A digital touchscreen check presenter, food truck-inspired school lunch promotion and comprehensive recycling program are among the breakthroughs recognized in the National Restaurant Association’s third annual 2014 Operator Innovation Awards.
 
Judges have narrowed the field to finalists in each of five categories: Health and Nutrition, Marketing, Menu Development, Sustainability, and Technology.
 
Winners in each category, in addition to the Innovator of the Year, will be announced live in Chicago during the association’s annual Restaurant, Hotel-Motel Show in May.
 
The 2014 Operator Innovations Awards finalists are:

Health & Nutrition
 
UCSF Medical Center 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.
 
Marketing
 
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 and 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 more than $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 food, SOUL, 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.
   
Sustainability
 
Delaware North Companies Parks & Resorts GreenPath

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 startsomewhere
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.
   
Technology
 
Indiana University Health Hand Hygiene—Vision Safety Solutions

This program utilizes technology to measure the frequency, duration and quality of individual hand washing 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, touch-screen 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.
 
Fig & Olive 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 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, chair for NRA Show 2014 and cofounder 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.”