The National Restaurant Association is calling for nominations for its inaugural Operator Innovations Awards.

Winners in each category, as well as an innovator of the year, will be announced at an evening event featuring cocktails, dinner and entertainment on May 5, as part of the 2012 National Restaurant Association Restaurant, Hotel-Motel Show at Chicago's McCormick Place. The show runs through May 8.

Nominees can be commercial and non-commercial operators who have driven progress in the restaurant and foodservice industry, and who have fueled customer satisfaction and profitability. Commercial and non-commercial operators may self-nominate.

Manufacturers, dealers and distributors, media and other restaurant and foodservice industry professionals also are invited to submit nominations for operators online by March 7.

Winners will be chosen in five categories: Technology Applications, Sustainability, Menu Development, Food Safety and Health & Nutrition.

The winners will be selected by an independent panel of judges that include:

  • 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),
  • Marc Buehler (president, O'Charleys),
  • Jean-Marie Clement (director, Global Food & Beverage Line of Business, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Worldwide),
  • Douglas Davis (director, Global Food Safety, Marriott International),
  • Chris Demery (vice president, Applications, OSI Restaurant Partners LLC), James Houser (vice president of Administration, Delaware North),
  • John Metz, Jr. (president, Sterling), Christopher Pappas (CEO, Pappas Restaurants Inc.),
  • C.W. Craig Reed (director of Food & Beverage, Broadmoor Hotel), and
  • Ron Serluco (senior vice president of Operators, Guckenheimer).

"Innovation and excellence in execution drive growth in the restaurant industry," said Jack Crawford, Convention Chair for NRA Show 2012 and president and CEO of Ground Round Independent Owners Cooperative LLC. "Recognizing this, the National Restaurant Association is launching the new Operator Innovations Awards to celebrate and encourage continued advancement, while shining a spotlight on industry-leading innovators who inspire other restaurant operators to new heights."

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