For the third consecutive year, The International Foodservice Manufacturers Association (IFMA) has recognized four foodservice chain operators through the COEX Innovation Awards. Among the winners this year is Wendy's International.

Also recognized were fast casual concepts Smashburger, Panera Bread and Noodles & Company.

The winners will receive their awards during IFMA's Chain Operators EXchange (COEX), March 3-6 at The Red Rock Resort in Las Vegas.

COEX Innovation Awards recognize regional and national chain companies that are "shaping the industry through innovation in culinary, operations, marketing and service." National and regional chains were nominated and voted on by IFMA members.

"The annual COEX Innovation Awards allow us to honor pioneering chain operators that make foodservice the exciting industry it is today," said Larry Oberkfell, president & CEO, IFMA. "This year we received more nominations than ever before, which speak volumes about the inventive work being done by the chain operator community."

2013 COEX Innovation winners are:

  • Marketing/Service, National Chain: Wendy's International: Wendy's is in the midst of a comprehensive transformation to contemporize the brand and improve the customer experience. The company is updating restaurant designs, rolling out new products and adding more engaging advertising and digital media advancements, including a mobile app that allows customers to personalize meals based on the amount of calories they choose. The brand transformation will soon extend to the introduction of a new, contemporary logo.
  • Marketing/Service, Regional Chain: Smashburger: Smashburger creates special burgers using local ingredients for each market it serves In 2012, it added locally sourced craft beers. Smashburger collaborated with small, resident brewers to create unique burger and beer pairings specific to individual markets.
  • Culinary/Operations, National Chain: Panera Bread: Panera is a leader in the "pay what you can" restaurant model, which raises the level of awareness about food insecurity in the U.S. and serves as a catalyst for change in communities.
  • Culinary/Operations, Regional Chain: Noodles & Company: Noodles & Company has a broad-based pasta menu with a variety of cuisines available in a multitude of formats. The addition of new appetizers, sandwiches and alternative proteins allow for more flavors, textures and daypart choices.

The 2013 COEX Innovation Awards are sponsored by Sargento Foods Inc. and Surlean Foods.

Read more about marketing and branding.

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