312 - 540 - 4400

IFMA Announces 2019 COEX Innovation Award Recipients

The International Foodservice Manufacturers Association (IFMA) named four chain operators as recipients of the 2019 COEX Innovation Awards. Black Bear Diner, Carl’s Jr., Del Taco, and Olive Garden will be honored February 20th at IFMA's Chain Operators EXchange (COEX) in New Orleans.

“To stand out and make a difference in today’s foodservice landscape requires a brilliant strategy and execution method,” said IFMA President & CEO, Larry Oberkfell. “Congratulations to this year’s winners for being the best of the best in innovation.”

IFMA’s 2019 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.

  • Carl’s Jr. – Winner in the National Chain category, nominated by Tyson Foods, Inc. Carl’s Jr. rolled out their ‘No Antibiotics Ever Grilled Chicken Sandwich’, making them the first major QSR Burger chain to nationally launch an antibiotic-free chicken offering. They continue to partner with industry leaders in food manufacturing to provide products that meet their consumers’ needs and drive the brand’s commitment to being pioneers in the movement toward offering crave-able, cleaner, all-natural food. 
  • Del Taco – Winner in the Regional Chain category, nominated by Stratas Foods. Del Taco has partnered with Beyond Meat, a plant-based meat substitute, to bring vegan options to some of its locations. This initiative marks the first time a Mexican fast food restaurant in the U.S. had offered a plant based meat substitute as a menu option.

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 ambiance and décor.

  • Olive Garden – Winner in the National Chain category, nominated by Sargento Foods. Olive Garden continues to reinforce its brand relevance and love with buzzworthy promotions. For the fifth year of its iconic Never Ending Pasta Pass sale, which gives guests access to eight weeks of unlimited pasta for $100, Olive Garden introduced an Annual Pass option for $300. The Annual Pasta Pass extends the never-ending benefits of Pasta Pass to one year. All 23,000 Pasta Passes and 1,000 Annual Passes were claimed in less than one minute. The news spread quickly through the media and was sustained with a digital scavenger hunt for additional passes.
  • Black Bear Diner – Winner in the Regional Chain category, nominated by Ventura Foods. Black Bear Diners continues to give back through their diner mission to welcome every guest with open arms, to serve up joy, belonging, and love with every meal, and to treat employees like family. Their giving mission is to support philanthropic efforts—as a company on a national level and within the local communities through sponsorship’s and fundraising events.

Join us in celebrating these outstanding chain operators at IFMA’s 2019 Chain Operators Exchange (COEX), February 18- 20 in New Orleans.

Click here to learn more about the COEX Innovation Awards.