The Georgia Restaurant Association (GRA) has announced hospitality veteran and Fifth Group Co-Founder Robby Kukler as the 2023 Georgia Restaurant Association Crystal of Excellence (GRACE) Lifetime Achievement Award recipient. Kukler will receive his award on Nov. 30, 2023, during the GRACE Awards gala at the Georgia Aquarium.
With a career spanning nearly four decades, Kukler’s experience is rooted in strategically building and growing Fifth Group Restaurants (FGR), an Atlanta-based company with numerous casual fine dining concepts. His expertise spans new business development, culture building and company-wide operations. Kukler currently serves as an advisor at the eponymous Kukler Restaurant Advisory (KRA), utilizing his experience and pragmatic approach to guide restaurateurs in setting performance goals. He is also one of Restaurant INFORMER‘s contributing writers, having authored informative pieces like Feeback That Inspires Growth and To Grow or Not to Grow: How to Grow Your Concept.
After acquiring a BS in Food Systems, Economics and Management from Michigan State University, Kukler spent five years honing his management expertise at a national chain and later became co-owner of South City Kitchen. Over the next 30 years, Kukler worked alongside his business partners to expand FGR to include 14 locations, both company-owned and independently licensed restaurants. Kukler’s track record for growing successful restaurant concepts has earned him various industry honors and recognition, including being awarded Most Influential Leaders in 2022 by Georgia Trend Magazine and Most Admired CEO by Atlanta Business Chronicle in 2018.
Kukler is a member and active supporter of local professional and philanthropic organizations. He currently serves on the board of directors for both Food Well Alliance and NaanStop and acts as an advisory committee member for Full Course. He formerly served as Chair of the Board of Directors for the Atlanta Community Food Bank and has partnered with the organization on many occasions to mobilize community engagement initiatives.
As a leader in the hospitality industry, Kukler works diligently to cultivate an employee-centric culture that acknowledges employee contributions and offers opportunities for growth. He believes that successful restaurants function much like symphonies, wherein each individual role is equally important to the outcome of the performance. As his roles and responsibilities transformed over time, Kukler remained committed to delivering dining experiences that exceeded guest expectations—through strategic planning with an emphasis on identifying priorities, plan execution and measuring outcomes. His personal motto is “Sustained Effort Wins,” and he reinforces that spirit of resilience when creating systems of support and accountability.