Corral announces the appointment of Lance Trenary as president and CEO effective Jan. 1.  

Trenary, who started in his family’s restaurant business at an early age washing dishes, has moved up the ranks at Golden Corral the last 29 years, serving most recently as the company’s chief operating officer. Trenary will take over for retiring CEO Ted Fowler, who has held the top position with the company since 1989.

“I’m humbled and very excited to lead Golden Corral through the next chapters of our success,” Trenary says. “Although we face our share of challenges, I am more optimistic than ever because of the strength of the brand, the quality of the team I am fortunate to lead and the legacy of success we will build on."

“Lance is admired and respected throughout our system and the entire restaurant industry by his colleagues and peers,” says Fowler, Golden Corral’s retiring CEO. “Lance has a vision for this company that excites everyone around him. I leave the top job at Golden Corral in good hands with a leader we’re confident can take us to the next level.”

Recipe for Future Success

As the nation’s tastes evolve, Trenary says his main priority will be continued emphasis on innovation. 

“The company prides itself on bold new ideas and the willingness to try them. As exciting new recipes and flavors become mainstream, we need to be aggressive about making them part of our buffet,” Trenary says. 

Golden Corral is planning on more product customization with ideas like a Mongolian grill station where guests order their choice of meats and vegetables cooked with spices they choose, just the way they like it.

Trenary also wants to continue to capitalize on the nation’s healthy eating trends. “We were pleased with our guests’ reaction to the recently rolled out 'Farm Fresh Vegetables' program with an increased selection of 20 vegetables, including asparagus, Brussels sprouts, and fresh corn, all merchandised under an attractive farm motif canopy,” he says.

Trenary says innovation needs to extend beyond the food. He says the company will be aggressive about new restaurant designs created to serve markets at either end of the spectrum, the smaller markets and the very large markets. 

“The current 11,000-square-foot building has been a huge success, but as we endeavor to expand into major metro markets, the cost and availability of such sites is sometimes prohibitive, so looking at alternative designs is critically important,” he says.

He’s also excited about the international potential of the brand. In 2015, Golden Corral will start exploring franchise sales outside the U.S.

“It’s an exciting time to take the reins as we look to expand internationally,” Trenary says. “We’re confident our buffet concept will become a big international hit.”

Leadership Legacy 

Trenary will become Golden Corral’s third CEO since the first restaurant opened its doors back in 1973. Before Ted Fowler, James Maynard, the company founder, held the position. 

Golden Corral started in 1973 as one restaurant in Fayetteville, North Carolina, and today has grown to 501 locations in 41 states. Four hundred restaurants are franchisee-owned and 101 are company-owned.

Trenary started in the restaurant business at 9 years old, washing dishes in his father’s restaurants. In 1985, he started with Golden Corral as a restaurant partner manager and climbed up the corporate ladder with promotions to district manager, director of operations, division president, VP of development, senior VP of company operations, and most recently as chief operating officer. 

He is known for his humble, approachable leadership style and deep understanding of Golden Corral customers and what makes them tick. It was Trenary who brought the famous chocolate fountain to Golden Corral after he spotted something similar at a Chinese buffet in the Midwest. At that restaurant, he saw folks waiting in long lines to dip strawberries into a chocolate fountain. He brought the idea to Golden Corral, and today the famous Chocolate Wonderfall is a sweet success.

Trenary said the best education about the restaurant business came from working in it, which he has most of his life. He attended Mississippi State University and later went on to complete the executive management education program at the University of North Carolina. 

He also completed the advanced management pProgram at Harvard University Business School. He lives in Raleigh with his wife of 30 years and has two adult daughters he talks to every day. 

“Through all the moves and job changes, my wife and daughters have been the most important part of my life,” he says. “I get very emotional talking about them, but I’m very fortunate to have a beautiful family and a job I love. Not bad for a busboy from Mississippi.”

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