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Faces Of Diversity Award

Celebrating Diversity & Inclusion

The National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation and PepsiCo Foodservice celebrate inclusion and diversity and are proud to honor individuals who have achieved great success in their lives and in business with the Faces of Diversity Award — now in its 12th year. The restaurant and foodservice industry’s one million businesses provide jobs and careers for 15.1 million people across the nation. The workforce is one of the most inclusive and diverse in the country, and the Educational Foundation and PepsiCo salute all companies, large and small, for playing such an important role in creating opportunities for so many people.

2019 Awardee Profiles

Photo of Adenah Bayou

Adenah Bayoh 
Founder, Adenah Bayoh & Company
dba IHOP
Irvington, New Jersey 

As a young girl, Adenah Bayoh found her life completely devastated when a civil war broke out in her native country of Liberia. The war forced her and her family to flee to a refugee camp in Sierra Leone. After nearly a year in the refugee camp, she was able to immigrate to the United States with her father and siblings. Through hard work, grit and drive, Adenah is living the American dream as one of the most successful entrepreneurs in her home state of New Jersey.

After she graduated from high school, Adenah worked as a resident advisor and a bank teller to pay her way through college. She then got a job in banking and put her education and natural business savvy to good use, investing in real estate and astutely managing her earnings to build her savings. At 27, she bought her first IHOP franchise, making her one of the youngest franchisees in the IHOP network. Adenah carefully chose the neighborhood for her first business. She built her IHOP in the community she felt needed it most, investing in Irvington, NJ, a city that was struggling economically. When her restaurant opened, it brought revenue and much-needed jobs to the area.

Today, as a successful restaurant owner, landlord and real estate developer, Adenah continues to give back to her community as a business leader and community advocate. She participates in local events and charitable programs like providing free breakfast to children, sponsoring an annual “Breakfast for Dinner” free holiday dinner, organizing book drives for hundreds of deserving families at each IHOP location, hosting a Veteran’s Day dinner giveaway, and regularly allowing local nonprofit organizations to hold charity events at her properties. She recently received the Heart of IHOP Award, bestowed to a franchisee who has demonstrated the greatest amount of love, compassion and care for their community. NJBIZ, the largest statewide business publication in New Jersey, called her a ‘one-woman economic engine’ for the Township of Irvington.

Adenah is a great role model because not only did she achieve success for herself and her family, she did so in a way that lifted others up with her.


Photo of Abi-Najm family Lebanese Taverna

The Abi-Najm Family 
Owners, Lebanese Taverna
Arlington, Virginia &
Washington, DC

Dany Abi-Najm traveled to the United States with his family in 1976 to escape the civil war in Lebanon. Forced to join the militia as teenagers, Dany and his brother, Dory, found themselves on the front lines. After several of their friends were killed in action, the family packed what they could carry and left their home in the middle of the night. They took a cargo ship to Cyprus where they stayed for two months while papers allowing them to immigrate to the U.S. were processed.

They spoke little English when they arrived in the United States, but that did not block this hard-working family. They got their first jobs the day after they arrived. Dany and his brother worked as busboys, and their father took odd jobs in Arlington, VA. In 1979, they purchased a local restaurant and opened the original Lebanese Taverna. The entire family worked hard to make their restaurant a success and personally welcomed the community into their new establishment.

Forty years later, the family now owns five restaurants, four cafes, a market and an airport location with plans to open several more locations. Their company now employs hundreds of people and is still operated by Dany and his siblings, David, Dory, Gladys and Grace, as well as their mother, Marie.

From the beginning, the Abi-Najm family has been committed to giving back to their community and providing their employees with opportunities to achieve their own American Dream. They are known for mentoring and promoting employees within the business. Their first non-family staff member was an Eritrean teenager named Abdul. With the guidance of the Abi-Najm family, he rose to become the head chef of the Lebanese Taverna Corporation. The family encourages all their staff to learn English and pays for language and enrichment classes. The Lebanese Taverna is also a huge supporter of St. Jude’s and donates food and gift certificates to more than 100 local schools, charities and associations.


Photo of Paco Vargas

Francisco "Paco" Vargas
Owner, Rudy and Paco
Restaurant & Bar
Galveston, Texas

Francisco “Paco” Vargas left Nicaragua for the United States in 1978 to escape the Nicaraguan Revolution. He spoke very little English but had the business card of a man named Mitchell he had met years earlier who told him, “Call me if you ever come to America.” He called and was given a job as dishwasher and cook at the famed Houston Plaza Club. Life was difficult at first. He made little money and often slept on the cold floor. But Paco was hard working and always eager to learn, and he quickly moved up through the organization.

In 1996, he partnered with Rudy Teichman to open his own restaurant, the Rudy and Paco Restaurant & Bar. The venture was a success and was chosen as one of the top 100 restaurants in America by OpenTable.

In 2008, Hurricane Ike devastated the area, and Paco’s beloved restaurant was flooded and totally destroyed. He once again started from scratch, rebuilt the restaurant and reopened on Easter Weekend 2009. Eventually, Paco decided he needed a new challenge and traveled the country to discover what makes a great steakhouse. After more than a year of construction, Paco launched Vargas Cut & Catch by Paco, a prime steak and seafood house where his children, Juan and Denise, greet customers nightly.

Paco celebrates his success by helping his employees and neighbors in the community find their own path to success. He is a firm believer in “give, get or get off.” He continues to mentor his employees and takes pride in the number of kids he’s helped through college. He created the Paco Vargas Scholarship Fund and has pledged $100,000 to benefit students in hospitality, restaurant management or service industry programs. He is also a board member of the Grand Opera House and the Galveston County Restaurant Association.

Paco’s tireless efforts to better the lives of others in his community are honored every year during “Paco Vargas Day.”


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