Meet Ohio's Best

The Ohio Restaurant & Hospitality Alliance Hall of Fame recognizes industry leaders who devoted a lifetime upholding our core values, while inspiring the next generation of hospitality champions.

To be considered for this designation, an individual or entity must have operated in the restaurant, foodservice and hospitality business in Ohio for at least 25 years and be a member of the Alliance.
Billy Ingram // 2019

The Original Craver, E.W. "Billy" Ingram founded White Castle in 1921. 40 years later, in 1961, White Castle became the first fast food chain to sell over 1 billion burgers. The family-owned company has over 300 locations across the U.S.

Jeff Ruby // 2019

In 1981, one of the most iconic restaurateurs in the industry began his career by opening The Precinct in Cincinnati. The concept was quickly followed by Jeff Ruby's Steakhouse, which now has 5 locations in 3 states.

Emily Bennett // 2020

Chair and President of Bennett Management Corp. (Burger King) and the legendary Tony Packo's in Toledo, Emily oversees more than a 1,000 employees & operates 25 Burger King locations in Ohio, Michigan & Indiana

Jim Grote // 2021

In 1963 Grote founded Donatos Pizza based on the power of positive thinking and the Golden Rule. A Columbus favorite with a National footprint, Donatos was inducted into the Pizza Hall of Fame in 2015. Grote is also the inventor of the Pep-A-Matic, a machine that slices and applies pepperoni directly to pizza.

Donald "Buddy" LaRosa // 2022

Buddy opened LaRosa's Pizzeria in the West Side in 1954. Since then, the pizza chain has grown to include more than 65 locations in Southwestern and Central Ohio and Northern Kentucky. As of 2014, it was the 14th-largest pizza chain in the country.

Rick Malir // 2023

In 1999, Rick Malir founded City Barbecue in Columbus with his four business partners. Under his leadership, City Barbeque has grown to more than 60 locations in 8 states and is on pace to reach 100 eateries by 2025.  

Cameron Mitchell // 2019

With the "dish room to board room story", the legendary Cameron Mitchell founded Cameron Mitchell Restaurants (CMR) in 1993. Today, CMR has has over 40 restaurants across the country with 18 different concepts in 14 states.

Dave Thomas // 2020

The legendary founder of Wendy's, the late Dave Thomas, was a true titan of Ohio's restaurant community. Where's the beef? Well, Wendy's is the largest restaurant company based in Ohio and has over 7,000 locations worldwide.

The Gregory Family // 2020

In 1951, Ted and Matula "Mat" Gregory opened the iconic Montgomery Inn in Cincinnati. Ted became known as "The Rib's King" thanks to Mat's homemade barbecue sauce. Today, the Gregory children proudly carry on the family tradition.

Suzy DeYoung // 2022

Founder of La Soupe in Cincinnati, DeYoung's organization uses discarded food to create delicious and nutritious meals for those in need. Every week Suzy and her crew transform 25,000 pounds of potential food waste into 5,000 meals.

Dan Ponton // 2022

As President and Managing Partner of Roosters, Dan grew the company into a central Ohio staple and the official wing sponsor of Ohio State Athletics. Under his leadership, Roosters is a top 25 employer and often voted best wings in the city.

Rodney Wasserstrom // 2023

Since 1902, The Wasserstrom Company serves everyone from the smallest diners to the largest restaurant chains and everyone in between. While Rodney is now the CEO, his first official role in the family business began in 1961.

Dan Young // 2023

As the CEO and self-described “Chief Ice Cream Dipper” of Young's Jersey Dairy, Dan leads over 300 employees in hosting more than one million visitors a year. The 154 year old family business strikes a perfect balance between innovation and maintaining tradition.

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