The International Foodservice Manufacturers Association (IFMA), named four chain operators as recipients of the 2018 COEX Innovation Awards. Chick-fil-A, Culver’s, Shake Shack and Wendy’s will be honored March 20 at the IFMA Chain Operators EXchange (COEX) conference in Las Vegas.

“Innovation can demonstrate a clear ROI and has for these award winning companies,” said IFMA President & CEO, Larry Oberkfell. “When pressure to repeat the same old approach to the consumer loses out to innovation, these winners increase the distance from their competitors. Congratulations to this year’s winners for raising the bar for our industry!" 

The IFMA 2018 COEX Innovation Awards, sponsored by Sargento Foods and Surlean Foods, are presented to a national and regional chain operator in the following categories:

Culinary/Operations Innovation Award—recognizes companies that demonstrate true innovation in one or more back-of-house areas including food preparation, quality and/or presentation; introduction of new menu items, addressing trends that drive consumer behavior and operational systems.

  • Chick-fil-A – COEX 2018 Innovation Award winner, Culinary/Operations, National Chain Category, nominated by Sargento Foods. Chick-fil-A rose above its already exceptional reputation for flavor in delighting its loyal fan base with a superior summertime LTO and its first-ever seasonal entree: The Smokehouse BBQ Bacon Sandwich.
  • Shake Shack – COEX 2018 Innovation Award winner, Culinary/Operations, Regional Chain Category, nominated by McCain Foods. Shake Shack puts the customer experience first by focusing on quality and innovation. They're not satisfied by just having a burger but strive to have the best burger, shakes and fries. Whenever they take on a new project they make sure that the quality of the food item is the best.

Marketing/Service Innovation Award—recognizes companies that demonstrate true innovation in one or more of such front-of-house areas as communications/advertising/promotions to drive customer attraction and retention; use of social media, wait staff training, incentive programs and ambience and décor.

  • Wendy’s – COEX 2018 Innovation Award winner, Marketing/Service, National Chain Category, nominated by Surlean Foods. Wendy's might be named after a sweet little girl but don't be fooled by that seemingly innocent exterior. Beneath that sigh lurks a world of sass as worldwide social media users have recently been discovering. The fresh burger chain is well known for its square burgers, chili and Frosty's but recently they've started serving double helpings of "shut the hell up" to anybody brave enough to take them on via Twitter.
  • Culver’s – COEX 2018 Innovation Award winner, Marketing/Service, Regional Chain Category, nominated by Sargento Foods. Culver’s repeatedly demonstrates an affinity for connecting with their customers through innovative marketing and public relations programs that support causes that are important to the communities they serve. “A Hero’s Welcome” and “Unbridled Thanks” are two examples of ads that focus only secondarily on products but draw viewers in and create loyal customers by eliciting a powerful emotional connection to the brand.

Join us in celebrating these outstanding chain operators at IFMA’s upcoming Chain Operators Exchange (COEX), March 18- 20 in Las Vegas.

Click here to learn more about the COEX Innovation Awards.

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