Jim Vinz of West Palm Beach, Florida, is the recipient of the 2015 Bethany Lutheran College (BLC) Distinguished Alumnus Award.
Vinz, originally from Amboy, Minnesota, enrolled at Bethany in 1979. He was a member of the Bethany basketball team and was active in theatre and student senate. He earned an associate in arts degree from BLC in 1981. He attended Minnesota State University, Mankato, and earned a master’s of business administration from Southern Methodist University.
During summer breaks, while attending Bethany, Vinz started working in local restaurants in order to save money for college. Since those summer jobs, he has been working part-time and full-time in the restaurant industry, and found that with each new job he took the challenge became greater.
“I found myself being asked to take on larger roles with more responsibility in just about every position I had. Eventually, I got into management and realized I could do this for a living, long-term—not just a transition job. Once I decided to make it a career, I had the opportunity to live in a number of different states as I took on new roles and advancement opportunities,” Vinz recounts.
His leadership skills and passion for the industry led Vinz into executive roles for major restaurant corporations. He has served as vice president of operations for Bay Street Restaurants, Inc., and chief operating officer and later president of Corner Bakery Café. After sixteen years with Corner Bakery Café, he was hired as president and CEO of Le Duff America, which is a corporation that oversees six different restaurant chains, including Bruegger’s Bagels.
Today, Vinz is the CEO and part owner of TooJay’s Deli & Bakery based in West Palm Beach, Florida. TooJay’s is a regional brand with all of the stores located in Florida. Vinz says he was attracted to the brand due to its size, strong local following, and potential to grow.
When asked what he most enjoys about the restaurant industry, Vinz notes, “I enjoy the people interaction, flexibility of hours, and no-two-days-the-same aspect of working in this industry.”
According to Vinz, success in the restaurant industry, like most businesses, comes down to the people around you.
“I do enjoy the people that I work with. In the restaurant industry you typically find people with a strong work ethic who enjoy serving others. I also enjoy that every day brings new challenges that keep you on your toes. There is never time to be bored.”
Peers have recognized Vinz for his commitment to his employees and the restaurant industry. Under his direction, Corner Bakery Café won the Best Practices Award (lowest turnover, highest team diversity and community involvement) three years in a row, and then later one of his restaurants with Le Duff America, La Madeleine, earned the same award. Also while under his leadership, Corner Bakery Café won the prestigious Heart of the Workplace Award for continued best practices in sustaining workplace excellence. Both the Best Practices and Heart of the Workplace Awards are given by TDn2K (Transforming Data Into Knowledge), which is the parent company to People Report, Black Box Intelligence, and White Box Social Intelligence. Vinz has served on the National Restaurant Association’s Fast Casual Industry Council for the past four years, and he has been a featured panelist, speaker, and chair at numerous industry events and conferences.
Vinz also serves on the national advisory board for the Dine Out for No Kid Hungry Campaign (part of the non-profit Share Our Strength). This restaurant industry program seeks to end childhood hunger in the United States. He has been a board member since its inception in 2008 and was the chairman in 2011 and 2012.
Jim Vinz received the 2015 Distinguished Alumnus Award during the Bethany Spring Commencement Ceremony on Friday, May 15, 2015, where he addressed the graduating class and guests.
“I am extremely humbled by this award and not sure what I have done to deserve this honor. When I look at the other winners, my accomplishments seem to pale in comparison. I am just a man that has been incredibly blessed with great opportunities and have done my best to develop myself and others.”
Vinz, and his wife of 27 years, Lori, have two children: daughter Bethany, and son Hayden. They are members of both Living Word Lutheran Church in Grapevine, Texas, and Faith Lutheran Church in North Palm Beach, Florida.