Smashburger, a nationally acclaimed industry-leading Better Burger restaurant, presented its high-achieving franchisees with awards and recognition at its first annual franchisee conference held in November at The Westin Tabor Center Hotel in Denver. Smashburger’s rapid growth and consumer acceptance has been fueled by solid network of experienced, dedicated franchisees.

“Smashburger was designed to win in the better burger market,” says Smashburger Chairman and Chief Executive Officer David Prokupek. “Our franchisees’ dedication, commitment, and trust has enabled us to grow from concept to a winning and growing success story, and our award winners are leading the way.”

In recognition of their support and to show appreciation, Smashburger presented a Franchisee of the Year Award, Founder’s Award, Operator of the Year Award, and Leadership Award.

The Franchisee of the Year Award identifies the franchise group that exemplifies excellence in all areas. Franchisee of the Year Award winners demonstrate a drive for success, passion for the brand, extraordinary customer service, and attention to detail. This year’s recipient is Sun West Burger’s Dave Doty, Chuck Riske, Robin Yoshimura and Kurt Riske of Phoenix. Sun West operates four Phoenix-area stores.

The Founder’s Award recognizes the franchise group that demonstrates the principles and values of the Smashburger brand while delivering results, demonstrating commitment to the brand, and focusing unwaveringly on success. Scott Gillman and his team at Smash Enterprises in New Jersey received the first annual Founder’s Award for their constructive feedback and leadership. Smash Enterprises currently operates four Smashburger locations.

Smashburger’s Operator of the Year Award celebrates the operator who sets the system standard for store-level execution by performing well on operating metrics, achieving consistent positive customer feedback, and high marks on secret shops. Operator of the Year Award goes to Amy Kessling in partnership with Tom Rodenkirch of Rodenkirch Management Group. Kessling and Rodenkirch operate two locations in Ohio.

Smashburger’s Leadership Award recognizes franchisees who celebrate people as the most valuable asset. Leadership Award recipients focus on recruiting, training, and retaining the best. This year’s award goes to Jerry Gunderson and Mark Hattanas from SB Las Vegas. Their team’s success hinged on the contributions of each member. SB Las Vegas operates four Las Vegas Smashburgers.

“I congratulate and commend all of our franchise partners for their commitment and belief in the Smashburger brand,” says Smashburger Founder Tom Ryan. “Our team is truly world class and those who were recognized belong to an elite group.”

Smashburger’s Better Burgers, made with 100-percent Certified Angus Beef, are cooked to order in satisfying recipes and can be customized with an array of artisan buns, flavorful cheeses, the freshest produce, and top-quality condiments. In addition to great-tasting burgers, Smashburger offers crispy and grilled Smashchicken sandwiches and a fresh variety of Smashsalads. Diners can enhance their meal with any of Smashburger’s wide offering of signature sides like rosemary and garlic-seasoned Smashfries, Veggie Frites, haystack onions, and Fried Pickles. Guests can quench their thirst with local beer, wine, Häagen-Dazs shakes, and root-beer floats.

Denise Lee Yohn: QSR's Marketing Guru, News, Smashburger