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The Power List 2018: Change agents

The annual NRN Power List is the definitive list of people setting foodservice trends today and shaping them for tomorrow. See the full list >>

The $800 billion restaurant industry is still a place where a dishwasher can eventually become a CEO. It’s an industry built on business savvy and grit.

It’s also an industry that is struggling to keep up with a changing world. A world where customers want to cook less and order in more. Where they can buy salad at the drugstore. Where you can order customized frozen vegan meals for a week’s worth of breakfasts ... or a cooked Thanksgiving meal with all the trimmings from Whole Foods Market, now powered by Amazon.

“It is, therefore, of the highest importance to gain a clear insight into the means of modification and coadaptation,” Charles Darwin wrote in the introduction of Origin of Species in 1859.

“At the commencement of my observations it seemed to me probable that a careful study of domesticated animals and of cultivated plants would offer the best chance of making out this obscure problem.”

Instead of animals and plants, use the people on this list as your guide to the shifting restaurant landscape.

The evolution of the industry is a central theme in the 2018 Power List. This list was compiled, at times painstakingly, by the Nation’s Restaurant News editorial team. Of course we could not fit all the many influential industry voices on a list of 50 people. But here we highlight 50 people — executives, influencers, culinary types, dealmakers and operators — who are adapting to a changing world, or helping lead that change in restaurants.

We called out some of the standouts in a special “Evolvers” section, but know that any person in this issue is an adapter and an innovator.

Our other Power List sections include industry Heavyweights, Influencers, Ones to Watch, Tastemakers and Tech Leaders. We added a Plant Forward category to the list this year to acknowledge consumers’ loud cry for more fruit and vegetable options in delicious packages. (This isn’t about vegan or vegetarianism, either. It’s about variety and balance.)

In the Top 10, we call out the most significant figures in the restaurant industry this year. Aside from the Top 10, this is an unranked list. Some of these names will be familiar; some will not. Some you will agree with; others, maybe not so much. Let us know what you think about our choices.

Also, be sure to check out our Power List Reader Picks. These are the people chosen by you, our readers, as the industry’s movers and shakers.

Jenna Telesca, Editor-in-Chief

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @jennatelesca

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