In "Game Changers," the NRN 50 special report, explore some of the forces changing the restaurant industry today — from daily deals and “smart” receipts to McDonald’s executive chef Dan Coudreaut and the iPad. "Game Changers" looks at who or what is creating change and why you need to know.
The following is a sneak peak into the NRN special report. To read more about other game changing people, tactics and concepts, the full report is available exclusively in the January 23 issue of Nation's Restaurant News.
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Dan Coudreaut 
McDonald’s executive chef expands QSR repertoire with ‘real food’
In the last few years McDonald’s has been the innovation leader of the quick-service pack, churning out a broad range of new menu items that resonate with consumers and help the chain post same-store sales gains in its more than 14,000 restaurants. Dan Coudreaut, McDonald’s executive chef, is the visionary behind such blockbuster introductions as the Asian Chicken Salad, oatmeal, Snack Wraps and smoothies. NRN talked with Coudreaut about his culinary strategy, inspiration and how dishes go from test kitchen to restaurant menu. Read more >> 
Adam Fleischman 
Umami Burger founder aims to take better-burger segment by storm
Adam Fleischman, the creator of Umami Burger, founded the chain only three years ago. Yet his burgeoning empire already includes the popular multiunit concept, a successful one-off casual-dining restaurant and a brand new pizza operation.
And while his company’s accelerated growth pace has attracted industry attention, observers also identify Fleischman as being one of Los Angeles’ hottest restaurateurs — and one who has a knack for knowing what the consumer wants. Read more >> 
Purchasing prowess 
Volatile commodity environment expands influence of supply chain managers
Supply chain management has taken on heightened importance in recent years, driven by volatility in commodities prices and ongoing pressure for fast-paced menu innovation. As a result, skilled purchasing executives have become a vital part of the research and development conversation, helping to ensure that culinary strategy and operational realities are in sync. David Parsley, who oversees purchasing for more than 1,500 Chili’s Grill & Bar and Maggiano’s Little Italy restaurants as senior vice president of supply chain management for Brinker International Inc., speaks with Nation’s Restaurant News. Read more >> 
Retail partners 
Operators build trust, recognition by using well-known brands
Restaurants have been using retail brands to bolster interest in their own menu items for years, but chains have gotten creative in recent months, expanding their use of name brands to include such foods as chips, sausages and liquor to tempt consumers into opening their wallets for a trusted brand used in an innovative way. Read more >> 
Local sourcing 
Regional, seasonal ingredients alter menus, consumers’ expectations
Chefs have been trying to select and prepare the freshest ingredients for as long as there have been, well, chefs. In recent years, though, some have taken their quest to hyperlocal lengths, like Dan Barber, who started an entire agriculture center in Pocantico Hills, N.Y., to supply his Blue Hill at Stone Barns restaurant.
As diners have shown more interest in knowing where their food comes from, such efforts are no longer the bailiwick of a few passionate chefs. More kitchen professionals today are demanding local products or growing their own, which is helping to narrow the gap between the farm and the table. Read more >> 
Daily deals 
Operators find rewards, dangers in pervasive online discounting
The deal-of-the-day coupon craze, which has been skyrocketing ever since Groupon sold its first two-for-one pizza deal in 2008, has changed restaurant
The success of Groupon has spawned a wide variety of imitators, as well as many fans and detractors within the industry. Despite the controversy, there are many companies seeking to become the next Groupon.
Newer companies such as LivingSocial, Google Offers, TangoTab, Scoutmob, Gilt City and others are vying for restaurant business. Read more >> 
Tablet technology puts patrons in charge of the eating-out experience
When news hit early last year that the new chain concept Stacked: Food Well Built allowed guests to design, order and pay for their meals with tabletop iPads, industry pundits proclaimed the beginning of the end for the old-fashioned printed menu.
As tablet technology improves, use in restaurants is rapidly becoming more prevalent — and for a variety of reasons. Read more >> 
Smart receipts 
Point-of-sale paper gives guests customized information, special offers
The sales receipt is no longer merely a transactional record. Increasingly, it is a potent marketing tool, as well.
By marrying receipt marketing software with point-of-sale systems, operators have found an effective way to deliver a range of information intended to engage customers, build traffic or highlight special menu items — all on a slip of paper that once was quickly relegated to the circular file. Read more >> 
Business pedigree, development capital make Chipotle spinoff one to watch
Were it not for big brother Chipotle Mexican Grill, would this summer’s opening of ShopHouse Southeast Asian Kitchen in Washington, D.C., have caused such buzz?
What lies behind the scenes — ample capital for research and development and a premium pedigree of management — is what has made ShopHouse a concept deemed worthy of watching. Read more >>