The National Restaurant Association has announced the winners of the second annual Operator Innovations Awards, with Kennesaw State University being named as Innovator of the Year. Selected by an independent panel of expert judges, the winners were recognized for their achievements in driving advancement in the foodservice industry at the NRA Show in Chicago over the weekend.

"These restaurant operators have found solutions for their businesses with programs and initiatives that combine creativity and hard work," says Jeffrey W. Davis, convention chair for NRA Show 2013 and IWSB and CEO of the United States Beef Corporation. "The 2013 Operator Innovations Awards winners redefine how the industry views innovation, and will serve as the benchmark for other operators to apply the same innovative spirit within their own operations."

The 2013 Operator Innovations Awards winners are:

Food Safety
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.

Health & Nutrition
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.

Menu Development
HMSHost (Bethesda, Md.)
The Freedom To Choose Web portal is an internally developed, custom online tool for the company's 100+ 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.

Sustainability
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.

Technology
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.

Read more about operations management.

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