National Restaurant Association Announces Operator Innovations Awards Winners

The National Restaurant Association has announced the winners of its inaugural Operator Innovations Awards. Selected by an independent panel of judges, the winners in each award category, plus an Innovator of the Year, were revealed live at the Destination: Celebration event last night during the 2012 National Restaurant Association Restaurant, Hotel-Motel Show.

“These restaurant operators are true pioneers of innovation and leadership, who are breaking new ground on how to successfully run a restaurant business,” said Jack Crawford, Convention Chair for NRA Show 2012 and President and CEO of Ground Round Independent Owners Cooperative, LLC. “It is our honor to recognize our Operator Innovations Award winners and, we believe they will serve as an inspiration to restaurateurs throughout our industry.”

The 2012 Operator Innovations Award winners are:

Innovator of the Year

Evelyn Hill, Inc. (Liberty Island)


Evelyn Hill, Inc. (Liberty Island) – Five million visitors and close to zero waste. While serving five million visitors to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, its operator, Evelyn Hill, Inc., has applied continuous innovations since 2000 that reduce waste and conserve water and energy. 94% of waste is now recycled or composted, and their new 7,000-square foot pavilion is LEED Platinum certified.


Stacked Restaurants, LLC (California Casual) – Facilitating “build-your-own” ordering. Stacked Restaurants is a new, full-service concept which utilizes an iPad-based ordering system, enabling guests to control when they order and when they pay, and to customize their meal in a comfortable, uninhibited way. Guests can choose from hundreds of ingredients in customizing their burgers, pizzas, salads and mac ‘n’ cheese, as they place and pay for orders via tabletop iPads.

Food Safety

Waffle House – A public-private partnership to secure foodservice safety post-disasters.This restaurant chain, in partnership with state health departments, developed a comprehensive business continuity plan featuring tight food safety protocols to ensure speedy and safe reopening after natural disasters. In addition, Waffle House works closely with FEMA and state emergency management agencies as an active Private Sector Partner when responding to natural disasters.

Health and Nutrition

Chartwells Higher Education Dining Services – Making healthier eating cool on campus. “Balance U” is Chartwells’ nationwide program developed to educate and encourage students to eat healthier. Not only does Balance U include made without gluten recipes, menus and labeling, but the program also includes a strong education component for students and employees alike, featuring nutritional labeling information, events and classes, and more.

Menu Development

Sodexo School Services (Future Chefs) – Culinary competition engages students across the country. The annual Future Chefs National Competition challenges students to create and prepare healthy recipes in local competitions. 12 recipes per year are chosen to be featured on school lunch menus around the country, and this “For Kids, By Kids” approach has proven to be a great way to increase participation and get kids to try new things.

The annual National Restaurant Association Restaurant, Hotel-Motel Show is the largest single gathering of restaurant, foodservice and lodging professionals. NRA Show 2012 will be held at its new dates May 5-8, at McCormick Place in Chicago. The event attracts 58,000-plus attendees and visitors from all 50 states and 100-plus countries, and showcases the latest products, services, innovative ideas, up-to-the-minute information about trends and issues and other growth opportunities than any other industry event. For more information, visit the Show website at, and find the NRA Show on Twitter @NRAShow, Facebook, YouTube and its widely read blog Floored!

Founded in 1919, the National Restaurant Association is the leading business association for the restaurant industry, which comprises 970,000 restaurant and foodservice outlets and a workforce of nearly 13 million employees. We represent the industry in Washington, D.C., and advocate on its behalf. We operate the industry’s largest trade show (NRA Show May 5-8, 2012, in Chicago); leading food safety training and certification program (ServSafe); unique career-building high school program (the NRAEF’s ProStart, including the National ProStart Invitational April 27-29, 2012, in Baltimore, Md.); as well as the Kids LiveWell program promoting healthful kids’ menu options. For more information, visit and find us on Twitter @WeRRestaurants, Facebook and YouTube.