KENDALLVILLE — When it comes to Applebee’s, Kendallville’s is the best.

The Applebee’s in Kendallville and its manager, Michelle Bloom, have earned national recognition for its excellence in operations and quality of experience.

Bloom was named the Restaurant General Manager of the Year for 2019, a new corporate award given to a general manager who delivers superior team performance and operational excellence, and leads by example.

The Kendallville restaurant is the No. 1 Applebee’s in a field of more than 1,700 restaurants nationwide.

Bloom, who lives in rural Wawaka, is the company’s first recipient of the Golden Apple, a basketball-sized yellow apple of blown glass. She received a smaller glass apple when the Kendallville Applebee’s was announced as one of the top three restaurants in the nation. The Golden Apple Club was created to recognize restaurants in the Top 1%.

Both awards were presented at the 2019 Applebee’s fall business meeting Sept. 20 in Beaver Creek, Colorado.

“How the restaurant runs and the quality of the experience is the biggest thing” to earning the top honor, Bloom said.

She credits her staff of 60 full- and part-time employees for the restaurant’s smooth operation.

To qualify for the award, restaurants are evaluated on a point system based on metrics that cover all aspects of operations, including guest feedback, sales, low rate of turnover for hourly employees and staff, results from regular assessment reports, and scores from health department inspections and Eco-Sure, a food safety organization for restaurants.

Bloom said she was notified in July that the Kendallville restaurant was in the Top 1%, and in August she learned it was one of the top three restaurants in the country. She was invited to attend the annual business meeting in Colorado.

“A video crew came from Glendale, Calif. They interviewed Mayor (Suzanne) Handshoe and the Coaches Corner and filmed around town,” Bloom said.

Bloom said the award was a secret until the announcement at the conference banquet.

“I credit my staff for this,” she said. “No matter what position you are, you are valuable” in the overall excellence of the restaurant.

Bloom has managed the Kendallville location since it opened in 2000. The Kendallville restaurant is a certified training restaurant, so managerial candidates come to the Kendallville location to be trained. Bloom may be training up to three managerial candidates at a time, all while still running restaurant operations.

Bloom draws in her own experience in moving up in the business as she trains others.

“I’m passionate about this because others trained me,” she said.

She also speaks at training sessions for other managers. “You have to keep your good ones” to have a low turnover rate of hourly employees.

She also advises would-be managers to treat employees the way they would want to be treated.

“You don’t have to be mean to manage people,” she said. “You do have to be fair, consistent and value them. They don’t quit Applebee’s, they quit you.”

Bloom grew up in Wakarusa. She started her career with Applebee’s as a prep cook, then was a kitchen manager and assistant manager before becoming the manager at the Kendallville Applebee’s. She had worked in a grocery store before that and had considered a career in nursing, but found she loved the restaurant business.

Bloom builds her local team by offering Most Valuable Employee awards each month for the service staff and kitchen staff, frequent and continuous training, and has other contests based on the mission, called P.R.I.D.E. — Performance, Respect, Integrity, Development and Engagement with customers and each other.

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