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Nation’s Restaurant News names 2022 CREATORS Award winners

Wendy’s, Dine Brands, Capriotti’s and Smokey Bones are among the winners of the 2nd annual CREATORS Awards, which recognize innovation in the restaurant industry

Nation’s Restaurant News has named the 2022 CREATORS Award winners, honoring excellence in restaurant leadership and innovation.

The 2nd annual CREATORS Awards, sponsored by Keurig Dr Pepper, recognize brands in six categories, and this year recognize Wendy’s, Capriotti’s and Wing Zone, Dine Brands Global, Ascend Hospitality Group and Bonanno Concepts.

Winners will be honored at the second annual CREATE Experience, a one-of-a-kind gathering of restaurant industry leaders, Sept. 19-21 in Denver. The CREATOR of the Year will be announced from among the six winners during the event.

“The pace of change in the restaurant industry is faster than ever before, and the brands that will succeed in the future are the ones able to think differently and seize opportunities through a combination of creativity, ingenuity and grit,” said Nation’s Restaurant News editor-in-chief Sam Oches. “The winners of this year’s CREATORS Awards embody that spirit of innovation, and are reimagining how restaurants interact with their customers, employees and communities.”

The 2022 CREATORS winners and their respective categories are:

  • Wendy’s (Brand CREATOR — 201 units or more): The quick-service giant is recognized for its innovative approaches to menu, value and customer experience as well as its forward-thinking tech strategies, including early moves into the metaverse.
  • Capriotti’s/Wing Zone (Brand CREATOR  — 200 units or less): The company is being recognized for the brand revamp and renewed growth of fast-casual Wing Zone, which Capriotti’s acquired in late 2020.
  • Ascend Hospitality Group (Independent CREATOR): The Bellevue, Wash.-based restaurant group is honored for innovative efforts to support and empower employees, including an expanded benefits program, and mentorship and development opportunities.
  • Dine Brands Global (Applebee’s and IHOP) (Marketing CREATOR): The company is being recognized for achievement at both of its brands, including viral marketing moments at Applebee’s as well as the rollout of a new loyalty and customer rewards platforms at IHOP.
  • Smokey Bones (Operations CREATOR): The full-service barbecue concept is honored for its innovations around off-premises dining, including its first drive-thru, new digital ordering tech and more “purposeful design” to improve the customer experience while increasing throughput.
  • Bonanno Concepts (Leadership CREATOR): The Denver-based restaurant group is recognized for its dedication to employees, which includes the hiring of a corporate therapist to support workers’ mental health as well as a tip equity program to ensure fair pay.

Past CREATORS Awards winners include Brinker International, Yum Brands Inc., Chipotle Mexican Grill, Portillo’s, Big Red F and Virtual Dining Concepts.

In addition to the 2022 class of CREATORS Award winners, the growing lineup of CREATE speakers also features nearly 50 leaders from such restaurant brands as P.F Chang’s, Coffee Bean + Tea Leaf, Big Chicken, Duck Donuts, Torchy’s Tacos, Another Broken Egg, Modern Restaurant Concepts, Zalat Pizza, PINCHO, Rasa and many more.

Visit the CREATE website to learn more and register to attend this fall.

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