Class of 1970
Hometown: Los Alamitos
Current Residence: South Orange County
A member of the Griffin’s first all-three-years-at-Los-Al graduating class, Craig Nickoloff has parlayed his family’s long experience in the restaurant business into the Claim Jumper, one of the most successful restaurant chains in the United States.
Nickoloff began his hospitality career in 1963 while working for his father, Carl Nickoloff, who owned Nik’s Coffee Shop in Long Beach, Calif. In 1977, with the help of his father, Craig launched Claim Jumper in Los Alamitos, featuring a California Gold Rush theme and large portions of delicious food.
The restaurant was an immediate success and since then Claim Jumper has grown to over 45 restaurants throughout Arizona, California, Colorado, Illinois, Nevada, Oregon, Washington and Wisconsin. Claim Jumper also produces a line of frozen dinners, which are sold in grocery stores.
After building Claim Jumper into a 38-unit chain with $350 million in annual sales, Nickoloff sold a majority interest in his company to Leonard Green & Associates in 2005.
Nickoloff is a winner of numerous industry awards, including the International Food Manufacturers Association Silver Plate, Nation’s Restaurant News Golden Chain, California Restaurant Association Operator of the Year, and Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year award. Craig has also contributed generously to local charities such as the Shea Riding Center in San Juan Capistrano and St. Joseph’s Center in Santa Monica, California, and in 2003 he was honored by the City of Hope with its Spirit of Life award for his philanthropy. He is a graduate of California State University-Long Beach with a Bachelor of Science degree in geography.