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The winners of the 2010 MenuMasters awards have shown innovation and creativity in the face of the worst economy in living memory.

As customers tightened their belts, the award-winning chains dug deep for inspiration to develop new menu items that could help change the face of foodservice in the years to come. Among the award recipients:

Outback Steakhouse is being recognized for the best new menu item with its Sweet Glazed Roasted Pork Tenderloin, an apricot-glazed entrée sprinkled with crushed corn flakes.

Tropical Smoothie Café is winning for the best menu revamp for broadening its offerings to reposition itself as a meal destination rather than just a place for snacks.

The award for best menu/line extension is going to Au Bon Pain for its Chicken Artichoke Sandwich, topped with goat cheese, red onions, lettuce, tomato and sofrito vinaigrette and served on sun-dried tomato bread.

The Southwest Ancho Chicken Salad is winning the limited-time offer award for Red Robin Gourmet Burgers, which offered the salad with black beans, corn, grape tomatoes and pepper Jack cheese, topped with jalapeño rings, avocado slices, cilantro, tortilla strips and ancho-ranch dressing.

KFC is receiving the award for healthful menu innovations with the groundbreaking introduction of its Kentucky Grilled Chicken. The new product line gives customers the option of slashing their calories and sodium by up to half and cutting their fat by two-thirds compared with the chain’s signature fried classic.

In addition, Romano’s Macaroni Grill chief executive Brad Blum is being recognized with the Innovator award; Dunkin’ Brands executive chairman Jon Luther is being inducted into the MenuMasters Hall of Fame; and Burgerville of Vancouver, Wash., is being named Menu Trendsetter for its vision with regard to local, seasonal items and its drive to be a more environmentally sustainable company.

The awards will be presented at Nation’s Restaurant News’ annual MenuMasters awards ceremony at the Drake Hotel on May 22. The program is sponsored by Ventura Foods.

The MenuMasters award winners are selected by the editors of Nation’s Restaurant News.

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