History of the Gold and Silver Plate Awards

2002 marks the 47th anniversary of IFMA's Gold and Silver Plate Awards. For 47 years these awards have acknowledged, with highest tribute, the most outstanding operator talents in our $411 billion foodservice industry. Since its inception in 1955, the Gold and Silver Plate program has followed the tradition of "recognizing excellence to encourage excellence."

As the highest possible honor in the industry, the Gold and Silver Plate Awards program has grown and evolved in response to the rigorous demands of an industry which itself has experienced continued growth and evolution. In this way, the Gold and Silver Plate Awards program has reached and maintained its coveted position as the most significant and widely-recognized tribute in our very demanding, complex and ever-growing industry.

Perhaps it will be of interest to you that when this traditional event began in 1955, and for the next thirteen years, it was exclusively a Gold Plate Awards program, where one award was given annually - - the Gold Plate Award. (In 1958 and 1959, three Gold Plate Awards were granted simultaneously.)

By 1968, it was apparent that one award could not justly represent the various management skills of the many diverse segments making up the total foodservice industry. How could a restaurant operator, for example, be fairly compared to a military, hospital or university foodservice operator? The analogy of comparing apples to oranges was a sound argument.

So, beginning in 1968, seven categories representing the full spectrum of the foodservice industry were delineated, and the outstanding operator from each segment was awarded IFMA's newly created Silver Plate Award. Then, from that pool of seven Silver Plate recipients, the Gold Plate Award winner, or "Foodservice Operator of the Year" was selected.

In 1973, the number of Silver Plate Awards was increased to eight when the category previously called Commercial Restaurants was divided to form two new categories: Full Service Restaurants and Fast Service Restaurants.

Several years later, a task force was formed to evaluate the nomination form once again. At that time, a ninth category was added: Independent Restaurant Operator. And, the Public Institutions and Military category was incorporated into the Health Care category. Business and Industry (another new category) took over this slot.

In 1989, the Gold Plate Awards Task Force met once again to analyze the nomination process and incorporate any changes needed. The Task Force voted and decided on the following nine categories: Independent Restaurant Operator; Chain Full Service; Chain Fast Service; Health Care; Elementary and Secondary Schools; Colleges and Universities; Contract Food Management; Business and Industry; Hotels and Lodging.

In 1994, the category structure was revamped again only slightly: the Business & Industry and Contract Food Management categories were combined to make a single category. Also, a new category, Specialty Foodservices, was created to include operator segments (such as clubs, off-premises caterers, correctional institutions, military foodservice, leisure and theme parks, stadiums and sports arenas, airlines and cruise ships) that had not previously fit within the awards category structure.

Today the Silver Plate Award is granted in the following nine categories:

  1. Independent Restaurant Operator
  2. Chain Full Service
  3. Chain Fast Service
  4. Health Care
  5. Elementary and Secondary Schools
  6. Colleges and Universities
  7. Contract Food Management
  8. Business and Industry
  9. Hotels and Lodging

Judging for the Gold and Silver Plate recipients always has been a matter of utmost seriousness and integrity although, like the Gold and Silver Plate program itself, the Awards Jury has undergone a number of changes.

The very first Gold Plate recipient was judged by a jury of five university professors and in subsequent years, foodservice publication editors made up the Jury, with one editor acting as chairperson. In 1978, we added to this group the previous year's Silver Plate recipients as well.

Nomination forms for the Gold and Silver Plate Awards are disbursed widely throughout the industry, being sent to all trade publications, IFMA's individual manufacturing members, associate and allied members, nonmember manufacturers, chain operators and sister trade associations.

Every winter, the Gold and Silver Plate Awards Jury convenes for a day-long meeting where each of the nominees in every category is considered on the basis of these criteria:

  1. Foodservice management and operating techniques
  2. Employee training programs, motivation and expansion of career opportunities
  3. Membership and participation in professional foodservice organizations
  4. Other contributions to the prestige and public image of the foodservice industry, including participation in civic, community, charitable, educational and other affairs which illustrate social responsibility

Once the nine Silver Plate winners are selected, the Jury goes on to choose, by secret ballot, one of the nine as "Foodservice Operator of the Year," the Gold Plate Award winner, on the basis of the same criteria. A representative from Price Waterhouse collects and tallies the ballots. By the nature of the secret ballot, not even the Jury members know the name of the Gold Plate recipient unit it is revealed at the Gold and Silver Plate Awards Banquet in May.

The IFMA Gold and Silver Plate Awards Banquet, which annually recognizes the new class of Silver Plate Award recipients, is a showcase of the foodservice industry and one of the most prestigious culinary events of the year. Over hundreds of foodservice notable gather to pay tribute to the award winners and to enjoy an evening of outstanding cuisine. The multi-course menu is painstakingly developed by the Chicago Hilton's Chef and banquet staff and is taste-tested by IFMA's President and a panel of invited guests before final approval. It is a measure of the foodservice industry's immense talent and creativity that such a banquet can be successfully presented to such a large group while still consistently maintaining the high quality, flair and essence of hospitality that is an integral part of the industry.

Year Earned: