In honor of its 50th anniversary, Happy Joe’s Pizza & Ice Cream recently recognized several associates in its distinguished annual awards ceremony to celebrate their achievements within the past two years.

After a two-year pandemic-imposed hiatus, this year’s gathering was the brand’s “best conference yet,” by Happy Joe’s CEO and Chief Happiness Officer Tom Sacco with Happy Joe’s presenting 24 awards throughout 11 categories, according to a Tuesday company release.

Happy Joe’s CEO Tom Sacco (in glasses) with employees.

“Our dedicated and passionate team is truly the driving force behind Happy Joe’s 50 years of success,” Sacco said in the release. “The past two years presented various unprecedented challenges, and it’s admirable how this group of honorees persevered and continues to be successful. It’s a great pleasure to recognize their hard work and show our appreciation for them operating their restaurants as ‘Best-in-Class.’”

The Pioneer Lifetime Achievement Award, which is given to those who have made a significant contribution during their time with Happy Joe’s as an employee, franchisee, or combination of both, is among the brand’s most prestigious. Happy Joe’s announced its 2022 winner early, with CEO Tom Sacco presenting it to Ron Senger, who was with the brand for 43 years (mostly as executive director of field operations) and retired the day after the conference.

Ron Senger, who retired after 43 years with Happy Joe’s, earned the Pioneer Lifetime Achievement Award.

Mick Mapes (East Moline and Rock Island locations) was given the award for 2021, with Mike and Cheryl Post (Fargo and Grand Forks, N.D.) earning it for 2020.

Restaurants that achieve the best operations scores are awarded the “Top Gun” award. Each location must earn an evaluation score of 90% or higher. The winners for 2021 included an Iowa sweep with restaurants in Bettendorf, Muscatine on Lake Park, Burlington, Urbandale (Des Moines), and Clinton earning the honor.

Following the restaurants’ Top Gun awards, Kari and Brandon White from Clinton were named the 2021 “Operators of the Year,” and Haley Lueth of Muscatine Lake Park earned the 2020 “Operator of the Year” award. Franchisees Roger and Margaret Bussan from Galena, Illinois, were presented the “Comeback of the Year” award, while new franchisees Jeff and Suzie Reid from Urbandale, Iowa, received the “Outstanding Rookie of the Year” award.

Happy Joe’s restaurant on University Avenue in Dubuque received the Highest Sales Award for both years, earning over $2.38 million in 2020 and $2.24 million in 2021. The “Outstanding Community Service Hero” award, recognizing the restaurant’s commitment to making an impact in their local community, went to Happy Joe’s in Kewanee, Ill., for 2021 (Heather Avery) and Green Bay, Wis., for 2020 (Terri and Frank Hanold).

Happy Joe’s CEO Tom Sacco recognized two Iowans as “Head Coach of the Year.” Honored for their work in managing their teams were Stephanie Bailey of Burlington for 2021 and Judy McGill of Davenport for 2020. Hollie Matthys earned the 2021 “Support Center Special Recognition” award, with Ashley Balluff and Phil Pendleton sharing the “Support Center Special Recognition” honor for 2020.

Happy Joe’s also recognized the following companies:

  • 2021 “Service Provider of the Year” – Champion Management tied with Harrison Architect & Design
  • 2021 “Supplier of the Year” – PFG/TPC
  • 2020 “Service Provider of the Year” – Speedline Solutions
  • 2020 “Supplier of the Year” – Burke

As the conference drew to a close, CEO Sacco announced that the next annual conference would be held in Florida to showcase the new Happy Joe’s prototype that will be open and operating for all to see.

Lawrence Joseph (“Happy Joe”) Whitty opened the first restaurant in the Village of East Davenport in 1972. To learn more about Happy Joe’s, visit the company website HERE.