For the third consecutive year, The International Foodservice Manufacturers Association (IFMA) recognizes four outstanding foodservice chain operators through the COEX Innovation Awards. The winners will receive their awards during IFMA's Chain Operators Exchange (COEX), March 3-6, 2013 at The Red Rock Resort in Las Vegas, Nev.

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, which include the world's most prestigious foodservice manufacturers.

"The annual COEX Innovation Awards allow us to honor pioneering chain operators that make foodservice the exciting industry it is today," says 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."

Panera, winner in the National Chain slot of the Culinary/Operations category, is a driving force in the quick casual segment. A forerunner in the bakery café space, the company is focused on improving customer experience and identifying unique culinary experiences to bring to their consumer base. In addition, Panera is a leader in the "pay what you can" restaurant model, which raises the level of awareness about food insecurity in the US and serves as a catalyst for change in communities.

The other three awards were:

  • Marketing/Service, National Chain: Wendy's International

  • Marketing/Service, Regional Chain: Smashburger 

  • Culinary/Operations, Regional Chain: Noodles & Company

The 2013 COEX Innovation Awards are sponsored by Sargento Foods, Inc. and Surlean Foods. For more information on the COEX Innovation Awards, contact Lisa Ptak at or 312-253-4690. Visit for more information.