Meet the 2011 Hot Concepts! Award Winners

Courtesy of Restaurant News

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Nation’s Restaurant News has selected five emerging companies as its 2011 Hot Concepts! Award winners, citing this year’s group for bold tactics, outstanding creativity and strong performances in a persistently sluggish economy.

This year’s winners are Crave, FöD (Food on Demand) from Sodexo, Mixt Greens, True Food Kitchen and Twisted Root Burger Company. The concepts will be honored at the Hot Concepts! Celebration sponsored by The Coca-Cola Company during the 52nd Multi-Unit Foodservice Operators, or MUFSO, Conference at the Gaylord Texan Resort in Grapevine, Texas, Sept. 25-27.

“I am very much looking forward to this celebration, which showcases our industry’s amazing vitality and innovation,” said NRN publisher Randall Friedman. “Congratulations to each of these outstanding concepts for their day-to-day focus on delivering fresh and exciting dining experiences to the public.”

NRN’s Hot Concepts! program recognizes forward-thinking companies with emerging growth potential that appeal to consumers and position themselves at the leading edge of the foodservice industry. In-depth profiles or each Hot Concepts! Award winner will be available next week both online and in the Aug. 8 issue of Nation’s Restaurant News.

The 2011 winners:

Crave, a Bloomington, Minn.-based concept, opened in 2007 and now has six locations with a seventh set to open in October. An upscale casual concept with stores in Minnesota, Florida and Nebraska, Crave features American seasonal cuisine, an extensive wine list and a focus on sushi that has helped attract the female demographic. “The culture of Crave is rooted in passion, innovation and creativity,” said Kam Talebi, founder and chief executive. The diverse menu, from filets and New York strip to pizza and pasta and lots of sushi, helps drive traffic to the tune of over $6 million in average unit volumes annually. The company is projecting $38 million in sales for this year and over $60 million in 2012. Looking ahead, Talebi said he anticipates steady growth, and plans to add three to four units a year.

FöD (Food on Demand), a Sodexo USA concept, was launched in 2010 as a unique, technology-focused casual-dining experience for college campuses. Based in Gaithersburg, Md., FöD is high tech from start to finish. Guests order digitally from a touch-screen kiosk. Each dish is then individually prepared, and the customer is buzzed via smart phone or pager when the meal is ready. Designed for smaller accounts, FöD is operating at six universities with more on the horizon. “The food choices and the technology really resonate with students,” said Jeff Pente, senior director of brand management for Sodexo. The program is customizable for each campus and includes whatever food the school chooses to offer. “Choices might include fast casual, BBQ, upscale, all healthy choices, a pub-style operation — the possibilities are as wide as your imagination,” Pente said.

Mixt Greens is an eco-centric restaurant that is holding true to its original vision of advocating healthful, sustainable food. Launched in 2006 and based in San Francisco, Mixt Greens has nine locations in San Francisco, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. A New York opening is set for later this year, and international licensing deals are in the works, according to chief executive Richard Cervera, who describes the concept as “white tablecloth quality, with local sourcing and a strong eco and sustainable ethic.” This efficient buffet-style operation is environmentally friendly and features sandwiches and design-your-own-salads created from dozens of ingredients. “We are maniacal about great ingredients and balanced flavors," Cervera said.

Read the full article at Restaurant News

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