NRA Announces 2014 Operator Innovations Awards Finalists

An independent panel of foodservice operator experts from across the industry has selected finalists for the 3rdannual  2014 Operator Innovation Awards. The judges have selected finalists in each of five categories: Health and Nutrition, Marketing, Menu Development, Sustainability, and Technology. The winners in each category, in addition to the Innovator of the Year, will be announced live in Chicago at the Destination: Celebration gala on Saturday, May 17th, during the 2014 National Restaurant Association Restaurant, Hotel-Motel Show.

“The Operator Innovations Awards finalists demonstrate the business case for innovation by connecting with consumers in new and interesting ways that produce measurable results for their businesses,” says Sam Facchini, convention chair for NRA Show 2014 and co-founder and co-owner of Metro Pizza. “These finalists were selected by a panel of fellow operators who have firsthand knowledge of how innovation drives success in the foodservice industry.”

The 2014 Operator Innovations Awards finalists are:

Health & Nutrition

UCSF Medical Center's 
Smart Choice Smart U
A comprehensive, technology driven wellness program that uses online platforms, mobile applications, and digital signage to provide real-time nutritional information on the center’s food outlets—balanced with a personal activity component driven by partnerships with MyFitnessPal and Fitbit.

Kennesaw State University 
“Farm-to-Fit” Program
This campus dining program encompasses all aspects of healthy living, starting with the nutritional improvement of food grown on campus farms by increasing their nutrient-density, to thoughtful menu creation and preparation, to programming designed to encourage healthy lifestyle choices.

Aramark's Healthy For Life Health & Wellness Program
Reaching more than 2.5 million college and university students, this holistic platform builds on a healthy menu with digital wellness centers, nutrition education and wellness programs that work together to support healthier lifestyles on campus.


Orange County Public Schools 
OCPS Truck Of The Month (T.O.M.)
This program capitalizes on the food truck craze to increase students’ daily participation in their school lunch program—partnering with a new vendor each month to develop items that are food truck inspired, nutritionally compliant, and served off Orange County Public School’s very own food truck.

Boston Pizza International
  BP All Stars Kids & Family Engagement Program
Designed to engage kids & parents together, this program features an activity kit, branded tattoos and crayons that integrate with a 3D augmented reality mobile app, featuring interactive games that encourage playful competition and generate frequency.

SUBWAY Restaurants:
 Project Subway
To enter the NY Fashion Week conversation, this project challenged designers to craft dresses entirely out of recyclable SUBWAY packaging, including subwrap, straws, and salad bowls—wowing attendees and media on the runway while reaching a new demographic of customers.

Menu Development

UNC Health Care 
Restaurant Delivery Program
A new paradigm in Healthcare food service that provides patients at UNC’s hospital with nearly 100 entrées using 20-page menu categorized into distinct restaurant brands—resulting in a significant rise in patient satisfaction scores and over $1.3 million in savings since its inception two years ago.

Potawatomi Bingo Casino 
Menu Development Initiative
This progressive culinary philosophy uses calculated risks to push the limits of menu development and execution—going beyond sustainable, organic and underutilized local (SOUL) food, to incorporate invasive species, offal, and indigenous ingredients on menus throughout the property.

Captain D's: It's A Brand New D's: Menu Revamp

Integral to the successful transition of the brand from fast food fish to a fast casual seafood restaurant, this menu overhaul utilizes high-end creative and signage to feature new categories, premium sides, new kid’s meals and a high-quality, fresh-grilled seafood menu.


Delaware North Companies Parks & Resorts
 Green Path
This stewardship platform assigns roles, responsibilities, and best practices reaching from dedicated leadership to individual associates, to meet stringent standards in waste disposal, conservation, supply chain and is verified by receiving third party audits—promoting sustainability and healthy communities/people across many diverse and seasonal properties.

HMSHost's startsomewhere Program
A comprehensive sustainability program that encompasses three broad initiatives including the environment, nutrition and wellness, and community partnerships, with specific goals and guidelines for each, to touch every aspect of the business and improve corporate citizenship.

Chumash Casino Resort 
Whole Systems Approach to Waste Management Program

This sustainability approach goes beyond locally sourced food, energy efficient kitchen systems and renewable energy. It is a comprehensive waste reduction strategy that includes recycling, repurposing, and composting to decrease waste by more than 50 percent with an incremental cost reduction.


Indiana University Health
Hand Hygiene—Vision Safety Solutions
This program uses technology to measure the frequency, duration, and quality of individual handwashing against back-of-house entry/exits to ensure compliant hygiene—posting results publicly for all associates in real time.

Dickie Brennan Restaurants 
RAIL Payment Platform
This system features digital, touchscreen check presenters that allow guests to split checks, auto-calculate tips, pay via credit card, and trigger e-mail receipts all at the table—for more streamlined, secure transactions that save staff time.

 Guest Management System (FOGMS)
This technology integrates restaurants’ point-of-sale and reservation systems to track dining/service preferences and spend/purchase history at an individual and aggregate level, yielding data that is sharable between locations for more personalized service and better-targeted marketing messages.

The 2014 Operator Innovations Awards panel of judges includes:

  • Patricia Bando, associate vice president, Auxiliary Services, Boston College
  • Scott Barton, president, Fine Dining Division, Lettuce Entertain You
  • Jeff Broadhurst, president & CEO, Eat'n Park Hospitality Group
  • Jean-Marie Clement, director, Food & Beverage Concept Development, Walt Disney Parks & Resorts Worldwide
  • Douglas Davis, Sr. director, Global Food Safety, Marriott International
  • Chris Demery, vice president, Applications, Bloomin’ Brands, Inc.
  • Mary Gregoire, director of Food and Nutritional Services, Rush University Medical Center, Chicago
  • James Houser, COO, Parks & Resorts Division, Delaware North
  • Joe Jasper, chairman, McDonald's Franchisee Innovations Committee
  • John Metz, Jr., executive chef, president and co-founder, Sterling Hospitality
  • C.W. Craig Reed, director of Food & Beverage, Broadmoor Hotel

The National Restaurant Association Restaurant, Hotel-Motel Show is the largest annual gathering of restaurant, foodservice, and lodging professionals in the world. NRA Show 2014 will be held May 17-20 at McCormick Place in Chicago, and the 2014 International Wine, Spirits & Beer Event, held in conjunction with NRA Show, will take place May 18-19. The events attract 65,000+ attendees and visitors from all 50 states and 100+ countries, and the event showcases the latest products, services, innovative ideas, up-to-the-minute information about trends and issues, and more growth opportunities than any other industry event. For more information, visit



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