Back when she was splitting the week between her job at a manufacturing plant and her stand at the local swap meet, Laren Gartner never dreamed she’d be accepting an award in front of a room full of restaurant executives. But that is exactly what happened today, as Gartner, chairman and CEO of Cheeseburgers Restaurants, joined her co-founder and executive vice president, Edna Bayliff, on stage at the 4th Annual WFF Forum on Competitive Edge Luncheon to receive the WFF 2005 Entrepreneur of the Year (EOY) Award. Presenting the award to the pair were Lori Daniel, 2004’s EOY winner and co-founder of Two Chefs on a Roll, and Women’s Foodservice Forum chair and vice president of industry marketing for Ecolab, Alice Wheelwright.

Gartner and Bayliff opened their first Cheeseburger in Paradise store in 1997—with no prior restaurant experience. Today, the duo’s Cheeseburger Restaurants, Inc.’s operates three units in Hawaii and one in Las Vegas. Gross sales for this year are anticipated to be $27 million and new units are scheduled to open in Las Vegas, New York, and South Beach, Florida.

Business savvy aside, The Women’s Foodservice Forum chose to honor Gartner and Bayliff’s commitment to the advancement of women in foodservice. Fifty percent of Cheeseburger Restaurants, Inc.’s general managers are female, as are 25 percent of the company’s assistant managers.

In keeping with the WFF’s Roadmap to Results initiative, Get on Track was the theme of this year’s 4th WFF Forum on Competitive Edge Luncheon. IndyCar champion and racing legend, Lyn St. James served as the luncheon’s keynote speaker.