Non-commercial dominates Operator Innovation Awards finalists

National Restaurant Association new awards program innovations in five key areas.

Five non-commercial foodservice operators have been chosen as finalists for the National Restaurant Association’s inaugural Operator Innovation Awards. Three finalists have been chosen in each of five categories—Sustainability, Technology, Health & Nutrition, Food Safety and Menu Development. Winners will be announced at a new event during the NRA’s 2012 Restaurant, Hotel-Motel Show next month.

Colorado Springs School District 11 and Sodexo North America are two of the three finalists in the Food Safety category. Colorado Springs was named for its “Allerschool” program, which keeps tracks of all potential allergens in school menu items in order to decrease the risk of students being exposed to foods that could harm them. Sodexo made the grade for its ISO-recognized food safety program. Waffle House Inc. is the third finalist in this category.

All three finalists in the Health & Nutrition category are non-commercial operators. Sodexo made the finals for its Did You Know Café, a cafeteria-as-classroom education program. Chartwells Higher Education was selected for its Balanced U health and wellness program. The University of California at San Francisco Medical Center was recognized for its integrated approach to alerting customers to healthful dining options.

In the Menu Development category, Sodexo School Services was selected for its Future Chefs competition, which encourages elementary and secondary school students to create and prepare healthful recipes. The University of North Carolina Healthcare was chosen for its program allowing hospital patients to order meals from 13 self-branded retail outlets in the facility. The other finalist is The Cheesecake Factory Inc. for its “stylized small plates” menu.

Finalists in the Technology category are airport concessionaire HMS Host, Which Wich franchisee SMART Restaurant Group and Stacked Restaurants LLC, Yorba Linda, Calif.

In the Sustainability category, finalists are Evelyn Hill, Inc., a New York City caterer that manages concessions at the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island; Starbucks; and Chicago restaurant company Uncommon Ground.

“The Operator Innovations Awards are designed to celebrate and encourage continued advancement in the restaurant industry, while shining a spotlight on leading innovators who inspire other restaurant operators to new heights,” said Jack Crawford, convention chair for NRA Show 2012 and president and CEO of Ground Round Independent Owners Cooperative, LLC. “This first year’s operator finalists are driving innovation and excellence in execution, fueling customer satisfaction and profitability.”

More From FoodService Director

Ideas and Innovation
sushi plate

We wanted to add sushi, but that’s not really my expertise. So we found a great local company that offered to put three sushi chefs on-site every day. They supply the ingredients, and if we meet the minimum revenue each week, than we receive a percentage of sales. We have been exceeding the weekly minimum sales, which we track in our POS, in two days.

Managing Your Business
coffee barista

Whether it’s a morning routine, an afternoon pick-me-up or an evening social ritual, few things are as universally appealing as coffee. Sixty-five percent of respondents in Technomic’s 2016 Beverage Consumer Trend Report say they ordered a cup of hot joe from a foodservice location in the past month, and 59% say the same about cold coffee. Everyone has an opinion about what makes it good, whether it’s a low price, a unique blend or a friendly barista.

“Coffee is so personal. There are a lot of people that are Dunkin’ fans. There’s a lot of Starbucks people,” says James Dravenack,...

Ideas and Innovation
star wars storm trooper

My favorite event—because I’m kind of dorky—is our “May the fourth be with you” (aka “Star Wars”) day on May 4. The whole dining team dresses up, and we offer things like Chewbaklava, Boba Fettuccine and BB-8 Buckeyes. We had a guest cry because they got to take a picture with Chewy.

Menu Development
spilled coffee beans glasses

Following an initial test at the end of May, Starbucks announced that more than 500 of its stores will be pouring nitro coffee by the end of summer. Capitalizing on the cold-brew coffee trend—which reached $7.9 million in sales in 2015 on 115% growth from the previous year, according to researcher Mintel—select U.S. cafes will give up the counter space to serve the creamy, nitrogen-infused java made from the cold-brew base. But how did nitro become the hottest new thing in coffee?

Bringing the bar to coffeehouses

It was the chrome double tap, similar to a bar’s beer tap, and the...

FSD Resources