Starting with a single store 80 miles east of Phoenix, Ariz., in 1984, President and CEO Dawn Lafreeda has built Den-Tex Central Inc. into a 75-location chain in Texas, Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Illinois. But her and her family’s relationship with Denny’s goes back even farther. 

“I started as a waitress, and my mother was a district manager for Denny’s before I was a waitress,” Lafreeda recalls. “Then myself and a manager friend at Denny’s bought a restaurant together in Globe, Ariz., which was a non-Denny’s. Denny’s had bought a chain of restaurants they were going to convert to Denny’s, but they had one restaurant they didn’t want to convert so they sold it out of the chain to my friend and I.”

The trend of customers using full-service grocery stores almost as restaurants is sweeping the nation and the world, but at Darrenkamp’s, it is aided by the grocery chain’s unique food offerings. These include more than 60 varieties of flavored sausage made in-house, red beet eggs, whoopee pies, and all the fresh produce and natural foods the Amish of Lancaster County – where three of the chain’s four stores are located – have to offer.

“We have a lot of different deli salads you wouldn’t see many places, such as Amish potato and macaroni salads, and our own ham and cheese spread,” points out Ryan Darrenkamp, manager of the Newberry Commons store in Etters, Pa. “We’re pretty proud of all those things. We have 20 items we make fresh in the store every day. After our deli, our meat department would be what we’re most known for. Larry Darrenkamp is the meat manager, and he is really hands-on with that. He helped create a lot of the flavors.” Among them are turkey, apple, horseradish, cheddar, sweet potato, onion, crab, blueberry and a tavern sausage that has beer in it.

As the company behind brands including Hunt’s, Orville Redenbacher’s, Reddi Wip and Chef Boyardee, ConAgra Foods is one of the nation’s largest producers of packaged foods. That gives the company a healthy share of the nation’s grocery store shelf space, and it also gives it a clear responsibility to be responsible in how it utilizes resources. It’s a responsibility that Vice President of Packaging and Sustainable Productivity Gail Tavill takes to heart as she leads the company’s efforts to package its products in a way that reduces waste and serves the consumer as best it can. 

Back when Capital Brewery Co. Inc. was founded in 1984, microbrewing beer was still a new idea. Nearly 30 years later, the company is still in expansion mode, adding new facilities and brews to its burnished legacy. Publicly rather than family owned, Capital Brewery produces an estimated 25 beers, some of which are seasonal, for limited release or “brewer’s choice” brainstorms – unique brews that may never be produced again. 

“Our most unusual is probably Jobu, a brown ale aged in Jamaican rum barrels,” recalls President Scott Wiener. “Every couple months, someone in brewing or sales will have an interesting idea. They pitch it, and we decide if we should make it. We also have a small batch brewing system that is 2.5 barrels. So sometimes we just do experimental beers that might be exclusively available in our bier garten or bier stube or at key accounts.

Reno has been Nevada’s second-largest gambling city for decades, but at the Atlantis Casino Resort Spa, the food is second to none. “We don’t just compare ourselves to our local competition,” asserts Chira Pagidi, corporate director of food and beverage. “We compare ourselves to big markets like Las Vegas, New York, Chicago and the San Francisco Bay area. We always want to be the best and raise the standards; we are the leader in the market. Those days of steak and eggs for 99 cents are gone.”

The Atlantis Casino Resort Spa has a variety of venues for cuisine, including eight restaurants and 10 bars. Among them is Atlantis Steakhouse, which serves aged prime cuts and features tableside dining and an array of classic and seasonal cocktails. “We have a number of classic tableside presentations such as Steak Diane, Caesar Salad and Bananas Foster,” Pagidi says. 


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