was a farm boy who continues in that business today. Early on
Lynne was a stay-at-home mom, but eventually she went to work for
the Williamsville school district in their special education
Lynne said that a few years ago, when the Love's Travel Stop came
to the west side of Interstate 55 at Williamsville, she and Dan
would comment to one another from time to time that the location
would be perfect for a nice little restaurant and that someone
should really do that.
The conversations then moved from "someone should do that" to "we
should do that," and so they did.
They chose a franchised, diner-style establishment called Huddle
House, and after only four short years, they have won the "Best of
the Best Award," which simply put, means that of the company's
400-plus franchisees, the Harbins have the very best diner in
cleanliness, service, food quality and friendliness.
Harbin said that when she and her husband decided to do this,
they had heard of Huddle House, did some investigating of the
franchise, then visited a restaurant and checked it out firsthand.
Because Dan was self-employed and has had to manage the farm as a
business, they weren't strangers to what they would have to do and
the commitment they were making. But at the same time, they were
impressed with the amount of support that Huddle House gives their
Early on in the process, Lynne spent several weeks in Georgia,
where the company is based, taking training on the Huddle House way
of doing things.
The company, which was founded in 1964 in Georgia, was done so
under the concept of providing customers a warm, cozy atmosphere
where they could gather after events such as ballgames and enjoy
good food made to order, served on real plates, along with an
endless cup of coffee.
Harbin said that for the rural community of Williamsville and
surrounding areas, she and Dan felt that this concept would be
especially attractive, and indeed it has been.
She noted that while they are just off the interstate and do get
a lot of highway traffic, they are also getting folks from the
Williamsville area as well as Athens, Mason City, Lincoln, Sherman,
Rochester and even Springfield to visit their establishment.
She said that even though times have been tough economically,
they have been blessed to see their business continue to grow.
Harbin credits that to a few things. First and foremost, she says
that she has an excellent crew working for her. With 25 employees,
all local residents of the communities they serve, they have
excelled in cleanliness, fast and friendly customer service, and
offering quality food.
She also feels that a portion of their draw is their prices. The
lunchtime specials they offer at Huddle House are very affordable,
and their regular menu items are very reasonably priced.
And last but not least is the uniformity of the brand that Harbin
says lets travelers know that when they see a Huddle House, they are
going to get the same good food and the same price value at every
The process behind being named the best of the best is not a
simple one. It began with an inspection by the regional manager, who
scored the diner and based on those scores, nominated the Harbins
for the award.
Then there was a series of additional surprise inspections.
Harbin said the first group of inspectors were people from other
regions and some secret shoppers.
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The diner is open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week.
Inspectors came in unannounced at any time of the day or night.
Harbin noted that this was the only fair way to do things, as
inspectors need to see that no matter who is working, everyone
maintains the high standards that are expected of the Huddle House
Once those inspections and observations were made and reported to
the corporate offices, a third and final set of inspections were
conducted by corporate representatives.
Those final scores then determined their placement in the
The fact that the diner won the 2010 competition was no fluke.
Opening in November of 2006 they didn't qualify for the '07
competition, but they were nominated for 2008 and came in fourth. In
2009 they placed second in the national competition, and of course
they were the best of the best in 2010.
Locally, the diner has won the Sangamon County Department of
Public Health's "Gold" award for three consecutive years. The Gold
award given by the health department signifies that the diner is
near perfect in cleanliness and safe food handling practices.
In a press release published on the corporate website, Phil
Greifield, then CEO of Huddle House, spoke about the Harbins,
saying: "Throughout their four years of being Huddle House
franchisees, Lynne and Dan Harbin have put their best foot forward.
We are proud of their continued commitment to the brand, our
customers and our product. They were very deserving of a first-place
As the winners of this year's award, the Harbins attended a
convention in Georgia, where they were awarded a silver platter and
a check in the amount of $15,000.
Today, the large publicity check that was given to signify the
monetary award hangs on the wall of the diner for all to see. Harbin
said that with the money they won, they rewarded those who deserved
it most: their staff.
"This was a joint effort," Harbin said. "My husband and I worked
hard to earn this, but we didn't do it by ourselves. We have great
staff and they earned it too, and they all got nice bonuses."
The motto of the Huddle House franchise is "Any Meal. Any Time."
Customers can order breakfast at dinnertime or lunch at 6 a.m.
Items on the menu range from a hearty breakfast with two meats,
eggs, toast, hash browns or grits to dinners such as rib-eye steak
with butterfly shrimp, and choice of sides that include a southern
delight: sweet potato fries.
To view the complete menu, visit the Huddle House website at
[By NILA SMITH]