Legend has it that in the late 1700s, King Ferdinand I disguised himself as a commoner and secretly visited a place in Naples to taste pizza, which was something Queen Maria Carolina had banned from the royal court. When Dominick Pulieri launched Grotto Pizza in 1960, he also went out into the community – not in secret like King Ferdinand, but to promote pizza to the residents of Delaware. Realizing success with this tactic, Grotto Pizza continues to be a big part of many Delaware communities today.

In the current economy, it can be difficult for families to find restaurants that are appropriate for children and allow them to stretch a dollar. But Fricker’s fits that bill, according to Fricker’s Marketing Manager Jim Manley. Based in Miamisburg, Ohio, the company has 18 locations in Ohio, Michigan and Indiana that serve a menu featuring what it lovingly calls “Frickin’ Chicken wings and chunks,” pizza, ribs, salads, soups, shrimp and steak. Owner Ray Frick founded the restaurant in 1985, in West Carrollton, Ohio.

Some restaurants follow the practice of reheating prepared foods, but Bensi Restaurant Group Inc. sets itself apart by avoiding that approach, President John Osso says. “We focus on [serving] Italian food prepared from scratch,” he says. “We don’t blanch and reheat, as is the process in many places. We execute it the traditional way.”

Visitors to bd’s Mongolian Grill get more than just a typical dining experience. Upon entering the restaurant, diners have a choice of fresh meats and vegetables in what the casual dining chain calls its “Market Area.” After gathering their ingredients in a bowl, they take their creation over to one of their “master grillers” who then cooks their feast on a 7-foot flat-top grill in open view, where a key part of the bd’s experience begins as their creation is stir-fried.

For Jay Barnes, the secret to the success of the restaurant company he co-owns with his brother John is simple. “I don’t think there’s anything magical about this business,  we just strive to execute better than the competition and give our customers value,” says Barnes, co-founder and president of Houston-based Willie’s Restaurants. The company operates 14 restaurants in two different concepts: Willie’s Grill & Icehouse and Fajita Willie’s Cafe & Cantina.  Both Fajita Willie’s restaurants and nine of the 12 Willie’s Grill & Icehouse locations are located in Houston. The remaining 3 Willie’s Grill & Icehouse sites are in San Antonio.

Dennis Slack has been in the quick-service food industry since he was in high school. He worked hard and saved his money, and by the time he was 22, he had $28,000 in the bank. With those savings and a home equity loan from his parents – as well as all of the knowledge he had acquired about the business – he opened Slack’s Hoagie Shack in 1988 in Philadelphia. The 2,000-square-foot shop had an extensive menu, and it didn’t take long for customers to realize that Slack’s Hoagie Shack wasn’t just another sandwich shop.

Seasons Pizza – the name itself leads customers to believe that any time is a good time to eat pizza. The company backs up that conclusion by offering more food choices in more places every year, making Seasons an attractive option wherever it sets up shop.

One of the most memorable scenes in “Animal House” is the food fight in the college’s cafeteria, which is started by Bluto, played by John Belushi. Before the fight starts, however, the movie shows the state of university dining services as they used to be. Bluto walks into a poorly lit cafeteria and piles his tray with donuts, plates of Jell-O and dishes of meat covered in plastic. This unappetizing offering is no longer an archtype of the college experience, and San Diego State University (SDSU) is a prime example of how much the dining experience can improve.

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