Impressive University Sustainability at OI Awards

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Innovation reigned last night at Destination: Celebration at the Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel, Kennesaw State University was honored as Operator Innovations (OI) Awards Innovator of the Year. The institution, which was also honored as the OI Sustainability winner, joined the other honorees in Food Safety, Health & Nutrition, Menu Development, and Technology. Here are a few sounds bites from the winners.

Kennesaw State University, Kennesaw, GA

Sustainability winner and Innovator of the Year for its comprehensive, closed-loop waste management program and “Farm to Campus to Farm” program

“This is the Oscars for us. The NRA has been traditionally restaurants, and they’ve given us in the university setting an opportunity to come forward and say ‘hey, this is what we do—we’re here to educate our students.’ … Our students are a lot more savvy—they want to know where their food is from, how it’s getting there, what we do with it when we get it.”

United States Air Force, San Antonio, TX

Health & Nutrition winner for guiding diners to healthier choices through the Food Transformation Initiative

“Health and nutrition is the number-one priority in DOD foodservice right now. We feel like the Air Force is leading the way in that category. Some of the things we’ve done to innovate and help the troops, we’re actually seeing a lot of positive results in not only the way they eat, but also the number of people actually coming to our facility now. … Our Go for Green program, where we actually steer customers to healthier options based on color coding, we think could be used in a lot of restaurants throughout the restaurant industry.”

Ninety Nine Restaurants, Woburn, MA

Food & Safety winner for its comprehensive food allergy alert system to keep staff informed and protect guests

“It’s vitally important to all our team members that we take our guests’ concern with allergies and ensure that their item is free from a specific allergen. … This system is going to benefit everybody, from mom-and-pop organizations to regional and national chains because the program just brings a higher level of attention to a guest’s needs when it comes to allergies. Sometimes we can overthink things: The system is very simplistic but effective, and I think that’s the key.”

Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, Lake Buena Vista, FL

Technology winner for the Be Our Guest Restaurant fast-casual system capable of automating elements throughout the operation

“Operators all around can learn about this is take the time to understand the guest’s experience, from beginning to end. How do you make the experience hassle-free, and how do you make the guest really understand that the dining experience is supposed to be about magical memories and enjoying their food and their family, and whatever you can do to simplify that experience and make it great.”

HMSHost, Bethesda, MD

Menu Development winner for its Freedom To Choose Web portal, allowing for recipe and menu sharing across operations

“We have a collaboration of different recipes and menu ideas that we stretch across over 100 different restaurants that we have the ability to change our menus differently in each of our restaurants based on originality, seasonality, customization, and local flavors. … Our plans moving forward now that we’ve won the award are to expand this category of different menu offerings. This is a winning program, now all we have to do is take it and move forward and just continue to grow it.”

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