Annual banquets and award ceremonies are staples of most companies, but for Encanto Restaurants Inc., employee recognition is a daily occurrence. “What differentiates us is a culture of recognition,” CEO José Ribas says of the Puerto Rico-based quick-service restaurant franchisee. “It’s not uncommon to walk into our restaurant support center and see one employee publicly recognize another for a specific act, and tell them in front of their peers about why what they did is deserving of recognition.”

Although there is an abundance of sandwich shops populating the island of Puerto Rico, there is only one that’s clearly Puerto Rican: El Meson Sandwiches. The Mayaguez, Puerto Rico-based company puts the Caribbean mark on its toasted deli subs with its trademark sweet and sour sauce, which President Felipe Perez describes as a bold, distinctly Latino flavor. “That makes it a totally different sandwich,” he asserts.  

After 17 years, Panchero’s Mexican Grill has gained a loyal following for its fresh pressed tortillas, President Rodney Anderson says. “When you start with a fresh tortilla, there’s nothing better,” he says. “We press [a tortilla] for each and every customer, and each and every order.”

When the Portland Trail Blazers take to the court at the Rose Garden Arena in Portland, Ore., another team goes to work on ensuring the NBA team’s fans leave with satisfied appetites.

If you’ll excuse the expression, HuHot Mongolian Grill has been spreading like a wildfire set by invading Mongolians. The restaurant company began in Missoula, Mont., in 1999 and has sprouted up in locations throughout Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota and Kansas. 

Randy Brooks, president and CEO of Cool Hand Luke’s Steakhouse, calls himself a “restaurant brat” since he grew up in the restaurant business. His father, Chick, developed more than 20 concept restaurants. “I’ve worked in restaurants since I was 10,” Brooks says. “I’ve been a busboy, manager and driven delivery trucks. I’ve done it all.”

At Wildflower Bread Co., employees – referred to as Breadheads – strive to maintain the Old World traditions of artisan breadmaking, President, CEO and founder Louis J. Basile Jr. says. Based in Scottsdale, Ariz., the company operates 11 locations that skillfully bake and sell its award-winning bread.

Dianne Crowley has many reasons to be excited about the success of Wild Wing Café, the casual dining franchise she and her husband, Cecil, launched on Hilton Head Island, S.C., 20 years ago. First, she takes pride in staying in business two decades despite having no prior restaurant experience. Then, there are the numerous awards for the signature recipes and laid-back atmosphere that her franchisees have earned throughout the southeastern United States.

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