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NRA 2013 Operator Innovations Awards Finalists Announced

The NRA will announce the winners during a special event on May 18. 

The National Restaurant Association has announced three finalists in each of its five categories for the 2013 Operator Innovations Awards. A panel of independent judges selected the finalists for the awards that address food safety, health & nutrition, menu development, sustainability and technology. The NRA will announce the winners during a special event on May 18 during its annual trade show in Chicago.

The 2013 Operator Innovations Awards finalists for Food Safety are:

  • HMSHost, Bethesda, Md. — A comprehensive program enables the company to ensure strict, uniform food safety across a widely varied and rapidly evolving portfolio of brands/concepts.
  • Ninety Nine Restaurants, Woburn, Mass. — An allergy alert system that combines staff training and involvement with clear communications via ordering, display systems and tracking, ensuring awareness and proper preparation for everyone who touches a guest's food and minimizing risk for all.
  • Potawatomi Bingo Casino, Milwaukee, Wis. — An internal education and standards program for cook-chill systems, the effectiveness of which has not only improved costs, safety and efficiency but has also led to on-site workshops for local, state and federal inspectors that support better food safety for the greater community.

The finalists in the area of Health & Nutrition are:

  • Overlook Medical Center, Summit, N.J. — The Summit Fit Club program rewards customers for healthier food choices via Fit Points ranging from one to three displayed on menu items. Customer swipe their membership card on check out to accrue points, and receive a $5 meal voucher for every 200 points earned.
  • Stanford University, Stanford, Calif. — The Performance Dining program, which has six performance categories, was developed in cooperation with Stanford Athletics, the Stanford School of Medicine and the Culinary Institute of America, and takes a holistic approach to nutrition which, instead of counting fat and calories, focuses on food's positive influence in the six performance categories, helping students, faculty and staff to perform at their mental and physical peak.
  • United States Air Force, San Antonio, Texas — Food Transformation Initiative (FTI), revolutionizes Air Force food selections, cooking methods, meal availability and merchandising to guide customers toward healthier choices. When comparing participating with non-participating operations, performance metrics confirm FTI elevates healthfulness, energy and alertness through optimal nutrition, without sacrificing flavor, taste and satisfaction.

The finalists in the area of Menu Development are:

  • ARAMARK Higher Education, Philadelphia, Pa. — Based on extensive research and feedback, this menu was developed from the ground-up and features 100 new items inspired by the latest trends.
  • HMSHost, Bethesda, Md. — The Freedom To Choose Web portal is an internally developed, custom online tool for the company's 100-plus airport operations and is designed to give local operators access to hundreds of menu items, allowing them to quickly and easily tailor menus to keep up with traveler preferences and regional trends.
  • Taco Bell, Irvine, Calif. — The Doritos Locos Tacos features a shell made out of Doritos chips on the outside, with the classic tastes of the Taco Bell crunchy taco on the inside.

The finalists in the area of Sustainability are:

  • Kennesaw State University, Kennesaw, Ga., The University's 5,000 guest/day dining operation incorporates a comprehensive, closed-loop waste management program through a variety of efforts including a robust organic "Farm-to-Campus-to-Farm" program, water reclamation, aerobic digestion, composting/recycling programs, oil-to-biodiesel conversion and more to significantly reduce costs, minimize environmental impact and qualify the facility for a gold LEED certification.
  • Pret a Manger, New York, N.Y. — Worked closely with third-party experts to research and develop a comprehensive sustainability program that they openly share with the industry. The program features four-stream front-of-the-house recycling, plus additional recycling, waste diversion and composting processes for back of the house. The resulting program diverts 55 percent of the waste from landfills, and results in 40 percent of the excess food being donated to the homeless.
  • University of Wisconsin Oshkosh, Oshkosh, Wis. — Implemented a kitchen and dining recycling program that combines a food pulper with an innovative dry fermentation anaerobic biodigester that digests food waste to produce methane gas that is used to generate electricity that meets up to 10 percent of the campus' needs. Other byproducts include rich compost and space heat.

The finalists in the area of Technology are:

  • Canteen, Charlotte, N.C. — Avenue C is a self-checkout micro-market with more than 300 installations, and features remote temperature monitoring, multiple payment methods, biometric thumbprint security and RFID tag product identification to offer a wider variety of food selections, including better-for-you and fresh product options, without the cost associated with a full-service dining solution.
  • Mainstreet Ventures, Ann Arbor, Mich. — An interactive tablet menu that has completely replaced paper menus at 11 restaurants, going beyond item presentation to deliver additional information including customized wine pairings and nutritional information, for a more sustainable and efficient system that has increased check averages up to 10 percent.
  • Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, Lake Buena Vista, Fla. — The Be Our Guest Restaurant utilizes a unique fast-casual restaurant system capable of automating elements throughout the operation, including RF table locators, ordering, checkout, back-of-the-house workflow and more to deliver a personalized, streamlined experience for guests that allows the operation to serve more than 3,000 meals at lunch each day.