The NRN Power List, in its second year in 2015, has become a must-see grouping of the foodservice industry’s most influential players — and a most coveted selection among top executives and up-and-comers alike.
To create the list, NRN uses its own expertise — comprised of our editors booking an aggregate of more than 70 years covering the industry — the sourcing of players from well-trusted industry experts and the scouring of news and future predictions to form a collection of people that have, or will, drive change. The list starts very large and discussion goes very deep to get to the 50 spots.
But we know there is more out there. And we turned to our audience to crowdsource names and faces perhaps poised to make the Power List.
NRN offered nomination forms on NRN.com through the month of December, and we received more than 130 responses, with a total of 92 people submitted for consideration. We went through each nomination, and these Power List “reader picks” are published here in full in alphabetical order.
If there was a “most popular” category, Kevin D’Onofrio, foodservice director, United States Military Academy, West Point; Ken Toong, executive director, auxiliary enterprises at University of Massachusetts-Amherst; and Rick and Elise Wetzel, co-CEOs at Blaze Pizza would win hands down. Each was submitted multiple times by various people.
The Wetzels were included in the NRN Power List, as Blaze Pizza has helped create the growing fast-casual pizza segment, and may be the first to hit a national footprint, with major backers looking to spur growth.
Our readers also nominated Sam Fox, CEO of Fox Restaurant Group and Mario Del Pero, CEO of Mendocino Farms — both of whom made the list. Fox is an entrepreneur building new and relevant brands in the spirit of Richard Melman, and Del Pero’s Mendocino Farms has presented consumers with a special fast-casual offering based on fine food, all while attracting major investors to drive growth.
Cutting names and faces we know well was more difficult this year than last, and readers submitted many of the same people who were on our original list as well. Leaders like Paul Brown, CEO at Arby’s; Kim Lopdrup at the helm of Red Lobster; and Julia Stewart, CEO of DineEquity Inc. were discussed at length. So many were close calls, but we were relentless in our pursuit of those creating major change in the entire industry — whether through new concepts, new ways of approaching and listening to the customer, or new leadership perspectives. It was hard to leave Zoe’s Kitchen Inc. CEO Kevin Miles off of our list, too. Zoe’s was one of the top performers among restaurant companies that went public in 2014.
I could go on and on.
Brands like Uncle Maddio’s, Papa Murphy’s, Raising Cane’s, Corner Bakery Café and American Blue Ribbon Holdings. Dealmakers like Damon Chandik at Piper Jaffray, Gary Levy at CohnReznick and Riley Lagesen at Davis Wright Tremaine. Alice Elliott continues to find and support tomorrow’s industry leaders. And the National Restaurant Association, International Franchise Association, Women’s Foodservice Forum and Multicultural Foodservice & Hospitality Alliance work hard to move the industry forward.
They can’t all make the list. NRN is confident its official picks for 2015 were laser-focused on the future of foodservice and those shaping it, like our top three selections, Greg Creed at Yum! Brands Inc., Howard Schultz at Starbucks Corp. and Steve Ells at Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. All of the Reader Picks appear below. Continue sending us your feedback on Twitter with #NRNPowerList and join us Wednesday at 2 p.m. Eastern for a live Facebook chat.
Click through the next few pages to see who you chose.
Reader Picks (A-D)
Founder and chef, The Chickery
President, Pancheros Mexican Grill
Founder and CEO, Uncle Maddio's Pizza Joint
Co-Founder and CEO, Larkburger
Executive Vice President of Talent and Human Resources, Cheddar's Casual Café
Chairman and CEO, The Middleby Corporation
Founder and CEO, iQ Food Co.
Chief Executive Officer, Arby's Restaurant Group Inc.
Co-Founder, Choza Taqueria
Founder and Managing Partner, Trinity Capital
President and CEO, Buxton
President and CEO, International Franchise Association
President and CEO, Papa Murphy's Take 'N' Bake Pizza
Founder and CEO, Tin Drum Cafe
Founder and CEO, Pieology Pizzeria
CEO, Native Grill and Wings
Senior Vice President of International Development, Johnny Rockets
Owner and Executive Chef, Niche Food Group
Founder and CEO, Snappy Salads
Founder and CEO, MonkeyMedia Software/ The Catering Institute
Senior Vice President, Innovation ARYZTA
Founder and CEO, Mendocino Farms
CEO and Co-Founder, Potatopia
COO and Education Market President, Philly Pretzel Factory
Director of Food Service, Sodexo Inc., DCA Culinary Group, United States Military Academy at West Point
Executive Chef and Co-Owner, Bantam + Biddy
Reader Picks (F-H)
CEO and Owner, Altamarea Group
Co-Founder, Paul Martin's American Grill
President, Andrew Freeman & Co. Restaurant and Hospitality Consultants
Chief Visionary Officer, Wienerschnitzel/Galardi Group Inc.
VP of Research and Development, El Pollo Loco Inc.
Owner, Executive Chef, Author, Gunshow
Founder and CEO, Olo
Founder and CEO, Raising Cane's Chicken Fingers
Chef and Owner, Moxie Kitchen + Cocktails
Board Member of MAFSI, Zink Marketing, Foodservice Group
President and CEO, Captain D's Seafood Kitchen
Head Chef, Co-Founder and CEO, Slapfish
Co-Founder and Partner, Southern Proper Hospitality
Ann and Peter Haigh
Co-Host and Co-Producer, On The Menu Radio
Owner, White Oak Pastures
Founder, Francesca's Restaurant Group
Managing Partner, NRD Holdings
Founder, President and CEO, Hiller Associates
CEO, Corner Bakery Cafe
President and Co-Founder, Arooga's Grille House and Sports Bar
Reader Picks (I-P)
Executive Chef, Terranea Resort
CEO and Chairman, Great Wraps
Co-Founder and COO, Sage Restaurant Group
Founder and CEO, Caffébene
CEO, Menchie's Frozen Yogurt
Chief Information Officer, Independent Purchasing Cooperative
Partner and Chair of DWT’s National Restaurant Industry Practice Group, Davis Wright Tremaine Law Firm
President, Results Thru Strategy
Founder and President, Tokyo Joe's
Partner and Hospitality Industry Practice Leader, CohnReznick
CEO, Red Lobster
Senior Vice President, Applied Predictive Technologies Inc.
Founder and CEO, Cooper's Hawk Winery and Restaurants
John C. Metz
Executive Chef, Marlow's Tavern, Aqua Blue, Hi Life Kitchen and Cocktails
President and CEO, Zoës Kitchen
Founder and President, Cameron Mitchell Restaurants
CEO, Capriotti's Sandwich Shop
President and CEO, Wingstop Restaurants Inc.
President and CEO, Ziosk LLC
CEO and Chief Creative Officer, Tesser Inc.
Chef and co-founder, The Kitchen Cafe LLC
Co-Founder, Tender Greens
President and CEO, American Blue Ribbon Holdings
Founder and CEO, QS America
Andrew C. Peskoe
Partner, Golenbock, Eiseman, Assor Bell and Peskoe LLP
Vice President of Marketing, Zoës Kitchen
Co-Founder/Partner, Southern Proper Hospitality Group
Reader Picks (R-Z)
Vice President Product Development, El Pollo Loco
CEO, Eatzi's Market and Bakery
President, The Culinary Institute of America
Creator and CEO, Schussler Creative Inc.
Founder and owner, Shea Inc.
Founder, CEO and Chief Vibe Officer, Which Wich Superior Sandwiches
President and partner, Paul Martin's American Grill
Chairman and CEO, DineEquity Inc.
President, FOUR STAR Pizza -- Thomas United Co. -- Bermuda Hospitality
CEO, Krispy Kreme Doughnuts Inc.
Executive Director of Auxiliary Enterprises, University of Massachusetts - Amherst
CEO, Orange Leaf Frozen Yogurt
CEO, Fatburger North America Inc.
Gary and Colleen Worthington
Founders, Kneaders Bakery and Café
President, Markon Cooperative Inc.
Picks who made the Power List
President and CEO, Fox Restaurant Concepts
Co-Founder, Owner and CEO, Mendocino Farms
Wetzel Founders, Blaze Fast-Fire'd Pizza