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Hot Concept award winners were celebrated at a reception where MUFSO showgoers sampled dishes from the restaurants Pictured above Little Beet39s Andy Duddleston Geoffrey Kornberg and Gabe Kennedy
<p>Hot Concept award winners were celebrated at a reception where MUFSO showgoers sampled dishes from the restaurants. Pictured above, Little Beet&#39;s Andy Duddleston, Geoffrey Kornberg and Gabe Kennedy.</p>

MUFSO 2016 opens with celebration of Hot Concepts

<p><em><img alt="" src="/site-files/" style="width: 200px; float: left; margin: 5px; height: 32px;" /> This is part of Nation&rsquo;s Restaurant News&#39; special coverage of the 2016&nbsp;MUFSO conference, taking place Oct. 23&ndash;25&nbsp;at the Hyatt Regency at Reunion Tower in Dallas. Follow coverage of the event on and tweet with us using #MUFSO. Stay connected on the go by downloading the <a href="" target="_blank">MUFSO app</a>.</em></p>

The 57th annual MUFSO conference opened with a sizzle and bang on Sunday as chefs battled for a good cause, industry veterans dolled out strategies for leadership and the hottest of concepts offered a taste of their menus.

About 1,000 foodservice executives were expected at three-day conference, which is produced by Nation’s Restaurant News, Restaurant Hospitality and Food Management, each part of Penton’s Food & Restaurant Group.

“With challenging times ahead, it’s more important than ever to network, share strategies and get inspiration from the best in the business,” said Laura Viscusi, vice president and market leader for Penton’s Food & Restaurant Group. “MUFSO is about learning from your peers and celebrating successes, and this year’s conference will be the best yet.”

On Sunday morning, corporate chefs from Long John Silver’s, Bonefish Grill, Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen and Applebee’s Neighborhood Grill & Bar competed in the annual Texas Pete Kitchen Hero Cook Off. The winner, to be named Monday, will have the opportunity to present a $10,000 donation to Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry Campaign.

Restaurant training specialist Jim Sullivan, CEO of, challenged traditional notions of leadership, arguing that restaurant companies tend to develop leaders for a foodservice industry that was or is, not one that will be.

He outlined 10 steps that the best leaders should do routinely, from establishing strategic clarity, and making sure everyone on the team understands and knows their role in reaching those goals; to applying fierce resolve to become a bit better today than you were yesterday. Along the way, they should create deliberately developmental companies that can transform C-grade workers into A-level players by rethinking training, and creating a culture that gets the right people on the bus, the wrong people off the bus and the right people in the right seats, he said.

“Culture eats strategy for breakfast. To get the guest experience right, you have to get the employee experience right,” said Sullivan. “The employee trifecta is being engaged, being happy and being motivated. We play a losing game by focusing on how to get the most out of people while paying them as little as possible.”

In the evening, the 2016 Hot Concepts winners were honored at a reception where they presented samples of their menu to an enthusiastic crowd.

This year’s Hot Concepts winners include the healthful fast-casual Honeygrow, based in Philadelphia; the Middle East-inspired Naf Naf Grill, out of Naperville, Ill.; the fresh-juice-focused Nekter Juice Bar, based in Santa Ana, Calif.; the “guiltin’ free” Little Beet, based in New York; and Dallas’ own Velvet Taco, filling tortillas with global flavors.

See more about the 2016 Hot Concepts brands
The Little Beet
Naf Naf Grill
Nekter Juice Bar
Velvet Taco

The founders and CEOs from each brand are scheduled to share their stories on a panel on Monday.

The first day wrapped with a mixologist showdown, the annual Shake, Sparkle and Stir event, at which bartenders competed by creating innovative cocktails using Coca-Cola products and Kinley Specialty Syrups.

On Monday, MUFSO attendees will hear from keynote speakers Charles Duhigg, author and New York Times investigative reporter; Los Angeles-based chef Roy Choi; and former Yum! Brands Inc. CEO David Novak.

In the evening, the 2016 class of Golden Chain winners will be honored, along with the winner of this year’s Norman Award.

And Nation’s Restaurant News will reveal the 2016 restaurant Operator of the Year.

Contact Lisa Jennings at [email protected]
Follow her on Twitter: @livetodineout

The MUFSO Premier sponsor is The Coca Cola Company

Presenting sponsors are: LoyaltyPlant, S&D Coffee, Thanx, The Coca-Cola Company

Keynotes/general sessions are presented by: Avocados from Mexico and Potatoes USA, La Tartine FoodService, Steritech

Pillar sponsors include: Boylan Bottling, GrubHub, JAVI A/V; McCain Foodservice; Smithfield-Farmland; Sweet Street Desserts; Texas Capital Bank; Tyson Foodservice; Univision; Ventura Foods; Whirley-DrinkWorks!

The Monday night awards reception and awards presentation are sponsored by: Avocados from Mexico

Coca Cola presents the Shake, Sparkle & Stir event, and Texas Pete® are sponsoring the MUFSO Kitchen Hero Cook Off, benefiting Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry Campaign

Hot Concepts Celebration is sponsored by Nestle Foodservice; TABASCO®; Young Guns Produce

MUFSO Breakfast sponsors are Community Coffee and Cholula

MUFSO Lunch sponsors are Cholula and Moore's Food Resources

MUFSO Room Key is sponsored by Arby’s

Refreshment breaks are sponsored by Cholula, Royal Cup Coffee and Wrigley

VIP Dinner sponsored by GrubHub for Restaurants, HAVI, Slade Gorton and Whirley-DrinkWorks!

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