For Leading Their Brands to Success, Brinker International Names Brand GMs of the Year

For Leading Their Brands to Success, Brinker International Names Brand GMs of the YearDALLAS  (Restaurant News Release)  In an industry that requires disciplined management, a persistent focus on results, ongoing flexibility and boundless creativity, two individuals helped guide Brinker International, Inc. (NYSE: EAT) brands’ Chili’s® Grill & Bar and Maggiano’s Little Italy® through a time of challenge and change over the past year. Proving their mettle, Maggiano’s managing partner, Jennifer Zielinski, and Chili’s managing partner, Jaimi Phelan, distinguished themselves from more than 800 general managers nationwide to be named the 2010 Brand General Managers of the Year as part of the company’s 5-Star Challenge program designed to reward top restaurant operators.

Touting the brand’s highest guest satisfaction scores, Jennifer Zielinski, Maggiano’s Brand GM of the Year, embraces the Brinker culture’s exclusive brand of hospitality at her Indianapolis restaurant. When Maggiano’s introduced menu changes this year, Jennifer took those changes in stride with a positive attitude, working with her team members to ensure the guest experience remained superior. Jennifer is also committed to growing future leaders, developing more than 25 managers over a three-year period and helping to create a new training program. From charity cooking classes to partnering with other restaurants to raise funds for local organizations, Jennifer is equally dedicated to giving back to her community.

In August 2005, Jaimi Phelan, Chili’s Brand GM of the Year, said goodbye to New Orleans when she was displaced from her home and left without a job after Hurricane Katrina. Relocating to Tahlequah, Okla., she applied to the local Chili’s as a server, where she was quickly promoted to manager. In a short time, Jaimi became general manager of the Tahlequah Chili’s where she’s achieved positive sales results for three years running. Additionally, Jaimi mentors her management team and team members, constantly praising and sharing priceless feedback with them. Jaimi also engages her team members to give back to the community and supports a dozen local organizations, going the extra mile to raise more than $30,000 over the past two years for organizations inside and outside Tahlequah County.

“Jaimi and Jennifer consistently drove their individual restaurant sales in a highly challenging environment while empowering their team members to win together by creating an environment that offers guests a place to escape from the many demands of their busy lives,” said Valerie Davisson, Chief PeopleWorks Officer for Brinker International.

The nominees were selected for this honor based on key results criteria regarding outstanding performance and profit achievements as well as demonstrating commitment to guests, team members and their surrounding community. Brinker’s Top GM of the Year will be announced in Dallas, Dec. 8 at the Brinker corporate all-team member meeting. The winning GM will receive a crystal trophy to display in the restaurant, a trip to Hawaii, a one-year lease on a new Lexus and $25,000. Additionally, all team members at the winner’s restaurant will enjoy a party for their team and a cash bonus.

About Brinker International 

Brinker International, Inc. (NYSE: EAT), is one of the world’s leading casual dining restaurant companies, serving more than one million guests daily. Founded in 1975 and based in Dallas, Texas, Brinker owns or franchises more than 1,500 restaurants in 30 countries and two territories, and employs more than 100,000. Brinker’s wholly-owned restaurant brands include Chili’s® Grill & Bar and Maggiano’s Little Italy®. Brinker also holds a minority investment in Romano’s Macaroni Grill®. For more information, visit