Golden Corral's Lance Trenary chosen as the 2022 operator of the year

The buffet chain's CEO was named on Saturday as this year's winner of the Gold Plate.
Photo courtesy of International Foodservice Manufacturers Association.

Lance Trenary, CEO of the Golden Corral buffet chain and this year’s chairman of the National Restaurant Association, was named Saturday night as the 2022 winner of the Gold Plate, the honor bestowed on an individual chosen as the outstanding operator of the year.

Past recipients have included Danny Meyer, Charlie Trotter, Wolfgang Puck, Phil Hickey and Van Eure.  The award is presented by the International Foodservice Manufacturers Association (IFMA), the trade group for industry suppliers.

Trenary was chosen from a field of seven finalists hailed as the outstanding operators within their respective industry segments—the winners of IFMA’s Silver Plate Award.

Trenary won in the category of full-service chains. The other segment winners included Frances Allen, CEO of Checker & Rally’s, for limited-service chains; Sammy Gianopoulos, co-owner and executive chef of Crisp Hospitality Group, independent and multi-concept operations; Paco and Tina Rodriguez, founders of Sage Dining Services, for business-and-industry foodservice management; Andre Mallie, assistant VP of the Unviversity of San Diego, college and university feeding; Cheryl Shimmin, executive director of culinary and nutrition care for Kettering Health, for healthcare feeding; and Alyssa Wright, executive director of school nutrition for Fulton County Schools, for K-12 foodservice.

The Gold Plate award winner is selected from the Silver Plate winners in a secret ballot by a jury that includes editors from the foodservice trade press; past winners; and other prominent figures in the industry. IFMA does not participate in the voting.

“I work with the most phenomenal team in the industry,” Trenary said in accepting the Gold Plate at a gala event during the National Restaurant Association Show in Chicago. “And this award is for them. The last two years have been so difficult. To have enjoyed the turnaround that we have had has been everything.”

Golden Corral is known for its extensive buffets sporting everything from fried chicken to a chocolate fountain. That style of service was essentially halted when the pandemic hit in 2020, threatening the very existence of the brand.

Under Trenary’s leadership, the brand explored other ways of serving one of the most loyal customer bases in the business. In addition to converting the buffets to what approximated a cafeteria line, with employees dishing out food to customers, it explored such options as providing conventional table service, and it even embraced drive-thrus.

Golden Corral employs about 35,000 people in roughly 500 restaurants across 42 states. Trenary has been with the brand for 35 years.




Members help make our journalism possible. Become a Restaurant Business member today and unlock exclusive benefits, including unlimited access to all of our content. Sign up here.


Exclusive Content


As restaurant tech consolidates, an ode to the point solution

Tech Check: All-in-one may be all the rage, but there’s value in being a one-trick pony.


Steak and Ale comes back from the dead, 16 years later

The Bottom Line: Paul Mangiamele has vowed to bring the venerable casual-dining chain back for more than a decade. He finally fulfilled that promise. Here’s a look inside.

Consumer Trends

Fast food has lost its reputation as a cheap meal

Years of price hikes are driving consumers to grocery stores and even full-service restaurants, which are now viewed by some as a better deal.


More from our partners