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Vernon Stouffer

Founder of Stouffer Foods Corporation

Vernon Stouffer Vernon Stouffer first learned about the restaurant and food business through working at his parents' lunch counter in Cleveland, Ohio. Soon after his graduation from the Wharton School of Finance at the University of Pennsylvania in 1923, Stouffer opened his own restaurant—Stouffer Lunch—and a legend was born.

Stouffer emphasized the importance of good taste and friendly service—the family even adopted the motto "Everybody is somebody at Stouffer's." His restaurant business soon became an empire that included restaurants, frozen foods and foodservice management.

Stouffer first ventured into frozen and prepared foods after noticing that customers at his restaurants were overwhelmingly requesting take-home order. He created entrees as frozen prepared food, which led to the formation of the Stouffer Foods Corporation.

In 1967, the Stouffer Foods Corporation became a division of Litton Industries, which operated more than 45 restaurants, five motor inns, a frozen and prepared foods division, and a management foodservice with sales that exceeded $70 million a year. In 1973, the Stouffer Corporation was acquired from Litton by Nestle S.A. During the 50th anniversary of the company that he founded, Stouffer unveiled Lean Cuisine. Nestle continues to market Stouffer frozen foods, including the popular Lean Cuisine brand.

The company also opened hotels, which have since changed ownership a few times. Renaissance purchased Stouffer hotels in 1996, and Marriott later acquired Renaissance.

In addition to his business achievements, Stouffer was active in his community. He created a group called the Bluecoats that aided the families of police and fire fighters who were killed in the line of duty. He established a fund called the Stouffer Prize that provided $50,000 annually for high blood pressure research. He bought the Cleveland Indians baseball team in August 1966 to prevent the team from moving. In 1967, Stouffer won the Governor's Award from the Ohio Newspaper Association for his community service. He also won the Chamber of Commerce Medal for Public Service in 1964.

His legacy lives on with the promise from the Stouffer Family that, "Everything we cook in our restaurants or sell to consumers should have a clean, fresh and natural taste." The Stouffer idea of quality has been paramount to the company's continued success.