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Our Golden History

Golden Corral’s first family steakhouse opened in Fayetteville, North Carolina in 1973. The chain grew steadily during the next decade, starting with locations in Virginia and Texas before expanding outward.

By the mid-1980s, guests had fallen in love with our wholesome food, family-friendly atmosphere and great value. In order to enhance our core customers’ dining experience while attracting new customers, we reinvented ourselves by introducing our 11,000+ sq. feet “Buffet & Grill” design to bring our product quality and freshness to the forefront.

For almost 50 years, we have been the go-to place for families to enjoy signature dinner favorites like our tasty fried chicken, along with made-from-scratch bakery items like our homemade yeast rolls and decadent desserts.

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A Story Of Remarkable Innovation

The 1st Gateway: Greensboro, nc

Giving Back

Service to others is a hallmark of the brand. Golden Corral restaurants nationwide have long supported Disabled American Veterans (DAV) and military families.  Through the generosity of guests and the support of restaurant teams across the country, Golden Corral has raised over $30 million for DAV and Camp Corral, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to transform the lives of children of wounded, ill, and fallen military heroes by providing camp, advocacy, and enrichment programs.  Golden Corral also formed GC Cares, which provides assistance for the brand’s restaurant employees who have experienced unforeseen emergencies and financial setbacks.

Golden Corral Military Appreciation Night Logo
Camp Corral Logo
Golden Corral Cares Assistance Fund

Meet Our Leadership Team

With decades of experience in restaurant development, operations and franchising, we pride ourselves on being able to lead the brand in a way that emphasizes our core beliefs, serves our guests the experience they desire and promotes high franchisee satisfaction.

LANCE TRENARY

President and CEO

As only the third CEO in Golden Corral’s history, with the first being founder James Maynard, Lance Trenary continues the tradition of stable and tenured leadership at Golden Corral.  Before becoming President & CEO in 2015, Lance served in multiple leadership roles during his 36-year career with the brand.  He believes in giving back to support charitable causes and the industry.  Lance currently serves as the Chair of the Board of Directors for the National Restaurant Association and recently was the recipient of the highest honor in the restaurant industry, the IFMA Gold and Silver Plate Awards.  To read more about Lance’s background, click on his picture to view his full bio. 

David Conklin

DAVID CONKLIN

CHIEF DEVELOPMENT OFFICER

Skip Hanke

SKIP HANKE

CHIEF MARKETING OFFICER

Jim Laverty

JIM LAVERTY

CHIEF FINANCIAL OFFICER

Chappell Phillips

EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT / GENERAL COUNCIL

SHELLEY WOLFORD

CHIEF PEOPLE OFFICER

Ready to Get Started?

Reach out to our franchise development team for more information.
Joyce Bunn
Director Franchise Development
The “Franchise” pages of our website are for information only and not intended as an offer to sell or the solicitation of an offer to buy a franchise. We offer franchises solely by means of our Franchise Disclosure Document (FDD). Certain states have laws governing the offer and sale of franchises. If you are a resident of one of these states, we will not offer you a franchise unless and until we have complied with applicable legal requirements in your state. The information about our franchise opportunity is intended solely for residents of the United States; we do not presently offer franchises in other countries.

LANCE TRENARY

PRESIDENT AND CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER

Lance Trenary began his restaurant career in his father’s restaurant at a young age, where he learned the value of guests and the people who serve them. Lance joined Golden Corral in 1986 as Partner Manager. After deciding to pursue a multiunit career with Golden Corral, he quickly rose through the system, holding leadership roles of increasing responsibility. He was named President and Chief Executive Officer in January 2015, leading America’s largest buffet and grill concept and becoming only the third person to hold this position in the brand’s 49-year history. This year marks Lance’s 36th year with Golden Corral.

Lance’s industry leadership includes his current role as Chair of the Board of Directors for the National Restaurant Association, as well as serving as a Trustee for the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation. Lance also serves on the Executive Committee of the North Carolina Restaurant and Lodging Association and is a former Chair (2016). He has chaired the Restaurant Industry Executive Council and served as a WFF CEO Advisory Council member.

Lance was the 2022 recipient of the highest honor in the restaurant industry, the IFMA Gold and Silver Plate Awards. In 2019, Lance was named the Restaurateur of the Year by NCRLA and was a past recipient of the Griff and June Glover Award for Distinguished Service. In addition, Lance was the recipient of the 2019 Chairman’s Award for the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation and was the National Restaurant Association’s 2020 Chairman’s Award recipient for outstanding leadership and contributions to the industry. He has also been named to the Society of Fellows of the Culinary Institute of America.

Committed to giving back, Lance served as a founding board member for Camp Corral, a summer camp for children of wounded or fallen military service members, and chaired the board in 2019. Lance also serves on the Founder’s Circle Advisory Board for Project Healing Waters, which is dedicated to physically and emotionally rehabilitating wounded or disabled military service personnel. He was honored by that organization with the Patriot Award for a lifelong commitment to our military veterans. In addition, he is a passionate supporter of ProStart for the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation. He contributes time and resources to help young people explore career opportunities in the industry he loves. He makes supporting the development of the future leaders of the restaurant industry a personal priority.

Lance and his wife of 37 years, Paulette, have two adult daughters, Elizabeth and Ally-Catherine.

JIM LAVERTY

CHIEF FINANCIAL OFFICER

Jim has been part of the Golden Corral family for over 41 years. In 2014, Jim was appointed Senior Vice President of Finance and Administration of Golden Corral and GC Cares. In his current role as the Chief Financial Officer of Golden Corral Corporation, Jim directs the Accounting and IT Departments and is responsible for the protection of the financial assets of the company, coordination of the company’s budget, financial forecasting for the strategic plan and maintaining the company’s records.

Jim graduated with a B.S. in Accounting from Penn State University in 1979.

He is an avid golfer and sports enthusiasts as well as an active member of his church family. Making their home in Cary, NC, Jim and his wife enjoy spending time with their children and their spouses as well as their grandchildren.

SHELLEY WOLFORD

CHIEF PEOPLE OFFICER

Shelley Wolford has worked in the hospitality industry for over 25 years.  She joined the extended leadership team at Golden Corral Corporation ten years ago, first as Vice President of National Marketing for six years, before moving into a senior leadership role as Senior Vice President of Strategy & Communications.  This year, Shelley’s role expanded to Chief People Officer, which includes leadership responsibility for Human Resources, while retaining her strategy and communications responsibilities. 

Shelley also dedicates time to advancing meaningful industry causes through her roles as Foundation Board Vice Chair for the North Carolina Restaurant & Lodging Association, Advisory Board member for the Multicultural Foodservice & Hospitality Alliance, and Advisory Council member for the Global Foodservice Hospitality Exchange.  In addition, she was recently appointed to the North Carolina Education and Workforce Innovation Commission to join educators and community leaders to ensure that the state has an effective and efficient workforce development system that meets the current and future needs of workers and businesses.

Shelley received her B.S. in Hotel and Food Administration from Boston University and an MBA from Georgetown University.  She lives in Raleigh, North Carolina, with her husband Denny and their dog Nutmeg.

PAUL “SKIP” HANKE

CHIEF MARKETING OFFICER

Skip Hanke joined Golden Corral Corporation as Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) in 2021. Skip is responsible for Golden Corral’s National Marketing, Advertising, and Media Plan, as well as its Local Store Marketing and Off-Premise Business.  As CMO, Skip is also responsible for Food & Beverage / Culinary Innovation, Guest Insights, and Purchasing.

As a 4th Generation U.S.Navy Veteran, Skip achieved the rank of Lieutenant as a United States Naval Officer.

Skip holds both a BA in Economics with distinction from Duke University (cum laude) and a Masters of Business Administration (MBA) with distinction from Northwestern University’s J.L. Kellogg Graduate School of Management.  An avid golfer and sports fan, he lives in Cary, North Carolina.

DAVID CONKLIN

CHIEF DEVELOPMENT OFFICER

David Conklin has worked in the hospitality industry for over 22 years.  He joined the Golden Corral Senior Leadership Team 8 years ago, first as the Senior Vice President of Development before being promoted to Chief Development Officer.  David leads our efforts for Company Growth and Brand Expansion, Innovation and Remodels.  He is responsible for Franchise Development, Real Estate, Construction and Coastal Equipment – Golden Corral’s equipment company.   He also dedicates time to the expansion of the hospitality industry and increasing visibility of the industry as a career path by supporting the East Carolina University School of Hospitality Leadership as an Advisory Board Member.

David received his both his B.A. in Legal Studies, and J.D. from the State University of New York at Buffalo.   He lives in the Raleigh, North Carolina area with his family.

CHAPPELL PHILLIPS

EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT / GENERAL COUNSEL & SECRETARY

Chappell Phillips is the Executive Vice President, General Counsel & Secretary of Golden Corral Corporation, leading the company’s Legal Department and overseeing all legal aspects of key strategic activities. He has been a member of the Senior Leadership Team since 2017, first as Senior Vice President before being promoted to Executive Vice President in 2021. He has also served as an officer of GC Cares since its inception in 2017. Prior to joining Golden Corral in 2013 as Assistant General Counsel, Chappell spent 18 years practicing in-house at various companies, including 11 years with Kimball International, a global manufacturer based in Indiana.

Chappell enjoys actively advocating for the interests of the restaurant industry as a member of the Board of Directors of the Restaurant Law Center, serving as Chairman from 2020 through 2022.

A native Tar Heel, Chappell received a BA in Latin American Studies and JD from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Chappell is licensed to practice law in North Carolina. He and his wife Elaine live in Hillsborough, NC and have seven children and a dog Luna. Outside of work he enjoys time with family and church friends, playing pickleball, tennis, and basketball, and attending UNC basketball games.