Kennesaw State University received the prestigious Innovator of the Year award as well as one of the individual awards in the National Restaurant Association's second annual Operator Innovations Awards program. Selected by an independent panel of expert judges, the winners were recognized for their achievements in driving advancement in the foodservice industry five categories: Food Safety, Health & Nutrition, Menu Development, Sustainability, and Technology.

Kennesaw State was one of four onsite foodservice operations to be recognized in the individual categories. The winners and the programs for which they were honored were…

Health & Nutrition Award—United States Air Force for its Food Transformation Initiative, which 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 Award—HMSHost for its Freedom To Choose web portal, an internally developed, custom online tool for the company's 100+ airport operations that 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 Award—Kennesaw State University for its 5,000 guest/day dining operation, which 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 and oil-to-biodiesel conversion to significantly reduce costs, minimize environmental impact and qualify the facility for a gold LEED certification.

Technology Award—Walt Disney Parks and Resorts for its Be Our Guest Restaurant, which 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.

Food Safety Award—Ninety Nine Restaurants of Woburn, MA for its 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.

"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."